Olivia Parker, Careers Development Officer at the Law Society, looks at the top five things trainees want to know and reviews the recent roadshows the team has run for first year trainees.
We’ve been out and about around Scotland again meeting first year trainees. The first few months of your traineeship (as I’m sure you can recall, or imagine) are pretty tough. You usually find yourself in a new working environment with a whole host of new people, facing a tough transition from the student lifestyle and having to dig out bits of black-letter law that you haven’t thought about since you were a second year. In short, it’s a pivotal moment to get some extra support.
What are the trainee roadshows?
We launched our roadshows last year, so trainees can have the chance to meet fellow local trainees that will be invaluable to their professional and personal networks, get to grips with regulation and also have an open, relaxed forum where they can ask questions.
The evenings all follow a similar format; a combination of social drinks, a short presentation outlining regulatory matters, followed by a Q&A session with a panel. We invite along a recently qualified solicitor, who can share their experience of being a trainee; an experienced supervising solicitor, who can offer top tips about how to be a great trainee; and Katie Wood, who is responsible for traineeships at the Law Society and can answer questions on regulation and support.
So what did trainees want to know?
TCPD requirementsTrainees want to understand the nitty gritty around TCPD requirements and how to avoid scenarios (that are not unheard of) involving trainees calling the Law Society with questions like: ‘I am due to complete my traineeship next month, but have realised I haven’t done TCPD yet, can I fit that in now?’
PEAT2 and PQPRsFirst year trainees are keen to get advice on how they can prepare most effectively for their PEAT2 outcomes (Professional Education and Training Stage 2) and PQPRs (PEAT2 Quarterly Performance Review) and understand what the expectation is around using the PEAT2 Record. It’s always helpful to get your facts straight at the outset.
Juggling workload is another popular one‘What do you do if you’re getting handed lots of work from different partners and you can’t make deadlines? What do you prioritise?’ Our experienced newly qualified solicitors (NQs) and supervising solicitors are all offering the same words of wisdom on this one - expectation management is absolutely essential. It’s all about communicating your workload to the relevant partners or your supervisor, and being open about what other work you have on and when you can feasibly get to the work. There’s nothing worse than sitting in silence, then confessing it hasn’t been done on deadline day. As with a lot of the points that were made around contact in the workplace, communication is key and it’s essential trainees know how to build good, open relationships.
‘What happens if you’re not allocated a seat you really wanted and you don’t end up working in a team you wanted to?’This happens. Needs of the business change and in any case, as we learned from almost all of our panel members, people likely end up enjoying things they didn’t think they would have, so give everything a try. Be flexible on getting exposure to work in different ways if necessary, like attending events or additional CPD which will give you an insight into alternative areas. This can help if you’re keen to work as an NQ in an area you didn’t get experience of in your traineeship.
Trainee wellbeingThis is another really important topic that always comes up. While trainees might be working in a high pressure environment, they must know that their health and their ability to do a job well are of utmost importance. If that ever starts to be too much, that’s when supervising solicitors, the trainee helpline and external networks like Lawcare are there to help.
Ultimate pearls of wisdom for trainees
‘Supervisors are people too’. Remember they’re not mind readers! If you’re having any issues, or you have any questions, you must ask. While they will feel responsible for a trainee’s success and support, supervisors are busy lawyers too and will often assume that if they’re not hearing from you, that you’re absolutely fine.
‘Don’t let me forget your face’. You might not always be working in the same team as your supervising solicitor, but make sure the only time they see you isn’t every three months at your PQPR. Update them on your progress and drop in to say hello. Remember most have opted to be a supervising solicitor because they enjoy teaching and mentoring, so make the most of this.
We are running career development roadshows for NQ solicitors (0-5 years PQE) in November! Find out more about building your career, whether it’s partnership, becoming an accredited specialist, a solicitor advocate or something else. Find out more and sign up to your local event for free.