Everyone knows that some aspects of a trainee’s role can often be administrative in nature. The extent of this is entirely dependent on the practice area, how far along you are in your training contract and how much your supervisor/colleagues trust you with more substantive tasks.
Rather than complain that you are not getting much exposure to “actual work”, I have put together a list, split into three articles, of typical trainee responsibilities and included suggestions as to how you can really impress while doing them. This list is not by any means exhaustive, but includes the most common tasks, such as printing, proofing, sending out originals and booking meeting rooms.
It is in using your initiative and doing these tasks with diligence and enthusiasm that will encourage colleagues to give you better quality work. The sooner you take on-board the below, the sooner you can get to gallivanting around the city like Mike Ross from Suits, closing deals and saving lives. Okay, maybe not quite like Mike Ross, but at least you will be able to exercise your brain and start using your analytical skills…
Printing is a relatively straightforward task, so you might not expect there is much to say on this topic. However, it is important to be aware of who, why and what purpose you are printing for, as this can have implications on efficiency, timing and – most importantly – cost.
For example, are you printing a random document for your supervisor to read or printing for a closing? Lawyers can be very particular, so make sure you are aware of how people like to receive printing – whether it is single sided, two pages to a side, a clean as well as a redline.
If it’s for a closing, print single sided, on engrossment paper and make sure you print the right number of copies (it is sometimes good to print an extra copy of each document as even company directors do not fully understand what the “sign here” tab means and sign in the wrong place).
Think about who your documents are coming from and how you can make your colleagues’ lives easier by collating them in a user friendly manner. If you receive a load of documents from the other side and your supervisor needs to review them side by side, why not make an index and put the documents in a lever arched file or in mini wire bound bundles?
As much as you want to use your initiative you need to be mindful of certain factors; for example, the cost of printing large volumes of documents can be high, so you always want to avoid any unnecessary printing. If your supervisor needs a document asap, don’t spend time making pretty indexes and bundles, just print the document! You should make a point to familiarise yourself with your firm’s printing services and how to go about logging job requests with them, that way you will be able to delegate larger printing tasks to them.
If you do not receive clear instructions and don’t have the opportunity to clarify, use your own judgment and if unsure, offer a solution and wait until you get the green light.
Booking meeting rooms
The beauty of sharing an office with your supervisor can often mean that you are given random tasks that would usually be reserved for secretaries.
But rather than roll your eyes in your head and internally whisper “I am not your secretary”, make sure you have your secretary on speed dial or on your firm instant messaging service to help you out.
Make sure you also know the extension number for your reception/room booking service. Ask important questions like the number of people in attendance and whether it is an internal or client meeting (some firms prefer to host clients is special client meeting rooms). Will catering be needed, or extra equipment? Depending on how close you are to the matter, you may not need to ask these questions and you can get to booking/delegating.
Likewise, without being prompted, if your supervisor sends an email to the internal team working on a particular matter and suggests that an internal meeting be held, send a calendar invite, book a meeting room and circulate details so everyone knows when and where to go.
If it is a particularly important meeting with clients coming in, it may be worth going down to the meeting room in advance to make sure the room is suitable and set up exactly how you need with documents laid out etc. As a trainee, it is important to take ownership of such tasks, whether you delegate or not, as it is often the only physical client contact you may get during your training contract.
For these type of tasks, you do not need to wait until you are told what to do. This is an opportunity to show initiative and take ownership. In some cases, your colleagues will assume that as the trainee you will have already printed off documents in advance for an internal meeting or closing or that a room has been booked in advance, so make sure you pre-empt the needs of your team and colleagues.
Don’t expect to receive praise for booking a room or printing documents in advance. Just know that your colleagues will always remember you as the trainee that makes life easier and as someone who is on top of things.
Mayowa Olusola is a trainee solicitor at a large international firm