On reflection, I admit that as a student the pressures of balancing studies, a part-time job (or in my case two part-time jobs) and a social life meant that any extracurricular seminars, lectures or networking events placed an additional demand on my time which was often somewhat of an inconvenience and, truth be told,I sometimes found it difficult to see the benefits of taking part. Though the pressures of maintaining a balanced lifestyle remain unchanged since becoming a trainee, I have a new found appreciation of the importance of professional education and networking and, in fact, can’t deny the potential professional and social benefits of getting involved.
Part of training to be a solicitor (and indeed something that remains important even once you are qualified) is the need to continually develop our skills and awareness of the profession which, for most trainees coming straight out of university, is at the most basic of levels. When we are then faced with the challenge of taking responsibility for our own “professional development” it is difficult to know where to begin without going into information overload. Luckily for Morton Fraser trainees however, our starting point is the in-house training programme designed especially for us, the purpose of which is to equip us with the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to function as solicitors, both now and after qualification. Although this often requires us to take part in the awkward (and often panic inducing) group activities, for example role plays and mock interviews, that we thought we had left behind at university, conquering the basics as a trainee can only serve us well for the rest of our careers until the day we finally decide to hang up our wigs and gowns. After all, irrespective of whether we ultimately become corporate, public sector or litigation solicitors, skills such as interviewing, negotiation and advocacy are ones that most of us need to demonstrate from day one and if not, they are certainly skills that no solicitor will be able to shy away from at some point in their career.
Having now attended several in-house seminars and training sessions, I have come to realise that not only do these activities improve your knowledge in a myriad of legal areas in addition to offering a welcome trip away from your desk and the court papers you have been drafting all morning, but they also indirectly give you the chance to expand your professional network which, in what is considered to be a people profession, can’t be a bad thing. It is for this reason (and not just because of the complimentary biscuits or glasses of wine that are almost always on offer) that I can’t help but venture to the after work events and seminars which take place beyond the familiar surroundings of the office.
Though the out of office seminars cover many topics which can be addressed in-house, they give you the opportunity to meet others outwith the firm with similar interests. Whether it be because of a shared interest in the seminar topic or a new found courage as a result of the wine, it doesn’t take much effort to get chatting to other professionals and before you realise it, you can be involved in a heated legal debate or alternatively, the conversation has taken such a detour that it relates to nothing work-related whatsoever. At university we were forever being told to “network, network, network” and after just nine short months as a trainee, I understand why. Whether those you meet inspire you to enter an area of the profession that you had never before considered, teach you something new that you can use to win a case now or in the future, allow you the chance to de-stress by chatting about the episodes of the day or simply share your love for wild mushroom foraging or armchair motor racing (hobbies which I became aware of at a recent employability event), there is much to be said for getting to know those who move in the same circles as you. After all, you never know who you may meet across the negotiation table in the years to come.