Throughout your training contract you will undoubtedly be presented with difficult situations. Whether it's dealing with a demanding client, balancing conflicting work deadlines or managing a situation when something has gone wrong, here are a couple of things that I have learnt during the first year of my training contract at Shoosmiths:
1. Speak up
If something has gone wrong, don't try to cover up your mistakes. The best thing that you can do is tell your supervisor as soon as possible so that they can help you rectify the situation. Trainees (and very experienced solicitors, for that matter) make mistakes. It's likely that whatever has happened, your supervisor will have seen it before and will know what to do.
If you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, speak to the person who is delegating the work to you and explain what else you have on. This gives them the ability to speak to other members of the team and decide what work needs to take priority, and assign the work to someone else, if necessary.
Law firms have great support networks, and if you feel that you are struggling with something, help is there if you ask for it. Your fellow trainees, supervisor, office training principal and graduate recruitment team are all on hand, even if just for someone to vent to!
2. Don't panic
Sometimes things go wrong and it can feel like the end of the world. It isn't. The main lesson that I took from my first seat is that almost all mistakes are fixable.
Take a step back from the situation and try to gather together the facts for when you explain the situation to your supervisor (and your client if necessary). The natural reaction is to take a defensive mindset and start apportioning blame or thinking of excuses. Rather than doing that, try to consider how best to solve the problem - your supervisor or client will be much more appreciative if you come to them with a plan of action as opposed to a list of excuses.
3. Remain professional
You will, at some point or another during your training contract, be presented with difficult people or situations of conflict.
It is important when dealing with aggressive or confrontational people to remain calm and not to engage in an argument. You are, after all, a trainee solicitor and it reflects badly on yourself and the firm if you behave unprofessionally.
Make sure that your position is clear - be assertive without being aggressive. Although it can be difficult, try not to take things personally. You don't always know what the other person has going on in their job or their personal life, and more often than not someone's attitude has no reflection on you.
Focus on interests, not positions. Rather than attempting to force someone to back down from their position, look at what they are hoping to achieve and focus on where their interests coincide with yours or your client's. In transactional matters everyone is effectively working towards the same goal, so when faced with a difficult person, try to find a compromise where everyone can live with the outcome.
4. Don't take it home
No matter how bad a day you've had, do your best to leave it at work and not dwell when you've gone home. It's easier said than done, but if you can learn to switch off from thinking about work when you're not there, you'll have more peace of mind and a happier career.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.