After finishing your degree or Legal Practice Course, it can feel a bit overwhelming thinking about applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. There is a wealth of information out there and it’s hard to know where to start. Once you have been successful, you will be both excited and nervous about starting. I have set out below what I hope is helpful advice both about applying for vacation schemes and training contracts and for preparing to start your training contract.
Firstly, just a bit of background about me. Prior to joining B P Collins, I was a paralegal in-house for 2 years. I joined the firm in 2017 after completing a work experience placement in the family team and then being offered a paralegal role. I have therefore gone through the whole process with B P Collins, work experience, a paralegal job and now my training contract.
Here are my top tips that I have picked up on my journey to qualification:
Apply for vacation schemes/training contracts.
I would say experience is key. Gain as much experience as you possibly can. It will help with your CV and will definitely help once you start your training contract as you will undoubtedly already have a good starting base and valuable insight into life at a law firm.
“Don’t turn any opportunity down.”
Work experience is invaluable and you will pick up numerous skills that you can use and develop on your training contract. Even if you are offered work experience or a paralegal position in an area you aren’t that keen, take it. You may soon discover that you really like it, or if you don’t then it at least helps for you to feel out what you do like.
Paralegal experience also helps you get an idea, not only for the type of work you like, but the type of firm you want to work in. You may find that a local firm is the right one for you or a big international firm. Gaining experience will only help you decide the best fit for you.
When applying for vacation schemes and training contracts, make sure you research different types of firms and try and find the right one(s) for you. Use your experience, as detailed above to make a shortlist of firms to apply to based on type of practice you want to work in and the sort of work you want to do (don’t waste yours and a firm’s time by applying if you are not interested in their practice areas).
“Make sure you research them fully to try and understand their practice areas, their culture and clients.”
It’s better to have a smaller shortlist with a list of firms that you feel are right for you. This will help you to talk about why you want to work for them in an interview or assessment day.
Try to sign up to as many events / law fairs as you can.
Attending law fairs give you an opportunity to speak to many different firms and find out a bit of background about them. It helps build your confidence as you are meeting different people and developing your social skills. You also get to ask questions and often trainees attend so you can speak to them about life as a trainee.
Attending events at firms can get your name known to the firm and is another really good chance for you to see what the firm is like and whether it is the right fit for you.
Before you start your training contract
1. Keep an open mind.
You may start your training contract either knowing where you want to qualify, having an idea of what you enjoy or not really having any thoughts on the type of area you prefer. However you start, it is important to keep an open mind as you progress throughout your training contract.
“You may be put into a seat that you aren’t that keen on, or work on matters that don’t particularly interest you, but you should embrace the experience.”
Also, there is often an overlap between certain practice groups and the skills you learn in one seat can be transferred to another.
2. Be organised.
It may sound obvious but you need to be organised. Keep a to do list and prioritise tasks, making sure you are aware of any deadlines on matters, whether from courts/tribunals or the deadline the fee earner needs the task completed by. You need to be flexible as often something urgent arises which you weren’t expecting and you need to re-arrange your day/week.
3. Ask Questions
You will be given tasks by different fee earners, make sure you take a note of the instructions they give you and if you are unclear on anything don’t be afraid ask questions.
“A fee earner would rather you clarify the task instead of wasting time going down the wrong route and having to re-do it.”
4. Enjoy yourself!
The two years fly by! Take the time to enjoy your training contract, attend socials and networking events, get stuck into everything and don’t turn any opportunity down. At times it may be busy and stressful but in no time you will thinking about qualification and the area you want to qualify into it so make the most of your time as a trainee.
Posted by Holly McNeil
Holly started her training contract with B P Collins in January 2019. Her role is to provide assistance to partners and other lawyers in the practice group that she is currently placed in.