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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.

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