City lawyers - I am about to become one of you. Please advise me!

(170 Posts)
InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 16:33:28

I've just finished the LPC and am about to start my training contract at a commercial firm in the City (think top 25 but not Magic Circle). It would be great to get some advice from City lawyers, especially women, as I don't have any lawyer friends to ask about this stuff.

Basically, if you could go back in time and advise your trainee self, what would you say? (although please don't say 'Run like the wind' because I've signed a contract and it's too late for that!)

NumTumDeDum Thu 25-Jul-13 16:40:20

Not a city lawyer, legal aid high st, but would say this is pretty universal: NEVER piss off the admin staff or the receptionist. They can help you out or they can make you look a prat.

MillionPramMiles Thu 25-Jul-13 16:40:51

Treat every piece of work as though keeping your job depended on it.
Be conscientous and punctual to a fault.
Don't get drunk at the office parties and don't sleep with your colleagues.
If you go on maternity leave during your training contract expect to be persona non grata.
If you really don't like it, don't be afraid to leave and try something else.
There is a huge difference between private practice and in-house, if you hate one you might like the other.

MillionPramMiles Thu 25-Jul-13 16:44:57

Num: spot on.

mycatlikestwiglets Thu 25-Jul-13 17:17:42

This is what I'd advise any trainees based on what I've seen done wrong over the last few years (silver circle firm):

Don't complain that you're busy if you're leaving the office before 7pm every night (sad but true).

Don't be workshy - offer your assistance as much as possible if you have some availability.

Respond to capacity emails (emails sent to all trainees in a group by associates in need of assistance asking if anyone can help out) even if only to say that you can't help.

Remember that you have a lot to learn even if it doesn't seem like it - you need to prove yourself to be taken seriously, getting the TC is not enough.

Be nice to the secretaries/PAs.

mycatlikestwiglets Thu 25-Jul-13 17:19:22

Oh and one based on my experience: don't make it known that you'd like to get married and have children one day. Your "lack of ambition" will be noted in your performance review (even if you've made it very clear that you are very ambitious).

JWIM Thu 25-Jul-13 17:20:06

Agree with Num and Million and would add the print room staff too.

OP I am sure this does not apply but I have trained many a junior lawyer who thought intellectual superiority was all that mattered - it's not at 1.30 am when your Partner is wanting the 100 page contract x6 for signing and the only person in the print room remembers you and your condescending attitude.

Good luck.

Don't be afraid to ask questions, you are training but remember the answers don't repeatedly ask the same thing.

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 17:25:17

Ha - I knew there would be advice about being nice to administrative staff. I have done loads of admin jobs and always had a mental shit list so I would always be very careful to be nice to everyone smile

HollyMadison Thu 25-Jul-13 19:12:39

All the above. Plus dress nicely and conservatively. Invest in a few good suits including skirt and dress options and some nice shoes from Jones maybe. A few shirts from TM Lewin or similar are good to have in the wardrobe. But I'm the sort of person who stresses over what to wear!

Always remember that everyone could be a helpful contact in your career so keep in touch with people and do network. You don't have to be nauseating about it!

And always attack the difficult files ASAP. If you put them off or try to hide any errors, these will be the ones that come back to bite you!

Looster Thu 25-Jul-13 19:26:36

Cannot reiterate enough what others have said about being decent DVD friendly to staff in support roles

Do everything to the best of your ability - even if it is dross - do the dross promptly and brilliantly and the next bit of juicy work will head your way

Dress appropriately - I have had to have too many conversations about low cut tops, short skirts, shoes more suitable for night out

If you are in a room with a partner and someone comes in for a gossip and a chat with the partner, do not join in and laugh. They will remember you are there and be shocked at your inappropriate behaviour and make you leave the room = don't get to hear the goss!

Watch you diet and health - it catches up with you after a while

Good Luck!

Looster Thu 25-Jul-13 19:28:06

Oh - and if you make a mistake - tell someone ASAP. Do not try to fix it or hide it. Everyone can make a mistake but how you deal with it can make a real difference

lowra Thu 25-Jul-13 19:51:42

Wowsers this job is definitely not for me
<pointless post>

lowra Thu 25-Jul-13 19:53:13

I'm guessing the salaries compensate.

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 19:54:23

Thanks everyone - this was just the sort of advice I was hoping to get, please keep it coming!

What about things like maternity leave (not something that is imminent for me). I would try very hard not to get pregnant on my training contract, but once you're qualified what is a 'reasonable' (i.e. reasonable in the City) amount of mat leave to take? I'm assuming if you took a full year you might as well resign but maybe that is not the case?

lowra - haha, I think it would drive a lot of people batty tbh but I am looking forward to it.

lowra Thu 25-Jul-13 19:56:02

Good luck Inglorious, you have my admiration.

microserf Thu 25-Jul-13 20:02:03

The magic circle firms seem to tolerate a year, but personally I would do no more than six months. Up to you on mat leave, but you tend to get forgotten if you take the full year.

The advice you've been given on this thread is very accurate. Please master the dark art of attending staff and client functions without getting boozed. The trick is to get one third into a glass and then clutch it as if your life depends on its refusing all top ups.

I won't tell you to run like the wind, but if you get the chance to do a client secondment, seize it. It is great experience and stains you in good stead for a move in house.

HandMini Thu 25-Jul-13 20:02:06

Hmm, re mat leave, if you are serious about climbing the tree, don't even think about it until you're a few years qualified.

Be professional at all times - it's easy to get carried away with the vac schemes, trainee drinks, sometimes pretty wild parties and client socialising, but at the end of the day, you're a professional adviser and have to behave as such.

FernandoIsFaster Thu 25-Jul-13 20:02:08

Keep your desk tidy. I assume a trainee is too chaotic if their desk looks like a shit tip.

HandMini Thu 25-Jul-13 20:03:00

This especially:

if you get the chance to do a client secondment, seize it. It is great experience and stains you in good stead for a move in house.

HandMini Thu 25-Jul-13 20:04:24

Choose your speciality wisely. You will see from partner genders in different departments that some (tax, employment, ACT) are slightly more hours/family friendly than others (corporate, finance)

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Thu 25-Jul-13 20:04:26

Oh - and if you make a mistake - tell someone ASAP. Do not try to fix it or hide it. Everyone can make a mistake but how you deal with it can make a real difference

^^ This. And all the above.

Not in a City firm, but am a lawyer. Everyone (repeat EVERYONE) makes a mistake as a trainee that will make your bowels turn to water and convince you that you're going to get the sack. It's almost never as bad as you think. If you own up (particularly if you can have already worked out how to try and fix it) you will be remembered as someone who is mature enough to admit when they're wrong.

As to Mat Leave, it very much depends on the firm. I would watch and see what other female lawyers do. I've seen it done both ways. Despite all the legal protection, the "might as well resign" attitude does exist and you can't fight it. If you want to start a family early, try to find an area where that might be possible - no idea where, but probably not corporate! Or look for a firm with a good track record in that regard.

I would add to the "not pregnant during TC" not pregnant before about 4 PQE if you can help it. At that stage, you're properly useful to them. Much before that and (in some firms) you risk being written off as a baby machine.

microserf Thu 25-Jul-13 20:04:46

Ooh almost forgot. Do not speak in meetings with clients unless it is clear you are expected to! Had trainees pipe ip unexpectedly and could cheerfully have killed them.

Do the crappy work and the good work will also come your way. Definitely no complaining about the crappy work - a sunny attitude to the person who is delegating you the work often results in more work. No matter what they say you are always competing with the other solicitors for work...

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Thu 25-Jul-13 20:07:07

x-post with HandMini smile

I am nearly 7 PQE and pregnant. My boss already wants to know when I'm coming back. It's all too easy to give up if you're less qualified.

dinkystinky Thu 25-Jul-13 20:09:43

If you're out of your depth, speak to your supervising associate asap.

Get as much experience as you can. If you make mistakes, own up to them, learn from them and move on - dont try to hide them under the carpet. Show willing, be charming to all, work hard, put in the hours and look hard at what the 5 year associates in that department are doing - are they happy, etc - as that is what you will ultimately be.

IME, lawyers who get pregnant before 3 years PQE tend to hand in their resignation instead of coming back. You can take up to a year but you will need to use your keep in touch days and make sure you keep up to date with changes in your area of law - to be honest its easier to come back earlier rather than later. Lots of law firms have penalties for not coming back where you have to repay part of the maternity package you received - one to remember. Also, think carefully about the area of law you want to qualify into - some are more family friendly (in terms of flexible working) than others.

PQ77 Thu 25-Jul-13 20:10:02

I've spent the last 8 years at a magic circle firm (qualified abroad prior to that). Am not returning after my second mat leave (whole other story and more related to DC health issues).

I second everyone else's advice - and would add the really basic advice to take a pen and notepad with you everywhere, and when given instructions, even if they seem really simple, write everything down.

As a superviser I really don't mind questions but I do mind if someone has not taken notes (even when I've suggested they jot a few things down) and then later have ended up in a real muddle because they can't remember all the details.

Re mat leave - I think the key thing is to think about the timing of your second child if you want more than one. Most lawyers at my shop take 6 months but some take a year. The ones on partnership track would probably take no more than 6 months. What took me by surprise was that once I returned after 9 months after ds1 everyone assumed I would disappear at any moment on mat leave again. As it was I had several losses and ended up being back for three years before I went off again.

Good luck!

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 20:12:18

microserf - they have invited us students to a few events already and I have done what you said - a third of a glass of wine, swill it about a bit and drink some to get my lipstick on the glass, then just carry it around!

I am 27 and qualify at 29 so can afford to wait just a few years before kids etc. I guess I would probably take no more than 6 months, and work at home before then if I could. I am definitely going to be the main earner in the family, so will definitely need to keep my career progressing as much as I can.

Chubfuddler Thu 25-Jul-13 20:14:36

Don't believe all the doom and gloom about families. I had my first whilst doing my LPC and my second at one year PQE. My career is fine.

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Thu 25-Jul-13 20:14:36

Sorry, just remembered something else. My boss (who trained with Camerons then went to Freshfields) said (when talking about trainees' attitudes) that if you went to a partner with a question, you were expected to have done some reading, formulated some views and found yourself stuck - not to approach them and ask them to sort it out for you.

