Making the Leap: From Trainee to NQ

“I’ve discovered that every time I’ve reached a milestone, I think I’m there – but there’s another there waiting for me.”

Sara Benincasa.

Students often place a lot of emphasis on securing a Training Contract or Vacation Scheme when trying to enter the legal profession. However, whilst beginning your training as a solicitor is an important milestone, so is finishing it and actually qualifying as a lawyer!

In a first for my blog, this guest post from Vikki Pratley aims to break down what the qualification route can be like and how to effectively jump from Trainee to the Newly Qualified (‘NQ’) level. You can find out more about Vikki and the end of this post. For now, here are her tips and thoughts on becoming NQ!

It was 3.30pm on 15 March 2007 and as I turned around from my computer the feeling of trepidation and excitement washed over me. A huge bunch of flowers was placed on my desk hiding my computer screen and the ET1 I was drafting.

I had done it. I had qualified as a solicitor and been admitted to the Roll!

After six years of riding the waves of working in a law firm and studying hard for my conversion qualification and LPC it was all over and I had made it!

But what had I made, really? Yes my stabilisers were off and I could now officially run my own case load but it also meant my comfort blanket of being a ‘trainee’ was gone and a large gulf appeared before me…

The step from Trainee Solicitor to Newly Qualified shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s an exciting leap and opens up so many options so why to many of us does it seem rather daunting? In this blog, with the experienced team at Clara Rose Consultancy, we have put together 5 top tips for getting you ready to make the leap from Trainee to NQ this year!

Be prepared

Although I ended up managed to practice in an area of law I loved, I wish I had more proactively planned my career from qualifying. Often, we are so focused on qualifying that we don’t think beyond that. So take this opportunity to get yourself prepared for the epic shift from trainee to a qualified solicitor. In our experience those who plan ahead manage the transition far more smoothly and with far less anxiety.

Note your experience

Hopefully you’ve been keeping note of key achievements and cases that you have been working on during your training contract so far. If not, then don’t panic but let’s get started now:

  • Make a note of each seat you’ve done so far.
  • List the experience you have gained under each. Note any unusual cases and matters that engaged or inspired you.
  • Always remember to ensure client confidentiality so anonymise the information.
  • Don’t forget to keep it updated during the remainder of your training contract.

You’ve now started your CV! It doesn’t matter if it’s not pretty, succinct or laid out nicely at this stage – that’s easy to sort later. Just get content on the page(s).

Write, Plan, Desk, Notes, Pen, Writing, Taking Notes

Find your path

You might not yet know which area of law you want to qualify into so let’s start figuring it out:

  • Take the list of your experience that you made above.
  • Think about the areas and activities that engaged and inspired you most and note why.
  • Do the reverse and think about what seats or type of work you didn’t enjoy to create an ‘avoid’ list.

By doing this, a path ahead that suits you often begins to form. But many of us need a helping hand so give us a call and utilise our knowledge of law firms and different practice areas when reflecting on your list.

Maze, Labyrinth, Solution, Lost, Problem, Challenge

Your firm vs. the marketplace

Engage with your training mentor/current firm to try and find out what opportunities there will be for you at your current firm upon qualification. Ask yourself:

  • Do they match what you are looking for?
  • Are you going to be competing with other trainees for particular roles?

Find out as much information as you can so that you can be making informed decisions. Remember, it is difficult to change specialism during your career so be careful not to end up in an area that doesn’t suit you.

And remember, don’t panic!

Finally…. don’t panic! You have us in your corner! With me, Clara and Ali, you have a team of experts on hand to help and support you all the way. There is never any pressure from us – we are just an impartial free resource, so use us!

I’d like to thank Vikki for taking the time to share her tips for the qualification process in this post! If you’d like to get in touch with her or learn more about her work, you can do so via her bio below:

Vikki Pratley the StressLess Coach and career management specialist

After many years as a practicing employment lawyer and a founding partner of a successful law firm, Vikki suffered from burnout; recently recognised by the World Health Organisation as being caused by chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed.

Vikki was inspired to help others to be high performers without risking burnout so retrained as an ILM certified coach, ABNLP certified NLP practitioner, licenced practitioner of Liberating Leadership® and Pioneering Professional® and is the business owner of Skylark.

