20 pieces of advice for trainees

Training contracts are not fun. Anybody who claims otherwise is either extremely lucky, or being mendacious.

4 rotations at 6 months per seat allows you a small period of time of time during which to learn enough to qualify.

My personal view is the best trainees turn out to be those who have previously spent time as a paralegal.

What trainees need to know

  1. Your trainee supervisor may hate trainees. Try not to take it personally and don’t take it home with you. The issue is likely to be with them rather than you. Whatever you do, don’t cry in the office.
  2. Be aware that other trainees in your cohort will lie to you. They are your competitors rather than your colleagues. Do not place much weight on their views. The people who really know what is going on will be the secretaries in the office.
  3. Use precedents as much as possible but make sure you spend time learning how to amend them appropriately so you don’t spend your career addicted to standard form templates.
  4. It’s ok not to want to qualify into any of your 4 seats. If you are desperate just to qualify and then go into something you like, you don’t need to commit to an area you hate.
  5. Ask questions. Don’t suffer in silence. Nobody thinks you are the finished article yet. Just don’t ask the same question twice.
  6. It’s ok to take notes (it doesn’t matter if you’re no longer in university).
  7. Get to know the solicitor accounts rules. It’s almost more important than knowing the law at some firms!
  8. If you have a chance, spend time in a compliance seat. It’s underrated. You will get to understand “good practice”. This will prevent you from allowing standards to slip and may help you avoid a professional negligence claim in the future.
  9. Conveyancing is bloody boring. Get your non-contentious seat in employment instead (if you have an opportunity).
  10. Never ask anybody over 40 in your department how they are. Their answer will only depress you.
  11. Attend Junior Lawyer Division events. You may spend your career with these career. Try not to get drunk and make a fool of yourself at any dinners.
  12. Set up a modest LinkedIn profile. You’re a trainee and haven’t achieved anything yet. Just explain what you have done so far. A down-to-earth profile is much better to read than a “trumpet blowing” profile. Don’t name drop a case you merely paginated a bundle for as one of your achievements.
  13. Moving upon qualification is ok. Not everybody will presume you were not kept on. The goal is qualification. You have decades of work in front of you, so don’t over analyse the impact of moves you make so early into your career.
  14. Don’t qualify into a dying area. Those moving into low value personal injury or asbestos claims are likely to be short careers.
  15. Criminal law is the most interesting area of law, but remember at the trainee end you will be dealing with the dregs of society, as much relates to addiction related offences (e.g. the theft/burglary charges linked to addiction).
  16. Get to your feet where possible. Even if it’s a tiny procedural application of an infant approval hearing. There is nothing worse than a lawyer who never attends court speculating on how a Judge is likely to decide. If your supervisor won’t let you speak then at least attend and watch other advocates in action.
  17. The number of hours you are in the office will not automatically equate to how good people think you are. Don’t suffer from “presenteeism” and make sure you maintain a social life. Pulling a 14-18 hour day on a regular basis normally means a person cannot manage their work correctly.
  18. Bring your old LPC textbooks in to work if you recently completed the course. You can use these to double check and reference as a comfort blanket.
  19. Attend CPD courses. Some maybe useful, but it’s a good way to get out of the office. It also helps you with networking at a junior stage of your career. See number 2 above – trainees at these events are likely to be more honest with you about how their TC is going.
  20. Brown nosing works. Everybody knows exactly what is going on, but for some reason it still ends in success. Just make sure you park your self-respect at the front door before the start of each day.

Over and out.

Legal Orange.

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