Our associate editor and former magic circle corporate lawyer, Husnara Begum, shares her ten step plan for surviving the first 100 days of your training contract.
Having previously completed two summer vacation schemes, I was relatively familiar with what to expect at the very beginning of my training contract. Nonetheless, my first seat was still a very steep learning curve.
Stepping inside my former firm’s gleaming City offices I felt immense pride and was excited to finally start a journey I’d been planning for several years. But after the trainee induction came to an end and I started gearing up for day one in gainful employment the butterflies in my stomach went into overdrive. Having heard that a training contract is a two-year long job interview I knew it was vitally important to impress from the outset.
Want to know how? Follow my tried and tested 10-step plan for successfully completing your first 100 days as a trainee solicitor:
Step One – Swot up on your new law firm and get up to speed with all the latest developments. Remember, commercial awareness also involves understanding your firm’s strategy and how you can add value to its future success.
Step Two – Survey the landscape and listen attentively. As well as understanding your firm’s strategy, it’s also crucial to have a good appreciation of internal processes / protocols / culture. This will help you to quickly get your bearings and settle in more quickly.
Step Three – Understand and manage others’ expectations of you, including knowing when, how and who to ask for help. Gaining absolute clarity when taking instructions from a colleague is also important if you want impress by producing good quality work. Each colleague is likely to have a different working style. Some will inevitably micro-manage, others will be more nurturing whilst some may give you quite a fair bit of autonomy. It’s virtually impossible to change how senior colleagues interact with you / manage their work meaning you’ll need to be versatile and adapt your approach to make it more compatible with theirs.
Step Four – Know your strengths and weaknesses. Heightened self-awareness and being cognizant of your blind spots is a common attribute displayed by many of the star trainees in my network. Acknowledging weaknesses and taking remedial steps is vital to your professional development and to get top scores in your appraisals.
Step Five – Cultivate your internal network by treating all colleagues (yes that includes non-lawyers!) as individuals. And as far as I’m concerned, the more diverse your professional network the better – think diversity of thought. Add to that inclusive behaviour and you’ll be sure to set yourself a rock solid foundation for future success.
Step Six – Adopt a growth mindset. Just because you’ve finished your legal studies doesn’t mean you can confine your text books to the attic. Indeed, I learnt more about the practical application of law during my training contract than throughout my entire LPC. I also used learning on the job to hone my business and soft skills covering everything from research, drafting, negotiating and even dealing with difficult colleagues.
Step Seven – Ask for regular feedback. Though, as a trainee you’ll have regular appraisals asking for as much constructive feedback as possible will help you identify development areas (note what I said in Step Four about knowing your strengths and weaknesses).
Step Eight – Check in with yourself. I wish I’d done more of this during my training contract. Feedback from others can be helpful but practicing regular self-reflection is also effective and doesn’t have to take long. For example, simple questions like ‘What has gone well for me today?’ or ‘What could I have done differently in that situation?’ are incredibly powerful for confidence building and promoting positive longer-term behavioural change.
Step Nine – Avoid rookie errors. The one that most trainees get picked up on is ‘attention to detail’. I’ll post a separate blog on this later so watch this space! The other is missing deadlines, which again I’ll cover in another post.
Step 10 – A training contract is a marathon and not sprint. Remember the three Ps – plan, prioritise and pace yourselves by taking regular breaks. Also, assuming you’ll be starting your training contract remotely it’s helpful to create some boundaries between work and home life.