Finding your feet: the first month as a trainee
So you've secured your training contract, finished your LPC and your first day as a trainee is upon you. But how exactly do you make the most of that first stressful month at your firm? Gemma Broughall has been there, done that and got the training contract. We asked her to explain how to find your feet in those scary first days...
When I learned that I'd been offered a training contract, my initial thoughts were of excitement and relief. At last, I'd overcome the major hurdle facing all would-be solicitors today—I'd secured that elusive training contract!
Then a feeling of panic set in.
What does a trainee do?
I started to wonder: what does it mean to be a trainee? Would I be treated as just another number? Would my life during the next two years consist of being chained to a photocopier and getting repetitive strain injury from paginating bundles? Taking the leap from law student to trainee lawyer can be a daunting prospect, but it's also an incredibly interesting and rewarding one.
When I started my first seat in a corporate department, I'd previously worked as a paralegal in the arbitration department of my firm's Paris office, so I knew something of the culture and inner workings of the firm, which made the transition to trainee a little easier.
When I was told that I was going into corporate, I was very pleased but also a little apprehensive, as it had been some time since I last dusted off my law-school corporate notes. What if I couldn't remember anything? But I need not have worried, as my LPC knowledge came flooding back.
Moving from LPC to a training contract
I was pleased to discover that, as a trainee, I was putting the skills I learned on the LPC into practice on a daily basis. Thankfully, the tuition fees—which left my wallet considerably lighter—and all those hours of hard work were worth it.
What amazed me most was the steep learning curve during my first month. Right from the beginning, I was involved in a variety of aspects of corporate work, ranging from working on an IPO (Initial Public Offering) to undertaking private-company law work for various clients (including preparing completion documents for venture-capital investments and filing forms at Companies House).
I even managed to squeeze in some work summarising Italian pleadings for the litigation department.
How much does a training contract really teach?
When I reflect on my training-contract diary for the first month, I realise just how many different tasks I undertook and how much I learned. I was given meaningful tasks to complete on transactions, assisted at client meetings and was in direct day-to-day contact with clients right from the word go.
After a month, I really felt like I’d settled into the rhythm of life in the office, and the corporate department in particular. All levels of the firm, from senior partners through to support staff, were incredibly friendly, welcoming and willing to share their time.
My firm operated an open-door policy (literally!), so I found it very easy to approach fee earners with any queries that I had. My firm also very much values initiative, so if we had contributions to make then we were encouraged to voice them.
Overall, my experience after one month was incredibly positive. I was given an interesting and broad spectrum of legal work to do and settled well into working life as a trainee.