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Starting your training contract is a momentous point in your legal career (and in your lifetime!) It is daunting in normal circumstances, however starting from your living room amidst a global pandemic adds a whole new dimension to prepare for.
Scientists have found it takes a mere 30 seconds for someone to form their first impression of you. This is an incredibly short period of time, especially in a virtual forum where you lose the ability to utilise natural aides such as body language.
However, I was determined to do my best when I started my training contract in August 2020. My brother taught me a saying during the run up to my first major exams at school which I have never forgotten – ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ and I followed this mantra when preparing for my training contract. Once I knew my first seat, I researched the broad spectrum of work my team undertakes and who I was going to be working alongside so that I felt slightly acquainted with my team in advance of meeting them virtually. You can never know too much about the firm, so keeping up to date with news about both your team and the firm more widely is crucial. TLT’s website and LinkedIn both proved to be great resources.
I had heard many stories about the trainee induction which usually takes place at TLT’s head office in Bristol and was inevitably saddened that my cohort would not have the opportunity to have the same initial experience. However, we were presented with a week full of virtual learning, bonding and fun. Make the most of the activities lined up for you and embrace the opportunity to meet your fellow trainee cohort. Be yourself, let your personality shine through and ask questions – this will help you get the most out of the experience!
Once the on-boarding finishes and the scheduled trainee sessions draw to a close, don’t lose touch with your cohort. Remember that you are all in the same position, perhaps facing different challenges and therefore use this to stay connected, whether it be for advice or just a catch-up coffee.
My top tip for you first week is to research, research, research! Your team will understand you are coming into your first seat with very little knowledge. The previous trainee will have prepared a handover guide; this is your bible and although it won’t contain everything you need to know, it will provide the essential foundations. Within the handover guide there are often links to helpful guidance notes/articles which you should read and digest. One misconception I had about working from home was that if I was not carrying out ‘client work’ my supervisor would wonder what I was doing. In the office, you are physically present so this was a whole new worry for me! However this is not the case, your training contract is about learning so it is important to utilise the time at the outset to read and learn as the client work will flow in thick and fast before you know it.
Email your team members to arrange calls/video calls with them to introduce yourself and get to know each other – don’t feel the need to discuss only work, find out about your colleagues’ other interests as you would if you were in kitchen at work making your morning coffee. I was delighted to learn my supervisor is as dog-obsessed as me and has an adorable puppy!
On reflection, the challenges presented by working from home have had a positive impact on my training contract. I have learnt to be more independent and take time to thoroughly research any queries I might have before presenting them to my supervisor. I have also learnt to utilise instant chat functions such as Microsoft Teams to stay in touch with colleagues day-to-day and I’ve overcome the fear of picking up the phone and disturbing my supervisor or colleagues – remember, they want to hear from you!
It is natural to be nervous about commencing your training contract virtually but try to put those nerves aside and channel it into excitement. My first seat has been such a rewarding experience filled with learning, challenges and self-development (despite working from the comfort of my living room). It is essential to form a routine, whether that be walking to get a coffee before work or going for a run after work. See working from home as an opportunity to embrace home comforts such as homemade lunches and not having to queue for the microwave!
Finally, it is more important than ever to make a conscious effort to keep in touch with colleagues, in particular with your fellow trainee cohort and the other trainees. Good luck and enjoy!
Harriette Blake is a second seat trainee solicitor for TLT, currently in the FSDI team, having undertaken her first seat in Real Estate (Corporate and Investment). Harriette is based in the London office.