What are the benefits of training at a regional firm? - Trainee Blog
I remember grappling with this question in my third year of university when I was knee-deep in training contract research and applications. Was I better suited to a regional firm or a city firm? Would I still have exposure to big corporate transactions or litigation at a regional firm? Would I be working in a poorly lighted dusty office with no window? Would I still get the same level of teaching and experience?
I can’t say that I ever reached a conclusion prior to starting my training contract, but as luck would have it, I ended up at Machins. Machins is a regional firm with two offices and around 100 staff. I have friends who work at big shiny city firms and can honestly say that I am delighted (and relieved!) that I ended up at a firm like Machins, and this is why…
- Client contact
I attended client meetings with my supervisor and other solicitors in the team from my first day as a trainee solicitor. Observing client meetings are an invaluable way for a trainee solicitor to learn key skills such as client interviewing, tailoring advice and communicating to each client, and how to handle sensitive subjects (for example in public family work when dealing with children and local authority cases). Often, I attended client meetings with my supervisor and then went on to draft the attendance note and dealt with any follow-up work such as a letter to advice to the client. I was also the first contact-point for some clients when I was heavily involved with their matter, which meant that I had frequent client communication by phone or by email and again developed my communication skills. By contrast, a friend at a city firm had little or no communication with clients as a trainee. At her firm, individuals had to be relatively senior to be allowed to handle meetings with clients without a partner present. When I told her about my experience, she was stunned (and envious) at the level of client contact that I had in comparison, which made me appreciate this aspect of my training.
- High degree of responsibility
Right from the start of my training contract, I was given a great deal of responsibility and this increased as my training contract went on and my experience developed. During my first week as a trainee solicitor in our Family Law team based in the Berkhamsted office, I was asked to attend a local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) which we have close ties with in order to provide pro-bono family law advice to their clients who had pre-booked appointments. I was given a short summary of what each client needed advice with, and spent time prior to the session doing research and asking the solicitors and partners in my team for advice or assistance. I was extremely nervous as it was my first experience interviewing and advising clients on my own. The team were extremely supportive, and my supervisor reminded me that whilst my experience and knowledge was limited, I still knew more about family law than the CAB’s clients, and they would appreciate any advice or assistance. The experience was extremely rewarding and increased my confidence dramatically.
- Work / Life balance
This is an obvious benefit of training at a regional sized firm, but is very much accurate. Yes, I have worked late nights or long hours as a trainee on the odd occasion if required, but there is no expectation that trainee solicitors should stay late for the sake of it and the hours are generally very reasonable. In my experience, the partners are highly invested in the wellbeing of trainee solicitors. If I worked late several days in a row as a trainee, my supervisor would speak to me and find out if there was something they could do to relieve my workload or perhaps I needed further assistance in managing my time. When I hear my friends who work at city firms or in investment banking or consultancy talking about their hours, I feel incredibly grateful about the work/life balance that training at Machins has given me.
- Involvement with marketing and charity work
I absolutely loved the legal work that falls part of being a trainee, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the marketing, networking and charity events that the firm undertakes. As a trainee, I attended professional networking events on behalf of the firm, spearheaded a project whereby the firm started volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and even set up and managed a new networking event targeting up-and-coming professionals in the local area. Training at a regional firm gave me the time and support to explore ideas and get involved with all sorts of projects, which has been pivotal for my personal development.
- Career progression
I aspire to eventually become a partner, an ambition that many trainee solicitors share. At Machins, the partners are very clear that trainee solicitors are regarded as future partners and are an investment in the future. The partners are therefore invested in the development and progression of trainee solicitors which results in a highly rewarding training process.
I’m extremely grateful that I ended up training at a regional firm, and genuinely believe that it has given me the best possible springboard in my career as a solicitor.
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