Trainee Blog: What makes a standout trainee? We ask our supervisors...

You've put the hard work in and have finally secured yourself a training contract. But, starting as a trainee can sometimes seem daunting; there is a lot to learn and a whole firm of people to get to know, all whilst trying to be the best trainee possible.

Some of our trainee supervisors from across the firm (Jo Cowen, Francesca Hubbard, Lynsey Blyth, Erica Williams, Paul Beanlands and Jayne Clemens) have given their thoughts on what makes a standout trainee, to help you along the way.

     1. Attitude 

  • Entering a team with a positive attitude to get stuck into the work at hand and showing a willingness to learn is key.
  • Say "yes" when you have capacity to get involved in tasks and initiatives. It was a reoccurring theme amongst the supervisors that a trainee who is keen to help out and will go that extra mile, really stands out.
  • You will find a great sense of comradery in each team you enter, and you will thrive by being a team player, understanding there is a common goal and playing your part with enthusiasm.
  • Even if you are in a seat that you do not see yourself qualifying into, remember that there is something to learn from every team and every person you work with. You will gain skills in each seat that will help shape you into a better lawyer, as well as grow internal relationships for your future career.
  • Being open and willing to get stuck into every piece of work you do will help build yourself a reputation as a reliable and brilliant trainee.

     2. Being Proactive

  • Whilst it is important to recognise when you have worked hard and to enjoy a quiet period when it presents itself, our advice would be to actively seek out opportunities to get involved in matters and make yourself available to those who may need assistance.
  • If a trainee is able to think ahead to the next step and make helpful suggestions to the relevant fee earner as to what they can do next, this can be really useful and can ease the burden of the fee earner (particularly in busy periods). For example, if you are asked to do some research, start thinking ahead to how this may be presented to the client and how it can be applied.
  • Taking initiative is invaluable. One of our supervisors said the following: "Having someone who you not only trust to do the work to a brilliant level but then is proactive about thinking about what comes next – e.g. preparing for the next stage in litigation – makes the whole world of difference and makes a supervisor's life much easier. It shows the trainee is taking ownership of tasks and really makes them stand out".
  • One of our current Second Year Trainees has written a useful blog that further discusses how to be proactive as a trainee - Trainee Blog – Being a proactive, not reactive, Trainee Solicitor | Michelmores.

      3. Confidence

  • It is important to have both confidence in your own ability and the confidence to ask questions when you are unsure.
  • A standout trainee gets the balance right between asking questions to ensure understanding of a task/point of law and having thought about and considered the question in advance ready to discuss it with their supervisor.
  • The trainees who really excel are those who have confidence in their work and role as a trainee. One way this can be demonstrated is through taking part in and actively seeking out client interactions. A core skill of a lawyer is the ability to adapt your approach to each person you interact with, mirroring the client with strong body language and smiles helps to build rapport. Trainees who can demonstrate this highlight themselves as someone who can be trusted to interact with clients and become the first point of contact.

      4. Attention to detail

  • Attention to detail is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. Luckily, anyone can master it with good practice and mastering it will be essential to standing out within your trainee cohort.
  • It sounds simple but don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading your work and ensuring there are no silly mistakes that would undermine the quality of your work.
  • Taking the time to ensure your grammar and punctuation is spot on will mean your supervisor will need to spend less time reviewing your work, and it will help build trust between you as they know you will produce quality work.
  • This goes hand in hand with the next point. Being a trainee means you will be busy and will often be juggling a lot of different tasks, but those who thrive can maintain a high standard of work despite the work load. The key to this is staying organised and building in time to double check your work; it is essential to spend a few extra minutes reviewing an email or piece of drafting before you send it off to be reviewed.

      5. Organisation

  • As a trainee, you will be given work from all over the team and will get lots of exposure to many different matters which is brilliant, but it means you will be busy. It's key to develop methods to stay organised and on top of your work.
  • A trainee who is clearly on top of their to-do list, keeps to deadlines and keeps the relevant fee earners updated on progress makes themselves invaluable to the team. This ultimately instils confidence that you are reliable and will take responsibility for ensuring a task you are given is seen through to completion.
  • Check out this blog post for further tips: Trainee blog: How to manage busy periods at work (and avoid stress) | Michelmores