Secret Diaries: a trainee solicitor and LPC student
My day usually starts with reviewing my diary, both for that day in particular and the upcoming days, so I know what matters are of immediate concern and should be at the forefront of my mind.
I then proceed to sorting through my emails; I am very particular about having an organised inbox. I find the process of dealing with my emails after having consulted my diary first the most beneficial since it allows me to give clients, colleagues, and others who require my attention an accurate timeline as to when they can expect to receive things from me when I respond. I will then make sure that these are included in my diary, so as not to lose track of my commitments and responsibilities in busy periods.
I will then move on to complete the tasks of the day, these usually being allocated to me by my supervising solicitor. Such tasks range from:
· Writing briefs to Counsel ahead of upcoming hearings, which usually contain a short case summary, as well as our client’s position;
· Collating relevant documents ahead of a hearing and compiling them into a bundle;
· Drafting letters to clients, solicitors on the other side, or various third parties such as the Court, mortgage lenders, estate agents and so on;
· Writing witness statements, which detail the client’s version of events along with their position;
· Drafting various applications and forms, such as those initiating Court proceedings;
· Clerking Court Hearings, conferences and meetings with my supervising solicitor; and
· Conducting client interview and advice sessions, supported by my supervising solicitor.
I am lucky to be afforded the responsibility to engage in the actual tasks associated with running files - I understand from friends of mine in the legal industry that this is not always the case when in a Paralegal or Trainee Solicitor role, which can sometimes be quite ‘hands-off’. This has allowed me to develop my knowledge and skills immeasurably, particularly because I am the type of person who ‘learns by doing’ so this role works well for me.
I benefit from being supervised by a solicitor, largely on a one-to-one basis. Their insight and guidance has been nothing short of instrumental to my development as a trainee. They ensure that I am constantly supported, whether that be by providing a listening ear, offering sound (sometimes, non-legal) advice, or fighting my corner in instances where I am unable to in the event of disagreements or heated situations. Again, I realise the privilege I hold here as I appreciate that not all Paralegal and Trainees will experience this, but this is crucial to being able to conduct my day-to-day role.
Despite the above, I still have an incredible amount of development to undergo. Particularly insofar as my confidence is concerned as a trainee. I have found that people do not prepare you for the sheer responsibility that comes with this industry, particularly in my remit where I work in a very emotional aspect of law. This has been something I have struggled with the pressure of, often resulting in an over-reliance on the approval of my supervising solicitor. I think a lot of this comes from an innate perfectionism that I hold which is difficult to uphold in practice. And whilst I am acutely aware that failing can often be the best form of learning, this approach does not sit right with me in the context of the responsibilities within my job – such as assisting with someone’s very intricate and emotional stories, and helping with their livelihood generally. Suffice to say that I often struggle with the weight of my job. At least no one will ever be able to say I do not care, however.
A matter that goes hand in hand with the issue of responsibility is an inability to clock off. Naturally, I have a tendency to overthink and overwork. This was something I struggled with during my studies, and something I continue to struggle with as part of my job. This can make evenings, weekends and annual leave a far less enjoyable experience than they should be. However, I have found setting restrictions on my email notifications hugely helpful, as well as banning excessive work-related chat at home. This is something that applies to most trainees.
I am also hugely grateful that I am not expected to be working past 5pm. Whilst this should, in my opinion, be standard, I am aware that such is not always the case – particularly in bigger firms. I therefore try to make the most of this, and clock off appropriately at 5pm. However, as discussed previously, this is something I struggle with. Even if I leave my laptop at work, curtailing my ability to do any physical work after hours, I often find my mind going over the day’s work and what is to be done tomorrow. This is, however, something that I am actively trying to stop. Not only because I am not paid to work during such times, but because I ultimately feel fresher returning to work if I have had a suitable mental break from it.
In essence, my days are often comprised of challenging, high-pressure roles and responsibilities. This is, in part, why I love my job. It is also, however, a reason for why I sometimes struggle with my job. With this in mind, I would consider both balance and a good support network to be absolutely key to longevity and success in this industry and I hope that all trainees manage to find an acute work-life balance in a prime period of getting ready to qualify.