Pensions was always an area of law that was skimmed over throughout university, often too complex to be dealt with in employment law classes or when discussing provisions in wills. So, starting my traineeship with a seat in pensions, an area that I had no experience in, academic or otherwise, was venturing into the unknown. Now, having completed the seat, here are some thoughts on what it's like to be a pensions trainee…
It's hard starting a seat in an area of law you have no knowledge of, but it's important not to let this put you off. The best thing to do is to throw yourself in at the deep end and try to learn as much as you can in the first few weeks, starting as you intend to go on.
Before beginning the traineeship, I contacted the pension team's previous trainee to ask advice on what I could do to prepare myself for the seat. She sent me links to resources that provided some background and reassured me that the team wouldn't expect me to know everything on my first day.
Once I got started, I soon realised that the background reading I had done only skimmed the surface. It would take a lot more to build up my understanding to a level where I was able to assist on legal tasks. The team was super supportive from the start, discussing more complex aspects of pensions law with me, taking the time to make sure I understood the concepts that I was dealing with and directing me to further resources to help build up my knowledge.
Getting into the swing of things
As my knowledge and understanding of pensions law increased, so did my ability to get involved with different tasks. I've had the chance to undertake work for various pension schemes, including technical legal drafting, preparing policy documentation, reviewing member communications and research tasks ranging from looking into what to do when a pension scheme member is missing, to how American trade restrictions can affect a UK-based pension scheme. I've also had the opportunity to write numerous blogs, helping to keep myself, the team and our clients up to date on the latest developments in the pensions world.
One of the biggest things I've learned is that in pensions, no two schemes are the same and there is no 'one size fits all' approach to any piece of work. So, for anyone looking for an area of law where the work is very varied and each piece of work is a new challenge, pensions could be the seat (or career) for you.
It's been a steep learning curve, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of my first seat.
I may be some way off becoming a pensions expert, but at least I'm no longer completely clueless when a colleague mentions a pensions concept, and I was able make a real contribution to the work of the team during my eight-month seat.
Regardless of where I end up, the experience I gained from this seat has stood me in good stead for my second seat and my legal career (and as an added bonus, I'll have a heads-up when it comes to understanding my own pension!).
Apply for a 2023 traineeship now – closing date is Monday 9 August.