Another boss calls it the "herewith pile of crap" approach - i.e. just blurt out a load of information and hope someone else will make sense of it - a lot of clients are keen on this approach smile

I find the same thing when trainees come to me. They've been asked to do some research and their research basically consists of asking me hmm It's incredibly irritating.

WhatWillSantaBring Thu 25-Jul-13 20:20:28

YY to all the above, especially the client secondment.

Networking is v important - a partner on your side will get you everything. Seats and NQ jobs ARE done "off market" despite what grad rec claim. If a partner doesn't like you then don't even think if qualifying in his team, as you'll never get good work.

Learn how to do certain things brilliantly - IT (like formatting word docs and basics like finding lost documents that didn't get saved properly) can make you into a hero when it's 1am and there are no secretaries around. (Night typists can type but IME didn't have a clue about the rest). If you're working late withi a group on a big deal and want to do something, offer to organise food/drinks.

From what I saw, no-one below senior associate survived mat leave. Not by being forced, but through choice, as building a city career isn't compatible with a young family. Go, do the best you can and if you can bare it, stick it out till 2-3 years PQE. That way you'll get the good grounding and training, and really get to see what sort of a career you want. The world is hen your oyster!

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 20:23:56

Thanks, this is great.

Due to various factors, my partner will never make enough money to support a family so I have no choice but to make my career work! We have discussed this and he is on board, so I know he will be a great help.

lowra Thu 25-Jul-13 20:27:18

I'm addicted to this thread blush

What salary would a newly qualified city lawyer earn then?

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 20:30:17

It depends on the firm, lowra. The bigger the firm the higher it is generally, although some American firm pays megabucks. The most I've heard is 100k at some US firm. But they are very scary and all work insane hours constantly (friend's bf works for one). My salary will be nowhere near 100k!

Wossname Thu 25-Jul-13 20:30:39

Me too, lowra blush It's so far removed from my bog standard job and sounds so exciting/terrifying.

Theironfistofarkus Thu 25-Jul-13 20:40:51
VioletGoesVintage Thu 25-Jul-13 20:41:04

Find out if trainees are expected to sub for unexpected taxi fares if e.g. returning from an external meeting with a partner/senior associate. Happened all the time at my old firm (Magic Circle).

Also find out exactly what information and library resources your firm offers, whether that's PSLs, access to Practical Law Company or whatever and make sure you know how to use them appropriately and effectively.

Theironfistofarkus Thu 25-Jul-13 20:47:37

Also always ask what the deadline is and if you can't meet it, let your supervisor know asap.

Take responsibility for what you have been asked to do and follow up if you get no response from your supervisor.

Attention to detail is everything. Check everything you do once for sense and once for typos.

Murtette Thu 25-Jul-13 20:49:36

I agree that the most important thing is that if you make a mistake, tell someone. It doesn't have to be your supervisor or the partner on the deal, any friendly mid/senior associate is enough to start with as then can then either suggest some solutions or come with you & hand hold.
If you're at a commercial firm, then accept that most of your seats and where you qualify are likely to be in commercial departments. Yes, they may have a family dept or an employment dept but everyone will be after that seat (partly because its perceived to be easy; partly because some will have woken up to the fact that they've taken the job due to the salary on offer not due to the area of law they're interested in).
Re pregnancy, I think you either need to do it immediately upon qualification or a few years down the line. If you do it immediately upon qualification, then its less obvious than if you're 1yr PQE as the dept aren't used to having you there or you working all hours so, when you get back and insist on having to leave every Wednesday at 5pm to do pick up, it may be more acceptable than someone trying to change what people are used to them doing. Also, read the maternity policy carefully. Remember that your contract actually terminates at the end of your TC and you then sign another one as an NQ, even if staying on at the same firm. And for second pregnancies, they may expect you to come back for X amount of time before going back again.
Good luck!
It can be a fantastic career but its very hard work at times and juggling it with children is challenging (to say the least!).

NumTumDeDum Thu 25-Jul-13 20:56:20

A friend of mine always had her passport ready and a change of clothes packed just in case. You do not want to miss out on trips because you are not ready. The advice on admin staff extends also to court staff and ushers in particular.

Do not be drawn into office politics. Say nothing about a colleague you are not prepared to say to their face. Do not discuss clients out of work - it will bite you on the ass - see recent news story about JK Rowling's ex solicitors.

GraduallyGoingInsane Thu 25-Jul-13 21:01:47

I'm on the dark side, so I'd say always remember to pay your barrister! I'm saying that whilst chasing fees from 2010...

On a serious note, I used to work at one of the magic circle firms. I'd say do work for as many people as you can - I did some work responding to a capacity email, and ended up doing a talk on antitrust in the pharmaceutical industry (something I knew nothing about) with one of the top competition lawyers in the country. It opened my eyes to a whole new area of law I'd never considered. I totally agree with being nice to admin staff, reception, post room, cleaners - everyone really! Firstly you might need a favour someday, and secondly if you behave like a snob then chances are someone will see you and rightly conclude you have no people skills.

Take a notebook everywhere, work out what style documents are presented in (eg do partners always send out memos with headings in bold type, are client names italics?) - make your document look like your supervisors so they can just tweak it and send your work out as theirs. Smile lots even when you're exhausted.

Good luck (and if you hate it, come to the dark side..)

stella1w Thu 25-Jul-13 21:33:40

I'm with chub here.. Had my first while on the gdl and second during tc. Took a yr mat leave, about to qualify and am being kept on. Will i make partner? Prob not. Have i committed career suicide? No. Do i feel for my colleagues in their early 30s hoping to make partner, not daring to get pg but worried about their bio clock? Yes.

stella1w Thu 25-Jul-13 21:34:00

I'm with chub here.. Had my first while on the gdl and second during tc. Took a yr mat leave, about to qualify and am being kept on. Will i make partner? Prob not. Have i committed career suicide? No. Do i feel for my colleagues in their early 30s hoping to make partner, not daring to get pg but worried about their bio clock? Yes.

Chubfuddler Thu 25-Jul-13 21:36:01

Stella there is no reason why you shouldn't make partner just because you had ML very very early on in your career, particularly if you are done as far as babies are concerned. I am. Full steam ahead on career now.

Good to hear, Chubfuddler.

tiggyhop Thu 25-Jul-13 21:45:38

Ask ask ask for work. Go round and knock on more senior lawyers' doors and say "is there anything I can help you with?" - go and see people rather than email them.

Chubfuddler Thu 25-Jul-13 21:48:27

Depending on whether you get to raise bills yourself, do not pinch other people's WIP. You will probably get sacked.

GherkinsAreAce Thu 25-Jul-13 21:49:45

Very normal to take the full year maternity leave in my firm

tigerlilygrr Thu 25-Jul-13 21:51:13

Keep your desk tidy. I assume a trainee is too chaotic if their desk looks like a shit tip.

This is good advice but it did make me laugh as my DH is a magic circle lawyer and his entire office is an absolute mess! He seems to deal with it by just requesting more desks! Don't follow his approach though.

I am a non-lawyer but I do work in the city. I think in the first two years just try really hard to be a very safe pair of hands. That means enormous attention to detail, an absolute willingness to drop everything to get the job done, always highlighting if you are unsure but outlining your suggested approach (solutions not problems), and responding really quickly wherever you can. It's a tall order but the training you will get is invaluable and in the blink of an eye you'll be expecting those standards of others.

Murtette Thu 25-Jul-13 21:59:01

Always have deodarant, toothbrush, spare pants & blouse, some flat shoes, shower gel & towel in the office for when you end up doing the inevitable all nighter. Whilst you'll still feel knackered the next morning, you'll at least feel fresher if you've been able to shower or, if not time for that, change.
I always expect the trainee to know the number for a conference call, the address of where we're going and to have printed out a map & be on top of that side of things. Having been caught out a few times as a trainee myself, I try not to rely on them to pick up cab fares but it will happen on occasion.
And work out a filing system. It is vital.

Salmotrutta Thu 25-Jul-13 22:05:12

I'm with lowra and Wossname - this is a fascinating thread and I'm not a lawyer!

I'm intrigued!

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:08:07

I'm glad people are finding it interesting! I was expecting to be boring people at dinner parties for the next 40 years but maybe not!

This thread has so much great advice, just what I was looking for.

stella1w Thu 25-Jul-13 22:09:08

Ok does one pinch someone else's wip?

Chubfuddler Thu 25-Jul-13 22:12:44

OK when you raise a bill in a matter (if you do, many larger firms do billing centrally and/or if it's a large matter only the project leader will do billing) you can choose what time to include in the bill and which fee earners to assign which amounts to. So if your firm's systems allow you can assign someone else's wip to you.

NB I have never and would never do this. I've known it happen though.

wellthatsdoneit Thu 25-Jul-13 22:13:26

I was going to say make yourself known as a safe pair of hands.

When given a task, close the deal on it, ie don't keep going back with wishy washy problems, or at least go back having done some decent forethought and suggestions of how/when obstacles will be overcome.

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Thu 25-Jul-13 22:21:22

To add to what Chub said you can also write down other people's time rather than your own if there has been an overrun on fees or, conversely, you come in on or under budget but someone else in another dept (in my firm it's always the property lawyers massively exceeding their remit hmm so that you have to take a write off, because, although you we're in budget, overall the fees are too high. Depending on how senior you are, you can have an influence on this stuff and fight your corner, or not. I am now eagle eyed about getting other teams to stick to their own cost estimates/manage their wip because I've been burnt too many times angry

Also, in some firms, it's routine to write off trainees time on the basis that the work they've done must be rubbish. Again, depends on the firm or the partner doing the billing.

suchnonsense Thu 25-Jul-13 22:21:47

I'd agree with all the advice given so far, particularly the often-repeated advice to own up to any mistakes. They will never be as bad as you fear, and telling someone early may make a huge difference to how easy it is to fix.

