Meet Amy: Life as a newly qualified solicitor
You’ve qualified as a solicitor. You have finally done it after all those years of hard work and dedication. You are no longer a trainee and your name is on the roll.
So what’s qualified life like? Are you suddenly expected to know everything? Are your targets ramped up? Are free from imposter syndrome and rejection? In this short post, I will address these questions from my experience of qualified life during the last 9 and a bit months.
Qualified life comes with higher expectations than those attached to a trainee role but you aren’t expected to know everything about your chosen practice area the day you qualify. No, really you don't! This is one of the biggest assumptions and worries about qualifying - you think that suddenly you need to be an expert in your chosen area and clients will come to you thinking you have all the answers as you no longer have 'trainee' in front of your name. It is not like that at all and it takes years to master your practice area. Especially being an NQ employment lawyer - the law is constantly changing so no one knows everything all the time! The supervision stays put where you need it but you are expected to take the initiative more and client contact and exposure is heightened. Clients are also aware of the different job titles and levels so don't pile on the pressure either. The work does change slightly - as a trainee you get to be involved more with pieces of larger work with various lawyers in your team but when you qualify, I found that you work on similar junior pieces of work more such as drafting contracts, handbooks, settlement agreements, corporate due diligence etc. The purpose of this is to allow junior lawyers to build solid knowledge and understanding of their chosen practice area before they take the lead on more complex matters. I have learnt that your NQ year is crucial for developing your soft skills and the core foundations of your chosen area.
Now let’s talk targets. This will depend on the firm you trained/qualified at but targets do increase slightly when you qualify. You are ultimately employed to bring money into the firm so the firm will likely implement some sort of target for you to achieve. Don't worry about targets too much as you are still junior as an NQ and may not have had any target as a trainee. Show that you are interested to learn about targets and how yours fits into the wider firm. I also find that by concentrating on learning the basics and wanting to get involved will naturally bring in the fees over the course of the financial year.
My final reflection in this post relating to NQ life is about imposter syndrome. It’s interesting as I see a lot of students talk about experiencing this at the university or pre-training contract stage of their careers whereas I feel I have suffered the most from imposter syndrome since qualification. I think it’s heightened now for everyone aspiring to pursue a legal career due to social media which wasn’t as big in the legal sector when I was applying for training contracts back in 2015. It’s important to try and not compare yourself to your colleagues or other aspiring lawyers who may already have a few more years experience than you. Many students believe the end point is qualifying but your career is only just starting at that point. You may have aspirations to become a partner or to go in-house; there are many challenges that still await you even after you qualify. Everyone is running their own race and I think it’s important to remember that and focus on your own development, not what others are doing.
To conclude this short post, qualifying as a solicitor is actually the real starting point of your legal career. Don’t treat it as if it is the finishing flag and think you can become complacent now you have removed the ‘trainee’ status. Be proud of qualifying but continue the hard work and resilience as you progress through your legal career.