However, remembering how scared I felt in the first few weeks, it’s difficult to believe that not only have I survived a full year but also how much I’ve learned in that time. As the new trainees are currently experiencing the most challenging few weeks of their traineeship, I thought I would share just a few tips to help them make it through.
Make the most of your colleagues
Whether it be a fellow trainee or a senior partner, everyone knows exactly what you’re going through so don’t be afraid to ask them to spare you five minutes to share your ideas, ask a quick question or even just to have a chat about something entirely unrelated to work if you need to destress. From experience, everyone has always been more than happy to help and it won’t be long before others start coming to you for the same reason.
Never stop asking questions
As much as it’s nice to believe that you know almost everything about the law having spent five years studying at university, it doesn’t take long to realise you don’t know very much at all. There is such a vast range of experience and expertise within the firm, it makes sense to ask someone for help when you need it. It's sometimes difficult to remember that no question is a silly question but it’s how we learn and it’s part of the job so it’s a good habit to get in to from day one.
Keep a ‘to do’ list
For most trainees, you come to a department and need to pick up work from where a previous trainee has left off so there is no opportunity to ease in and we need to hit the ground running. I quickly learned that being organised is the trick to getting things done so whether you favour the traditional list scribbled on a bit of paper or an action list on the online case management system, a To Do list is essential. By keeping a note of your tasks for the day, you know exactly what needs to be done and you can see all that you have achieved by the time the clock strikes 5pm (even if some days it’s not very much at all).
Never be without a pen and notebook
As a trainee, there is so much to take in that it makes sense to write the important things down. You will inevitably be asked to do something for a colleague, to sit in on a client meeting or take an unexpected phone call so having a notebook near by and noting everything gives you a useful reference point before and after you tackle any task. A year on, I still find myself looking at old notes and not a day goes by where I don’t feel the need to add to them.
Keep an open mind
Some people come to the profession knowing exactly what they do and more specifically, what they don’t want to do once they qualify. Others have no idea at all. However, until we get there, trainees will spend time working in different departments within the firm and although for some, the prospect of spending six months selling property or drafting wills is less than appealing when all you want to do is conduct a high profile defence in court, it’s important to focus on the work in hand and learn as much as possible in the meantime. It may be that by the end of the two year traineeship, your plans remain unchanged but at least your experiences will reaffirm your initial thoughts. On the other hand, six months spent with the corporate team may make you realise that perhaps family law isn’t for you after all and that advising companies on private equity investments is where your heart really lies.
In any event, keep an open mind, make the most of every opportunity and remember that you don’t know until you try.