“Proactive”, i.e. creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened. Applying this to a training contract can essentially be reduced to becoming the master of your own fate and making the most of the two years’ training you have (note that it will fly by!). Being able to control your training whilst working in a busy environment may seem a little out of reach at the beginning, but there are many ways to do it, and to do it well. As I reach the last few months of my training contract, below I consider a few points around being a proactive Trainee.
By all means, accept when you have worked hard and enjoy the quiet periods when they present themselves. Saying this, my advice would be to actively seek out opportunities to assist your team with matters you are involved with, and other urgent matters or those that may be of interest. If your team is also experiencing a quiet time, reach out to your training principal to see if there are other teams in the firm that might need some junior support. This approach to work means that you are expanding your skills and knowledge and getting to know other teams and colleagues in the firm.
As a Trainee you will participate in many compulsory learning opportunities, from internal risk training to the core and elective Professional Skills Course modules. Sticking solely to these training opportunities may limit the scope of your development. At firms like Michelmores there is a wealth of training and knowledge available to you, so sign up for external training, monitor your colleagues’ calendars for any meetings or conferences that may be of interest and, if in doubt, reach out to your business development team. Of course, you should not manufacture a training contract dominated by knowledge management at the expense of chargeable work, but the importance of expanding your understanding of the departments you sit in, and of law firms and the wider world in general should not be underestimated. Bear in mind that these opportunities will not always present themselves to you by default – show a keen interest and be proactive.
Again, this stems from viewing your training contract as a two-year interview during which you should grab every opportunity and develop your skillset beyond the chargeable work.
It may be daunting to attend networking events, but taking this step from the comfort of your training is important. Internally, get involved with firmwide initiatives – this will allow you to meet colleagues whilst making a valuable contribution to the firm’s culture. As an example, I am volunteering at our annual Michelmores 5K run in September and I am very much looking forward to working alongside, and supporting, my colleagues. Externally, attend a talk with Chambers, or socialise at an event for other young professionals in your area. Your new-found connections may become valuable contacts as your legal career develops.
If you know where you want to qualify, and into which department, try to tailor your networking to these spheres. For further information about how Luke has proactively tailored his networking strategy please visit his recent article about networking in Bristol: Trainee blog: Networking in Bristol | Michelmores.
Of course, the above is not a conclusive list of how to be a proactive Trainee but my top tips will hopefully trigger a way of thinking that will help you to make the most out of the short two-year training contract that you have worked so hard to obtain!