While there’s no shortage of articles around which will help you understand exactly what’s going on during your training contract, there’s less information about the period after you’ve completed it. Whilst some of it is bespoke to a particular firm, there’s some knowledge that can be applied to any aspiring solicitor.
Picking an area of law
When you qualify, you’ll need to ascertain what you’re looking to achieve in your career before picking the area that you’re going to qualify into, because it’s a decision that will shape the rest of your legal career.
In order to do this, you’ll need to think carefully about your performance in each of the seats you completed over the course of your training contract. You’ll also need to think fully about the nature of the clients you’re looking to work for, as well as the lifestyle and culture within the particular departments and how you felt you fitted in to that.
Finally, you’ll need to consider what you enjoyed most over the course of your training contract, how much money you’re looking to earn, and then balance these things to give you the lifestyle you’re looking to live – there’s no point going into the highest intensity fields if you want to have as much leisure time as possible once you start working, because you won’t be getting what you want.
Whilst some who finish the training contract will see a seamless transition from trainee to fully qualified solicitor at their firm, not everyone will be so lucky. Some firms will not retain all of their trainees, or there might not be places for everyone in the department they want – openings are not standardised and will depend on market conditions at the time.
If this happens to you, it’s important to remember not to panic – this is no slight on your ability, and you need to have faith in yourself and keep going, especially when you’ve taken such a hit.
What’s suggested by those in the know is that you get in touch with a few well-established recruitment consultants who can help you out in your recruitment drive. On top of this though, you should be keeping close tabs on the websites of the firms you are looking to apply to, as well as general legal job boards.
There would also be no harm in dropping some speculative CVs and cover letters to firms that you’re interested in working for – it’s a possibility that if they’re looking to recruit at your level in the near future, that you’ll be ahead of the curve, which is never a bad thing.
When you eventually arrive in the office for your first day as a qualified solicitor, you might be left wondering what’s so different to yesterday, but the reality will sink in before too long! The first couple of months can be stressful and a little daunting as you begin to take on responsibility for your own clients and workflow, but don’t panic.
Remember that you’re not expected to be running the practice immediately! You are still allowed to (and most definitely should) be asking your senior colleagues for guidance and advice – you should enjoy the continuity of the learning curve which is integral to a career as a solicitor – you’re always learning.
You should attempt to build up work experience in as many different projects as possible over your first few years as a qualified solicitor, and try to work with a variety of different partners or solicitors to continue growing your network. This should mean that you’ll develop your own approach to client management, inspired from a large number of sources, and will find out what approach works for you. The more varied your experience, the better you’ll be able to deal with new problems in your future career.
Celebrations – you're a solicitor!
At the end of all your training and arduous hard work comes the opportunity to look back for a moment and reflect on everything you’ve achieved. For many, this comes upon being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors.
Finally, you’ll be invited to attend an admissions ceremony (probably a couple of months after you qualify), where you’ll celebrate your achievements with your loved ones. It’s a nice way to round off your training contract and gives you a platform to enjoy the spotlight for a brief minute before the hard work continues!
If you liked this set of helpful tips, there’s plenty more where they came from! From Student to Solicitor: The Complete Guide to Securing a Training Contract by Charlotte Harrison is published by Sweet & Maxwell and is an incredibly useful tool in the arsenal of any aspiring solicitor!