There is a new reality when it comes to training contract applicants. It is no longer the norm for applicants to be plucked two years in advance, fresh-faced and wide-eyed from the middle of their undergraduate law degrees. That route still exists (as evidenced by the standard two-years-in-advance recruitment process) but there has been a significant shift towards sourcing trainees from the ranks of paralegals already employed within firms.
Firms have begun to recognise that making use of existing resources can make sense. Current paralegals are motivated by the possible training contract opportunities, the risk for the firm of recruiting the wrong candidate is reduced as they are already known quantities and the trainee can hit the ground running in terms of their knowledge of systems, culture and staff.
However, internal candidates also face their own set of challenges when it comes to approaching their training contracts. Here are three tips to help you along:
- Keep an open mind
Though you may have worked in a particular department for a number of years, the point of a training contract is to give trainees exposure to different areas of law. Try not to go into your training contract with a fixed idea of where you want to qualify as this will limit the experience and knowledge you can gain from other departments; you might just find your ideal area somewhere you never expected.
As well as this, many departments work closely with each other on transactions, so through seat rotation you get a full picture of it from all angles. This will help you when you qualify, whatever the area.
- Make a fresh start
Try to start anew and do not think that you know it all already.
There may be the temptation to treat the training contract as an extension of your paralegal role; it isn't. Moving from paralegal to trainee requires a change in mentality both from yourself and from others in terms of how they view you. You may no longer be in charge of your own work or you may have more responsibility than before, either way this is a chance to make a new start in how you approach your work.
- Get involved
Being a trainee is about a great deal more than just doing legal work. You will find yourself on numerous committees and be expected to make a contribution to the life of the office and the wider firm. You may have been able to coast by without much investment as a paralegal, but those days are gone. Make an impact by taking ownership of something; be it charity activities, social activities or other firm-wide initiatives.
You will get a much more valuable experience and develop soft skills in the process. This also an important part of marketing yourself for potential NQ roles; which is your ultimate goal.