Training Contracts – What you need to know
rhw are well known for providing excellent experience, training and a huge step up for those looking to launch their legal careers via our training contract route.
We don’t molly-coddle successful candidates but instead expect them to use their initiative, think for themselves and contribute as a full team member. In return, rhw offer a fully immersive training experience across all the legal practice areas we provide to the public.
Want to know more? Please read the following accounts from two of our more recent trainees.
Application and Selection Process
PLEASE NOTE. We are not expecting to open the trainee selection process until Spring 2019. Please do check back here late in 2018 for further updates. Please do not send in a speculative CV before we open the process as it is guaranteed to get lost or forgotten about due to the number of emails we receive.
The process will involve the completion of an application form and if selected, then an initial interview, presentation and test (details of which will be made known at the time).
What to expect as an rhw trainee solicitor
Jessica Bowskill – rhw Trainee (2018)
I studied History as my first degree, and it was not until four years after I graduated that I decided to begin studying law. I completed a GDL at Sussex University, before going on to graduate with a Masters in Legal Practice with distinction at the University of Law in Guildford.
One of my biggest worries during my studies was that most of my previous work experience was based in retail and customer service, and the daunting prospect of securing a training contract became ever more present. I attended various lectures given by Solicitors, Trainees and Barristers that advised on the best way to “get your foot in the door” so to speak. One thing that I knew for certain was that I was not enamoured with the possibility of working at a city firm, and set my sights on finding a regional firm that covered the areas that I was interesting in pursuing for my future career.
I approached the professional development team at the University of Law, to find out what steps I could take to improve my chances of starting my training without having to experience the months, sometimes years, of endless applications and interviews that I had heard so many horror stories about. One of the options that was recommended was to take part in the university mentoring scheme. It was through this scheme that I was introduced to James Stenning, who at the time was a newly qualified solicitor with rhw. With some gentle persuasion, I managed to convince James to secure me some work experience with rhw in the Family department, which I took advantage of in August 2016. I had met with James on several occasions at the rhw offices, and it became clear to me that rhw ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in terms on moving forward in my career.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work experience at rhw, working alongside the head of the Family Team and Partner of rhw, Elizabeth Leah. It was not until later that year, when applying for training contracts that I saw rhw were accepting CV’s for prospective trainees. I immediately contacted the Practice Manager to express my interest, and was offered an interview several weeks later. I must have made a good impression, as I was offered a position as Paralegal to start in January 2017. I was aware that it was becoming common practice for firms to hire potential trainees as a paralegal first, so I accepted the position with the aspiration that this would lead to a training contract and the fact that it would be in the Family Team was an added bonus.
It was clear from the beginning of my work with rhw that I would have a high level of involvement in the cases. Within the first few months I had gone to court, sat in a number of client meetings and became a point of contact for clients when the fee earner was not available. I was regularly drafting witness statements, applications and day to day correspondence, as well as taking on every trainee’s rite of passage task of preparing bundles! As a paralegal, I was a fee earner in my own right, and so had to quickly learn about recording my time and ensuring that I was able to justify my chargeable work. rhw are impressively transparent with their billing practices, and the Family Team were the firm pioneers in attaching full billing guides to their invoices, allowing the client to see exactly what they had been charged for. This helped me learn to manage my time, and the volume and variety of work that I was given meant that I was able to consistently meet the targets that I had been set.
There have certainly been moments where I have felt overwhelmed, moving into this work environment was a steep learning curve for me, and the fee earners I work with were, and still are, pro-active in making sure I develop experience across a wide scope of cases. When there are unusual or notable cases, the fee earners will make sure I am involved in both the day to day management of these cases and attend the hearings and meetings when possible. In the moments where I feel in over my head, there is however always the support and guidance available when I need it. I have not had personal experience of working in larger firms, but I anticipate that the level experience gained through client interaction and the variety of work I am given, coupled with the level of encouragement and constructive feedback I receive would not be comparable should I have chosen an alternative working environment.
My confidence has grown exponentially during my time at rhw, and I have even now had the opportunity to attend court as an advocate. My confidence and consistent approach to taking on any new challenges given to me helped me achieve my aspiration of securing a training contract with rhw, which I started in January 2018.
Working at a smaller firm like rhw has allowed me to gain a wider variety of knowledge, not only in the departments I have worked in but also about the industry as a whole. There is a united effort at rhw to provide a high level of quality service to our clients, which is made possible by the comfort of knowing that each member of the team is approachable and forthcoming with any support and advice you may need.
Two years ago, when studying the LPC, I felt completely out of my depth in comparison to those who had secured their training contracts and seemed to have it all figured out. Since then I have learned that to break through the barrier that seems to exist between finishing your studies and procuring a training contract, it is not all about a cacophony of extra-curricular activities and having no life outside of your education. These are my “5 Key Steps to get noticed by a Law Firm” :
To sum up:
- It is often not what you know, but who you know.
Networking is a crucial part of the legal profession, and the earlier the better! As a solicitor or barrister you are marketing yourself, not just your services and attending events to try and get your name out there can go a long way.
- Take the time to figure out what you want out of a law firm, not just what they want out of you.
