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The Oracle

How to make a good impression on the first day of your training contract

updated on 25 August 2020

Dear Oracle

I start my training contract in September and was wondering how best to make a positive impression and to stand out from the crowd. Also, what should I aim to achieve in each seat?

The Oracle replies

The main thing is to keep showing the qualities you showed at your initial interview and/or vacation scheme. Have confidence that the firm has hired you because they think you are capable of doing the job and you will be a good fit. So relax and let your personality come across!

Aside from that, there are a few key mantras you can think about as you commence your training contract.

Be keen: don’t be afraid to ask questions and regularly inquire how you can assist others in your department. Read independently about your area of practice in each seat and keep up to date with developments outside of your own work. A trainee that is proactive and open to taking on new work and trying new things will impress supervisors and the rest of your team.

Be reliable: departments want trainees they can rely on to do the work to a high standard. If that means taking a bit longer to understand the problem or area, or staying late to finish a piece of work, then so be it. Senior lawyers ultimately want all members of their team to be diligent and responsible, and that means putting the time and effort in when necessary, and being consistent at all times.

Be social: develop friendships within the firm that are based on initiative and positivity. Never join in with moaning or unpleasant gossip. Participate in team-based extracurricular activities and social events. Think about how you can be an ambassador for the firm (eg, taking a role with a local young professionals group). Get involved with the recruitment aspect of the firm and volunteer to attend law fairs and presentations and speak to prospective candidates. As a qualified lawyer there are many times you will have to represent the firm at external events, so get practising!

Be dedicated: perhaps most importantly you should work really hard to develop and improve your skills as a practising solicitor. These include written and oral skills, across many formats and scenarios. Think about how you can improve your drafting and proofreading. Keep in regular contact with your supervisor to keep track of what you’re doing well, and what you could improve on. Nobody is good at everything, and the key to career development is to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and do something to address the things you find challenging.

As for what you should be aiming for in each seat, this is a question to ask of your firm's training partner or supervisor. They may have checklists. If not, you could perhaps discuss with your seat supervisor whether you can both create a seat checklist together. In many firms, policy is co-authored by trainees and partners. If you feel yours falls short on formal, written procedure then perhaps this is something you and your peers can think about.

Haven’t secured a training contract yet? This way our training contract application master class, tips on how many applications to make and how to prepare for the trickier questions you will be asked at interview