Starting a training contract can be daunting, exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. It is full of unknowns and you only really begin to understand what this two-year period entails as you progress through the plethora of challenges, lessons and highlights.
Our training contracts began in September 2021 and many of us had not worked in the legal sector as a paralegal or otherwise beforehand. As we approach the end of our final seats, we reflect on our time training at Howes Percival.
Whilst university equips you with transferable skills and baseline legal knowledge, it cannot fully prepare you for the first step into the legal industry. It is fair to say that a training contract presents its own tests and challenges, many of which are faced by all trainees.
Trainees have to adapt to different areas of law, some of which they may not have studied before. Getting to grips with new terminology, legislation, case law and procedures can be overwhelming, particularly at the start of each seat. Fabia Bazley (Norwich) comments:
“The work is challenging at times, but you are exposed to a variety of areas within the firm and I believe this has enabled me to develop into a better lawyer as a result.”
Stepping outside of your comfort zone facilitates progression, provides invaluable experience, and develops skills needed as a solicitor. A training contract is not confined to technical challenges, however, as Zara Khan (Leicester) highlights:
“The personal challenges include adapting to different teams, offices and supervisors, sometimes whilst you’re also moving to a new city.”
The adjustment to new colleagues (and sometimes new surroundings) is perhaps overlooked relative to the unfamiliarity of the law itself. Nevertheless, each seat rotation provides insight into how different teams operate and the various approaches taken by lawyers at the firm. Eliza Kay (Cambridge) notes that as a result of these challenges, her confidence in a working environment has progressed during her training contract.
Every challenge faced in a training contract presents an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. Our trainees have picked out key lessons that they have learned during the process.
One thing echoed by many is the need to approach each seat with an open mind. Our cohort has worked in a variety of seats, including Corporate, Commercial Disputes, Construction, Planning, Employment and Intellectual Property and IT. Whilst it is easy to have pre-conceived ideas of what a seat involves before starting it, as Nichola Constantinides (Northampton) notes, approaching each seat with an open mind is important:
“Sometimes the seats that you expect to enjoy the least are the ones you enjoy the most. Even if you decide that you do not want to qualify into a particular seat, you develop valuable transferrable skills and knowledge, and have the opportunity to learn from, and build relationships with, experienced solicitors and others within the team.”
Iona Palmer (Northampton) shares this view and her biggest piece of advice to new trainees is to give everything a try:
“I say this because I was adamant I never wanted to be a corporate lawyer when I began at HP and here I am two years later qualifying into the Corporate team in Northampton.”
The value gained from undertaking seats in a wide variety of areas is stressed by Daniel Giblett (Norwich) who explains:
“I had a strong inclination as to what kind of lawyer I would be throughout law school. Trying different seats, some of which I would never have considered during my studies, has proven extremely useful when deciding where to qualify. The whole process allowed me to assess my strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes.”
Whilst undertaking a variety of seats is beneficial, there is the inevitable pressure of understanding new specialist areas. After hours spent revising statute books and referring to historical cases, you may think that you have all the requisite knowledge to begin your training contract, but as is frequently cautioned, undertaking legal work is a far cry from any experience at law school. Mistakes are therefore inevitable. Zara comments:
“Making mistakes while processing a vast amount of new information is normal and it is important not to beat yourself up over every mistake as long as you learn from it.”
Daniel adds that it is totally expected to get some things wrong:
“The important part is showing that you have taken the feedback on board and implemented it when a similar task arises in the future.”
It is also essential to have a can-do attitude - gaining experience and seizing as many opportunities as you can, whether that be in relation to work, networking or wider firm contributions such as being part of one of our many committees.
Nevertheless, saying ‘yes’ does not impress if you cannot complete what you have agreed to do, or compromise on quality in attempting to do so. Nichola comments that:
“Managing your time appropriately and being enthusiastic yet sensible with what you can do and when you can do it is important. It is also crucial to communicate this to your team (and others) to avoid disappointment and unnecessary, often last minute, stress.”
Whilst this article thus far has focused on the more difficult aspects of our training contracts, it would paint an incomplete picture to omit the many highlights.
Zara explains that her highlights have included all the mediations and court hearings she has been involved in and the unique networking and trainee events she has attended. This is in addition to the relationships she has developed with colleagues. Eliza echoes this and says
“Attending networking events and socials as well as integrating into four different teams over the two years has been incredibly enjoyable.”
Despite the geographical distance between some of us, regular firm events have enabled us to build great relationships both in and out of work. The annual AGM provides time to catch-up with everyone from all offices, and Fee-Earners’ Forums offer a relaxed atmosphere to discuss topics of interest and gain a wider understanding of our roles and the firm. Trainees also enjoy an annual trainee party, which was spent boating through the Norfolk Broads this year.
Networking events are also an easy way to build relationships with colleagues and other professionals in our locations. There is a whole host of events to get involved with, which the firm actively encourages you to attend. These range from outdoor laser tag in the Midlands to wine tasting in Norwich.
A training contract is a personal journey, but it is a period of intense learning and personal development for all, bringing with it incredible enrichment, both intellectually and socially.
The year of 2023 marks the end of our training contracts and the beginning of our careers as qualified solicitors. Many of us are delighted to start this next chapter with Howes Percival, and are excited to continue to face fresh challenges, learn new lessons and enjoy more experiences in our roles as newly qualified solicitors.
To find out more about the training and career opportunities with Howes Percival click here.
The information on this site about legal matters is provided as a general guide only. Although we try to ensure that all of the information on this site is accurate and up to date, this cannot be guaranteed. The information on this site should not be relied upon or construed as constituting legal advice and Howes Percival LLP disclaims liability in relation to its use. You should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action.