Trainee Blog: Having an opinion as a trainee
Now, deep into my second year as a trainee, time is running out to sit on the fence. Forming a view is a crucial part of any trainee's development, but it doesn’t happen overnight, and nor should it.
Trainees should embrace the challenge of offering their view at an early stage. Whilst it might be daunting, opinions from trainees often add value and form part of their learning experience. Building confidence by applying a measured approach can help to alleviate some of the initial trepidation.
The risk of getting something wrong or demonstrating inexperience in front of senior colleagues often results in even the most confident of individuals remaining silent.
Google defines an opinion as 'a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.'
A key skill that all lawyers must have, is one of judgment. The ability to create logical arguments and draw reasonable conclusions are essential attributes that clients expect. For trainees, it is the second half of the definition that poses the uncertainty.
If you think about it, one of the many reasons our senior colleagues are more confident offering opinions, is because they benefit from experience and knowledge, resulting in the ability to generate more accurate judgments. Trainees should not fear this, but appreciate and learn from it.
Michelmores place a key focus on collaboration and the sharing of knowledge internally. There are significant benefits to its clients and to the firm. The trainees, who work across a number of teams, are in a unique position. You will be able to identify who might be the best person to undertake a specific piece of work, or provide a view or suggestion based on experience gained from another team.
More broadly, the firm understand that encouraging individuals to share their ideas and opinions indicates a progressive nature. Applying this simply, generating more informed and efficient individuals as a result of knowledge sharing will result in better judgments being made.
Training contract applicants will be tested on their ability to outline their own view. The key to success, whatever your view, is to support your judgment with a logical argument. Applicants may be asked to explain if their own view would alter if the scenario was different. This, after all, is the nature of opinions; they generally evolve and adapt over time.
- Ask questions instead – initially, rather than outlining your own view, begin instead by asking questions. You will feel part of the conversation, be able to listen to the views of others and it will feel easier to offer your own suggestions after the discussion has taken shape.
- Pick your moment – clearly, there are better times than others to test the water. Whilst you may have a burning desire to interject in a client meeting to outline your own theory, do ensure you run it by your supervising colleague in advance. Sometimes it is prudent to remain silent. Instead, perhaps ask your supervisor if you can prepare a first draft responding to a client's request for advice. You will need to form a view, but you will benefit from some time to present this logically. In addition, your supervisor will be able to provide valuable feedback.
- Accept alternative views – good leaders listen and value the opinion of others. This is because they understand that, in order to better their own opinion, they need to consider the views of others. Trainees should remember that good leaders will value their opinion and so they should not be afraid of sharing it.
- Consistency – by the very nature of the role, trainees are not expected to get everything correct, and often your views will be incorrect because they are incomplete. Whilst it is important to remember this, it is important to apply a consistent approach when applying personal opinions. Having well-constructed arguments that are effectively communicated is likely to be noticed and lead to other opportunities.
The final thing for all trainees to remember, is that you have been through a rigorous selection process. It has been identified that you can think on your feet and communicate well. As your experience and confidence continues to grow, learn to trust your judgment.