For a lot of trainees, particularly those nearing the end of their traineeship, a lot of focus is placed upon what to expect in the transition to being a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor. That much was clear during this year’s very first trainee roadshow run by the Law Society where their expert panel met trainees in Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow; answering questions, hearing about common issues and also providing the all-important opportunity to socialise with peers.
Having already gone through this process myself, I thought I would add my experiences and advice into the mix. Here are my top five recommendations for a successful transition.
1. Expect a change in workload
This was probably the biggest change I experienced. Don’t worry though - you won’t be thrown completely in at the deep end! Your supervisor will most likely recognise the need to increase your workload in a gradual process as you near the point of qualification.
2. Take control of your ongoing training
With more work comes more responsibility and there are several different aspects of this to bear in mind. I found that as I began to appear more regularly in courts and in cases of increasing complexity, there was a greater need to keep abreast of changes in the law and legal updates. All of this is catered for in CPD and through your own reading of new case law and legal updates.
3. Manage your clients wisely
When you eventually inherit more cases to deal with, you have more clients that require your time. The best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you continually keep clients updated about the progress and stage of their case. A short, concise letter might suffice. Or a quick five-minute phone call. Managing clients is something that comes with experience but start as you mean to go on and the small but important things like that will become second nature.
4. Use technology to boost your efficiency
I found that my increased responsibility meant I was at court more often and in the office less, yet the amount of paperwork in the office increased with the workload. Therefore, I would advise that the need to stay efficient and making the best use of your time spent out of the office is essential.
Technology can assist greatly in this as well as your own abilities in being organised and efficient – taking work to court to do in between cases (or wherever you are out of the office!) and doing dictation on the spot, right after your case calls, can ease the pressure of your paperwork in the office building up to the point it becomes unmanageable.
5. Deal with challenges and mistakes
An increase in additional responsibilities and greater autonomy is a great sign of the confidence your employers have in you, so take the opportunity and run with it. Don’t shrink away from challenges and don’t let mistakes (yes, they will happen) put you off your stride. When mistakes do happen, face them head on and learn from them. Advise your senior colleagues and work out a solution to the problem. Don’t sit on something and wait for it to solve itself – this is another way that things can eventually become unmanageable.
There is no golden rule or magical formula for success for the transition from trainee to NQ, but sharing stories and taking advice on board can go a long way in ensuring you feel confident about the next stage of your career. Best of luck and enjoy it!