Trainee blog: The home straight – a note to a future trainee

As a future lawyer, you are often told how your two year training contract will fly by. When you start your training contract, this is very hard to believe – especially when you're trying to get to grips with the new work, people and IT systems (to name a few). These early weeks can often seem to last forever. Now one month away from qualification, however, I can certainly agree with all those before me that the two years really do fly by.

Nobody starts their training contract as the finished article. Looking back, I have learnt and developed a huge amount. Below I share with you some of the things I would have told my future trainee self two years ago.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Trainees can often be guilty of not asking enough questions (whether to be seen to not lack knowledge or otherwise). Asking questions is, however, one of the best and quickest ways of learning and building your knowledge, and should not be shied away from.
  2. Be realistic about your capacity – Wanting to say YES to all work given to you is natural as a trainee; however, if you do not have the capacity to actually do the work, this could backfire on you. It is important that you are aware of what work you have on. If you already have a long list of tasks, you should make this clear to the fee earner who can then decide whether there is someone better placed to deal. There is often a fear amongst trainees that if they say no, they will be seen to be unhelpful – but this is largely not the case.   
  3. Be vocal – If you have a particular interest in a certain area of law or type of work, you should make this known as early as possible. If people do not know that you want exposure to this work, they cannot make it happen. The graduate recruitment team at Michelmores encourage trainees to be vocal about their interests and try to accommodate as best they can.
  4. Make the most of opportunities – Trainees are constantly moving around teams and offices throughout their training contracts. During this time you will be presented with various different opportunities – from attending general networking events, award ceremonies and training sessions, giving presentations and sitting on various steering groups to organising firm wide events, participating in firm sports and taking on Tough Mudder for charity! Try to make the most of these opportunities – even if they fall outside of your comfort zone. They provide a golden opportunity to find out more about different people and industries, to develop your skills and knowledge, to grow your networks… and to also have some fun along the way. 
  5. Think practically – Being a lawyer is about more than just knowing the law. Often various other factors play a significant part – for example, cost, time, industry factors and maintaining relationships. In my experience, clients place particular value on lawyers who know the law, but who are also able to offer commercial, practical and pragmatic solutions. Always therefore try to see the "bigger picture" when advising clients.
  6. Keep an open mind – Seat rotation can often be a contentious time, with everyone wanting their first choice of seat; however, keep an open mind. Even if you are not given the seat you wanted, you will still be able to take something away from the area you end up in. It might even surprise you.
  7. Get to know your peers – Having a good relationship with your peers can be invaluable. Not only can you support one another (as you will all be going through the same things), but also bounce ideas off each other and share experiences. This will hopefully continue throughout your careers – whichever direction they go.
  8. And finally… Enjoy it! – As highlighted at the beginning of this blog, your two year training contract will fly by. During those two years, you will have so many fantastic opportunities to do various things and meet many different people across an array of sectors. So, whilst your training contract may be stressful at times, don't forget to enjoy it!

If you have any other questions on being a trainee please tweet us @MMTrainees.