Things I look for/value in trainees:
- Attention to detail. Nobody is expecting you to be a legal genius or an expert negotiator; you simply don't have the experience. However, there is absolutely no excuse for spelling/grammar mistakes or careless errors. If you're asked to proof-read/check something, do a really good job. If you are a "safe pair of hands" with the relatively mundane work, then it will stand you in fantastic stead going forward as the more senior lawyers will rely on you more and more, which in turn will expose you to more challenging work. If an associate has to constantly check your work to correct errors, they may as well do the work themselves which is massively inefficient.
- Willingness. Don't complain about being too busy. Always smile and appear enthusiastic when asked to do work, even if you are (politely) suggesting that others may have more capacity.
- Timekeeping. Trainees who think it's ok to turn up late in the morning because they were working late will not last long. Occassionally you may be told that you can come in late if its been a particularly gruelling night/series of nights, but never assume. If a team is busy, that is exactly when they will rely on you to be punctual in the morning.

I agree with those who have suggested working for as many partners/seniors as possible. Not only does it expose you to a variety of work, but it also ensures you have a wide pool of potential "appraisers" come evaluation time. This will be viewed positively if you're ever up for promotion to the next level.

Re. maternity leave, I'd suggest waiting until you're at least 3/4 years qualified, unless you are very confident about your "profile" at the firm. 2 years PQE is a very popular time for associates to drop out or move to another firm, and at that stage you are still fairly expendible.

Think carefully about your specialty. Not only are certain areas of law more "family friendly", but several (pensions, incentives, insurance etc) are so specialist that they will give you a greater bargaining position re. salaries. Corporate and banking are more mainstream, so the lawyers are considered to be more expendible. I really wish I'd known that before I picked my qualification area! Conversely, certain specialities (IT/IP, employment, commercial) lend themselves well to an in-house role, so think about whether this is a route you may go down.

Above all, the learning curve as a trainee/NQ is incredibly steep - you will learn something new every single day, and life will get easier. So don't panic if it all seems overwhelming to start with.

Finally - if you are any good with maths, accounting or Excel, you will be highly valued. Lawyers are generally rubbish at these, and will stare at you in wonder and amazement!

I'm currently on my second maternity leave from a US firm, having qualified in a silver circle firm. It's hard work, but (generally) I really do love my job. You'll get out what you put in. Good luck!

Sorry - that was rather more of an essay than I intended!

mycatlikestwiglets Thu 25-Jul-13 22:23:03

No issue with a year's mat leave at my firm - no one is thanked or remembered for coming back sooner!

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Thu 25-Jul-13 22:23:35

Blimey, there are loads more of us here than I thought!

Sorry, haven't read the thread but would chip in :

* In the words of my former senior partner to another in my intake, the three rules are:

* Be eager and have a smile for everyone.

* Initiative can get you a long way. The number of trainees/NQs I see who will follow instructions perfectly, but not engage their brains! THINK! If I'm busy and I can only give you rough instructions, try to perfect the notion/draft. You won't always be spoon fed and are employed for your intelligence, not your typing. <Sorry, venting - I have an annoying trainee at the mo>.

* Use your common sense to balance that initiative against the cost of you spending oodles of time researching something which someone might know better. Sometimes it is better to ask a quick question to refine your instructions, but make sure that the question is not unintelligent/obvious/answered by Google. <Again, am sure that annoying trainee thinks I am Google.>

* As you progress, it will be taken for granted that you have technical ability and intelligence. What will differentiate you from others is the strength of your relationship with key clients and the breadth/influence of your contacts. Start working on those relationships from day 1 and they will hold you in good stead in a few years' time.

* If you practice a contentious area of law, bear in mind that if you maintain a pleasant/commercial relationship with the other side, it looks more professional/mature than entrenched aggression and they may refer work to you in the future if they respect you.

* Build and maintain strong networks with the other trainees in your intake. This can be hard as you go into separate departments, but they will refer work to you as they progress.

* Be a grammar pedant. You will meet many in your line of work!

* Be a technical whizz with IT etc.

* Try to find a niche. If there's a developing area of law, you will be more valuable if you are the person in the building who knows most about it.

Argh, posted before I'd set out the three rules. Makes me look like I can't count!

Anyway, according to our former senior partner:

1. Be shit hot
2. Be shit hot
3. Be shit hot

lowra Thu 25-Jul-13 22:32:47

Still here grin

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:33:39

Can someone run me through the NQ selection progress. I know this whole thread is basically a 'How to Get Kept On' guide but is the decision purely made on how well you fulfilled all of the above during your TC or are there other factors?

beyondthepaleandinteresting Thu 25-Jul-13 22:39:46

I used to be one, and then a lawyer in a major provincial firm, before I quit after my second lot of mat leave grin.

The thing that annoyed me most once I was responsible for supervising trainees was having to correct the same mistake twice. Mistakes (although not daft ones) are inevitable, but do only make them once. Keep notes, and if your supervising associate / partner annotates a document or email that you produce, take a photocopy of their notes, and stash it away in a folder so that you can cross reference the next time you are asked to do something similar.

Be keen, be polite to everyone, but don't try to be best buddies with anyone. "The Rule of Work", although a bit naff (and a bit dismissive of the long hours culture which I am afraid is inevitable in a City law firm) might be a useful read.

And as MrsNoodle says, your technical ability will become a given; your business development acumen is what will really help you to get ahead (I bloody hated his side of it, and really that's why I ended up chucking it in, as I knew that I'd gone as far as I could based purely on being a technically good lawyer - I watched contemporaries, especially men, who really hadn't stood out as exceptionally bright at university or as trainees carve out stellar careers based on their excellent networking ability). Get good a this, push yourself forward in terms of presenting seminars, speaking in team meetings etc. if you're not naturally confident, fake it.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 22:40:20

Don't tell your DP's best friend that the unknown author you are representing is JKRowling....

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:41:31

Lol, Petite - that was such a classic. Can't believe he did that, and can't believe she put it on Twitter...

beyondthepaleandinteresting Thu 25-Jul-13 22:44:43

InGlorious, it is quite a few years since I was an NQ, but in my day partners / departments advertised their NQ vacancies internally (i.e. on a nominated day, the list of NQ jobs for the next year would be circulated), and it was up to interested qualifying trainees to apply, following which they would be interviewed. Past appraisals etc would all be taken into consideration, but i suspect a lot of decisions were made based on chats amongst the partners. Sometimes there were clear favourites for jobs - previous trainees who had done well in a post - but it was not unheard of for jobs to go to trainees who hadn't actually done a seat in the team which they qualified into. That was at a time when jobs were fairly plentiful though, so this may all be quite different now, your HR department (or any current trainee) will be able to confirm the process.

suchnonsense Thu 25-Jul-13 22:44:51

With respect to getting kept on as an NQ, I reckon about 50% is made up of the elements mentioned here. The remainder is (a) luck (i.e. is there space in the team you want to join) and (b) whether the "right" partner is willing to stick their neck out for you.

eurozammo Thu 25-Jul-13 22:44:56

Remember it gets easier. There will be times you hate it in the first couple of years! But if you stick at it, you get to control your own time more and it does get easier.

You've had some very good advice here, re: taking pen and paper everywhere, knowing the number for telcons/addresses for meetings, asking questions and owning up to mistakes.

I will add: Keep in touch with contacts from law school and other folks you meet along the way. One day some of them will be in house counsel deciding who they will instruct or colleagues who have a conflict and need to refer work on. These will make your case for partnership in years to come! It seems a long way off now, but I've seen this happen time and again (and am very jealous as I worked abroad early in my career before email was common and lost touch with far too many people).

lurkerspeaks Thu 25-Jul-13 22:46:22

Not NQ selection and I'm not a lawyer but my brother is and I've been subject to quite a few rants recently about his teams new(ish) trainee.

Cardinal sins seem to be:
1) not keeping quiet in client meetings

2) contradicting the supervising partner in meetings with client and advocate (my brother, who isn't the partner, quite enjoyed that one as the rollicking aftewards was apparently world class)

3) being socially inept eg. criticising one of the solicitors choice of jewellery (it was her Mother's and her mother had just died) being unPC about state education (in a firm packed full of state educated solicitors) etc. etc.

4) never buying a drink (they don't expect endless rounds from the trainee but one drink during Friday drinks every so often is nice... ) I suspect London corporate teams never go to the pub on a Friday though....

5) keep your options open my brother is in the process of moving from pursuer to defender (he is a litigator) and is very glad that he generally has good working relationships with most of the big firms up here. Scotland is small and I'm always amused locally at how many people I run into socially who know him through work (we have quite an unusual surname and look alike so they tend to clock the connection).

6) Don't assume that because your father is a senior figure in the legal profession that his gravitas will wear off on you. You are still the trainee and will be so until you aren't the trainee.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 22:46:48

Yeah you'd have to be pretty thick.

I'm not a city lawyer, but use them as a client in my line of work, a lot.

I would say that as a junior client relationship is key. The slightest doubt on your capability and we go above your head to the partner, even though we know that she costs more. It is much better to tell a client that 'I don't know, I will find out' than try and bluff your way through. Because very often we are calling to confirm a minor point that we know well, not ask for info, iyswim.

I was very hmm about a junior who gave me some bad advice, when I asled a question expecting to know the answer. I asked her, can you check that, off the clock if need be. She called me back a few minutes later to correct what she had said. If she hadn't, I'd probably have called the partner to, erm, clarify the questionable point.

stella1w Thu 25-Jul-13 22:47:15

It would never occur to me to nick wip

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:48:19

"contradicting the supervising partner in meetings with client and advocate"


Wow, I can't believe someone did that.

GW297 Thu 25-Jul-13 22:48:38

This is fascinating! My sister is a lawyer.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 22:51:38

Seriously on the JKR point I made, this is particularly relevant I think in niche markets like the City. Don't blab about people in the pub. It very often comes back and bites you on the arse. I was once chatting to a lawyer in my field who told me a hilarious anecdote about a client, told to her by a colleague. It was about one of my colleagues but from years before; it was pretty funny, but since I had already heard it from the horse's mouth it came across as unprofessional.

lurkerspeaks Thu 25-Jul-13 22:53:27

InGlorious see point 6. I think it is relevant here!

