Aidan Tuohy recently completed his traineeship and accepted a position as a newly qualified solicitor with Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents. During the first twelve months of his training contract, Aidan was based in the Scottish Borders dealing with residential conveyancing and private client matters. He now work solely in residential conveyancing in Edinburgh city centre.
Having recently completed my traineeship and accepted a newly qualified position, I felt this was a good time to reflect and share the key things I took away from this time:
Work life balance
The nature of the legal profession is such that working Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm is likely never to be achieved. The demands of the job and more importantly the client, are such that you will quickly find yourself working before 9am and very often, past 5pm. This is very much an accepted fact across all practice areas. It is also the case that work can now be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via our mobile phones, with notifications of our client’s emails popping up at all times of the day. Although a keen trainee will always be mindful to remain on top of their work, it’s important to set professional boundaries. Trainees must remember to set some time apart, be it an hour in the evening at the gym or whatever past time is best suited. It’s imperative to ensure you give yourself time to switch of from work to avoid burning out.
The Scottish legal profession is a village
This is something which is often spoken about by tutors during your academic studies but is not fully realised until you are working within the legal profession. In Scotland, we are a small country who have our own unique legal system, meaning we have a very small community of solicitors. Consequentially, solicitors in Scotland tend very much to know one another and often speak with one another. Some may even gossip with one another (terrible, I know!). You will very quickly realise that you are dealing with the same professionals over and over in your day to day work. You will also begin to see and meet these professionals regularly, be it at a networking event or in places such as court.
The nature of much of the legal work in Scotland is that you may well find yourself in a position where you require another professional to help you or you are asked to help them out. I have seen some trainees and even more experienced solicitors, who relish the prospect of being awkward or uncooperative in a situation just because they are in a position to do so. This is short sighted in the extreme. Professionals may well remember those who were unwilling to help them in a similar circumstance or were perhaps rude to them in a previous conversation.
You must always protect the interests of your client, but in a property transaction, as opposed to a court matter, you and the lawyer on the other side are working towards the same objective. If the transaction can be conducted in the spirit of co-operation rather than adversarial point scoring, then the course of the transaction will be smoother. You will find that the next transaction you have with the person on the other side will be easier if you have not adopted entrenched positions for no good reason. It’s very easy to forget that you are only acting for your client on this one occasion, whilst you will be working with the other professional for many years to come. Don’t get carried away by drawing a line in the sand and defending it unreasonably at all costs, unless it is necessary to protect your clients position. Always treat your fellow professionals as you would like to be treated yourself.
Never lose sight of the fact that one day you are the pigeon but the next day you will inevitably be the statue.
Make the very most of the opportunity
Securing a training contract is a fantastic achievement. The economic backdrop of the past few years has resulted in there being fewer and fewer training contracts available to law graduates. This trend will continue with the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit transition period and the possibility of Indyref2. Therefore, if you have secured a training contract – you’ve done fantastically well and now hold a coveted role. Don’t waste it. Throw yourself into every available opportunity with positivity - be it new projects, blog writing or networking events. These are all things which allow you build your circle, your profile and your own self as a legal professional.
There are of course good and bad days as a trainee solicitor. You will undoubtedly have testing days where you feel you’re making limited process; you will also have the good days where you leave the office feeling like Harvey Specter. Remember, the purpose of the training contract is that it is a safe environment for you to gain crucial legal skills and ultimately – you will make mistakes, hopefully without these being costly mistakes. Your supervising solicitors will only lose patience if you continue to make the same mistakes. Always reflect, learn and ensure there are no repeat offences.
Approach each day with a positive mindset and make the very most of this transition period.