Trainee solicitors – what are we looking for?

What makes a good trainee solicitor?

Anna Wilson, Executive Partner, has overall responsibility for the firm’s HR function. She shares her thoughts on what makes a good trainee and the skills necessary to be successful in this role.

Tell us about your background

“I qualified as a solicitor in 1997, specialising in family law, and joined the partnership in 2001. I’ve always had an interest in the HR side of the business and was responsible for the function in my two previous roles.

I’m currently Executive Partner with Barcan+Kirby where I sit on the Board and have overall responsibility for the firm’s HR strategy.”

What do we look for in a trainee?

“Clearly we look for excellent legal knowledge, but simply being strong academically isn’t enough. Having the ability to apply theory to practice is essential – you’ll need to use your knowledge to find solutions that are both intelligent and based on sound judgement.

Having the right attitude is crucial. Trainees are on a continual learning curve and it’s important that you’re able to adapt and respond accordingly. As a firm, we also look for employees that will be loyal to the firm, particularly over the longer term.

It’s important that you’re commercially aware and have a genuine interest in understanding how a business, and particularly a law firm, operates. It’s also crucial that you’re able to balance this with empathy and a high standard of client care.”

Top three skills for a prospective trainee?

“For me, trainees need to be well-organised, conscientious and hard working. Without these core skills, they will struggle to succeed in this industry.”

What makes a good trainee?

“In my experience, a good trainee solicitor adapts well to each new seat and quickly grasps what is expected of them. They put their curious and inquisitive nature to good use by planning and researching their next seat before their move.

Reliability is crucial – your colleagues must have confidence in you. Listen to your principal or supervisor, understand the needs of the department and work the hours you need to get the job done.

Communication skills (both verbal and written) are important for any successful solicitor. A good trainee is unambiguous, pays close attention to detail and has the ability to write in clear English.”

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

“Listen, don’t assume an outcome and work hard.”