Agree and Close
Mind the knowledge gap – what you are not taught on the LPC
The LPC is specifically designed to prepare you for a career as a solicitor, and the start of that is, of course, becoming a trainee. So this begs the question – what issues will you face as a trainee that are not dealt with on the LPC?
By the time you become a trainee solicitor, you will have developed your legal knowledge extensively, through either a law degree or GDL, and on the LPC. However, there are circumstances and tasks that you will face as a trainee which the LPC has not covered. Everyone will face different issues and will have a different view on what is difficult and what is not, but I think the most common issues are:
1)Time recording. You probably know of this, but will likely (unless you have substantial work experience) not have actually had to do it. As a trainee, you will have to record, usually in 6-minute units, what you spend your entire day on. This creates a certain degree of pressure, as you feel clearly accountable for how long a task takes you, particularly when you first start out. However, it is expected that trainees will spend longer completing tasks, particularly when you are new to a department. You should, therefore, complete the tasks as efficiently as possible (whilst not sacrificing quality), but do not become overly stressed about the time it takes.
2) Time management. As a student, you will generally have faced a stable and predictable workload. It might have been a heavy workload, but you will have known ahead of time when work is due. This is not always the case once you are a trainee. New tasks come in that are urgent, or a client might want to bring forward a previously agreed timeframe, and you will have to prioritise and manage your time, and the client’s expectations, accordingly. In these circumstances never be afraid to get guidance from your supervisor, as they will have a far better idea than you what order tasks should be completed in, and when by. Finally, expect the odd late night to get things done in time!
3) Business development/Networking. You will likely have already been involved in networking of some nature, even if it is just attending law career fairs. However, in my opinion, it feels much more pressurised once you know you are representing a firm and meeting with current or prospective clients. Ultimately there is no substitute for experience, and you will simply get used to this over time.
4) Dealing with unknown areas of law. Despite having spent between 2 and (potentially) 6 years in legal education, there is still an awful lot you will not know. This is to be expected, and with good time management you may have time to research new areas as and when you encounter them. However, you may be handed a task that you are unfamiliar with and a tight timescale in which to complete it. In these circumstances, you should speak to your supervisor or a senior colleague as they can no doubt give you a quick précis of what you need to know. Ultimately remember that your work will be checked by someone familiar with the area who will correct any issues with your work, but it goes without saying that you should do your best to get it right.
Some, if not all, of these points will be less pronounced if you have prior work experience in a law firm. This is one of the reasons why having such work experience significantly strengthens a training contract application.
Regardless of whether you have prior work experience or not, it is important to remember that the purpose of doing 2 years as a trainee is to develop and learn, and that nobody will expect you to have all the necessary knowledge and skills at the outset.