One year in - a Trainee Lawyer in Lockdown
I started my training contract with PDT in September 2019, with the Dispute Resolution department as my first seat and my second in Corporate. Looking back over the first year there have been a number of key themes which have featured, and which have made my experience so rewarding. These centre around high levels of support and a sense of trust and responsibility which is enabling me to experience a well-rounded training contract, continuing to develop both my legal knowledge and (practical) skills. I feel I have been allowed to have a voice in the firm and have benefited from an open-door policy (now an open video-call policy when working from home!) that has allowed me to gain and develop my skills.
The firm has a highly supportive environment, so when my days are high paced and demanding, I feel lucky to have the support of a whole team behind me, not just in terms of the fee earners who are always willing to take the time to explain technical legal issues and critically review work I produce, but the support staff too. I have been assigned a mentor, who is a newly qualified solicitor within the firm. Having a mentor is beneficial as he provides me with support and guidance on how to approach certain tasks, manage department expectations and give me top tips for each seat based on his own personal experiences. I feel I can go to my mentor with issues or queries that I feel more comfortable going to a junior member of staff about, on a confidential basis.
Within my first year as a trainee, I think the main thing that has surprised me the most has been the level of trust and responsibility my supervisor and colleagues have placed in me. This trust has allowed me to develop new skills and practice them daily. In particular, I have worked on improving my drafting, case management, communication and advocacy skills. I have had the opportunity to represent clients in court to advance my advocacy skills, attend mediations to reach settlement and communicate with clients directly. I am often asked for my own opinion on a matter and asked to explain why I have reached a conclusion. I have also been transparently involved throughout all cases I have worked on and am encouraged to volunteer and get involved to take part in additional cases that interest me, attend networking events to represent the firm and to create my own ideas to advance the firm.
One of the key things for me is that I have been allowed to have a voice and an input into the firm. “A day in the life of a trainee” is not all about emails, drafting and court but the attendance of regular in-house forums, meeting groups, training workshops and webinars. One of the forums I attend is made up of trainees and newly qualified solicitors. The objective of this forum is for us to share our experiences and to discuss any changes that would enhance our training experience. So far, we have put together a trainee starter pack with helpful information and points to note that we hope will benefit future trainees. When I have discussed this with other trainees in other firms, they are in awe of the amount of input a junior member of the firm gets and how my involvement is sought and respected by the firm. There is a real sense and recognition that we are the future of the business.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the open-door policy the firm promotes, both whilst in the office and working from home, as there is a genuine sense that everyone wants to encourage and assist me. The open-door policy means I have constant access and availability to every single partner, fee earner and support staff, which has benefited my training as I am able to learn from their legal and commercial experience and employ this into my own work. I take every opportunity to observe how more senior members of the team speak with clients (be that, face-to-face in a meeting, on a call or in an email) in order to develop the soft skills required to be solicitor and to develop my own tone and style.
Above all else, I think I have been able to shape my training contract the way I want to. The firm provides me with extensive resources, support and the ability to succeed and it is then in my hands to take every opportunity presented to me, in order to make the most of my two-year training experience. My training contract, so far, has been such a positive experience as the firm has helped me to learn, experience and grow in such a short period of time. What sets PDT apart for me is that every member of the team encourages me to gain a wide variety of experiences and be involved as much as possible, which allows me to develop my own style and be the solicitor I want to be.
I am looking forward to my future with PDT.
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