Trainee Blog: The value of non-legal work experience in your training contract
When attending Training Contract interviews I was often challenged by questions about my past work experience and my commitment to becoming a solicitor. This did not come as a surprise to me, given that my work experience consisted of a year in Investment Banking and a year in Venture Capital, despite having completed a Law degree at University. While some individuals follow the straight forward route to qualification (university/GDL, LPC, Training Contract), the majority of trainees will have followed a less traditional path which involves non-legal work experience. In this article I detail the value of non-legal work experience and provide insight on how it may enhance your legal career.
Since I have started my Training Contract with Michelmores just over 2 months ago, I have already encountered many instances where my past non-legal work experience proved to be extremely valuable. One of the first tasks I was assigned in the Transactional Real Estate team was reviewing official copies, due diligence documents and summarising relevant points to our client, a lender. Given my past experience working in a bank, I had a grasp of the issues that are likely to affect lenders as well as of issues which lenders are sensitive about. This helped me complete the task more efficiently since I only reported on relevant issues, such as unpaid rent arrears and transactions at an undervalue. It also made me feel more confident about navigating legal and financial jargon when reading and reviewing documents.
Another example where my past work experience proved valuable was when I was asked to write an article for the marketing team at Michelmores. Recently, the firm has put in place a strategy aimed at providing legal services to millennials and entrepreneurs and I decided to write about this. Because of my past role in Venture Capital, I felt very in touch with entrepreneurs and millennials as well as with their potential legal needs and legal issues. This enabled me to write a relevant article, using concrete examples from my own experience. In other words, understanding a client's commercial risks and opportunities thanks to hands-on experience adds great value to the legal advice provided.
More generally, my past work experience has also equipped me with generic skills which are highly valuable in a law firm. Working in the City in a busy environment developed my organisational skills, networking skills, team working skills and adaptability. Nevertheless these skills can be acquired in a wide variety of professional environments and can then be applied to an equally wide variety of tasks. Organising your matters as a trainee is highly important and starting your Training Contract with a workable organisational system can be an advantage. Furthermore, having a variety of professional experiences may make you more adaptable, regardless of what those experiences are. This skill is important during a Training Contract since trainees need to switch seats every 6 months and hence adapt to different lawyers' working styles and carry out a wide ranging variety of tasks.
Finally, individuality and different experiences only make you a more valuable trainee and it is something you should always try to capitalise upon.