The first month of your training contract: 5 dos and don'ts

Here are 5 things you can do (and avoid doing) in the first month of your training contract to set yourself up for a successful two years.

22 August 2017
Breakfast meeting with coffee

By trainee solicitor Sara Charteris-Black

For many trainees, a training contract will be the first taster of professional life. While this won’t come without its challenges, there are things you can do (and avoid doing) in your first month to set yourself up for a successful two years.

1. Do adopt good habits

In a law firm every email, phone call, and minute of your time must be recorded, which is a novel challenge for many. The only way to overcome this is to get into the habit of following internal procedures from Day 1 of your training contract. Those trainees who sit in Burges Salmon’s disputes team first are rumoured to have the best working practices later in their career, as the importance of costs means they are forced into good habits early on. Be strict with yourself in your first month and your qualified self will thank you for it.

2. Don’t avoid asking for help

For those of you fresh from university, the concept of struggling on in silence in the depths of the library is probably more familiar to you than asking for help. But a good law firm will always have people at hand to assist, whether it is the secretaries, the IT team, the legal support team or the paralegals. Their knowledge of the firm’s systems and processes will be far superior to yours at this stage, so learn to ask for their help (and in my experience, they are always happy to offer it).

3. Do make an effort with your trainee intake

The first month in any job can be an intimidating time, but one of the benefits of a training contract is that you are likely to be starting your career alongside a group of others. Build connections with your fellow trainees in the first month, because your shared experience will mean you can provide each other with a type of support and insight no one else in the firm can. Your trainee intake will become a valuable network of people across the firm’s departments, sectors and specialisms with whom you can share knowledge and advice judgment free. This advice will be crucial if you are unsure on which department to move to next or what type of work you will be doing. 

Read: What's it like working as a trainee solicitor?

4. Don’t shy away from networking

Although the opportunity to network externally will come with time, focus on networking internally within your department during your first month. If you think you may want to qualify there, first impressions count for a lot. Even if the department isn’t for you, you can not underestimate the importance of having contacts across the firm. You may find yourself in need of their expertise later in your training contract, and it is much easier to pick up the phone to someone who remembers you.

Read: Networking advice for aspiring lawyers

5. Do keep an open mind

Whether or not you enjoy your first month, continue to make an effort to learn what you can. Every department will have a different style, and will provide you with a unique set of skills that you may not get elsewhere. Plus, you may not realise whether or not you’re suited to an area of law until you have a point of comparison – so try not to burn any bridges!

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The first month of your training contract: 5 dos and don'ts

For those of you fresh from university, the concept of struggling on in silence in the depths of the library is probably more familiar to you than asking for help. But a good law firm will always have people at hand to assist.
Sara Charteris-Black, Trainee Solicitor

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