The aim of this series is to highlight typical trainee tasks and offer suggestions on how to impress your colleagues while doing them. If you look at every task as an opportunity for you to really shine, then you will have a different attitude when given what would otherwise seem as a dull task.
Even though the series does not cover all the typical trainee tasks in detail, there are suggestions and tips from this series that are applicable to other tasks that you will be given during your training contract.
Often, your supervisor will be on a call or about to step into a meeting and will ask you to send them a document. If you are lucky, you have been involved in the matter and know exactly where the latest version of the document is saved, if you are not so lucky and have no clue what document they are referring to then ask the associate(s) who work closely with your supervisor as they may be able to locate the document.
Be quick and accurate – make sure you are aware of the version you are giving them. You don’t want to give an old version of a document to your supervisor as they will not have the latest comments or concerns that the client has raised since then.
Sending original documents
This is commonly reserved for the end of a transaction; however, it is not rare to send documents to Companies House, other law firms and clients during the course of your day to day. The most important things to remember when sending documents are
- make sure you are sending the correct documents to the correct parties;
- keep records of everything you send; and
- make sure you are able to track your package.
Importantly, take care not to accidentally send out documents to parties that should not receive such documents. For example, in finance transactions, care should be taken in respect of the recipients of fee letters, legal opinions, conditions precedent confirmation letters etc. Also, make sure you review any transaction bibles (either prepared by you or by the last trainee in your new seat) and make sure all documents are accounted for.
If you are sending several documents, it is a good idea to prepare an index and arrange the documents in the order of the index. This will make life easier for you and for the person who is receiving the documents.
Most recipients will not confirm receipt, so attaching a compliment slip/cover letter with your package requesting that they confirm receipt by email to you is a good way to remind them to. Even if you prompt them to do so, this does not guarantee that they will, so make sure to follow up with your internal post room to confirm that your package has in fact been delivered and signed for.
Keep a record of everything you send. It is best to scan everything as one pdf, including the index, cover letters, compliment slips, cheques and the documents themselves. That way you cover your back and when asked a few months down the line, you will know exactly what document(s) you sent, to whom and on what date it was sent and received.
For finishing touches, consider stapling a document corner or placing documents in plastic jackets to prevent the documents from creasing.
The key take-aways from this are:
- clarifying instructions will make your life a 1000 times easier. It can be the difference between printing 10 copies of an agreement to emailing one copy to your supervisor.
- Do not wait to receive instructions on very basic tasks.
- Always think: What can I do to make life easier for those I am working with?
Most of what I have mentioned across all three parts of the series will become second nature as you progress in your seats and become familiar with how your firm and supervisor operates.
As highlighted in a previous article, your supervisor may ask you to do any of the above, but the chances are they just need it done, so make sure you are aware of when it might be better to get a secretary to help you out. If you go with the secretary, remember that you will still need to ask the right questions and clarify instructions so that your secretary knows exactly what needs to be done. Most importantly, always check any work you choose to delegate.
It is very unlikely that you will be asked to do something unnecessary and useless. Therefore it is important to recognise this and think of the bigger picture, because whatever you have been asked to do, whether big or small, contributes to giving the client exceptional service.
Finally, do things with a smile and a positive attitude. You will get a much positive response from your colleagues if you do so as oppose to complaining or frowning. The nature of “simple” jobs is that if done badly, they are quickly noticed and can instantly create a bad impression but when done well they may appear to go unappreciated.
Do not take it to heart when it appears that you’ve been given a thankless task, because often people are making a mental note of your reliability and attention to detail.
Mayowa Olusola is a newly qualified solicitor at a large international firm