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:55:02

lurker, please don't tell me that all 6 mistakes were made by the same person??

lurkerspeaks Thu 25-Jul-13 22:55:50


The first step in NQ selection is working out the numbers we need, which depends on how busy we are. It's an obvious point but very often I've seen trainees set their heart on a quiet department. You might still get the job but only if you are considered exceptional. Try to judge that.

There can be quite a gap between your time in our department and the decision making process. Those who are freshest in our minds are definitely at an advantage.

It's also true generally that the second years know their arses from their elbows are better/more commercial/less green than the first years - just as a result of experience.

So, if you have any say about the order/choice of seat, try to organise them so that your preferred area comes later in the day.

If you want to go back to a department you saw at an early stage, make sure you keep in touch - even if it's just with the junior members of staff, it will keep you in the collective consciousness. Also, make an effort to go to social events and use them to catch up with your favourite people wink. <God, this is making me sound so cynical>

It cuts both ways: if a department keeps trying to send work your way after you have moved on, it is a good sign.

All partners in our team get to have a say in who we recruit, and we'll take a steer from the assistants too. So if you underperform for someone, go out of your way to make sure that the next piece of work you do for them is stellar, so that they won't torpedo an otherwise positive discussion about you.

MrsBri Thu 25-Jul-13 22:56:44

It's a good job I'm not a City trainee as I'm on mat leave during my TC! Though I'm an older, career change, trainee and couldn't wait any longer before starting a family.

Thankfully my Training Principal has been fine about it and seems to really rate me, so I'm not worried about sabotaging my career.

I'm taking almost 7 months off as that takes me to the beginning of next year, which is a nice neat return date.

Good luck with your career. :-)

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:56:56

While we're sharing trainee dos and don'ts, I already know one: when on a vac scheme, don't go out and get rollocksed, then turn up at 11am the next day smelling like a pissed seaside donkey and vomit on the partner's shoes.

Also overt racism in the office is best avoided

(by 2 particularly outstanding candidates at one vac scheme I was on)

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 22:58:30

lurker - wow. Just wow.

Mendi Thu 25-Jul-13 23:03:07

I'm 3PQE at a City firm, though I had my DC before I qualified. My best friend had her DS 1 year into her TC, 10 months off (return timed to fit with Sept rather than because she wanted 10 months off) and then finished TC. Her mat leave hasn't caused her any problem but she does regularly work weekends and to 10pm on weekdays.

There's lots of good advice on this thread. I can only add: keep your head down at the start. When you start a seat it usually takes at least 2 months to work out WTF you're doing, never mind who the real power players you should please are. So on that learning period, don't draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons. Be intelligent and willing, do not whine about your hours, however bad they are.

Also, dress properly, bearing in mind that you will be in a conservative environment with often quite sexist views around you - and the other women can be the worst. I've been amazed at what some trainees will wear to work, and it's always those ones that don't get kept on. Stripper heels/see-through tops are not ok. Keep it low-key and conservative, at least until you know they think you're fantastic. Bottom line: you do not want to be "that trainee with the massive tits/ banging body/fat arse". You want to be "that really good trainee".

And good luck!

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 23:03:14

Oh and however drunk you get with your clients, they aren't your friends. Don't bitch about your colleagues to them, especially not your partners (we are paying a fortune for your advice because we like the partner) and please, don't get drunk enough to be maudlin and whine about personal lives etc until you really are friends.

We're not interested. We do those drink things for the same reason as you - networking and free drinks that we know that somehow we will be paying for

We've had:

* idiot trainee asking me how to stuff an envelope
* a trainee reversed her car into our head of department's, then drove off without fessing up because she thought no-one was looking: wrong!
* trainee who was sent urgently to get a copy of a document mid-hearing because the judge wanted it, disappeared for an hour. He had "gone to get a bun".
* trainee DOODLING on client's original deeds which then had to be returned to the client.

God there must be LOADS more.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 23:04:25

That said through these boring meetings there is a lawyer that I do consider a friend. One of about 20 that we use grin

encyclogirl Thu 25-Jul-13 23:06:48

Excellent thread. This is great career advice for anyone setting out on a corporate career.

Salmotrutta Thu 25-Jul-13 23:09:59

Oh lurker - I loved your post in a sort of gleefully horrified way!

My face was like shock at those six things the trainee did!

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 23:10:50

xenia would have some great advice but I haven't seen her around for ages.

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 23:11:38

I have already been warned about letchy partners (not at my firm, but in general). Are these generally an issue?? If so, what to do (obviously not sleep with them)?

Mendi Thu 25-Jul-13 23:17:52

Avoid the letchy partners. Or make them your friend by imparting some detail about your life which makes it totally impossible for you ever to be together (clue: "I have a DP" will not be seen as a good enough reason, though "I am very religious and don't believe in sex before marriage" may be acceptable) whilst still remaining friendly. I have a friendly partner at work (not one I work for, but a senior one) whom I've deterred in this manner, and now he just tells me loads of partnership gossip all the time, which is sometimes quite useful.

HandMini Thu 25-Jul-13 23:20:56

I would be amazed if you come across any lecherous partners or other colleagues. I've worked at an MC firm for nearly 10 years now (including two quite short maternity leaves) and the vast majority of people are hard working professionals who would not risk their reputation and career for an office fumble. I think this should be low on your list of worries.

NatashaBee Thu 25-Jul-13 23:21:04

This is fascinating. I've always loved the idea of being in This Life a lawyer.

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 23:21:42

OK cool, thanks HandMini - it was just something I'd been warned about.

Not generally an issue at all, no. My male colleagues tend to fall into two categories (a) charming gentlemen; or (b) grumpy/awkward old bastards. Fortunately there aren't many of the latter. Oh, and a couple of bonkers ones.

We have one letch - not a partner but well connected to a big client. He's regarded as a liability, and his behaviour has been squashed but equally he has got away with murder, frankly, because of his connections - yuk. It's been a long time since there was an issue but we'd act on it pretty quickly - albeit it ends in a reprimand rather than him being sacked.

My tip would be to find a friendly female assistant to speak to and she can guide you through the politics, but don't be too afraid to speak up - firms are increasingly professional and find this behaviour very distasteful.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 23:22:25

Agree re lecherous partners. Would have been a worry maybe 20 years ago, but not now.

GherkinsAreAce Thu 25-Jul-13 23:28:13

I can channel Xenia for you (disclaimer, not my views!!)

If you want to be taken seriously don't take long on maternity leave and if you want true career success ie partnership, go back full time. You can still ebf - i used to express bm in between conference calls.

Being a lawyer is a great profession as not only does it mean you can pay school fees and buy an island (like me), but it allows you true economic independence and to set your children especially your daughters the example that women can do as well as or better than men.

celestialsquirrels Thu 25-Jul-13 23:29:03

I trained at a magic circle, stayed for 8 years, moved into different role still in the law. My advice:

1. Accept that you know practically nothing. They will teach you what you need to know. Learn learn learn.

2. You may be have been a golden child at school, Oxbridge, clever, attractive... But there is no place for arrogance. It will be spotted at 100 paces and people don't like it. Confidence good arrogance bad. A bit of humility goes a long way.

3. Keep your cleavage and your thighs covered. I'm sure you will.

4. Learn to draft. In plain English. Never ever ever use archaic legalese - if you ever use the word "herewith" consider yourself a failure. Keep sentences short, to the point and in the active voice, check every definition for clarity and (my particular bugbear) circularity and ensure whatever you draft can be understood by a reasonably intelligent layperson. Because that's probably a good description of your client.

5. Never lose sight of the clients needs and goals. There is a reason they came to your firm for advice. That isn't so they could be given a list of all the problems and stumbling blocks in their way. Give them solutions. Get the deal done.

6. Write articles. Give client talks. Speak at conferences. You will learn much more that way than by reading articles, sitting in client briefings and attending conferences.

7. Be courteous to everybody. Do not date your clients. Do not date partners until you are full on qualified and established (and even then be careful). Date associates if you must - you will probably marry one if you aren't already married. Possibly even if you are.

8. Grammar. Spelling. They matter. Mistakes will be noticed. Check check check.

9. Enjoy!

InGloriousTechnicolor Thu 25-Jul-13 23:29:19

Ha thanks Gherkins. I'm not sure what I'd do with an island!

beyondthepaleandinteresting Thu 25-Jul-13 23:34:42

Gosh. I definitely worked for some letcherous / extremely sexist partners. One particular incident that sticks in my mind is when, as an NQ, I was on a bus with one other female lawyer (about my stage), a number of male lawyers from our firm, and a large group of male clients, returning from corporate hospitality at a sporting event. One of the (exceedingly drunk) clients decided that it would be funny to ask me and the other female solicitor "where his lap dance was". He was then fully backed up by the letcherous and generally dreadful (but oddly successful) partner who had organised the trip, who loudly led the chants for "extras", informed all clients that this was why he'd brought us ect. Bloody awful. And the thing is that I did nothing really about this, my 24 year old self just assumed that this was all par for the course. If you come across these types I'd definitely advise stocking up on wisecracks and learning to give as good as you get.

celestialsquirrels Thu 25-Jul-13 23:38:39

Lechy partners exist. The managing partner of my MC firm went through young female associates like you wouldn't believe. He launched himself on me in the lift when I was a trainee and I said "get off! You must be joking!" And he was completely unabashed and said "I told [other partner] you wouldn't be a pushover ha ha ha ha!!". Unbelievable. Another corporate partner actually stalked me for years. Used to collect photos of me in his desk drawer and moan to people that I wouldn't go out with him. I was married and had never even worked with him, barely exchanged 2 words with him and for most of that time he was in an office in a different continent. I was married, he was married with young kids. Fucking creepy.

I work in the Marketing department of a law firm and my personal advice would be the following:

1) Learn client relationships management - how to cultivate and manage relationships ( many fee-earners don't so they get overlooked and not given the biggest clients)

2) When you have to attend training on systems etc. go to them and really listen and learn what you are being taught because it is these systems that will make your life easier - I have trained plenty of trainees on how to use templates/ systems etc and it annoys me they don't take it seriously until they need to do something at 6pm and expect me to stay behind to retrain them or worse fix their documents only for them to mess it up 30 minutes later.

