I have had the pleasure of supervising junior lawyers, trainees and vacation placement students for a number of years now and I can honestly say that it is one of the highlights of my job. I have been able to work with so many talented individuals and being even just a small part in helping them to grow and progress their careers is something I take great pride in.
As a trainee supervisor, I see my role as having several strands. Initially, it is to welcome the trainee into the team. I understand it can be daunting starting a new job or a new role so I will always start by introducing the new trainee or junior lawyer to all team members. We will then have a chat about the kind of work that the team does and the sector we operate in- this helps to give them the bigger picture of what they are involved in and provides some context to the jobs that they will be carrying out while in the team.
I also have a role to make sure that the level of work that the trainee is carrying out develops throughout the seat. When a new trainee starts in the team I always find that it is safest to assume that they have little or no knowledge. I will start by giving small research or administrative tasks or tasks that involve gathering market knowledge (for example, in our team we have a weekly renewable energy update where the trainee will pull together all of the latest renewable energy news stories from the preceding week). The tasks will then become more substantive (such as drafting and project management) so that by the end of the seat (if not before), the trainee will be able to think proactively about what their next task is.
My role also involves trying to manage the workload of trainees. Where the trainee is getting tasks from various different sources, I will monitor those tasks to make sure that the trainee is not being over or underworked.
Finally, I also carry out the reviews for trainees. I make sure that feedback is given regularly on each task so that it is not simply a case of having two formal reviews in the seat. As part of the formal reviews though, I will collect together all of the feedback from the wider team and ensure that feedback is as constructive as possible.
In terms of advice for trainees or any junior lawyers, my top tips would be:
– Take notes. Even if you have the ability to retain instructions without notes, taking notes gives that extra comfort to the person instructing you that you are listening and understanding the instructions you are being given.
– Ask questions about the bigger picture. If you are not told where your task fits into the project as a whole, make sure to ask the fee-earner (if not at the time, then later). It will help you understand what you are doing better and shows your enthusiasm.
– Don’t think you know it all. You don’t. Nobody does. And there are few things worse than an over-confident trainee or junior lawyer!
– Show your enthusiasm, but know when to say no. While we know that you might want to do everything and show how wonderful you are, you can’t do everything for everybody. It shows great maturity in being able to properly assess your capacity and sometimes you will have to say no. While it is important to see that a trainee is hard-working, you don’t want to take on too much work and end up missing deadlines as a result.
– Be nice to everyone. In my traineeship interview I was asked for the best advice I was ever given and my answer was “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”. When it comes to jobs being handed out, the feedback of the whole team will be taken so it will be important that you fit into the team as a whole. Make sure that you are trying to impress and getting on with everyone in the team (not just the senior members) so that they can see you as a future member of their team.
Just as the second lockdown struck, so approached application deadlines for vacation placements. So, here’s an overview of how I got to know Pinsent Masons virtually.
Read about Taylor's experience of our Virtual Vacation Scheme
Anne Sammon is an Employment & Reward Partner in London. Anne has significant experience in tribunal and high-court litigation in areas including discrimination, unfair dismissal and whistleblowing.