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Career Advice for Trainee Solicitors – Senior Lawyers Share Their Top Tips

When it comes to starting your training as a lawyer, how do you stand out from the crowd?

We asked our senior lawyers for their top tips:

  • Be open to all areas of specialty at the beginning of your training contract – some may surprise you.
  • Never leave your desk without a pen and paper so that if someone asks you to do something, you can make notes and won’t have to return to them with questions or forget to do it. It also shows that you’re switched on and paying attention.
  • When working for others, remember that communication is key. Keep your supervisors updated on what you’re doing, how it’s going and when it’s likely to be finished and ask questions so that you’re continually learning. 
  • Be polite, courteous and make friends with people at all levels. A solicitor’s career can be a long and varied one and you never know who you will end up working with, or for, in the future.
  • Check the diary and task list daily before anything else.
  • Think about using the phone to speak to people rather than just emailing. This is particularly important for client contact but is essential to help form relationships with colleagues, other professionals and people you're working with often. Obviously email is great for some contact but it shouldn't be used automatically.
  • Get a good grip on the team you work in. Understanding who does what and who is best to ask for specific things will be a massive benefit to you.
  • Commit yourself to learning. Soak up the experience of colleagues around you and don’t stop asking questions. Most lawyers enjoy sharing their knowledge, so use that to your advantage. Insist on joining them in client meetings, and court hearings. It’s your career - take everything you can from it.
  • When asked to do something, have a think about what the next step might be on the case and offer to do it without being asked - it’s a good way to test whether you’re picking up the right tactics or strategy and it’s also enormously helpful to whoever you’re assisting.
  • Take time to get to know your colleagues and have a chat, don’t make it all about work. You spend more time with people in the office than those out of it so it’s important you have a good relationship. If you ever need help, you’ll be stuck if you haven’t got to know the people around you.
  • Remember that you learn from your mistakes – we all make them!
  • Always be willing to learn, to take advice, to ask questions and not just when you’re a trainee. Once you’ve qualified and specialised in a particular area of law, there will be a point where you think you know everything. But you don’t - you never stop learning. There’s always something new around the corner when you least expect it. That’s the hard bit to appreciate, but also the part that keeps you interested and challenged all through your career.
  • Always show initiative - if you are asked to do A and B tasks, think about what C, D and E may be.
  • Use common sense at all times. Sometimes an issue can be easily resolved if you take a step back and think about it using common sense.
  • If you don’t know the answer to something, find out or work out where you may be able to find the answer. It’s better to arrive with a potential solution than an unanswered problem.
  • When asked to do a task, always clarify what is expected of you, the deadline and the level of priority. This avoids all sorts of confusion.
  • Try to be confident even when you don’t feel it. 
  • Do everything you can on one file before you put it away - get ahead!
  • Spend time looking at all your jobs and then prioritise them. Reorder your list every day.
  • Remember that biscuits go a long way in any team, whatever the situation!

 

Thanks to the following lawyers for sharing their top tips:

Laura Preston

Michael Hardacre

Kieran Mitchell

Sally Gray

Martin Hudson

Patricia Noone

Marsha Thompson

Gemma Hall

Emma Doughty

 

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