3) IT skills - please please please if the firm offers word training go on it and go on the advanced course if they offer just learn how to use applications like word, excel properly it really does makes you more efficient

4) If Marketing tell you something isn't within brand guidelines etc. don't go off an ignore them and produce documents or graphics that are not brand compliant. Branding guidelines are there for a reason.

tigerlilygrr Thu 25-Jul-13 23:54:05

Wrt lecherous partners ... There are exactly as many lecherous lawyers as there are in other walks of life ie a few. Don't worry about it.

emsyj Fri 26-Jul-13 00:11:01

I was never a City trainee - I joined a MC firm when I was just over 1 yr PQE though, so I worked alongside some...

Best advice for anyone training at anything I think is, when someone gives you a task to do, summarise back to them what you think they've asked you to do to check that you've understood them before you go off and waste hours/days doing the wrong thing.

Also, be aware that 360 degree feedback at City firms is fairly commonplace (universal??) - so it won't just be the partners who are asked what they think of you. Brown nosing partners and being 'too busy' to assist juniors in your team has been the downfall of more than one trainee in my experience!

As others have said, be nice to your secretary and to all other staff you come across. Being pleasant to everyone you work with is just one of those key things that makes life easier and nicer all round regardless of your workplace/chosen career, so that's a given.

EarthtoMajorTom Fri 26-Jul-13 01:01:31

I have spent a lot of time regretting that I didn't start my training contract. After reading this thread, I am now completely convinced that it wouldn't have been the career for me. Not in a million years.
Thank you everyone.
<breathes massive sigh of relief>

cafecito Fri 26-Jul-13 01:19:18

I quit my city law job
having a child didn't combine well hmm and once you have one, you are always written off as being someone not committed to the role, one eye is always on you wondering when the next one is coming, you kill your own promotions. Anyway. I couldn't stand one of the secretaries or the managing partner or HR witch from hell. Everyone else was a dream and I miss them every day. I miss the work, I miss the clients, I very much miss my team.

My tips, hmm. Dress safely - smart, classic. Always look client-ready, never too trendy or fussy (for the ones in trendy clothes are not the equity partners). Agree be lovely to the admin staff and treat them as your equals. They can make your life easier as a trainee if they like you, most trainees/legal staff can become cliquey and not associate with those under their station as it were- don't be one of them.

Do not share personal information at work no matter how many questions are asked no matter if it's your boss asking them. Do not ever feel safe until you are the boss. Be honest enough but never ever over share.

Do not get drunk at work evening drinks-type events, but do make an appearance every few weeks/months. Don't go to every one if it's a leaving party etc, do go to the ones that matter. Don't get pissed.

Do be confident, don't self deprecate too much or people will start believing you are as bad as you make out. If you make a mistake or don't know something, and really cannot work it out, say so.

Expect long hours, blabla

Any concerns, any real hot water etc, make sure everything is in writing.

Enjoy it and congratulations!

Thesunalwayshinesontv Fri 26-Jul-13 02:22:13

celestialsquirrels has some great (and beautifully drafted grin ) advice.

I would only add that you would do well to always try to understand your client's business. It will always, to the extent you have clients, as a lawyer or otherwise, stand you in very good stead.

LongGoneBeforeDaylight Fri 26-Jul-13 02:49:41

I'm soon to qualify at a large corporate commercial firm grin

1. Be organised, don't lose things.
2. Be super proactive about getting feedback before your 3 month appraisal, then address any faults. That way the appraisal in writing should be good.
3. Double check everything. I made so many errors in letters initially...
4. Worry less about chargeable units as a trainee and more about quality of work and learning.
5. Do everything without moaning.
6. Never bitch about anybody.
7. Try to get exposure within the firm - ask if you can present at team meetings, etc.
8. Answer the question when you do research and don't sit on the fence. Don't copy and paste judgments, but understand them and supply concise bullet pointed answers.
9. Face time is sadly quite important. People notice when you're in the office late, and is ideal time to get chatting to a partner in a dept you're interested in for a seat/NQ job.
10. Cry only in the toilets.

celestialsquirrels Fri 26-Jul-13 06:15:00

Re mistakes- I once overran in a meeting at the client's offices and so had to go straight to Heathrow to fly off somewhere on a signing without first being able to get back to my office.

I phoned my trainee. "Do you see the document bag by the door of my office full of engrossed contracts? Bring it to me at Terminal 4 departures. I will meet you at WH Smith".

I get in a cab and go to Heathrow. She gets in a cab and very efficiently gets to Heathrow 20 mins later and meets me as arranged. "Hello!" she says brightly. I say "Hi. Where's the document bag?"


She had forgotten it.

I had to get another trainee to personally bring it to my hotel in Ankara, Turkey the next morning. We had to delay the signing by 3 hours. The client was Goldman Sachs who could not have been less impressed. The trainee was not kept on after qualifying.

Notsurehowthathappened Fri 26-Jul-13 07:08:51

On a slightly different tack, I am at the other end of my career now and surrounded by professional women friends who missed out on a family believing that they could manage the timing.

Just remember family and friends ALWAYS matter more than your career. Work won't love you back!!! I constantly look at my daughter (I am widowed) and am thankful that I was preared to risk one more promotion (which I eventually got anyway) to have her.

Bakingnovice Fri 26-Jul-13 09:06:31

Always say YES. To everything if you can. It will be noted.

Double check every thing you do. Smile and ask lots of questions. Good luck.

I would second the advise about knowing your client and who in your client you are dealing with. If you are dealing with the in-house legal team of a large company or financial institution you are probably dealing with someone who worked for quite a few years in a big law firm and has developed a lot of on the job expertise in house as well. If they have an issue with something it's probably for a good reason.

Advice not advise

Oh and always proof read especially on an iPhone.wink

lisianthus Fri 26-Jul-13 09:25:31

A "life point" rather than an "in the office" point, as the office stuff has been covered really well - live well within your income. If you are in a top 25 firm, you will be paid very well indeed, if not at US firm level.

While you need to spend a certain amount to look the part (it's important not to look the poor relation compared to the other lawyers and the clients), don't let the cash go to your head. NOT EVERYONE CAN BECOME A PARTNER. This is the case even if you are good. Often, firms have an "up or out" policy. And there are periodic "purges" that sweep through the City during turndowns, where lots of people are made redundant and it is extremely difficult to get re-employed.

So take the cash that many other trainees/associates will be spending on Manolos/flashy cars/business class travel, and use it to pay down your mortgage early. If you wind up looking for work with several hundred other lawyers, you don't want to be in debt as well. Stack the cash away as if you were a footballer and your employment in the big bucks firms will have a limited lifespan. It may well do.

Good luck, you are in for a baptism of fire, but you are also likely to make some of the best friends of your life, who will understand what you are going through.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 26-Jul-13 09:35:16

I used to be a City lawyer. You've had some great advice. Things I would add (I might be repeating some. I'll admit I have committed the cardinal sin of not reading every post).

1. Golden advice given to me as a first seat trainee. When asked to fill in your first appraisal form, do not do that shit female thing of being all modest. My first attempt was all 'I think I am quite good at'. The female partner I was working for handed it back to me and told me to re-do it, and why. It was great advice. This form will be seen by everyone who considers employing you at the end of the training.

2. At drinks events, always drink a big, big glass of water just before you go in. You will not be thirsty and it will help you pace your drinking. I also often ensured that I took a couple of non-alcholic drinks first, claiming thirst. If you are two glasses of wine behind everyone else, you will notice them starting to get tipsy and be reminded to stop yourself in good time. Also, even if you drink too much, you'll be less drunk than others. Refusing alcohol entirely is often viewed with suspicion by older partners as a sign of pregnancy or alcoholism!

3. Assuming you have access to a secretary, learn to bloody dictate. Come in early, hide in a cupboard or stay super late to practice if needs be. If I attend a meeting and ask you to take notes, I want my notes quickly, not in days and days because you insist on typing the bloody things yourself.

4. Dress very conservatively. At my firm, knee high boots would have been considered very off with anything other than an ankle length skirt suit. I generally recommend trouser suits for practicality.

5. Keep your head down at the start of a seat and figure out who likes who, who hates who, etc.

6. Although it is good to volunteer for not volunteer when you cannot possibly complete the work. If you are in an all day meeting, you can't do my research. But equally do not refuse because you are too busy only for me to see you heading out the door at 6pm - I will notice.

7. Many departments, including my old one, ask associates/assistants what we think of potential trainees to take on. If you've brown nosed the partners and ignored the associates/assistants, we'll feed that back. It won't go down well.

8. I agree with repeating back instructions. Also, if you have a question on work, spend time formulating it properly and come in and ask it. Goes like this "I have a quick question about X. Is now a good time" if they say yes, ask the question quickly and clearly. If they say no, ask when will be a good time. Don't just wander into my office and start generally waffling about being a bit confused. Some quite senior lawyers in my department didn't get this, and as a result annoyed partners regularly.

9. Poor spelling and grammar is disproportionately annoying.

mycatlikestwiglets Fri 26-Jul-13 09:39:00

Another one I thought of - don't engage too much in trainee politics! You will come across a number of people who have a clear agenda to qualify in a certain area and will try to bulldoze their way there. Don't fall victim to them as they may be full of it! Ignore what other trainees say about where they plan to qualify and do what you want to do - even if you don't get kept on you'll be far happy qualifying elsewhere in an area which interests you than simply going for somewhere you think will have a space.

WhatWillSantaBring Fri 26-Jul-13 09:48:21

A few of the bits of advice may not be relevant if you're in a department with very big clients - SC/top 25 firms often seem to have a variety of clients, and if your client is FTSE100 you can bet your bottom that the partners won't let a trainee within 100 miles of the client itself, especially a first/second seat trainee. (I didn't meet a client till my third seat, save for walking into a meeting to hand over a document, where it just so happened that I knew three of the clients personally!!).

You therefore have to learn to manage your "internal" clients as though they were external clients - treat the partner as you would a client. One of the partners in my first seat never spoke directly to trainees, but as I discovered on qualification, he would give jnr associates instructions and say "get that trainee to do it". Jnr associate would manage the work and then have to report back to partner on capability of trainee.

