It is an exciting time when you qualify as a solicitor. All the years spent studying at university and obtaining practical experience have led up to this point. But what is the transition from being a trainee to a qualified solicitor like?
I qualified with B P Collins earlier this month so am currently in this transition period. However, in a sense, my transition from trainee to solicitor has been quite unusual compared to the change most trainees will experience. I joined the Corporate Commercial team in August 2021 so have been working with the same department for over a year before qualifying. Therefore, for me, my transition was much less of a change than most trainees will experience.
For example, some trainees may be qualifying into the department that was their first or second seat during their training contract. If you are in this position, you may not have been working in that area of law for over a year and may want to refresh your memory of the work involved to hit the ground running. If you are moving back to a department that you were in towards the end of your training contract, there may be some matters that you will pick back up and assist with again. You could arrange to catch up with the relevant lawyer to understand how matters have moved on and what the next steps will be.
It is also becoming more common for NQs to move to a new firm on qualification. If you move firms, you will have lots to learn in a short space of time! Among other things, you will need to get up to speed with the new firm’s procedures and case management systems. You may also want to keep your diary free to join in with any social events planned by the firm to meet new people – this is one of the best ways to get to know your team outside of work but also meet others in the firm who you won’t be working with on a daily basis.
“At B P Collins we are lucky to have a high level of responsibility as trainees, so I have felt well prepared to be a qualified solicitor.”
Trainees’ opinions and contributions are valued and so you have more confidence in your ability as a solicitor. Not to say that you will know everything! After all, on the day you become admitted as a solicitor, you were still a trainee only the day before! It’s helpful to remember that working as a solicitor means you will not be expected to know all the law (whatever that means) and you will be continuously learning for the rest of your career.
As a trainee, I always had a dedicated supervisor in every seat (usually a senior associate in the team) allocated to help me. After qualifying, I no longer have a dedicated supervisor but I can always run through a piece of work by a member of the team if needed.
“Whilst you will be expected to take on more responsibility once you qualify, that does not mean that you cannot ask for help!”
One task that you will now become more involved in is business development (BD). It’s easiest to start with people you already know from school, university or previous jobs and arrange informal catch-ups. Your contacts will be beginning their careers at potential clients of your firm or at other law firms who may refer work for various reasons: the work may not be a firm specialism or they may be unable to act if they are conflicted. BD is an important part of how a law firm works so it’s never too early to start!
There are some new administrative tasks that you will need to get up to speed with too. For example, as a trainee you might not have been as involved in billing, which will now become your responsibility as a lawyer. To get into a good habit of thinking about costs, you can help prepare costs updates for files you are working on. This will give you a head start on this part of client management before you have files in your own name.
“Trainees and paralegals will also now look to you as their first port of call for questions – you will not always know the answers but you can help explain where they could begin looking or share previous experience/precedents on similar matters that you have been involved in.”
As a trainee, you will have picked up various bits of useful knowledge and best practices from those you have worked with before. You will now be well-placed to pass on what you have learned to those starting out in their careers!
Overall, the transition from trainee to solicitor overnight may seem daunting at first but my advice would be to not feel overwhelmed and instead look to the opportunities ahead of you. You will have put in many years of effort to get to this point so you can apply your knowledge and continue growing as a lawyer.
Posted by Alexander Martiyanov
Sasha qualified into the corporate and commercial team at B P Collins in September 2022. Prior to starting his training contract in September 2020, Sasha completed a work experience placement with the firm in the summer of 2018.