Blog · Meet the Hangry Lawyer · Trainee Lawyer

Life as a Trainee Solicitor: Q&A

Hi there!

I thought I’d divert from simply writing (long-winded) blog posts, and rambling on about my views and opinions.

Instead, I thought that I would handle this topic in a more interactive and bite-size information style.

Full disclosure – I asked a friend to partake in preparing for this post with me. I told her the blog title, and set her the task of coming up with a series of questions she would want answered (NB: she is not a lawyer or in a career related to the law herself).

It’s Question Time:

  1. What time do you start work?

Generally, I get into the office between 8-8:15am. As a morning person, I prefer to get in an hour or so before everyone descends. It enables me to get a few tasks done and plan my day in the quiet! Also, as a keen gym-goer, I head to the gym most mornings before work, which means I am up early anyway. For anyone thinking I’m mad for going to the gym early in the morning, do not be fooled, life as a solicitor is unpredictable, so I cannot rely on getting home early enough in the evening to go to the gym. This routine works for me!

2. Do you have any jobs or tasks that you do every day or is it always different?

Absolutely. A huge majority of daily life as a lawyer involves performing duties out of routine. Some of the things I do include: setting out a priority to-do list every morning; at the end of each day making sure I have completed any time sheets for the client matters I have worked on during the day; as a trainee, I have to keep a training diary and so I note all the work I do every day, and at the end of the week I input all the data into a training record template and save it; and something I swear by, is ensuring that I leave work with a tidy desk (both paper and electronic, i.e. making sure all paperwork is filed and emails are put into the correct client folders for maximum efficiency if I ever need to hunt anything down).

3. Which kind of law are you currently doing?

I am currently training in Corporate Law, but I also deal with more general company law matters, for example, the recent General Data Protection Regulations which came into force. I was handling regulatory matters for clients, and internally. So, at the moment, though my seat is in the corporate department, my day-to-day work can be quite varied.

This is my second seat. I was previously in the Conveyancing department.

4. Do you interact with clients?

With my first seat in Conveyancing, I dealt with clients directly every day (whether by email or telephone, or in client meetings). Owing to the nature of the work, it was easier for my supervisor to give me much more responsibility.

However, currently, I would say that my experience is what you would imagine life as a typical trainee is like. I have little to no client interaction, and am mostly dealing with document reviews, administration and due diligence. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. It’s that classic story, that everyone needs to know how the basics are done before moving onto anything of substance.

5. Do you enjoy your job?

Everyone has their moments, right?

I would say, life as a trainee, is everything I thought it would be, and strangely, everything I thought it wouldn’t be. It keeps you on your toes, because day-to-day, even hour to hour, can be so dramatically different. I would say that I go through a range of emotions on a daily basis, but on the whole, I enjoy the firm I work in, the people are great, and I’m growing to somewhat enjoy Corporate work!

6. Do you prefer client interaction or administration and paperwork?

Oh, I’d definitely say it’s a cross between both. Many people say that dealing with clients is akin to being a psychologist. You really do face the brunt of client problems, and sometimes, it’s great to be able to settle into a solid shift of drafting some documents, or researching an area of law, which involves critical thinking. But at the moment, as I don’t have much client interaction, I would quite enjoy some!

7. Do you work with others? If so, who?

In my current team, I am the only trainee. In fact, I am the only trainee at the firm, which has its ups and downs!

I am supervised directly by one associate, and one senior partner. I mostly report to the associate on my team.

8. Do you find the work challenging?

Again, it depends on what type of work I am doing. In the corporate department, “work” can involve scanning and sending documents to clients or other lawyers. Though you’d assume this is the “rubbish” work, I have learned that it truly is as important as the drafting of the key documents. Without some of these ancillary tasks being done, I effectively have the power to hold up a completion of a deal. So although I wouldn’t say this type of work is challenging, it can be time-pressured, and that’s exciting.

However, if I am asked to review a document, or have a go at drafting a document for a new deal, the concepts are usually all relatively new to me, so I certainly find it challenging to know just how a document should be drafted, and what to look out for when reporting to a client, or just back to my supervisor.

9. When do you officially become a lawyer?

(Please lord) I am due to qualify in September 2019, so I am a little over half-way through my training contract.

10. What kind of clients do you work with?

Our firm works with a range of clients: private clients, small businesses, large companies, and even some start-ups. We often deal with high net worth individuals, as well as family enterprises, trusts, and charitable organisations, so it’s a broad array of clients.

11. Do you interact with the most senior employees?

I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned this, but my firm is actually fairly small. There are approximately 40 employees. As the only trainee, I am exposed to all employees, as I can be asked at any time to help out if required across the firm.

An advantage of this means that I am able to interact with senior partners, which also means they try to get me involved in what they’re working on.

What is also pretty great is our open plan office, because I can hear the conversations between partners/associates, and really learn a lot this way, hearing how they discuss cases, and understanding how they approach them and interact with their clients.

12. What is the office atmosphere like?

As an open plan office, it is very much the best and worst simultaneously. When you are trying to concentrate on some drafting, or reading something that you don’t quite understand, and all you can hear is everyone around you, you really just wish that everyone had their own space.

But, after a while, you just tune out and zone in on what you’re doing. I suppose in a way it makes you more disciplined.

On the plus side, open plan is great for having a break from work, and it’s also much easier to ask for help.

13. What is the hardest part of your job?

Oh, that’s easy. Juggling everything. As the only trainee, I am often pulled from all directions to help out on work. Something I was told from the start was to make sure my supervisor at that present time was aware of everything I was working on, so that I could be set work in priority order.

You know what though, something else I find tough, is the huge periods of time where there is very little or nothing to do. You hear many trainees talk about their stressful days and tell you there are not enough hours in the day, which yes, can be true some of the time. But in my experience, there have also been days where you can sit and do pretty much nothing. It’s mentally draining and disheartening. During these times, my advice is to try and find something to occupy yourself. Of course, ask around if anyone needs help (without going over your supervisor’s head), but keep yourself busy!

14. Do you socialise with your colleagues?

There are some support staff and younger associates who I have become friendly with, and we often go for lunch together. Across the firm though, we have Christmas parties and summer social events, which is always a really good opportunity to catch up with those round the office who I never get to speak to, particularly to catch up with my team from the Conveyancing department.

15. Which area do you want to qualify into?

Ah, another tough question. I am not sure yet. I’ll get back to you!

16. Which department are you moving to next?

Litigation.

17. What time do you finish your working day?

Again, it varies. My hours are supposed to be 9am – 5:30pm. I tend to finish around 6pm, but I have to be flexible (which is hugely frustrating for making plans, sorry friends!). But that’s another reason I like to get in early, so that I can try to leave on-time, and have somewhat of an evening and get to sleep as I wake up around 5:15am most days!

18. What is the best part of your job?

Knowing that I am doing what I worked so hard for, and learning so many different things on an almost daily basis.

End of Interview

If you can think of anything you’d like to know about that I didn’t cover, leave a comment below.

I’ll round this all up by saying, it’s certainly been a year of many emotions. My advice to anyone starting out is to take everything in. Be a sponge. Get involved. Be proactive. But mostly, cut yourself some slack! No-one expects you to have all the answers. We are here to learn, to try and to make mistakes. Now is the only time we have to just go for it… before we qualify, and then it really counts!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it a little informative.

 “Stay Hangry!

~The Hangry Lawyer, xoxo~

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