NQ qualification can be quite political. Be prepared for the fact that your fellow trainees may turn around and stab you in the back to get the job. That trainee is the one who will go on to be partner. Don't go on secondment in your fourth seat - you need to be in the mother ship to be able to network, talk to the partners you want to work with etc. I learnt these lessons to my cost and nearly didn't get a job that I had been (informally) guaranteed.

All-nighters are not inevitable. I managed to get away with many 4am finishes but no all-nighters.

Oh, and personal hygeine (shit, I'm a lawyer and don't know how to spell!) is very important. At least one trainee in our team didn't get a job based on the fact he smelled. Partners are as shallow as the rest of us.

emsyj Fri 26-Jul-13 09:50:12

I would echo Amanda's advice about formulating your question before making an approach with it, especially if you are approaching a colleague in a different team (e.g. on a transaction you may well have to deal with folk from lots of different teams, some of whom you won't know). Take up as little time with your question as you can - drill down to exactly what it is you need from the person and be succinct. This is something that was a major culture shock for me when I moved from a large regional to MC: I had been used to just wandering into people's offices and chatting for a bit but MC lawyers really don't have the time or patience for this, plus you are less likely to get to know most of the people in the big City firms as they're just too big for that. Be prepared that if you approach someone who is busy and start waffling, they will tell you to go away and come back when you know what it is you're asking.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Fri 26-Jul-13 10:04:12

Totally O/T, but I've just googled Magic Circle, as I had vaguely heard the term but had no idea what it really meant.

I've just discovered that my little brother is now working for his third Magic Circle firm, and was head-hunted from one to the next. He was recruited as a partner into the third and doubled his already 6-figure salary when he made that move.

<massively proud big sister>

Good luck OP - what a fab thread with some amazing advice. smile

ComtesseDeFrouFrou Fri 26-Jul-13 10:26:00

I think for the non-lawyers who are "listening in" on this thread a lot of this will come across as very prescriptive and negative - almost as bad as a combination of the BF vs FF debate with childbirth trauma stories thrown in for good measure.

As with everything, the job has its fair share of shit moments, but it is a hugely rewarding and stimulating career with some real wow moments - and I'm not just talking about the salaries. No amount of money can compensate for a supervising partner who never says thanks or well done.

But you get the odd flash of feeling on top of the world - those days when you really do feel bigger and cleverer than everyone else grin

Absy Fri 26-Jul-13 10:26:10

I work in the city (investment bank, not law firm) and would say: humility goes a long way. IME the more arrogant someone is, generally the more useless they are. The nicest and humblest people tend to be the most senior, the more arrogant twunts are the most junior.

Be nice to EVERYONE because you never know what/where it will come back to you, e.g. people being more willing to help you out when you need it, or even considering you when there's a role going.

Be willing to take on grunt work, because again, you never know what it will lead to. My first job was to enter data into a database - super dull, but it led to me being made permanent and having "paid my dues" I was given much more interesting work.

And most importantly, having a good manager is key. I've had fabulous and rubbish ones. If someone is rubbish or you don't get along at all, ask to have a new manager or move because it won't do either of you any good in the long run.

If you are involved in a big transaction remember you are probably only seeing a tiny fraction of the whole deal. When dealing with large complex cross border transactions, sorting out the signature blocks, whilst important, is not the main focus for anyone other than the trainee dealing with it.

Absy Fri 26-Jul-13 10:30:36

Oh, and nobody is as interested in your career development as you are, so don't expect someone else to direct it for you. Have an idea/plan on where you want it to go (with a degree of flexibility, you never know) and take the initiative to direct it that way.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 26-Jul-13 10:31:05

Oh, on time recording.

Do it promptly, accurately and with a decent narrative.

We do not routinely write off trainee time - we look at whether you were doing a job that would otherwise have been done by someone else who we would have charged for.

You need to record properly the time it took. If you think it took too long, you need to work out why and improve next time. If something happened - like you misunderstood the question for an hour of the research, find out the procedure at your firm (we'd note it very clearly in the narrative so it gets picked up and written off in billing) but don't just knock the time off.

Senior associates and partners bill and decide what to bill. You do not. They will know you are slow (but you are also cheap!). They will adjust accordingly if needed. If you adjust on your time records, you are double discounting the client and usurping the partner's role.

Very few things are more irritating in trainees than someone you know spent 12 hours a day in the office for the last week, but seems to only have 5 hours a day of time.

lazarusb Fri 26-Jul-13 10:44:59

As a mature student with 2 dcs of 10 & 13 at the end of the second year of my LLB, I've found this thread really interesting. I've just done all my TC applications so fingers crossed!

Another ex MC lawyer, now in house.

Always have an eye on the exit. Yes, you might think you want to be a partner but a vanishingly small number of people make it particularly these days. Example, out of my 500 intake on the he LPC, most of whom were destined for MC and top 15 law firms, I don't know of ANYONE who's made partner. Some of that is choice, some is timing (many got canned/pushed down the line in the credit crunch), some is not being good enough. Whatever. It's a fact that few people make it so by about 7 years PQE, you're probably going to want to be gone. So:

When you do get client contact, be exceptional, be interested, be polite, go the extra mile. It's amazing how it can help in the future.

And be nice to the lawyers on the other side. Be right and be thorough but politeness and good manners cost nothing - I've known clients to switch law firms because the other side seemed more professional and nicer to deal with. Ditto I've known people to be offered jobs by opposing law firms because they were so good but also professional and great to deal with.

Oh, and networking? Took me years to realise that it's just the people you know. Get to know people, and they will become your network. I got my in house jobs through an ex-lawyer who was a friend of my DH (who is also a lawyer!). Almost everyone I know (and there are precious few private-school-Daddy's-connections-got-me-a-job) gets their next job through contacts. You don't have to fake friendliness but do make a bit of an effort. Remember people. Keep in touch with interesting people. Sports teams are particularly useful for that sort of thing actually.

SlatternismyMiddlename Fri 26-Jul-13 10:52:40

I don't work for a city firm but am a solicitor. Everything being said in here is also true of smaller practices.

Treat your support staff well as you may need them to bail you out in the future.

Do not think that something you are given is beneath you, you are trainee, no work is beneath you.

Follow your solicitor's lead in client meetings, any doubts/questions you may have can wait until the client has left. Never ever moan/ complain/ discuss office politics with a client even in a social setting. This may seem obvious but I have noticed in the last few years some common sense has been lacking in newbies.

As said many times before, dress conservatively. Work wardrobe is not the place to show off you cutting edge individual style.

Do not let any one assume that your training colleague is your superior because he is male. I have unfortunately seen clients assume this.

Spelling is ridiculously important.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 26-Jul-13 11:08:46

Oh, one more.

Do not add all your new trainee friends as friends on Facebook.

There is a type of partner who loves gossip. It is best to know nothing and share nothing. It doesn't reflect well on you if you are the subject of it or you share it, even if a cheeky partner pushed you into it at 11pm.

bico Fri 26-Jul-13 11:14:36

As someone who qualified more than two decades ago I would advise you to think of where you want to be in fifteen years time, personally rather than professionally.

It is easy to get sucked in to what are perceived to be the more glamorous areas of law which involve lots of foreign travel and interesting high profile work. It is fun to do that when you don't have family commitments. However it is next to impossible to do that when you do have a family unless you are happy to employ a live in nanny. Maybe you are but very few people I know have done so through choice. It is always because they are in an family inflexible specialty that makes it hard.

If I had my time again I would have picked a perhaps more mundane area of law safe in the knowledge that it was more flexible and more portable (I'm stuck in the City) than the area of law I chose.

Good luck. I am in awe of anyone who makes it from LPC to actually getting a training contract these days. In my day there were far fewer places to do the LPC (LSF in my day) and lots of choice re training contracts (articles).

EldritchCleavage Fri 26-Jul-13 11:50:02

I'm not a City lawyer but work in a profession/suity job where I've worked alongside one or two over the years. My advice:

-outright lechs are rare, but beware the male senior colleagues who will have you trailing along as an entourage because you are young and pretty and therefore enhance their status, who are dismissive of you in front of others and will never actually give you any responsibility or chance to prove yourself (they do that for the male trainees). In my experience that type of man is depressingly common in a lot of professions, though less as time goes by, thank goodness. It is difficult to handle-I've been that woman, many years ago. You can only make sure: (i) you never play up to this (no hair twirling, simpering, dressing a bit too sexy or flashy), keep things cool and professional, rise above the slights; (ii) you network madly with more useful people; and (iii) you volunteer to do work and make very sure there is good work product from you that people can judge you on;

-don't assume anything about your colleagues. it may look like a very white, male-dominated, privately-educated and Oxbridge environment but you can't necessarily tell by looking what people's education, class backgrounds or sexuality is, nor what race their partners are etc. I've known many a trainee really offend people with assumptions, whether because they are v right-on and cynically assume we are all bigoted Establishment shits, or very right-wing and conservative and assume the black bloke over there only got in by some kind of positive discrimination;

-FIGHT YOUR CORNER, albeit politely, where your work and ideas are concerned. It is very irritating when a trainee comes up with something potentially promising then can't argue for it or explain the idea. If you can't do this for your colleagues, they will assume you won't be able to do it for clients. Prepare, take a risk. It is better to be wrong (understandably, and due to inexperience) than never to try, and never, seemingly, to think about the task in hand;

-what my father told me, when I started work: don't be afraid to show liking for people you genuinely get on with. It is possible, especially for women, to be so concerned about demeanour that you end up as a bit of an automaton. But provided it is authentic, you don't need to hide the fact you like people;

-keep in touch with professional bodies and associations, find a mentor.

The last solicitor I worked with has a trainee whose appearance is a little startling (hair extensions, a LOT of make-up, very tight clothes, mega heels). I don't care about that myself, though other clients certainly will, but coupled with the fact she literally NEVER did anything useful, not even help lug the files, nor come up with a single useful piece of info like a date we couldn't find, appear to know any details of the problem or even fetch anyone a coffee, I will be very surprised to see her again in future meetings.

Take heart from nightmare trainee stories. There are plenty of numpties out there who will thin out the numbers nicely, leaving a smaller field for you to compete with.

JWIM Fri 26-Jul-13 14:32:56

OP I think you said DP did not work in the same 'arena'. Being a trainee at a City firm is very full on. Would be a good idea to make sure your DP is fully aware of the time demands.

