So, we’re now 1 year into your training contract and 1 year closer to qualifying. You’re hopefully more confident in yourself and perhaps a step closer to picking your future career area. What’s happened in the first year?
For me, it’s meant a new office at HP and a whole new group of colleagues many of whom I can happily count as friends. It’s been two seats in two totally new, both transactional, areas to me, and a whole load of networking events where the usual suspects have become more familiar.
I’ve learned how to improve my drafting and been given a whole range of documents to draft that I would never have even understood last September, let alone feel confident about having a go and something resembling my first draft being sent to the client. My research skills have also developed into what I think is currently my best skill. I’m tackling more difficult topics and taking the initiative to research topics around the deals I’m involved in.
To my own surprise, I’ve come to actually enjoy attending networking events. They’re still daunting and I still get nervous talking to somebody new, but feedback from my supervisors and colleagues suggest my nerves don’t come across and that I’m actually pretty good at it. This is something that I’ve definitely improved on this year simply by throwing myself into as many different events as possible and I will continue to push my comfort zone as I move into my second year.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve had good exposure to clients of the firm which has helped me developed case management skills and to really understand what each client is looking for (note to first years: this is not always what you might expect it to be!). There have been lots of times where I feel the client, or the solicitor on the other side, knows best and have doubted my ability to advise or at least suggest a way forward. This is something that I’ve learned comes with time, experience, and support from your supervisor. Your confidence grows as you become more familiar with your seat. What I’ve also learned is that clients won’t write you off, or decline your help, just because you’re the trainee – they’re mostly very grateful for your time and effort, which goes a long way to make you feel you’ve done a good job.
Am I any less nervous for the next year? Probably not. Okay, I’m more comfortable in my skillset and how being a trainee works, but that doesn’t prevent the change of seat nerves after finding your feet at the end of the previous six months (see my previous blog for dealing with change of seat: here). I’m also much better at holding my own and coping when things get stressful. There’s also the additional task of picking what you think you want to qualify in, which for me is still undecided at this point. I firmly believe keeping an open mind to different areas is the best way to go, but I do need to sit down with myself and make this decision at some point.
Moving into second year, it’s exciting to have a whole new bunch of trainees joining us and I hope they feel they can come to us for pointers as we have with the year above us. Second year trainees have been invaluable in times where you’re not quite sure what to do, who to go to and just generally with the ins and outs of trainee life.
If I could give my first year self any advice it would be:
Remember you’re in it for the long haul and that the two years actually goes quite quickly;
Don’t get too stressed about it all and talk to your other trainees – they become some of your closest friends and often know what to say to calm you down. (I also attended a very interesting course on emotional resilience which was really eye opening to dealing with the unique stresses of being a trainee.)
Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Okay, you need to have an educated and well thought out attempt at a task, but you’re here to learn as much as you can. You won’t get through your training contract without making mistakes, it’s how you deal with it that teaches you the most.
In short, it’s been a rollercoaster but generally a very positive year and has reaffirmed that my career choice is right for me and I’m still excited to see what the next year brings.