By Ikra Shabir
Securing a training contract can be a rewarding yet nervous feeling, especially if you do not have any office experience. As a trainee, you are expected to get on with the tasks you are assigned, without being an inconvenience to the lawyers at the firm. Here are a few tips on how to settle into the firm and how to make the most out of your training contract, whether it is in the office or working from home!
Office environment and equipment
One of the most difficult adjustments is being in the office environment and using the equipment. This may seem like a trivial matter, but if you do not have any office experience, have never used a photocopier or a binder, how are you supposed to know how to use it? Make use of the ‘grace period’ at the start of your training contract to ask questions on how to use the equipment. These are not silly questions; at the end of the day your supervisors want the work done and it will save everyone time. However, be careful who you ask – you would not want to ask a partner or a solicitor as they will
have a lot on their hands. Make the most out of other members of your team such as admin assistants, legal assistants and secretaries (if they’re not busy!). Treat this with caution – you do not want to take advantage of the staff or look down on them. Remember to always be respectful as the members of staff have worked at the firm longer than you, and everyone is there to help each other. Never shy away from asking questions; it takes confidence to ask questions!
The way you should dress will differ from firm to firm, and even possibly within teams of firms. If you are part of a team who will often go to court, you might be expected to dress a lot smarter. This is something you can ask fellow trainees at your firm by networking with them. This will inevitably help smoothen the transition and calm your nerves on your first day! Top tip: you’d rather be overdressed than underdressed, particularly on Dress Down Fridays!
Not enough office experience?
If you are a student, now is the chance to start looking for extra work experience, or more so in September where firms should (hopefully) be reopening. If you have your training contract lined up for September, ask the firm if you can start a little earlier, for instance in August. This will help give you an extra month to adjust, get used to the online system and will give you the chance to get to know your colleagues better.
Be organised in terms of what tasks you have, who has assigned it to you and when the deadline is. These little details will help you stay on top of the tasks you may get and will benefit you in the long run. It is worth noting down your progress on each of the tasks as this will help you keep a better eye out on what is urgent and what needs to be completed.
Speak to other trainees
To get a grasp on what a typical day for a trainee is like, it is recommended to get to know the other trainees in the firm. Network with them, and get to know what their typical day entails, how much work they would get on a day-to-day basis, how they’re expected to manage their workload and communicate with their colleagues. This will help you settle in better and ease any existing nerves.
Enjoy being a trainee!
Many solicitors look back fondly at their time as trainees and miss that 2-year period (possibly because there was less responsibility). Enjoy the time you spend learning and make the most of out the opportunities that come your way. Take this experience as a way to not only get a feel of law in practice but as personal development. At the end of the day, you have secured the training contract, and no one will take it away! So, take this experience and turn it into a rememberable time!