Two months in and the learning never stops
Last week, we first year trainees celebrated our two month anniversary at Higgs & Sons, so I thought it would be apt to share some lessons that I have learnt in the whirlwind start to my time as a trainee solicitor.
Learn on the job
Think of your training contract as an extension of your legal education. Learning the law certainly does not end when you walk out of the door on your final LPC exam!
My first seat has been in the Private Client department and I had very little prior knowledge of what this would entail, as I had not studied it on the LPC. However once I joined the team, I learnt that I was not expected to recite the contents of a Private Client textbook, but to be open to learning on the job. The team have been especially helpful in explaining matters to me and allowing me to become involved in a range of different areas. The Private Client team at Higgs encompasses a variety of different specialisms from wealth preservation, estate and trust administration through to charities and care and capacity. There is such a variety of work that no two days will be the same!
During your training contract, you will not just be learning the law, but also how to be a successful professional. So far I have received training on networking, presentation, business writing and professional presence. It is apparent from all of this training that the success of your legal career will not solely depend upon your legal knowledge, but will also be based upon how you conduct yourself as a professional.
You will be required to do a large amount of on-going learning, so it is vital that you are not afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a silly question when you first start. You will only learn by asking questions - it also shows your team that you have an interest in what is being discussed.
On a recent matter I worked on, the fee earner spent a considerable amount of time taking me through the complexities of the case and invited me to ask questions. These allowed me to go into the conference with counsel fully understanding the matters being discussed, rather than the complex issues seeming alien to me.
Ensure you have a work / life balance
Higgs prides itself on having a great work / life balance. Yes, there may be days when you are working long hours but they generally seem to be when exciting matters need to be worked on. On the whole, you are not expected to work longer hours unless urgent matters must be completed.
Every Monday evening, colleagues from across the firm (myself included!) take part in a yoga class in the atrium. In team meetings the following morning, it does seem a little bizarre that you were in "downward facing dog" with colleagues the previous evening and now you are sat together listening to financial year projections!
Get involved in as many opportunities as possible
Higgs encourages you to take part in all types of activities. So far I have; played netball, been on the JLD Beer Bus, attended seminars and BTSS drinks, participated in the Higgs Annual Quiz at Molineux and most recently attended the BLS President's Dinner. All of these have allowed me to put my networking training into action with my colleagues and fellow professionals.
It is important to recognise that not all activities should be for professional reasons however. Recently I undertook training with the Mosaic charity to become a mentor for ex-offenders. As a result I will be going into HMP Brinsford to act as a mentor to an offender for six months, continuing for a further six months once the mentee is released back into the community. Higgs & Sons really pushes its employees to take part in charitable projects such as this. Our next challenge will involve going to the Stroke Association's Life after Stroke centre, armed with paintbrushes to take part in a day of DIY!