You’ve made it! Six years of hard work have paid off and you’re finally fully-qualified.
But what happens next? If you’re staying at the firm that trained you, you might not feel that much has changed when you arrive at the office for your first day as an associate solicitor.
But now that you’ve been admitted to the Roll, over the coming days, weeks and months, the trainee safety net will begin to disappear and you’ll be expected to take responsibility for your clients and work without constant supervision.
If you’re moving on from your training firm after qualifying, this shift is likely to be more noticeable. What’s more, in addition to the changes that come with your new status, you’ll also have to deal with getting to know new colleagues and settle into the new practice’s way of working.
Some junior lawyers thrive on the additional responsibility and autonomy qualification brings, but others find the transition daunting. Whichever camp you fall into, there are steps you can take to help make the move from trainee to NQ solicitor as smooth as possible.
1. Knuckle down
Whenever you make a move, you’ll have to demonstrate your abilities and prove your worth. Your new colleagues will have no idea what you’re capable of, so it’s important that you throw yourself into your work from the get-go to show them what you’re about.
How you approach your work and the impression you create is crucial and could prove important further down the line when your employer comes to consider candidates for promotion or partnership.
2. Familiarise yourself with how things work
Over the first few weeks, concentrate on getting to grips with how things work. Before your caseload escalates (and it certainly will), get to know the firm’s IT systems, work policies and house style. Most importantly, learn who does what within the office so that when the work does come pouring in, you’ll be able to manage it efficiently and know who to turn to for help.
3. Get to know the business (and your clients’ businesses)
Learn about your firm and get to know individual departments so that you’ll be able to more effectively market your firm’s offering to clients.
Understanding your client’s business is equally critical and will help you stand out. Offering them additional services outside your specialism will demonstrate that you are thinking about their wider business needs and enable you to provide a better service.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Training contracts vary a great deal in terms of the level of responsibility and workload. If you’ve had limited responsibility as a trainee, it can be tough to be suddenly expected to run your own files straight off the bat after moving to a new firm.
While you may be tempted to power through and hide the fact that you’re struggling, never be afraid to ask for help. Recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and accept when you may need assistance. Whether you have a question about a point of law or are just overwhelmed by your workload, you must voice your concerns to your supervisor sooner rather than later. An enlightened employer will be understanding of your position and won’t expect you to have transformed from rookie to rainmaker overnight.
5. Keep learning
While your training contract may now be over, your professional legal training is only just beginning. As part of the SRA’s Continuing Professional Development programme, you’ll be expected to update your skills and knowledge, so always be on the lookout for ways to build on your legal knowledge, experience and expertise.
From a commercial point of view, it’s important to also keep abreast of industry developments. Think about how these might impact your work, your team and the firm’s long-term business plan.
6. Make friends
In your first few weeks, clear your diary and accept as many social invitations as possible. If your firm has sports teams or societies, get involved. Don’t pass on an invite to after work drinks; it’s in these more informal settings that you’ll be able to get to know your new colleagues and reveal your personality away from the office.
Make your next move with Realm Recruit
If you’re in the market for an exciting new legal role, the expert team at Realm Recruit can help. Based in Manchester, we work across the North West, the Midlands and Yorkshire to recruit talented personnel for roles at all levels. Contact our legal recruitment specialists today on 03300 245 606 or email email@example.com to get the ball rolling.