Professor Rosen on getting a training contract….

The below post is published with the kind permission of Professor David Rosen of Darlingtons Solicitors. It was first published on 11th December 2012 on Darlingtons Solicitors blog.

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As I am writing, our Economy is in a poor state, there is widespread uncertainty, and speculation as to the future is rife. Doom and gloom.

Such uncertainty in a small to medium Law firm at least, translates into a reality that costs and expenses are watched closely, Lawyers will take on more administrative work, and deal with smaller cases normally befitting a Trainee Solicitor under supervision. Output of work, time spent at work, and billable hours will be monitored closely, and the pressure is on for all fee-earners and administrative staff to maximise their efforts and busy themselves, or else a question-mark appears above their head as to whether they are a necessary cog in the system, or an unecessary cog, creating an obstacle to maximising profits, so much so that they should not be there at all.

It is a constant questioning of worth.

On the flip-side of the argument, are employees within a small to medium Law firm practice who question whether their efforts and time over and above are being adequately acknowledged in terms of gratitude, status within the firm, pay, and bonuses.

There is a delicate balance to achieve between a non-efficient firm, and an efficient firm. As to whether the firm is happy, does not depend upon such efficiency. If a Law practice is overly concerned with maximising profitability, this can have a negative return. As I said, there needs to be a balance.

What then of the propsective Trainee?

We receive numerous requests each week for the elusive Training Contract. We currently have no vacancies for the next 2 years.

What made us choose the 2 people we are taking on, from the countless others? And what do we as employers consider important to tell you as prospective employees?

Here are some of the points, by way of a non-exhaustive list:

1. A well-presented tailor-made introductory letter to accompany a CV was important. No spelling or grammatical mistakes; No more than 2 pages; A show of enthusiasm for Law, and the firm of their desire;

2. A well-presented CV with no spelling or grammatical errors, limited to 2 pages;

3. Good responsible interaction on social-media platforms. All prospective employers will conduct a search on the Internet to see what comes up;

4. Think carefully about what Clubs and Societies you become involved with at University. Things that mattered to you as a student, ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’, may be an embarrassment in the future. The ‘blush test’ should be applied perhaps? That is: Would, what you were doing or saying by way of conduct, actions, and how you dress, be acceptable to your peers, your work-colleagues, potential clients, employers, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, so much as to make them ‘blush’ if they knew what you were really like?

5. Are you marketable? Have you been involved in any business which demonstrates your ability to shine or stand up and be counted? Law firms like to see you take some initiative.

6. Get a good Degree. You are competing with thousands of others.

7. Get legal work-experience. Conversely, do not over-load your CV with too much work-experience or else you will come across as one of 2 things: A headless chicken with no focus (unattractive), or Nice guy/gal, but not good enough to be taken on elsewhere:

8. Get some extra-curricular experience on your CV. We want to see bags of enthusiasm. We want to see you excited…passionate about the Law. Get involved with a Pro-Bono team, or a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Understand the joys of giving advice that helps someone. Understand the pain and frustration of giving advice which is not taken. Learn how to deal with the highs and the lows. Invariably you will be asked a question to apply to real cases. You can not possibly empathise or sympathise based on ‘theory’.

9. Get a hair-cut…Look employable, and not like you need benefits.

10. Don’t over-prepare. Don’t over-think what a Law firm wants. Just be yourself. Don’t pretend you are something you are not. You will be found out. It will be difficult to continue with the pretence. Be yourself.

David Rosen – Head of litigation and specialist in fraud law

Professor David Rosen is a Solicitor-Advocate, Partner and head of Litigation at Darlingtons. He is an Associate Professor of Law at Brunel University.

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