David Phinn is a first-year trainee solicitor at Miller Samuel Hill Brown LLP, currently working in the firm’s licensing department. David obtained both his LLB and Diploma from the University of Glasgow and studied abroad for part of his degree at the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands. He has just begun his traineeship and is due to qualify in August 2021
So… you’ve got your LLB and Diploma, you’ve passed the (sometimes numerous) assessment and interview stages for the job, you’ve bought your new suit and you’ve signed your contract – you’re ready to go.
Like many others across the country, this was the situation I found myself in during August of this year. Starting any new job – a graduate job especially – can be quite a daunting experience. The new people, the new routine, the new chapter in your life – and that’s before you even get to grips with the complexities of the law!
I was the first out of my group of friends to start my training contract by just over one month, this meant I couldn’t ask any of them what it was actually like to be a trainee solicitor. So, as I started, I felt a mix of happiness and nervousness - happiness to be embarking on the first stage in my legal career towards becoming a qualified solicitor and nervousness about what the job would hold and whether or not I would succeed in it.
Now, having spoken to my friends about their traineeships these are common feelings, but I think it is important not to get too fixated on being perfect straight away. Remember: the traineeship is on the job training. Your supervising partner and team know this is all new to you. So, when you don’t get something first time… don’t let it get you too down. Use a mistake as an opportunity to learn.
It is, of course, normal to have some doubts – even the President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, has admitted to occasional bouts of ‘imposter syndrome’. However, it is important to recognise that it has taken hard work to get to the point of beginning your training contract. Your firm has put faith in you, and now you must continue to have faith in yourself – try to welcome the challenges your traineeship presents you with.
The biggest challenge I think new trainees face is adapting from the study of law to practice. I have found drawing on the skills I learned and developed on the Diploma very useful in dealing with this change.
Commercial awareness especially has been key, as I have seen first-hand what we had been reminded of throughout the diploma – that the modern solicitor is a business advisor as well as a legal professional. So, I think it’s very important to keep this in mind and stay up to date with current affairs, especially in your field of work.
This has been especially true for me, as my first – and current – seat is in the firm’s licensing department. Licensing is a niche, highly specialised area of law that I had no previous knowledge of before beginning my traineeship. Unlike practice areas such as civil litigation or commercial property – I had no diploma (or undergraduate) notes to look back on for a refresher. This has definitely been a challenge, however the opportunity to have exposure to a wholly new area of law has been hugely rewarding and if you get to choose your seats I would not be put off by the fact you have no knowledge of that practice area; in fact – I would recommend it!
I also think it is important to be proactive in your firm. The best advice is that – so long as you are able to – say yes to everything! Make time for that networking event to start to build your own contacts. Make time for that social event to get to know your colleagues. Getting to know those in my immediate team and the wider firm has definitely helped me to settle in.
Two months on, I am learning to take challenges in my stride and I look forward to the next two years of my traineeship.