Vikki now works with professionals, through Skylark’s StressLess Clinic and with Clara Rose Consultancy as a career management specialist. From speaking or facilitating events or on a one-to-one or group basis, Vikki works with individuals and professional firms to help them successfully manage workplace stress, create sustainably high performing environments and excel through key recruitment choices.

Vikki has a wholistic approach to her work, always starting with the individual before equipping them with a tool-kit for success, including a mindset, key skills and, for leaders, a process. You can get in touch to book a time (probably between 3-6 months before you qualify) for a free telephone chat to go over your prep so far. You can find out what opportunities are out in the market place and get your CV checked and looking shiny in case you need it. That way you are fully armed and prepared for what may come during your last seat and as your qualification date approaches.

Specialising in the Legal Profession

“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”

Tom Hopkins.

Trying to work out what you are ultimately going to do with your law degree is an exciting, open world of many possibilities. Should you decide to pursue a career in the legal profession, it’s quite likely you’ll end up specialising in one area of law. It’s something that most legal professionals eventually do – and for good reason! This article breaks down some of the reasons lawyers decide to specialise in the profession.

There’s always demand for specialist lawyers

Legal problems are often complex and no two are the same. It’s no surprise, therefore, that clients are always looking for an expert in the law relating to their problem – right down to the niche, minute details. There will always be someone, for example, trying to locate a ‘truck accident lawyer in Tampa‘, or a ‘copyright lawyer in Hong Kong’ for their case. Providing you specialise in an area of law niche enough to draw attention from clients, yet broad enough for them to be a large enough number of them, you’ll almost certainly have clients needing help with their specific problem. As such, there’s not too much to worry about when it comes to ensuring there’s enough clients out there to work with.

You’ll get (really) good at what you do

It’s no surprise that the more you know about a specific area of the law, the more effective you will be in advising clients. When you specialise, being able to understand, analyse (and hopefully win) your cases will become easier. Being able to identify common patterns and crossovers between past cases and your current ones are hallmark skills of an experienced, specialised lawyer. Ultimately, the more cases you win, the greater the demand will be for your services. This helps your raise your own profile and reputation within the industry, potentially meaning you can hold yourself out to a higher standard and as such charge a higher rate.

Office, Business, Colleagues, Meeting, Computers

The chance to do work that interests you

Specialising enables you to always be working on things that interest you. Specialising helps give yourself more of a say over the tasks you’re doing, so that you’re ultimately doing more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t. You’ll have more control over what topics of law you really enjoy, versus those you don’t. Simple!

You can make more of a difference

When you specialise, you get the opportunity to dig deeper into a subject, more so than a general solicitor would who is only glossing over it. Once you become knowledgeable enough in a subject of law, it is likely you will start to notice things that others have missed more frequently and much sooner. You will find new ways to win cases for your clients, or at least to help get the outcome they want. Eventually, you’ll have the opportunity for other legal professionals to follow your example, or to mentor others. You might even contribute to society more generally. For example, if you specialise in helping people appeal against benefit rejections, your cases are testament to the fact that the system is not working. The notion that big legislative changes only happen in the realms of human or civil rights law aren’t true – there’s opportunities to enact real change in almost any area of law!

It builds your reputation

It is seriously difficult to stand out from the crowd when you generalise. The work that you do is much less likely to be noticed by others for its (lack of) niche element. When you specialise, the opposite happens. It is far easier for people to understand what you have to offer and how you personally provide that value with your expertise. For some lawyers, it can be the make-or-break of their personal brand.

Specialising is great for networking

This follows on from the previous point. When others in the legal industry have an issue that relates to your specialist area, there is a good chance they will turn to you for guidance. This is a fantastic way to build your network – something that can only help your career.

Social Media, Connections, Networking, Business, People

The chance to speak publicly on the subject

Finally, building on from the networking point – if you want to fast track your career, making yourself available to speak at events is a great way to do it. When you do this, your profile will raise significantly and people will (hopefully!) learn from what you have to say.

Public Speaking, Mic, Microphone, Stage, Speech

If you’re still not sure what specialisation is all about, you can check out this article for some further reading.

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