Trainee blog: my top tips to help you survive your first seat as a trainee solicitor

After studying for years, completing countless job applications you have finally secured yourself a training contract! The next step is to go into the job with an open mind and a desire to work hard and make a name for yourself. During your two years of training, you will rotate round multiple seats and work with a plethora of people, developing the skills and knowledge you need to succeed upon qualification.

Whilst it is a thoroughly enjoyable process, you are doing your dream job after all, it is not always the easiest! You are working within an ever-changing environment and switching seats every six months requires you to be adaptable and resilient – and this is heightened by living through a global pandemic and getting to grips with remote working.

Below are my top 5 tips (lockdown edition) for starting your training contract, which I hope will help in your first few months as a trainee.

Maintain a work/life balance

It is understandable that in the first few months of your training contract you want to work hard and impress – making a good first impression is very important. However, ensuring you maintain a work/life balance is essential to prevent burnout. Working hard, building a good reputation and having fun are not mutually exclusive.

With lockdown causing most outlets for enjoyment to shut, this point is ever more important. The Firm has been brilliant at putting on social events for us, such as virtual cocktail making and escape rooms and it is vital you make the most of these opportunities. Taking the time to get outside, exercise, meet friends (at a distance) and doing anything else that helps keep you sane is all helpful. I have found getting out for walks at lunch time has been vital to keeping my head clear – don’t feel guilty for taking your lunchbreak, getting outside and away from your screen. In fact, Michelmores has actively encouraged this, with some staff blocking out an hour in their day for ‘sunshine hour’.

Don’t shy away from asking questions

“There’s no such thing as a silly question” is something you will hear a lot in your first few months. Your supervisors and colleagues will constantly tell you to speak up if you do not understand something - they mean it and it is essential you do! Asking questions helps you to engage and learn and is strongly encouraged; you are not expected to know everything. I have found there are always people on hand to ask for help, whether it is the IT team, the Legal Support Assistants, fellow trainees, your supervisor or other members of the team. You should always be mindful of peoples’ workloads, though, and try and direct your questions at the most appropriate person.

Do make the most of every networking opportunity

Your training contract is all about making the most of every opportunity and getting  immersed in the firm. This obviously means putting yourself forward for work and bringing enthusiasm to the tasks you are set, but also jumping at every chance to network and socialise. With Corona still present, this is slightly harder to do, but I have found that there are still many chances to socialise and to get your name known around the firm.

Michelmores has introduced some new working from home ideas such as Coffee Roulette, a firm-wide initiative aiming to recreate those ‘water cooler moments’ of bumping into people for a chat through Microsoft Teams' breakout rooms.

Accept every invitation – from the most formal team meetings to the informal Friday evening drinks, and get stuck in.

Organisation is key

As a trainee you are given work from all over the team and get lots of exposure to many different matters which is brilliant, but it means you will be busy and so it is essential you develop methods to stay organised and on top of your work. Making lists and prioritising tasks is a great place to start. When receiving work, get into a good habit of asking when it is due. This allows you to plan your day. Meeting deadlines is an essential part of succeeding as a trainee, however, there is also a need to be flexible as urgent work can be dropped on you at any point.

Other organisational tips include getting time recording nailed early on. In a law firm, every minute of your time needs to be recorded which is an idea fairly alien to most. Get into good habits with the time recording software from day one.

Lean on your fellow trainees

Starting a new job can be incredibly nerve-wracking and intimidating, but luckily you will be starting out with a whole cohort of trainees to lean on. Remember that you are all in the same boat and taking the time to chat with them and share stories is a great way of building bonds. Virtual drinks and video call coffees have been regular occurrences for myself and my fellow trainees which has been great. Your shared experiences make them a unique form of support – no one knows what you are going through like they do!

To round up - be enthusiastic, volunteer yourself and jump at every opportunity presented to you. Be confident, you deserve to be there and most importantly enjoy the process!