Trainee Blog – Two down, one to go!
Hi, I'm James, a trainee solicitor at Band Hatton Button. I thought that as I am starting the third and final 'seat' of my training contract, it was about time I wrote something about the experiences I've had as a trainee! I hope this may be of interest to anyone applying for training contracts, or just as a general insight into the life of a trainee solicitor.
I initially joined Band Hatton Button as a commercial property paralegal in July 2014 following completion of the legal practice course, then in March 2015 I started my training contract. My training consists of three different 'seats' in departments within the firm, in order to provide a varied learning experience. My first seat was in corporate, followed by a return to commercial property and I have recently moved into my final seat in litigation.
A lot of trainee blogs I've seen detail a 'typical day' in practice, however I don't feel I can do this as my days here are so varied! So instead, I have summarised what I feel I've learnt so far into five key points.
- Commercial awareness is vital
Life as a trainee can be daunting. There is no doubt studying law in a classroom is nothing compared to the real life pressure of working on live matters! Working in law does not just require strong technical knowledge, but a good sense of commercial awareness and understanding of your client's issues and objectives.
I'm sure any law students reading this may well think 'commercial awareness' is almost a cliché because of how much it is mentioned when discussing a career in law, but it really is hugely important as it helps you to better understand your clients' needs and concerns in an ever-changing world. For example, I like to keep an eye on current affairs, business news, the local property market and what's going on in the wider region, and I feel this all helps me out day-to-day.
- Your degree and LPC only scratch the surface
I felt that I learnt a great deal while I was studying. It provides you with the core skills required to become a lawyer. But make no mistake, the real learning takes place on the job.
My two previous seats in corporate and commercial property were challenging, but I have had great support from colleagues along the way to develop my technical skills, time management and communication with clients - three key skills for lawyers.
A fantastic element to working at a regional law firm such as Band Hatton Button is the variety of work I have been able to undertake. For example, in my commercial property seat, matters would range from acting for clients on leases of small high street premises and office floors to assisting a partner on a multi-million-pound business park acquisition. There is no doubt that the variety and quality of work has helped me grow in confidence and develop my skills.
- It's okay to ask questions
I'm sure most lawyers would agree that you will never stop learning in the legal profession. There are a number of great legal research facilities available currently, which provide resources ranging from precedent documents to guides on formal procedures. However, there will always be those unique situations where you would like to obtain a second opinion from a fellow colleague. I've benefited greatly from working with many experienced colleagues who throughout my training contract have spent time with me on various matters, including to review documents, discuss the implications of a contract clause or even just to discuss their past experiences in the profession.
- You're not glued to a desk every day
While you will spend most of your time in the office, there is more to being a lawyer than working at a desk every day. For example, I visited a client's residential development site under construction (wellington boots were required!), I visited a business park site a client was purchasing to walk the boundaries and more recently in the first week of my litigation seat I went to London to finalise bundles with counsel.
Networking is also a vital part of being a lawyer. It enables you to meet fellow professionals such as accountants, surveyors and other local professionals who could be your next source of work or a good contact when you need advice. The general thought is that these sorts of thing are always a room full of people who you've never met and a mug of coffee, but actually there's a great variety of events and some you wouldn't expect. I've been to a go-karting afternoon with the local chamber of commerce and I've also played a few rounds of ultimate frisbee!
- Lawyers are allowed to have fun
Honestly! Since I've been at Band Hatton Button I've climbed Scaffell Pike, walked in Snowdonia and partaken in a number of charity fundraising events including the Birmingham half marathon, the Wolf Run and walking over hot coals (voluntarily I assure you).
Colleagues within the firm often organise events out of work, while our charity ball and Christmas party are always a great evening. These activities have been a good way of getting to know my colleagues, whilst having some fun at the same time.
I've greatly enjoyed my training contract so far and know I've developed a great deal both professionally and personally. It is a challenging, but rewarding role and I am looking forward to getting stuck into my final seat. Roll on March 2017 when I'll qualify!