Again, in the legal profession you are marketing yourself. You need to show the firm that you are going to be an asset to them and help promote the identity of that firm. It is hard to come across as confident and enthusiastic if you do not identify with the ethos and motivation behind the services they provide or you do not share the firms principles. If a firm is considering offering a training contract, they are making a decision to invest time and energy into you, so it is important that this relationship is reciprocal.
- Take on new challenges, but do not compromise on your personal ambitions.
It is important to have an idea of what direction you want to move in, but there is nothing to say that this is definitive. A complete lack of awareness of what areas of law you are interested in or want to practice could make you come across as someone who is uninspired or unmotivated. My experience of working in a smaller firm has shown me how you need to be able to take ownership of your workload and exceed your co-worker’s expectations to progress. This does not mean that you need to be rigid in what work you take on and what departments you work in. If anything, I have found that my initial enthusiasm to work in Family Law has actually created opportunities for me to undertake work in other departments during my training, allowing me to broaden my range of experience which will benefit me in the long run.
- You have to have a strong worth ethic.
No one is expecting you to come in early and stay late every day, but this is a career path that means sometimes the work will take priority over leaving on the dot. The most important outcome of any work that you do is to deliver an exceptional level of service to your clients, and if that means putting in a few extra hours to ensure that this level of service is provided, then you have to be prepared to do this. You need to demonstrate that you are passionate about your work, a firm is only as good as its reputation and exhibiting this attribute will take you a long way.
- You have to be a team player.
Your personality is an important aspect in any job that you have, and can influence the role you play within a workplace. Working in a firm like rhw, there is a strong sense of camaraderie which I have found hugely beneficial to my own development, as it has meant that there is support guidance when I need it. Certainly there are those that prefer to work alone, and you need to be able to do this too, but if you are unable to engage and work together with those around you then this will inhibit your ability to thrive and build working relationships.
Jack Lightburn – Previous rhw Trainee (on his experience at the time)
I joined rhw in October 2013 after completing the GDL and LPC at the University of Law, Guildford. Prior to commencing my training contract in January 2016, my job role included file compliance reviews, credit control, preparation for Lexcel assessments and paralegal work (a ‘Jack of all trades’). I am now in my second training seat working with the Commercial Property department, having recently finished my seat with the Family team.
rhw is a vibrant and friendly medium-sized law firm which prides itself on its reputation for excellent service and its strong rapport with clients. rhw has diverse practice areas, covering almost everything apart from criminal, as well as expertise in niche sectors such as care homes and dental. This was attractive to me as it provided a broad range of seat options to choose from as well as giving me the opportunity the gain experience in unusual areas of law.
One of the benefits of training at a medium-sized firm such as rhw is the level of client contact possible and the responsibility given from an early stage. During my Family seat I was responsible for the day-to-day management of files, including being the primary liaison with clients and providing advice face-to-face. This progressed from holding meetings with clients in our offices to giving an advice clinic at the Surrey Law Centre to eventually representing a client at court. Whilst all of these experiences seemed daunting at first, and at times it felt as though I was being thrown in at the deep end, I was given plenty of support and guidance and my trainee principal ensured that I was thoroughly prepared.
My supervisors have been supportive and available to assist me when required, providing valuable feedback enabling me to learn and improve my overall approach. It has been a privilege to work alongside such experienced solicitors who are experts in their field and their insight and advice have proved invaluable. There is definitely an ‘open door’ policy when it comes to trainees and I have always felt comfortable asking for support. That said, there is no ‘hand holding’ – trainees are expected to use their initiative to come up with answers and practical solutions on their own before asking for help.
rhw are committed to preparing trainees for life as a solicitor and trainees, in turn, are expected to learn and adapt quickly. There is a real emphasis on time recording and taking responsibility for file management. Running my own files (although supervised of course) has enabled me to be involved throughout the whole lifecycle of a matter, from initial enquiry through to file closure. This has given me experience in all aspects of working on files, from providing legal advice to compliance and administrative matters, including ensuring we have valid I.D., billing clients and credit control.
Trainee solicitors are expected to attend networking events and take charge of their own business development, and support is given to enable them to market themselves and grow their profile in the local area whilst also promoting the firm. Trainees are also encouraged to write blogs for the website and assist with the marketing initiatives of their departments, working in conjunction the Business Development Manager who is always open to new ideas.
rhw are active in the community and support a number of local charities such as Challengers, Oakleaf and Phyllis Tuckwell. We raise money through a weekly ‘Dress-down Friday’ and also regularly take part in events organised by these charities. I have recently been part of rhw teams which took part in the Challengers annual Golf Day and also their annual five-a-side football tournament: ‘The Challengers Cup’, which were both fantastic fun and excellent fundraisers.
Another benefit of working at rhw is the relaxed environment, which is unusual in a sector which has a reputation for pressure and stress. Whilst staff are highly motivated and enthusiastic about work, there is a strong emphasis on having a good work-life balance and the working hours reflect this. rhw are keen for staff to enjoy the social side, an area which I am heavily involved as a member of the Social Committee. We hold monthly staff drinks with a different theme each time and regular intra-staff quizzes. There are also seasonal social events; for our summer event this year we attended a production of a Much Ado About Nothing performed by the Guildford Shakespeare Company.
If you have any other questions, please email them to Bill Hatton