Being a trainee has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience in different areas of law whilst working with colleagues across the firm. As a second year Trainee in Woodfines, I have recently finished my second seat in our firm’s Commercial Property department and have embarked on my third seat in the Litigation department.
Any seat move does not come without its challenges. Moving into a different area of law having just gotten my head round the last area feels a little like I am in the deep end whilst still learning how to swim. There are different clients, colleagues and a new office to familiarise myself with and it feels very much like starting a new job.
So far I have had the privilege of working with the Family and Commercial Property teams. I have also had the invaluable opportunity to work as a paralegal in Litigation prior to starting my training contract which has made this seat change a little less daunting. Although the law is the law, each area has a different client base and requires a different approach, especially when moving between contentious and non-contentious areas and learning to temper your tone accordingly is a skill which is essential.
Starting work in a new seat can feel a little disjointed as you are working on elements of a transaction often out of context, but at around the three month mark I have found my confidence has grown and having experienced each component in its own right, I am in a better position to run a file from start to finish, which is particularly rewarding. Each trainee is allocated a Training Principal and has the opportunity to draw on their supervisor’s expertise, sit in on client meetings and attend court.
It seems to be anecdotal that trainees spend their time photocopying. In this firm however, I have never found that to be the case and have always been treated as a key member of each team and involved from day one.
As a trainee I have access to firm-wide webinars and training in all areas of law which I have found to be useful, not only in broadening my knowledge of the law in the seat I am in, but also understanding niche crossover legal issues.
Trainees are also encouraged to become involved with networking events. This month alone I have had the chance to attend a business breakfast event, a careers fair at a local Upper School and present an award on behalf of the firm at Bedfordshire Business Women Awards 2018. I truly believe that networking is a skill all solicitors should have and I have been grateful to attend the training sessions which Woodfines has provided to maximise effectiveness in this area.
I think you can go into a training contract with a very firm view of the area you want to qualify into, and while inevitably there are seats you enjoy more than others, in my experience, some of the areas I had not previously considered have been the ones I have enjoyed the most, so having an open mind is essential in really getting the most from each experience. It is also worth noting that regardless of the area in which you qualify, knowledge gained in a different seat is never wasted as all areas of law are intrinsically linked in some way, and the skills acquired will help you understand a transaction more holistically.
My advice to any new trainee is firstly, be proactive. A training contract only lasts two years, and you will get out of it what you are willing to put in. Secondly, it is tempting to want to hurry the process along but it is worth remembering that a training contract gives you a unique and privileged opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners and familiarise yourself with different areas of law whilst being granted a safety net, something you are unlikely to have at any other point in your career, and is gone sooner than you expect. Make the most of the experience and use your time to strive for excellence.