Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Friday, February 15, 2008

Query about trainee reaching targets

"I am 12 months into my training contract and get hassled from my bosses about reaching targets. Recently they increased my targets promising to give me more family work to do but this work has not materialised. I am based in the PI department and my boss there just gives me scraps to do. The odd time I get my own client but never a PI matter. I cannot reach my target on the work that they give me despite my protestations. They have dampened my motivation considerably as my boss does not give me enough responsibility. When I qualify I will feel 'half-baked'... is this normal? I have also been in PI since last March and have still not got my own PI case load.... I am being used to do the scraps my boss does not want to do.
They have told me they are not keeping me on which does not surprise me as the work is a bit thin on the ground. However I feel they are not fulfilling their side of the contract as they are not training me properly... help!"

This is a very difficult situation to be in, and also one that is fairly common. Some firms use trainee solicitors as cannon fodder almost, simply because they are so cheap in comparison with other staff - eg; an experienced secretary can cost 30% more than a trainee as a bare minimum. Personal injury in some firms is particularly difficult, and I can remember back to my own training, and the PI lawyer handing over scraps of work, and not wanting to give me anything substantial to do.

It may well be that the PI department has very little work to offer you, and the lawyer in the department is struggling himself/herself to get enough work to cover his role at the practice. It may also be that the firm just expect him to have you there and haven't given him any support or guidance in what you are actually supposed to be doing.

Quite a lot of trainees spend a part of their training contract twiddling their thumbs, and can finish the contract not having much of a clue as to what their role actually is or whether they can cut it as a lawyer. Usually in some firms the first 6 months after qualification are not times when you are literally pitched in at the deep end, but gradually handed work and clients to start on with supervision, and it sounds as if this is where you will need to be looking.

In terms of them not keeping you on, I think you need to look at it two ways - firstly, you will have qualified as a solicitor once your training contract is finished, regardless of how useless this time has been. Secondly, if you make any protestations or request external assistance (ie the law society), you may find redundancy staring you in the face if there is nothing the Law Society can do to ensure your place is safe, which I very much doubt. My best advice is that if this is not affecting your health (which of course has to be your top priority), you may be best sticking the time out, qualifying, and then worrying about gaining experience with another more secure and established firm.

Jonathan Fagan, www.ten-percent.co.uk

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