It is often assumed that as a Trainee you will only ever undertake low-level tasks and merely observe the work of others. I am pleased to have learnt that this is a total misconception. As a Trainee in the Employment Department at SA Law, I have been involved in all aspects of the varied work that comes in and have been made to feel like a valued and well regarded member of the team. I really enjoy the fast moving pace that this area of law provides and the client interaction it offers.
A typical day for me can involve tasks such as drafting employment contracts, staff handbooks and witness statements; responding to client’s queries; dealing with disclosure requests; liaising with the Employment Tribunal and preparing trial bundles. No two days are the same and I have learnt never to come into work making assumptions about how my day is going to pan out.
As a trainee you often find yourself stretched and outside your comfort zone. Although this can be unnerving, it enables your confidence to grow as you learn how to handle yourself in a variety of situations. Such an occasion arose when I had been tasked with reviewing a client’s staff handbook. The client requested a meeting to discuss the extent of the changes I had made and for advice on the drafting of additional policies. It was agreed that it would not be cost-effective to the client for my supervisor to attend this meeting and therefore I was to go on my own. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. The prospect of having to answer questions on the spot without being able to run my answers past my supervisor was daunting, but as the meeting progressed, my confidence grew as did my ability to suggest and advise – I would even go so far as saying I enjoyed it!
During my time in the department I have been lucky enough to assist with a tribunal case from start to finish - from taking the initial phone call from the client, to attending the final hearing. The experience gave me valuable insight into the court process, preparation for the trial and the etiquette required in a courtroom. I was able to familiarise myself with the drafting formalities of the various documents required to plead our case, and to fully understand the legal aspects of a pregnancy discrimination claim.
Employment law is constantly changing, whether it be a recent court ruling or an update in legislation. Our employer clients need updates on how new laws may affect them, their businesses and their employees. I am regularly asked to draft interesting and informative articles, blog pieces and case summaries for the firm’s website and newsletter. I enjoy this work as it not only helps me develop my writing skills, but also provides the opportunity to research (often complex) areas of law and deepen my general knowledge and understanding of it.
No amount of time in the classroom or lecture theatre will fully prepare you for the reality of working in a law firm. For example, at no point during my studies did anyone teach me how to empathise with clients who are dealing with what they can feel to be a stressful process. That said, whilst working in SA Law’s open plan office, I have been able to pick up on useful techniques and tips by listening to colleagues interact with clients and other solicitors – you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn on the job!
I thought that the transition between each seat would be challenging, as you are essentially starting from scratch four times over, however everyone here is very supportive and encouraging so you soon get into the swing of things.