So onto my list of tips for your first year, and obviously for winning the Morton Fraser 'bake off' too:-
1. Attention to detail is key
As a lawyer (and obviously a baker) the little things matter. When you're training, you are supposed to be learning, but also adding value. You're just starting out, so obviously there's plenty that you won't know, but you have got to control the controllables. When you are pushed for deadlines or getting a four page advice note out, it is very easy to miss a couple of words or bits of punctuation. However, this is a really easy way to get a client's back up. They expect perfection, and whilst achieving it won't necessarily get noticed, not achieving it probably will. If you make sure your work is pristine, then other solicitors can only be as good as you. This is a really easy way to add value, and to look good for your manager. Don't get too down if you miss something though, everyone does it, just make sure you get it right next time.
2. Work through problems, but ask for a bit of help if you need to
As the new trainee, I'm sorry to say with (near) certainty that you won't be the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room. That's not a problem though, you're not meant to be, and as such you shouldn't be afraid to check certain things with others. First of all have a look online or in a book, and there is definitely nothing wrong with a quick Google. If it is going to take you two hours to find something that a person could explain in a minute though, and they are not too busy, then just ask. Be nice about it though!
3. Get timescales and be proactive
Other fee earners will come over and give you work (hopefully), and one of the most important things is to be able to actually know when it is all needed by. If you do it on the same day when it's only needed in a week's time, and you neglect something urgent, then that is obviously a bit of a problem. If you check on timescales when you are given the work then you can prioritise properly. This will make the fee earner feel more comfortable, and also allows you to be more proactive and plan your time more effectively.
4. Stay open minded about the goal
You may know (or think you know) exactly what you want to do when going into your traineeship, but make sure to keep an open mind about other areas too. A certain topic may have been pretty boring when you studied it, but when you are in practice it is likely to be very different. The law very rarely works the same way in practice as a text book or lecture. By staying open minded, friendly and approachable, people will be more willing to get you involved and will be much happier to have you around. You may actually find something you love doing in the place you least expected it. So don't be passive in each of your seats: challenge yourself, and stay open minded to the whole range of options available to you.
5. Don't Panic!
As the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy tells us, Don't Panic! I feel like this is probably the best bit of advice in your traineeship really. We can't achieve this all of the time, but trying to avoid the panic as much as possible will help you immeasurably. You are going to do two years in various bits of the firm, so just when you start to know one area, you are thrown into a different deep end. If you have messed something up, tell someone straight away, and it is generally fixable with a bit of time, or if you are under pressure with deadlines, don't panic it's all achievable. If you're feeling like it's a bit too much, just take a deep breath, go for a wander, have a glass of water and then come back to the problem. Your mind will be more ordered and should be able to deal with the problems better then.
Help each other out as trainees, you are all going through the same thing. If you can help someone out at one point, then when you are under pressure hopefully they will return the favour. Think of it as less like 'The Apprentice' with everyone out for themselves, and more like the Bake Off, with people helping you to get something ready on time as the clock ticks down.
Some of these points you will already know and have thought of, but maybe you won't know quite how important they are. Others we all need to keep working on throughout our traineeship and also in practice too. You'll realise that these are just my tips, and I'm sure other trainees would have different ones from their experience, but hopefully there's something in here for everyone. I'd also like to say thanks to fellow second years, Ellen Robinson and Chris Clark, as well as Nicole Moscardini an NQ in our Employment team, who have each given me a bit of insight on their own experiences.