From Law School to Trainee: Tips for Starting a Training Contract (Without Paralegal Experience)

From Law School to Trainee: Tips for Starting a Training Contract (Without Paralegal Experience)

There are various routes into a career in law, all of which will have pros and cons relative to one’s own circumstances. Many people seek to gain experience working as a paralegal prior to starting a Training Contract, which can be beneficial in providing practical experience working in a law firm. To find out how to utilise your paralegal experience as a Trainee, please read Dan’s Trainee Blog here.

For me, I began my Training Contract straight after completing my legal studies. As such, my journey from Law School to Trainee Solicitor was without a pit stop in a paralegal role. However, there are many skills that you can develop whilst at university or in a part-time job which can help you hit the ground running as a Trainee. Here are some practical tips for beginning a Training Contract (without paralegal experience)…

Time to Time-Record

Law firms are professional service firms and offer services to clients rather than tangible products in the way that a clothing retailer might offer items of clothing. For the most part, law firms price these services based on the time taken to deliver the same. Therefore, fee earners record the time they spend delivering services so the price can be calculated – this is known as ‘time-recording’.

You may hear about this during your legal studies but will unlikely fully grasp the concept until you’ve experienced it in practice. However, all is not lost – you can prepare yourself for time-recording by generally developing your time management skills. For example, try to methodically structure your days and keep track of the tasks you complete throughout the day. This can be done using an online calendar; allocate timeslots to certain tasks so you can look back at the day and know what you’ve completed and when. Of course, some tasks take longer than expected – in these instances, adapt your timetable accordingly and make a note for future reference.

Adopting a Growth Mindset

When I started my Training Contract, I was also starting my first full-time office job, meaning I would inevitably have lots to learn. The best way to approach this is to embrace the learning process. The reality is that you’ll unlikely get everything right first try – that’s not to say you shouldn’t try to but rather to say you shouldn’t be disappointed if you receive constructive feedback. What’s important is how you act on the feedback; take the points on board and implement them into your work.

To prepare for this, try to make use of all the feedback opportunities available to you. During your legal studies, workshops/seminars provide the perfect opportunity for this. As you go through the workshop tasks in class, try amending your answers in track changes or similar software. This will clearly show where you went wrong and will be a great revision tool, preventing you from repeating the mistakes. Similar methods are used in practice to both highlight the work you have done on documents to supervisors and for supervisors to flag where they have accepted/amended your work. Seeking and acting on feedback is a great skill to develop ahead of your Training Contract.

More Commercial Awareness

You may have hoped that now you’ve secured your Training Contract, you’ll stop hearing about the importance of commercial awareness…unlikely, and understandably so. Different seats require an understanding of different industries. In my current Transactional Real Estate seat, there is an emphasis on Residential Development and Strategic Land work. I have put a lot of effort into broadening my understanding of these areas through research tasks, work events and even just keeping up to date with the industry news. This has enabled me to better understand our clients’ businesses and the industry they operate in, thus improving the commerciality of my work. Michelmores really encourages Trainees to expand their commercial knowledge as much as possible, including running personal meetings with the KIS Team and delivering tailored commercial news straight to your inbox.

Commercial awareness is something that can be developed alongside your studies. If you’re at university, enquire into what publication subscriptions it has and try read the latest articles in your spare time. This doesn’t have to be hours on end, even once or twice a week can make a big difference. There are also some excellent free commercial awareness events which often give you the chance to speak to practising lawyers, giving you further insight into a particular area of law.

Believe in Yourself

Although cliché, my last tip is to believe in yourself. You will have worked very hard during your studies and throughout application cycles to get to the stage of being offered a Training Contract. The firm which has made the offer clearly thinks you have developed the skills necessary to begin a Training Contract – take this thought, together with an enthusiastic attitude to learning, with you into your new role… good luck!