Five facts about legal traineeships you should know
Legal traineeships are the ‘gateway’ to working in a law firm, hopefully in a full-time position. There’s different programs, conditions, and environments out there; no two firms are the same, after all. That’s how they stay competitive. If you’re feeling a bit of information overload, here’s five essential points you should know (if you don’t already).
You’re being watched
The end goal of a traineeship is employment, especially when it’s a work experience situation. Other students are competing against you for the same position, or at least one of the few spots on offer.
This means you’re getting evaluated for your performance constantly. Your chance of getting a job depends on your appearance, mannerisms, and especially how you deliver work. Don’t turn up with heavy eye makeup and take selfies in the kitchen. Rather, emulate the senior employees in the office, from the front receptionists to the executive assistants.
You won’t have time for much else
Legal traineeships are time consuming and you won’t have much of a social life. Those first couple of weeks it’s a big enough job remembering all the procedures and finding your feet. You’re going to be ‘that friend’ who cancels plans a few times and misses the odd family dinner. But it’s not forever.
How you’ll work depends on where you work
Not all legal traineeships take place in a lawyer’s office. There’s other options, like a solicitor’s office or barrister’s chambers. Here’s the differences between them:
- Lawyer: represents their clients and prosecutes/defends cases in court.
- Solicitor: doesn’t appear in court except for litigation. They work in offices, give their clients advice, and pass on the case to the barrister for further action.
- Barrister: represents clients and cases in court, passed on from the solicitors when further legal action is required
There’ll be some snags
Not everyone’s as nice as you. It’s normal not to get along with one or two people from the office, like a senior lawyer or another assistant. Just keep going on and do the best job you can, but don’t accept any bullying behaviour.
It’s also natural to come up against some speed bumps when you’re trying to complete a task. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s much more awkward doing the job wrong than asking how to do it in the first place.
Be analytical and critical
People go through legal traineeships because they’re an opportunity to learn about the industry. It’s also a chance to see if the place you’re having your experience really is one you want to work at. Make your own evaluations about the firm/chambers/office and if it’s right for you. Do you learn a lot? Are the other employees relatively polite? Do you feel happy, rather than dread going into work?