Reflections of the first year as a Trainee

If I cast my mind back to this time 12 months ago, I was experiencing a huge mix of emotions. Getting ready to bid a sad farewell to the job I’d been at for over four years, where I’d grown from a LPC graduate with no practical experience to a more confident, more knowledgeable and more promising future solicitor. In the same breath, the anticipation of starting a Training Contract, which had always been marketed as the goal for law students, was incredibly exciting and filled me with many questions. What seats will I do? Will I like it? And the product of that never ending imposter syndrome, what if I’m not good enough?

I’m now almost halfway through my two-year training contract and what a year it’s been. People said it would go quickly but it really has flown by. It suddenly feels like the qualification I’ve always strived for, is finally (almost) in sight.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it has been quite the learning curve but the unwavering support and guidance from Mike Hayward, our Training Principal, Jane Anderson, my mentor as well as Suzanna Stephenson and Helen Simpson, my supervisors, has shown me that we are all on this journey together and that the firm truly believe in your growth and want you to succeed as much as you do yourself.

My first seat was with the Commercial Property department based in our Milton Keynes office. Whilst still apprehensive about what it would entail, I did find some comfort in that I had some prior experience of commercial property transactions. My development over this seat was obvious, by the end I was able to manage my own caseload and was confident in the work I was doing for clients.

My second seat is in the Wills, Probate and Lifetime Planning department, also in our Milton Keynes office. This was something completely different to anything I’ve had experience of before. Coming from a commercial world, I was keen to do a seat involving ‘individuals’ and be exposed to a much more sensitive and emotive area of law. Again, I can recognise my own progression during this seat, both in terms of legal knowledge but also in my nature with clients and the skill of being their support whilst going through an understandably difficult period of their life. The way you approach commercial clients and individual clients are inevitably going to be different and this was something I have really learnt during this seat.

Having reflected on the last year, I have five key points for future trainees:

  1. Learn how to really utilise your case management system and to properly time record. Both concepts were entirely new to me when I started but are both now absolutely paramount in my day-to-day work. I really do wonder how we would cope without them!
  2. Ask questions. You will be surprised at how much time your colleagues and superiors are willing to invest in your development. Ask those questions, delve deeper into discussions and ideas. It’s all part of your growth and will undoubtedly broaden your knowledge and insight.
  3. Go beyond the task set. Trainees have a tendency to complete the task in front of them and consider it ‘job done’. Going that step further, being proactive as to the next steps, doing some additional reading into that particular legal point or finding a webinar to watch will really enhance your understanding and make you an all-round better lawyer.
  4. Training diaries. A previous trainee gave me a good tip when I joined, which I then passed on to the newest cohort of trainees, of blocking out 30 minutes in your diary at the end of the week to complete your training diary. It’s easy for these to slip when there are pressing deadlines for fee earning work, but you really will thank yourself when you don’t have weeks to catch up on at a time. This is a top tip I’m still trying to perfect myself!
  5. And finally, enjoy yourself! Make connections with your colleagues, throw yourself into the uncomfortable, get yourself known across the firm and attend those networking events. They all shape you into a better trainee and ultimately, a better solicitor.

I am excited to see where the final year of my training contract will take me and how much I will grow with another 12 months of guidance and support from colleagues!

Yazmin Elliott

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