Love and the law – not as different as you might think
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Sometimes, being a trainee solicitor, I feel as if my work relationships are more similar to personal relationships than I would have expected. That's not to say that I have romantic intentions towards any of my colleagues (apart from anything else, my husband wouldn't be too happy if I did), but rather that I have started noticing that some aspects of navigating my way through my training contract have seemed eerily familar to my dating days...
1. The importance of chemistry
Unlike in your romantic relationships, you don't need to feel a strong 'spark' with everyone at your firm. However, as with any job involving human beings, being able to fit in with your colleagues is vital to success as a trainee. That's not to say you can't be yourself or that you will bond equally with everyone you meet during your training contract (some of the partners at my firm aren't the friendliest of characters), but managing to get along with the team, and being polite and personable is vital to being a successful trainee. And don't forget, this doesn't just apply to those senior to you – it's a very unwise trainee who doesn't try to be friendly to the receptionists, PAs and other support staff too. Chemistry varies across teams and of course you won't necessarily feel as warmly towards some of your colleagues as others, but try to make the effort to get to know people a bit better over time and build up a rapport with as many people as you can. You never know whose opinion might be sought when the time comes for you to qualify at the firm (or ask for a reference, if you're going elsewhere).
2. Don't forget there are other things in life
Just like you don't want to drop all your friends, hobbies and interests when you meet a new partner, equally you don't want to put so much into your training contract (or legal studies, or even post-qualification job) that you lose what makes you 'you'. I appreciate that this is easier said than done and I tend to fit into the eat-work-sleep pattern during the week through sheer lack of energy. Of course you don't want to become known as the trainee who leaves early every day to dash off for social events. However, if the answer to, 'What did you do over the weekend?' is always 'I got some extra hours in at work', then you may find that you start to lose your own identity and, over time, it won't be good for your mental or physical health. If this sounds like you, try to find some time to reconnect with the things that you used to enjoy when you had more time – even just a couple of times a month is better than nothing.
3. Breaking up is hard to do
Having married young, I haven't had to have the 'it's not me, it's you' awkward break-up conversation for a long time, and I had hoped I would never need to again. However, during your training contract you may find yourself having to navigate the sticky situation of telling a team who want you to qualify with them that, actually, you don't think that their area of law is the one for you. I found myself in this situation when a department at my firm told me they were desperate for a newly qualified solicitor to join the team in September, when I am due to qualify. Unfortunately, there was another area of law that I prefer and I had to break the news that they would need to look elsewhere. I dealt with it by being polite, but as honest as I could so that everyone knew where they stood. It certainly hasn't earnt me any brownie points with the team I 'broke up' with, but – just like in your love life – honesty has to be the best policy. Whether I will successfully qualify into the area I do want to practice remains to be seen, but at least I know I won't end up in the wrong one.