Earlier this year I completed my first seat with the London office of an American firm. The London office specialises in trade finance and insurance litigation employing some of the leading practitioners in these fields.
One of the greatest advantages of working in a smaller team was the amount of responsibility you can take on as a trainee. Working for a specialised team also means that, with time, you can really familiarise yourself with some of the key documents allowing you the opportunity to gain a much deeper understanding of that legal area.
As I got to know the team and developed my understanding of the practise area I saw my role start to shift from completing more traditional low level trainee tasks to taking on more and more complex work.
Now the catch is that these simple tasks, like running conflict checks, opening matters on the firm’s system and writing case updates never stop, which means that as you start taking on more complex work, you are expected to fit an increasing number of tasks into your daily schedule. Prioritising tasks is a crucial skill for anyone who aspires to become a solicitor. Do not fall into the trap of working through tasks in the order they are given to you. Big mistake! Instead, you need to get into the habit of quickly working out what should take priority. The plus is that starting your training contract with a busy team certainly provides a crash-course on how to prioritise.
The quality of your experiences during the training contract is also affected by your interactions with your fellow trainees. Working, socialising and supporting your fellow trainees is a good way to transition into working life whilst making some great friends along the way.
Another piece of advice I would offer is to be as proactive as possible. As you learn more about the timeline for transactions and build up your confidence, you should start volunteering to take the next step like having a stab at the first draft of the security agreements to accompany a main lending agreement or drafting responses to client emails for a partner to review instead of just waiting to be asked to do those things.
For me personally, meeting with clients at our firm’s anniversary party was probably one of the biggest highlights of my first seat. It goes without saying that a firm’s clients and their respective business projects are invaluable to a firm; but it can be easy to forget that given the wealth of knowledge most clients have of running deals, they often have amazing tips and experiences to share which are well worth tapping in to.
Good luck with your qualification journey.