Award-Winning Trainee Solicitor, Anisa Khan, shares reflects on the first year of her Training Contract at Thompson Smith and Puxon and shares 12 practical tips that she has learned along the way. A useful read for someone thinking about a career in law, or just starting on their legal journey as a Trainee Solicitor…

As January marks the beginning of a new year, it also signals the completion of my first year as a trainee. This milestone prompts reflection and contemplation on my part, leading me to share 12 valuable lessons that I have learned from my professional journey over the past 12 months, summing up a somewhat transformative year for me.

#1 Taking ownership of your own workload (and running my own (heavily supervised) caseload in my Dispute Resolution seat):

I think that one of the most fundamental lessons to learn from this one, is the importance of having confidence when identifying next steps to take on your matters. Then run them past your supervisor with your reasoning before you action them, don’t worry if you get something wrong, you’ll learn from it. The feedback you acquire is invaluable and will hold you in good stead when you are qualified.

#2 Supervisors change, but their experience and kindness does not:

Throughout the year, I’ve experienced changes in supervisors, but the enduring traits of experience and kindness have remained constant. The wisdom and support received from both Fiona, Andrew and all the members of staff which make up their teams, have been invaluable. Everyone has carved out the time to actually teach me how to do things properly, and reflecting on the progress I have made in work quality from the beginning of each seat compared to the now is a direct embodiment of the care, time and effort they have put in.

#3 Trust the process:

This one is so important, the process of getting feedback and being so closely supervised by a director or a senior associate may seem so daunting, especially if your drafts come back with lots of red pen on them. Don’t let this dishearten you, learn from the feedback you are given and also give it time, the payoff you will see by month three is everything or that one thing you could never get right until the end of your previous seat that you spent hours improving upon, may well be the very thing your new supervisor compliments you on in your next seat. Trust the process, it’s there for a reason.

#4 Contentious and Non-Contentious work are equally challenging in different ways:

Until the latter half of last year I had never done anything remotely contentious in practice, personally, I had begun my training contract with a vague impression of what I thought I might enjoy. Keep your mind open and ready to learn. I have ended up enjoying contentious work so much, it’s varied, interesting, there is so much to learn and we have an excellent Dispute Resolution team, every member of which I have learned something from.

#5 Training Logs are a mammoth if you don’t keep on top of them:

Organisation is key in managing training logs. Updating them every day or at least once every two weeks helps manage this task. Find what works well for you, and keep a record of what you are doing in your calendar or diary, to refer back to, if you do ever find yourself making up for a weeks’ worth of reflection like me.

#6 Make the mistakes while you can:

Recognise that mistakes are inevitable, especially during the early stages of a legal career, it will liberate you. No one expects you to get everything right, especially as most tasks you are tackling are the first time ever! Just make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and communicate with the people around you, whether this is to ask how to do something, or to politely beg them for instruction on how to magic a problem away – in my experience your supervisors either know precisely how to fix it, or know exactly who will.  

#7 It’s all about Transferable Skills:

You’re not going to become a legal expert in 6 months! It’s all about gaining your base of understanding whilst cultivating transferable skills such as adaptability, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork, all of which are traits that enhance your overall effectiveness.  

#8 BD isn’t as scary as it seems:

Business development (BD) can be intimidating, but understanding its importance and gradually engaging with it, demystifies the process. The nature of our work means that we often find ourselves at fairs, fundraisers, client lunches  and the occasional black tie event, getting comfortable with the process and finding what works for you, to battle those nerves and participate effectively, is so important. You can do it, and when you do, you’ll do better than you think!

#9 Take your timeIt’s not a race!

You may feel like the pace of your training is relentless. Reminding yourself to appreciate the journey and take moments for self-reflection is crucial. Take your time drafting that document or those extra few minutes on that piece of work. It’s better to not rush and avoid silly typos where possible, this will also actually save you time in the long run, as you won’t have to redo it.

#10 Work to live, don’t live to work:

It’s so important to nurture your personal life. I know many people, namely the rest of my cohort are juggling their LPC alongside working, to them, I say even more so, make sure you are taking the time to switch off. Journal, exercise, take up a new hobby, whatever works for you. As long as you’re not thinking about work and study during this time and are able to switch off. This helps avoid burnout and also will increase your productivity when you are back in the work space.

#11 Nurture your relationships:

Cultivating meaningful professional relationships is an investment that pays off. Networking, mentoring, and participating in the supportive community which TSP has cultivated, really contributes to a fulfilling legal career. There are many preconceptions about the legal profession, especially amongst trainees, but establishing genuine long lasting relationships with your trainee cohort is so significant. You’re all on the same journey and can learn so much from each other. I talk to my fellow trainees, across both offices, almost every day and the relationships we have built play a crucial part in making my work day so much fun!

#12 Show up as yourself: authenticity goes a long way

Finally, you don’t need to be anyone other than yourself. Be real, speak your mind and make suggestions, show up every day as your true self, authenticity nurtures trust and being comfortable builds confidence. Talk to people about any worries you may have, you’ll learn a lot from them whilst also alleviating your concerns.