Top tips for newly qualified solicitors during COVID-19

Hannah Bignell
Hannah BignellFieldfisher LLP

Hannah Bignell gives her best tips to those who have become newly qualified solicitors during COVID-19.

Person working on a laptop

COVID-19 has affected everyone in different ways and those who have recently qualified are no different. In a COVID world, NQs are finding themselves in an unusual position, as many are mainly working from home rather than at the office.

Even though the majority of NQs have already experienced working from home since March as trainees, becoming an NQ is a different mind-set, a step up and an opportunity to become fully immersed in your chosen practice area.

This can be challenging whilst at home and therefore it is important to take advantage of the situation and find new ways to ensure that you can make your experience as an NQ worthwhile.

Believe in yourself

You have come through one of the toughest parts of your journey to becoming a solicitor, the training contract. Now is not the time for self-doubt because you have made it and can officially change your email signature to say 'solicitor'.

It is important to note though that it can be tough to believe in yourself because even though you have qualified, you may have only spent a short period of your training contract in the area you qualified into or you may not have even worked in the area you have qualified into.

Therefore, you have to be fully aware that now is the time to learn and ask as many questions as possible as no question is silly. There is no magic formula you are privy to overnight between being a trainee and then becoming a solicitor.

Your NQ year in particular is a key time to learn and be a sponge to all the knowledge and experience you’ll gain. Why not start a journal to keep a record of your achievements and the positive feedback throughout this year – it will be nice to look back in a year’s time and see just how far you’ve come.

Be willing

Be willing to take on as much as you can, without overloading yourself, but also take on a range of work and from as many different colleagues as you can. This will help you to learn and gain experiences from a broad range of individuals.

As well as work, show willing by offering or volunteering to write business development pieces for your department which will also increase your knowledge and expertise. This will also make you noticed within your team and with the department’s clients.

It is more difficult to show willing when you are working from home and so do not be afraid to pick up the phone to your colleagues more frequently, rather than emailing. Maybe even book in some virtual coffee catch-ups so that you can get to know members of your team in a more social setting. Also, if you are particularly interested in a type of specialism within the department, let the relevant colleagues know and demonstrate your passion for that area.

Enjoy yourself

It is particularly important that you work hard but also give yourself down time to re-energise. Make sure to separate work and your free time so that you can shut off properly each evening.

You have worked so hard to get to this position as an NQ and it is important to enjoy yourself also at work as well as in your free time. In particular, it might be useful to set a mini goal each day so that you can keep track of your personal achievements. Whether this be learning about something in your chosen practice area, drafting a particular document, posting on LinkedIn to boost your online presence, or speaking to a colleague in your team about their work etc.

Finally, it really pays to be self-aware and to know your traits and attributes so that you can use the virtual environment to bring out the best of your abilities. Make sure to enjoy the next stage of your journey, it is a very exciting and promising time.

This article was first published on 5 October 2020 by The Lawyer and is reproduced by kind permission.

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