30 September 2016

By newly qualified solicitor Rebecca Hammond.

The last two years have flown by but have also been a huge learning curve. Various skills were highlighted to me during the recruitment process at Burges Salmon, however during my training contract I’ve learnt the importance of these skills in practice.

1. Attention to detail

When I was filling in my training contract applications I always knew that attention to detail was important, however being in the work place for two years has proved just how important a skill it is for a lawyer. When drafting a contract, for example, a single word in the wrong place could change the meaning of the clause entirely – and it could be embarrassing to have to explain this to a client! In addition, if there are any speling or puntuation misstakes in you’re work, it immediately detracts from it – even if the rest of it is faultless. The brain can only focus on the now-glaring-but rather minor error.

It is therefore essential to double (and even triple) check your work before giving it to a colleague or sending it to a client. This is equally as important in a training contract application as it is in your legal career.

2. Organisation and time management

I remember being asked questions about my organisation skills during my training contract interview. Balancing different tasks at university certainly helped to improve these skills, but completing a training contract has developed them further. With a variety of different tasks and constant deadlines, a crucial skill is the ability to prioritise your workload and manage your time. Get into the habit of keeping a ‘to do list’, with the most important tasks at the top of the list and the least important tasks at the bottom. Outlook is also a useful tool to set task reminders and insert deadlines in your calendar.

3. Communication

The role of a solicitor fundamentally involves being able to advise and negotiate effectively with a client and the other side to ensure matters runs smoothly. The ability to communicate clearly, and in a way which is appropriately tailored towards the type of client and their level of knowledge, underpins this role. It is also essential to provide regular updates (both internally and externally) on the progress of a matter. This is something that has become easier as I have progressed through the training contract.

4. Knowing when to ask for help

When taking instructions it is important to ensure that you fully understand them. A tip I’ve learnt is to repeat your interpretation of the instructions back to the task-giver to ensure you’ve correctly understood the task in its entirety. Ask any questions needed, no matter how silly or small you consider them to be; it will save time in the long run when you don’t have to re-do work due to mistakes which could otherwise have been avoided.

Although supervisors and other lawyers in departments at Burges Salmon are understanding of a trainee’s position (most having trained at the firm), it helps to make a good impression by getting things right first time. This is also important to remember on a vacation scheme. No one expects you to know everything, so it's always best to ask, rather than guess.

5. Feedback

Throughout your training contract, you will receive feedback on the work that you have done. At Burges Salmon, this is predominantly carried out by way of a ‘mid-seat’ and an ‘end-of-seat’ review with your supervisor. This is a key way of identifying not only what you are doing well, but more importantly what you can improve on. It is essential to take on board these comments to ensure you learn and develop from them. After all, it’s not just your training contract that is a learning curve – the learning process will continue for many years to come!

Key contact

Holly Fey

Holly Fey Head of Resourcing

  • Recruitment and resourcing
  • Inclusive employment
  • New starter onboarding

Reflections on my two year training contract

No one expects you to know everything, so it's always best to ask, rather than guess.
Rebecca Hammond, Solicitor

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