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Episode 3 - The best trainee I ever worked with

In the third of our podcast series on how to give your legal career the best start, we ask TLT lawyers about their experience of working with trainees.

Episode Three: The best trainee I ever worked with - transcript

Hi, my name is Jonathan Hoey and I’m a partner here at TLT. Today, I’m joined by Chris Crighton, who’s an associate here in our pensions department. Also, by Rachel Storey, who’s also an associate in our financial services disputes team.

Collectively, we have 38 years’ experience in law, most of which has been spent at TLT. Starting out as a trainee is a great opportunity to learn and be remembered, for the right reasons. Today, we’re going to share some of our memories of the best trainee we’ve ever worked with. We won’t name names, but we’ll go through what we thought was some of the qualities of that best trainee. So, first of all, Chris.

Chris Crighton: I think one of the key things for a trainee to do, when they start a new seat in a new team, is just to approach it with an open mind, confidence and to be neutrally committed to supporting the team.

In some teams, they may have a very active day-to-day role, with 40 to 50 different clients, in other teams, they might be working on two or three jobs at a time. Take some time to understand how the teams operate and do all you can to support the fee earners.

Rachel, what about you?

Rachel Storey: For me, I think it’s demonstrating that they’ve got a real enthusiasm and passion for the law and the particular subject area that they’re involved in. So, reading around and understanding it. Also, getting to know the clients each team works with, their objectives, their structures and I also think, it’s really important that the trainees demonstrate that they can think logically, from a commercial perspective and thinking for themselves, as well and managing themselves very well. Also, managing people around them and their expectations.

The person I have in mind is an individual who displayed a great tenacity, commitment to the cause, willingness to learn. One thing that is particularly important, from my perspective - which this particular trainee demonstrated - was this ability which you’ve touched upon Rachel, of thinking around the problem, coming to you with potential solutions. It’s far better for somebody to come to you with answers to the problem, as they see it, to show they’ve tried to think about the issues themselves, rather than just simply asking you. I think that that is a real quality that has come through from some of our best trainees. Chris, coming back to you, a particular trainee that you have in mind, how did they demonstrate these qualities?

Chris Crighton:  Well, the trainee I had in mind, played a significant role in a transaction that we worked on with a listed plc, one of our clients, and the client was going through a restructuring of its business. The group pension scheme was causing some issues, in terms of the structuring of it. The trainee, rather than just sitting back and going along with what was suggested, actually took some time to take a step back, thinking practically and commercially about how a different structure might actually fit the bill. I was quite taken aback by the nous to say, ‘Actually, let’s try this,’ and that’s, in fact, what we did. What they put forward was a really workable commercial solution. That was just one example of how that trainee made a valuable difference to our team.

Rachel, what story do you have?

Rachel Storey:  I think the particular trainee I’m thinking about, I can remember an occasion where we had three injunction applications land all at once, on our desks, which was causing some excitement and the trainee, in those circumstances, had to really take responsibility for one of the files and run it. She got to grips with the issues involved, the client’s objectives, our objectives and she really did take on the day to day management of that case and ultimately, got a really, really good result for the client. Through that, she was fully supported, so it seems a bit daunting, saying that people run their own files, but actually, she’s doing that within a very supportive environment. There’s lots of people in the team, who are able to support her and answer questions. She was absolutely brilliant, she managed herself, in terms of organisation and lots of quick deadlines, but actually, she also managed the client very well, got excellent feedback from the client and also, third parties, so the courts, the counsel etc. So, she was great.

I think those opportunities really exist at TLT, for trainees to get exposure to clients and the trainee I had in mind, it’s some years ago, a very large banking client came on-board for the first time.  She helped me begin the nurturing of the relationship, in which she was given direct contact with the client, direct ownership of the files, attended meetings, attended social events and really built up such a great rapport with that client. In the six months that she was with me, the feedback was excellent and really, contributed to the development of that client, for the firm. That kind of commitment, confidence, is something that we’re really, always looking for in trainees of the future. Chris, just finally, how were those qualities important for you?

Chris Crighton:  They’re so important because, as a trainee, you become a part of everything that the team does and as a trainee, you will have at least four different opportunities to do different areas and what you want to do is to make a real impact in each sector that you do.  

Obviously, you need to adjust your behaviours, because no two teams in a firm are the same. So, it’s absolutely vital that trainees can, at the start of the seat, assess how they fit into the team. They will hopefully grow, as the seat goes on, they will develop confidence and then, they’ll be able to really flourish. That’s the advantage of training, of course, is that at the end of the two years, they’ll be well placed to decide where their future will lie. It’s absolutely vital that they try to make the most of every six month block they have.

Rachel Storey:  I think, for me, it’s about developing those strengths and qualities, isn’t it, as well and they’re given that opportunity, during each seat. We always say, we treat our trainees as we want to mould them into the best solicitor they can be on qualifications. So, it’s about honing those skills and working on those strengths and identifying areas where certain strengths they can improve on and what opportunities they need to do that. I think it’s crucial, because they all play a huge part, as Chris said, in our teams.

The trainee that I was referring to earlier, in terms of those qualities, really manifested themselves with that particular client.  It allowed us to continue developing that client over the years and now, twenty years later, that client is the largest client in the firm, by some way. It all started from that time, when that trainee helped me start to develop that relationship. In terms of that trainee, she’s been with us now, as I’ve said, twenty years and she’s now a partner, a head of a significant practice group and one of our largest growing sector groups. The commitment, the clear thinking and the confidence that she demonstrated in pursuing opportunities, which we provided to her and which she made for her own, was the real stand out strength that she demonstrated, which has led to where she is today.

So, if you want to test drive law, please do follow us on social media and check us out online, to get involved in some of the events that we have coming up and to find out more about opportunities at TLT. Thank you very much for listening.