A common interview question: What do you think the responsibilities of a trainee Solicitor are?

A question that is often asked in vacation scheme and training contract applications or during interviews concerns what you think that you will actually do as a trainee solicitor. In my experience, without much legal experience this is not always an easy question to answer.

With this in mind, I have summarised here my own experience of the typical responsibilities a trainee has.  

  1. Legal Research – One way to really help build knowledge of your department is to conduct legal research on niche areas of law in order to answer a broader legal question. For example, with Academies being relatively new entities, a large part of my seat in the Education Team at Michelmores has involved exploring the issues associated with their establishment across a wide range of areas of law.

  2. Writing articles – Trainees will often be responsible for authoring legal update articles for their team or sector newsletter. This helps you to develop a greater commercial awareness of the wider sector you are working in, whilst also enhancing your more detailed knowledge of any new legislative changes.
  3. Client Meetings – The level of your exposure to clients will likely be dependent on your seat. From day one in Education I was involved in client meetings and responsible for taking notes. As my experience grew, I had the opportunity to contribute to discussions with the client and the team. It has been amazing to meet so many different people during my seat and to develop my understanding of what clients actually want and expect from their lawyers.
  4. Keeping within deadlines – Another responsibility is to ensure that work is completed within certain deadlines and to manage your time in this respect. If you are in a litigious seat, this could also include diarising key dates for you and your team and making sure these are prepared for and adhered to.
  5. Organising Events – Many firms give the trainees the opportunity to organise internal and external events. At Michelmores, the best example of this is the Christmas Bazaar. This is a fundraising event which takes place every December to raise money for our Charity of the Year.  It is the sole responsibility of the first year trainees to organise the event in the Exeter office each year.
  6. Attending law fairs / recruitment events – All trainees are given the opportunity to attend law fairs, recruitment events or open days on behalf of the firm to talk to prospective applicants about what it is really like working at Michelmores. This is a really good opportunity to share your experiences and meet new people interested in the firm.
  7. Amending Transfer Agreements – One of my favourite things about being a trainee at Michelmores is the level of responsibility that you are given in dealing with important issues. For example, I have had the opportunity to be heavily involved in drafting and reviewing Transfer Agreements, which are the contracts between the buyer and seller that govern the terms and conditions of the transfer. This helps develop skills such as accurate and concise reporting to the clients and learning to identify key parts of typical documents.
  8. Project Management – For big clients and complicated matters, one common responsibility given to a trainee could be to actively manage a table which sets out all of the 'live' matters, so that the wider team has a clear picture at any one time of what is happening and what the current action points are.
  9. Disclosure / bundle preparation for tribunals – I have had the opportunity to be involved in numerous tribunals. The Education Team at Michelmores have an in-house barrister who trainees are able to shadow and see how a case is prepared by solicitors and Counsel. Responsibilities in this scenario include getting involved in preparing the disclosure documents and the trial bundles, whilst keeping in mind the deadlines and directions set by the tribunal.

There is an abundance of opportunity at Michelmores for trainees to get heavily involved in really interesting work with high profile clients. This enables you to develop your client relationship skills from the outset and to be entrusted with the responsibility that comes with this. Saying this, I have found that there is always a strong level of support from colleagues who are happy to discuss issues and provide helpful feedback so that you never feel like you are too out of your depth.