A training contract at a law firm is a journey which should challenge and develop a trainee solicitor from a student to a qualified lawyer. Gabs Rodriguez-Cleary, a first year trainee, shares his reflections on his journey during the first six months.
I bounded into my training contract very green and keen. I had not previously worked in a law firm so everything was new. My first thought was that I was pleased to find myself in a team who were cheerful and friendly themselves. When applying for my training contract, Shoosmiths had struck me as a firm which encouraged that willingness to engage with people and I was happy to see that bear out in practice.
My enthusiasm was instantly appreciated as was my willingness to get on with everything I was tasked with. I stayed late one night in my first few weeks, not because anyone had asked me to, but because there was a job I wanted to see through and see through well. I was pleased when my supervising Partner recognised my efforts with an Above & Beyond award for taking that on myself. I had made a good start to my working life just by showing an appetite to do well. That is something which is in everyone's capability and is something which I would encourage any prospective trainee to be mindful of.
This is not to say that because I have shown a good attitude that my time in my first seat has been easy. Whilst you are developing, there is a real world of work happening around you and you are expected to contribute positively to that. Expectations increase as you settle into your role and your surroundings.
Mistakes are a part of the process and nobody walks into a training contract as the finished article. Precisely, part of your training is how you react to the mistakes you make and the constructive criticism of your work. I knew that the feedback I received was so I did better next time round. However, this was probably also the biggest challenge I faced. Such was my desire to do well, that in my eagerness to please I became so concerned with bouncing back and impressing people that I actually lost focus on the precise task in hand which caused me to repeat mistakes.
I learned an important lesson here. A strength can become a weakness if you aren't adapting in other ways. What was required from me in this period actually was to take a step back and listen carefully to the instructions which were being given. I needed to develop a more considered mind-set, not something that came naturally to me. This is something that I am working on still and I am now seeing improvements in my work from applying myself to that end.
You may be someone who has a great work ethic. Alternatively you may have a keen eye for detail or be able to express yourself in a clear, concise manner. These are all great skills to have. However, whatever your strengths are, a training contract in a top law firm is designed to develop you in a number of ways which will be new to you. The nature of the work demands this. Being able to look at the bigger picture and realise this has been an important step in my development and I know I will benefit hugely from this lesson in the long run.
My time in my first seat has been a really positive experience. I have enjoyed my time with the team and feel that the supervision I have received has given me the right balance of encouraging me when I've done things well and setting expectations of me to keep developing and improving. As a result, I now have a clear understanding of what is expected of me and better still, a strong understanding of how to improve myself in line with the demands of life in the legal profession. I look forward to putting this understanding to practice in the next stage of my journey as a trainee solicitor.
Based on my experience, my top three tips for you starting a training contract are:
- Be prepared to work hard and meet every challenge with positivity - it's the quickest way to learn what you need to in the long run.
- Get out of your comfort zone - if there are areas which you feel you are weaker in than others, think about how to address them. This may require patience but it will pay off.
- Understand that your training contract is a process - challenge yourself to constantly keep improving but also recognise that you aren't going to become the world's best lawyer overnight!