Should you go on to have children and want to stay - being really sure of your childcare is key. Do not scrimp. I have colleagues who are constantly stressed by having to sort out domestic arrangements, some of their own making. I am amazed at those on six figure salaries who look for cheap childcare.

lazarusb Fri 26-Jul-13 15:45:13

saffron I have to say that I've been a bit disappointed as I don't really want a TC in a large City firm but they are so few and far between in smaller, more local practices. I'd love to avoid the City if I can help it!

HerBigChance Fri 26-Jul-13 17:17:22

I am not a lawyer (and I don't work in the City), but this thread is fascinating. It contains a lot of general common-sense advice that applies to a number of sectors of working life in general.

something2say Fri 26-Jul-13 18:59:14

I agree, HerBigChance. A very interesting read. I am heartened by what I perceive as the high standards and genuine enjoyment of excellence as standard. I am less heartened by women having to make it OK that they are still judged for their gender. I refer to all of the horror stories about time off when you have a baby.

My employers give a year off, women regularly take all or some of it and they are offered part time roles when they return with no sense of discrimination, plus we then pay 80% of the childcare fees..... But then I work for a women's charity..

I feel like making a similar thread about the values and norms in my career, working with people. I am so pleased that we are encouraged to express our personal style at work. Granted this doesn't often stretch to stripper heels, but it will mean hair colours, styles, piercing s, eye makeup, nails of colour, lovely jewellery and a general expression of one's values, with the idea that you are on the outside who you are on the inside. Or perhaps that is the whole point!!!

Anyway lovely to read about the values in this industry. I was once hauled over the coals by a horrible MC lawyer at a dinner party. I am now a hippy and don't go to dinner parties. Haha!! (I should shut up now in front of all of the lawyers!!)

Thesunalwayshinesontv Fri 26-Jul-13 19:12:56

something - I am an ex-MC (and subsequently in-house) lawyer. Looking back, the main thing I miss about being in that world is the standard of excellence that the vast majority of people I worked with held themselves to. This applied as much to fee-earners as it did to support staff (secretaries, typists, print room guys, canteen staff, delivery guys - everyone). This is now part of my professional DNA. For that alone, I would recommend an early career in a MC law firm to anyone setting out in the world of work.

GherkinsAreAce Fri 26-Jul-13 19:15:03

Something2say, lots of us are secretly hippies at the weekend...sssshhh! wink

something2say Fri 26-Jul-13 19:23:18

Hello the sun always shines.....yes excellence is pleasing to work amongst, and also inspiring I think. I work for a charity and we have to be very tight with what we do, and we work with all sorts of other agencies and they are nice and tight as well. It has made me improve. Before that I had a job in the corporate sector... I always wanted to study recommend it, but I grew to hate it because people feel able to argue one so and then change roles and argue the other. Where I work we stand by our beliefs really....but then I am raging femo and there's only really one position on that isn't there!

Gherkins that's lovely! I hope I meet one of you someday then, at the bottom of some secret garden or other!

tigerlilygrr Fri 26-Jul-13 19:24:41

I have to say that I think this thread demonstrates a common misconception as to the 'problem' of maternity leave in professional jobs. There is an issue with women carrying more childcare responsibility and therefore becoming less attractive employees. However the problem is not about whether you take six months or twelve months mat leave, it's about how you are perceived on your return, in my experience (would be interested to know if others disagree). First of all I don't think there are many city jobs where there is a huge difference between the two options of six or twelve months... On a practical level, you have to hand over your clients to someone else for a while regardless. On the other hand, on return, someone who is obviously constrained by childcare arrangements, can't do the post work drinks or pull a very late night is going to find it harder to progress. So definitely there are still issues to address. Something2say, start your thread, it would be good to learn how other industries do a better job of keeping women engaged.

GherkinsAreAce Fri 26-Jul-13 19:28:02

There is a lot is secret lentil weaving in the city IME - I am still bf DS (2) and am a slings and co-sleeping mum <hides quickly before anyone else in her firm notices>

dinkystinky Fri 26-Jul-13 19:35:45

Gherkins - my colleagues call me a hippy as I bf my boys until over 2, use slings and do blw... There are a fair few stealth lentilweavers in the law...

something2say Fri 26-Jul-13 19:35:55

Tigerlilly there is no issue. We are all women! And we have all been there years!

MyBoysAreFab Fri 26-Jul-13 20:02:00

A senior partner gave me advice years ago which I have never forgotten - the only things you really have to worry about are if you lose an original will or if you pay a beneficiary too much money in an executry, anything else can be resolved.
Lots of great advice here - agree with be humble, do anything thrown at you and do it well. Don't pretend you understand instructions passed to you if you don't - ask, ask, ask. Don't give a client advice unless you are certain it is correct. Keep in with your accounts department!

The same above senior partner drunkenly told me I had fabulous tits at a work do - he was subsequently mortified, as there is nothing lechey about him, still makes me snigger.

I now work in a really small town law firm, much nicer, sometimes I even wear jeans to work, I would hate to have to go back to the power-suited city firm days!

ScottishDiblet Fri 26-Jul-13 20:49:44

I'm ex MC and my top tip (as the others have already been taken) is to learn how to proof read letter by letter word by word line by line. Use a finger on each word and make sure you not only check for spelling but also for sense. Good luck! It is a wonderful career and, although city law wasn't for me ultimately, it got me my current job which is literally my dream job in the law.

Chubfuddler Fri 26-Jul-13 21:13:11

I BF both of my child until they were nearly 2, even though I went back to work full time when number 1 was 9 months. And co slept. In fact co sleeping bfing was the only way I could cope!

BonaDea Fri 26-Jul-13 21:15:39

Don't snog or shag any other trainees or anyone else for that matter. Especially not a senior associate I did, and am now happily married with a DS to said senior associate who is now a partner and never comes home!! wink

InGloriousTechnicolor Fri 26-Jul-13 21:33:30

Thanks so much for all this advice.

Something2say, totally take your point but I think you have to accept when you work in a certain type of law firm that it's simply not OK to take an hour for lunch, it's not OK to leave at 5 and it's not the sort of work that is easy to do part time, whichever sex you are. Them's the breaks. It's the same in sectors like finance. Of course, that is why the pay is higher than other types of work, because there are all these restrictions. I accept that. I am naturally fairly conservative in the way I dress and express myself, that atmosphere doesn't stifle me as I am used to it from school and to some extent university.

I have always had high standards for myself in terms of academic results etc. and am very hard on myself if I don't reach them (even if no one else gives a shit, which is generally the case!)

I don't expect it to be easy but I do think I will enjoy it a lot.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 26-Jul-13 21:52:53

If you have high standards and are hard on yourself, also be aware of burn out.

Many lawyers are perfectionists. But sometimes you have to be realistic about what you can achieve in the time available and not beat yourself up. Not so much as a trainee, but as a qualified lawyer, sometimes you have to learn that good enough is good enough. High standards are great, but so is perspective. smile

Fillyjonk75 Fri 26-Jul-13 21:55:09

Thanks for this thread. I am 10 years qualified and about to go back to the city and there was a lot of stuff here I didn't know.

Murtette Fri 26-Jul-13 22:12:34

I keep coming back to this thread as I'm finding everyone's thoughts fascinating. And am scribbling many of them down for when I do a presentation to the new trainees in early Sept.
A few more thoughts:
- I always told my trainees to put any weddings, their boyfriend's birthday, their parents' wedding anniversary and other significant events which they had to be out of the office for in my calendar and make sure that I got a reminder 24hrs before it happened. That way, I could always sort out the staffing on a deal so that the trainee made it to this event. I could not do this if they didn't tell me at all (obviously!) or I only found out about it 30 mins before the event was due to start and a colleague found them sobbing in the toilet;
- if you have to work a weekend then, depending on the circumstances, there may be some flexibility as to when you work. Obviously this won't apply if you're in all day Sat & Sun but, if, for example, we were expecting a doc late on Friday evening & I was going to review it on Saturday & put it into typing & had asked you to proof it then, if the other side weren't expecting it until Monday morning, it wouldn't actually matter if you did the work on Sat evening, Sun morning or Sun afternoon so you could fit it in around your plans
- if you're asked to do a task and told how to do it, do it that way, especially if you're up against a concrete deadline. You may think you have a better way of doing it but I will have a reason (usually, simply experience) for asking you to do it a particular way. One of my previous trainees did not get offered an NQ job as always did it his own way meaning which missed some important deadlines
- if you wear contact lenses and they're the sort that can only be worn for X number of hours, make sure you have your glasses in the office. If you've forgotten them, tell your supervisor and go home/send a taxi to get them. Again, I had a trainee who wore her contact lenses for 27 hours, got an eye infection and had to have a week off all because she never told me or anyone else that she needed to go home & get her glasses. Likewise, if you're on the type of pill that has to be taken at pretty much the same time every day, keep them in your handbag so you don't risk missing one. My DD is the result of me doing too many all nighters in one month and being a bit slap dash with exactly when I was taking the pill!
- find out who the office gossip is. Be careful of what you tell them as they will tell everyone else. Realise that what they are telling you may not be the exact truth. Also find out who the font of all information is. This person is different to the gossip. They know all the gossip but never gossip themselves although will occasionally impart a very important and relevant piece of information.
- don't chose your seats/the department you qualify into on the basis of the people in it but on the basis of the underlying work. People change firms frequently and, by the time you're 1yr PQE, the people who were in that dept when you were in your 2nd seat may be very different
- this is a careful line to tread and one you probably won't be able to do for a couple of years but if there's something on a deal which completely doesn't make sense, question it. And if the answer doesn't make sense, question it again. When I was about 2yr PQE, I was brought into a deal late on and couldn't understand something. Asked the 2yr PQE in the lead department who explained it in a way which didn't satisfy me; asked the 4yr PQE & still didn't get it so eventually raised it with the partner who I knew had only had about 8 hours sleep that week (it was now Thursday evening) and was very senior when I was very new to the firm - yes, I had picked up a whole but the others had been so used to it that they couldn't quite accept it wasn't covered. I have done this three or four times since and have also had it done to me.
- if someone has given you instructions which don't make sense to you, it may be that they simply don't make sense rather than due to your ignorance. I'd often go back to my supervisor or the partner & say we now have to do X and they'd go "what are you talking about". I hadn't queried it as I'd assumed that if you knew more about the deal or something it would all become clear.

