Now that I am a quarter of the way through my traineeship with Brodies LLP, here are my top tips for surviving your first six months as a trainee:
1) Organisation is key
This might sound cliché, but being organised is extremely important. All of your work will have a deadline. This might be a court-date to adhere to, a completion date to meet, or simply responding to a client request.
Meeting deadlines is only possible if you organise your tasks and prioritise your time. Everyone utilises different organisational techniques. Some keep a hand-written to do list (that’s me) and some diarise dates electronically. There are many helpful tools out there, such as Outlook’s “tasks”, so my top tip is to find something that works for you and stick with it.
2) Be aware of deadlines
In order to be organised you need to know your deadlines. If you are not given a deadline, ask for one so that you can meet (or ideally exceed) the fee-earner’s expectations.
Once you have your deadline, ask yourself “is that deadline achievable?”
If the answer is no, due to other work and competing priorities, it is important to notify the fee-earner and advise them when you consider you could realistically complete the task. They would rather know that you don’t have capacity at the moment rather than have to chase you for not completing the work on time.
3) Communicate, communicate, communicate
Good communication with colleagues and clients is key. This is as simple as updating your e-mail’s auto-response if you are out of the office, or sending a group e-mail to colleagues if you have capacity to take on more work.
Communication is also essential for building strong relationships with your team. Take time to learn about them, and participate in team events.
4) Ask if you don’t know
It might sound simple, but if you don’t know something, ask.
I recommend quickly working out who to ask for what. Generally, your executive assistant (“EA”) should be able to answer most of your day-to-day queries, like how to work the printer or how to open a new client file.
Don’t worry if you do not know what you are doing or how you’re meant to do something. This is, after all, a traineeship where you train to become a qualified solicitor, and remember your senior colleagues have all been in the same position as you.
5) Support staff are your best friend
Your EA has likely been in the firm much longer than you and will know a lot more about the practical aspects of the work your team does than you. Therefore, it is important to work with them and benefit from their wealth of knowledge.
You will also come to rely on other support staff, such as the IT team (especially if you are not technology savvy like me), mail room staff, and print room staff.
6) Be enthusiastic, smile and enjoy it!
If you have capacity, and if your supervisor is happy for you to do so, then offer to do work for fee-earners outwith your immediate team. Not only will you gain more experience, but you will also expand your professional network.
However, always keep in mind that it is important to maintain a work-life balance. Ensure that you spend your free time relaxing and doing things that make you happy.
And finally… you’ve worked hard to be where you are, so enjoy the experience.
On February 8, 2019