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10 Skills You’ll Need as a Trainee Solicitor – Whiteboard Wednesday
by Paul Gascoyne, Graduate Recruitment Manager
Transcript – 10 Skills You’ll Need as a Trainee Solicitor – Whiteboard Wednesday
Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Wednesday. For anyone watching this who is looking to secure a training contract or a vacation scheme, chances are you’ll have done some research in terms of understanding what law firms are looking for when it comes to an application form or interview and you’ll probably find that law firms talk in a very similar way. They’ll say things like, “We’re looking for people who’ve got good communication skills or good teamwork skills,” or this kind of buzzword bingo – “commercial awareness”. Analytical skills, attention to detail – you might hear “motivation” or “technical skills.”
Now, all of these things are correct, and, I’ve said these things in the past. But I also think they’re a little bit too generic, and I’m not sure they’re that helpful when it comes to you understanding what the skills are that are required day-to-day on the job as a trainee. So that’s what we’ve been focusing on recently – really understanding what the top skills are.
So today, this Whiteboard Wednesday is going to focus on this – the 10 key skills you’ll need to show as a trainee solicitor. As I said, these are all correct, but what we’ve tried to do is identify 10 skills which will be more relevant and which will help you understand what would make you succeed as a trainee.
1. ABILITY AND DESIRE TO USE LOGIC
Okay, so let’s start with number one. So the first thing is the ability and desire to use logic. So we’re talking about using logic and intellect to understand how things work, and also applying prior knowledge to improve situations and improve processes. So people who can learn. So the first thing is the ability and desire to use logic, and I think the key thing here is the desire to use it.
2. ANALYTICAL MINDSET
Now the second one, we sometimes say analytical skills, but we’re actually talking about having an analytical mindset – the ability to identify relevant factors, importantly, to understand interdependencies, and being able to structure complex information in an insightful way. And that’s what we mean by “analytical mindset.”
3. PROFESSIONAL SERVICE ORIENTATION
The third one is a professional service orientation – so, understanding what it means to provide a professional service and understanding what the client wants to achieve. It’s not necessarily just understanding a task that you’re given as a trainee, but understanding the bigger picture. So professional service orientation is really important.
4. SIMPLIFYING COMPLEXITY
Fourth, simplifying complexity – the ability to concisely explain complex ideas in a simple way. That is really important. As a lawyer, and as a trainee, you will have a great amount of knowledge, and you’ll understand really complex ideas, but you need to be able to explain those in clear and simple terms – often to the client.
Fifth one – ownership. Here we’re talking about having control of a task, taking responsibility for making sure that the task is delivered on time. I think it’s also understanding that the task that you’re doing is going to contribute to the success of a bigger project. So that’s what we mean by ownership. So taking control, understanding when things are going to be delivered, but also looking at it in terms of the bigger picture – the role that you play. Sometimes candidates think that their roles [as trainees] are not important. But actually, they’re all important, and they all need to be executed well to achieve the bigger goal.
Number six – meticulousness. Bit of a strange word but essentially, we often say “attention to detail,” but it’s more than this. It’s attention to detail and the ability to follow precise procedures. So it’s more than just being able to spot things – it’s being given or being shown a way to do something which is very precise and being able to follow that without making any mistakes. And also the ability to identify inconsistencies in a large amount of information – that’s what we mean by meticulousness. It’s not just attention to detail – it goes beyond that.
7. WORK ORGANISATION AND PLANNING
Now the next one, number seven – work organisation and planning. So being able to work within a given time frame and to be able to set your own priorities. That’s important.
8. ABILITY TO PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE
Number eight, the ability to perform under pressure. We often talk about law firm [work] involving long hours, and that’s often true. It’s often deadline-driven; it could be client-driven. If you’re working on an international deal or project, it might be, 10:00 at night in the UK, but it’s not going to be 10:00 everywhere. And sometimes lawyers do have to work long hours and be able to deliver within a certain time frame. So we are talking about being able to maintain composure, being able to perform at your best, and to ensure the proper execution of the task. And that is important for trainees.
Then we’ve got decency. So we’re talking about maintaining high levels of integrity and showing respect for others. Sometimes people think a law firm’s quite a cutthroat environment, but actually, it’s not. For law firms to operate well, lawyers – individually – have to work very well together and very collaboratively, particularly across different practice groups if you have a full service law firm, for example. But showing respect for others and having high levels of integrity, that’s something that is really important, and good trainees have this.
And it’s also about making people feel good about themselves. If you are one of those people that can boost the team morale, particularly if it’s a particularly challenging deal or transaction that you’re working on, then that is a good skill to have.
And then the tenth, resourcefulness. So we’re talking about the ability and willingness to figure things out. But it’s also about knowing when to seek help. So actually, the good trainees understand the boundaries between what they should know, what they should be able to figure out, and then where they need to ask for help.
So those are the 10 things that we’ve identified. So the ability and desire to use logic, analytical mindset, professional service orientation, simplifying complexity, ownership, meticulousness, work organization and planning, ability to perform under pressure, decency, and resourcefulness. And I think that this information here just gives you a bit more insight than maybe some of these terms here. Like I said, it’s not that these are incorrect, it’s just that sometimes they’re a little bit too generic, and I think this can give you a bit more insight into what life is like as a trainee. And if these are the skills that trainees need to demonstrate, then it makes sense that these are the skills that we’re looking to assess on an application form, an interview, during a vacation scheme etc.
I’d like candidates to be looking at this and really beginning to understand, how your skill set matches, what you think your strengths are when you look at these competences. Okay, so thank you very much for watching. If you have any comments, any ideas for different Whiteboard Wednesdays, just type into the comments box and I will see you next time. Thank you.