BonaDea Sat 27-Jul-13 11:44:38

On a more serious note, I honesty used to hate the really brown nosed trainees who were pushy know it alls. You have your TC now so concentrate on working hard and building relationships at the firm, rather than proving how much better than everyone else you are! I know the partners in my team took 'fit with colleagues and clients' just as serious as academic ability.

BonaDea Sat 27-Jul-13 11:45:17

*seriously (attention to detail also important!!)

GherkinsAreAce Sat 27-Jul-13 12:03:41

Murtette I have worked for partners who would be furious at the idea that a trainee should ever have the right to definitely attend an important event sad

emsyj Sat 27-Jul-13 14:43:22

"On a more serious note, I honesty used to hate the really brown nosed trainees who were pushy know it alls. You have your TC now so concentrate on working hard and building relationships at the firm, rather than proving how much better than everyone else you are! I know the partners in my team took 'fit with colleagues and clients' just as serious as academic ability."

Couldn't agree more. Just as in any job, there has to be a feeling that you fit in and work well with others and get on with people. Interestingly, when I went for my first interview at the MC firm I worked at, the feedback afterwards didn't mention my total lack of experience in the practice area they were recruiting for, nor my academic background but consisted of - 'they really liked you and said they thought you would fit in well with the team'.

Chubfuddler Sat 27-Jul-13 14:53:06

Emsy that is the most important criteria for any recruit, trainee or otherwise at our firm. If they've applied for the job and got to interview stage it's taken as read that they could probably do it, but will they fit in? Crucial. Identify the corporate values of the firm and demonstrate them.

bico Mon 29-Jul-13 19:36:54

Make sure you get proper experience in the area you decide to qualify in. A friend of mine qualified and was offered a position in a dept she'd spent part of her training in. She realised that she'd never actually done any proper work in that dept and actually hated the work she was then given to do as a qualified fee earner. She ended up quitting after a year and doing a completely different area of law.

MsPickle Mon 29-Jul-13 20:06:19

Great things on here, applicable to many places of work (and some great general advice for graduates). Perhaps it should go into Classics? I can't see where to report to suggest that from my phone though?

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 29-Jul-13 20:18:51

I reported it a while back Pickle and MNHQ said that they would ask the OP.

Vanillapod1980 Mon 29-Jul-13 21:32:54

I'm another lawyer, just left the City at 5 years PQE as I craved a better work - life balance. I'm now working at a smaller local firm.

My advice is don't get too used to the City salary as it's very possible that you might 'down grade' your job at some point and start earning less (like me). Thankfully I saved hard while earning City money and never lived to my means so I have been able to take a pay cut without having to change my lifestyle too much.

InGloriousTechnicolor Mon 29-Jul-13 23:29:34

Hi - thanks for all this.

Would MNHQ have emailed me? I use a different email address for forum stuff which I now can't remember the password for, but yes, please move it wherever people would like it to be moved. There is lots of good advice so it would be good if people could access it permanently.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Tue 30-Jul-13 08:25:57

Glorious - Probably the best way to tell MNHQ what you've just said is to report your own post so that they see it (they might not otherwise, or it might take a while). You can then PM each other with anything else.

Glad you've found the thread helpful. Good luck in September smile.

Am I allowed one more piece of advice? Not trainee strictly. When you qualify, try to continue to live on your trainee salary for one year. That massive salary bump can very quickly wipe out debts or build you a nest egg. I did it and it really helps.

RebeccaMumsnet England (MNHQ) Tue 30-Jul-13 13:31:32


Hi - thanks for all this.

Would MNHQ have emailed me? I use a different email address for forum stuff which I now can't remember the password for, but yes, please move it wherever people would like it to be moved. There is lots of good advice so it would be good if people could access it permanently.

Congratulations InGloriousTechnicolor and good luck.

This is a great thread and we will be moving to classics now.

Xiaoxiong Tue 30-Jul-13 14:09:30

I have something a bit more off-beat to add, sort of hinted at by beyondthepale, lisanthus and FreeButtonBee.

I found that the skills that get you promoted in the earlier years in a big City firm are not necessarily the ones that you need later on to make partner. I loved doing business development, presentations, pitches, networking, getting involved in deals, and clients loved me when I was sent on secondment and was actually allowed some contact with them. I was told repeatedly that my client engagement, business sense and legal knowledge were fantastic but that in the main, client contact was reserved for partners and very senior associates and I just had to wait until I was more senior.

But my Achilles heel - my attention to pointless detail...terrible. I just could. not. be. bothered. that some judge wanted a 1.5cm border and 5 copies spiral bound and some other judge wanted a 2cm border and 10 copies with precisely one staple in the top left hand corner (no holes). Or that I couldn't remember that one partner (not even a client!) wanted everything in Ariel font even though the house style was in Times New Roman and I had to get loads of bibles reprinted at 4am.

I wanted to get the deal done, get an answer to the client, get contracts signed - I hated the equivocation, the one-hand/other-hand fence sitting advice which covered our asses but pissed clients off because it didn't actually tell them anything helpful, it just presented options with no endorsement from us. Of course it was important to get things right - that's what we were being paid for - but often the fear of getting things wrong was IMO an impediment to the actual deal we were advising on.

I never actually got an unsatisfactory review grade - but it was hard not to see that the people who got the top grades as junior associates were the ones that were able to grind away with OCD attention to detail and seemed perfectly happy to redo hours of work on some higher-up's whim (ie. eat shit with a smile, and ask for more).

So I handed in my notice to join a start-up - big risk, but potentially a big reward. When I did, the senior partner told me that he was sorry to lose me but wasn't surprised - that I would make a fantastic partner someday but I wasn't a very good associate and that he meant it as a compliment!! grin

I heartily endorse all the rest of the advice on this thread as well.

Thurlow Tue 30-Jul-13 14:21:13

Remember that the other professionals in the firm - business development, know-how, librarians - are also professionals, and are not just as qualified as you, but far more experienced. Do not under any circumstances think that as a 1st year trainee you know more about doing research than the librarian does grin (Can anyone guess what I do?!)

Seriously, though - I've seen loads of trainees over the years who seem to think that librarians etc are either failed lawyers or idiots who couldn't become a lawyer, not experienced professionals in their own right. As a lawyer, your job will be so much easier if you use the BD, know-how and library etc teams to support you, and if you pay attention to all the training offered by them during your TC.

Wearytiger Tue 30-Jul-13 14:26:37

thurlow my DH says that the know how lead in his (magic circle) firm is a legal genius. It's very rare to hear him compliment anyone at all so I think you're giving some very sound advice there!

Mandy21 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:32:29

I'm not at a MC firm, but am now 12yrs PQE in a top regional firm, and have a sister on the partnership track at a MC firm.

Just to reiterate what everyone else has said really - mistakes are acceptable, provided its not the same mistake twice. If you don't learn from your mistakes, that will go against you. Seek advice as soon as you realise you've made a mistake so it doesn't become a crisis.

Attention to detail - will really make a difference. Take notes of your instructions, check at the outset if you don't understand what you've been asked to do.

Asking questions - don't go to your solicitor / partner with a question that you don't know the answer to without having looked at trying to answer it - i.e. demonstrate that you've done some research, looked into recent authorities etc so you can show that you've at least tried.

Get on with everybody - the doorman, the secretary, the PSL, the copy room. You never know when you might need them. Be professional at all times.

Don't ar$elick - you'll make yourself unpopular and when your team is asked for their comments, no-one will be complementary if you've only made an effort with the partners.

And think carefully about the long term plans you have - law is quite odd in that although there is a HR team etc, the decision making is done by the partners / heads of team etc who are generally not management trained. Partners etc have made partner because they're very good at law, not necessarily at team management. So whilst things are changing, MC partners are still (sweeping generalisation) middle aged men. You will have to work twice as hard / give up important events sell your soul to be very successful. I do agree, even in the regions, that long periods of maternity leave, or 2 periods quite close together, or any PT working are generally fatal to making partnership. Of course there are exceptions to that, but that certainly my experience.

If you are prepared to do that, fine, choose your specialism carefully and make sure your DP (and children if necessary) are on board with that too.

If that's not your long term plan, than take everything you can out of the opportunity from a learning / client contact / development point of view, save financially as you'll probably have to take a pay cut if you leave the City.

Good luck!

tory79 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:08:09

Do not leak confidential internal emails to Roll on Friday!!

tulipsgirl77 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:19:06

Haha Thurlow, I think we do the same job! Yes never underestimate the law librarian, we really can be very useful to as long as you don't tell us how to do the legal research you have requested ;-) also please NEVER EVER say "yes I found that piece of legislation by Googling it".

Thurlow Tue 30-Jul-13 20:38:50

Tulips - oh, god, the words to strike fear into any law librarians heart! "I know you spend £00000's a year on databases, but I couldn't be arsed to do anything but Google - and what do you mean I'm actually quoting Danish matrimonial law?"

Now trying to work out if I know you, small circles and that!

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Tue 30-Jul-13 20:55:55

<snort> Many a trainee has handed me repealed/since amended legislation thanks to Google.

tulipsgirl77 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:59:07

Yes Thurlow, it's THE worst crime a trainee can make as far as librarians are concerned.

I work for a mid-size law firm on the south coast having started in the City. You?

anyway back to the advice from a librarian's point of view: I always rate trainees by whether they say thank you. My team get through tons of work often working to v tight deadlines, a simple thank you is always appreciated. At my place we also have a secret "favourite trainees" and "annoying trainees" list - yes a bit naughty, but you know librarians don't get out much!!

Also PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE pay attention to your legal research induction training. Please don't sit there looking disinterested and bored and then come and ask stupid questions two weeks later when you realise you should have listened.

InGloriousTechnicolor Wed 31-Jul-13 12:17:04

Gosh, I am very excited to have started a thread that is now a 'mumsnet classic' - thanks!

Xiao - what sort of start-up did you join?

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