Since starting my training contract, I’ve been able to take advantage of numerous development opportunities both within Ashfords itself, as well as external events and seminars. Below are a few examples of the development and training opportunities that I’ve participated in so far.
1) Professional Skills Course training
The Professional Skills Course (PSC) is a compulsory training course that you are required to complete during your training contract in order to qualify as a solicitor. The PSC covers three core modules (advocacy, client care and finance) as well as elective modules chosen by the firm (such as drafting commercial contracts and negotiation skills). The course is run externally and you attend various training days throughout the 2 years.
These training days focus on the practical skills that solicitors require, such as how to improve your written communications or the correct procedure for reporting money laundering suspicions. They deal with the “real life” scenarios you will face as a solicitor and give you practical suggestions on how to develop the different skills you will need post qualification. They are also a good opportunity to catch-up with all the trainees from the different offices and talk about what experiences we’ve had so far!
2) Training contract
In essence, the training contract itself is a two year development opportunity. You are given the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge that you gained during the LPC and you are encouraged to think critically about how you could improve your work. You are given high level of responsibility from the start of your first seat and you are provided with many opportunities to practice important skills such as advising clients throughout a matter, drafting key documents and negotiating with the other side.
For me, one of the best aspects to the Ashfords training contract is the departments themselves and the teams that you are able to work with. The development opportunities available to you are incredibly varied and no two days are the same. As your supervisor is a partner within the department, you are able to observe how they deal with clients and how they handle different situations by analysing the best course of action. Everyone at Ashfords is approachable and they’re always happy to answer any question you have – no matter how silly you think it is! They are also keen to get you involved new matters and help you develop as a trainee.
Earlier in the year I attended an external talk on the training contract and qualification process. One thing that really stuck with me was the idea that it is “your” training contract, meaning it is up to you to make the most of the development opportunities available to you during this time.
3) Firm wide training
Ashfords places a lot of importance and resource into its learning & development programmes and there are a range of training sessions that I have been able to attend so far. We’ve been provided with some really useful mandatory sessions, for example how to make the most of Ashfords CRM system and how to deliver good client service.
Ashfords also has a rolling programme of training sessions throughout the year that you can sign up to. One of the best sessions I’ve attended is the “long documents” training, which goes over all of the formatting tricks and shortcuts available in Microsoft Word. I definitely wish I’d had this training when I was writing my dissertation, as I know it would have saved me a lot of time and stress!
You also have the ability to speak to the L&D team to discuss any personal training needs, so you know that there is always someone that you can speak to, who will work with you to address any areas of concern.
4) External speakers
I’ve also been fortunate to attend several events where Ashfords has brought in expert speakers to provide training on specific areas. One of the best sessions I attended was an external speaker who went over the basic drafting errors and common mistakes to look for when reviewing a contract. This session really highlighted the importance to attention to detail when drafting and also gave me a few pointers that I have since incorporated into my subsequent drafting.
5) External opportunities
As an Exeter trainee, I am fortunate to have many external training sessions and development opportunities available to me via external networks such as JLD and XYBC.
In addition to providing networking events, these organisations also provide opportunities to attend really useful sessions to develop my commercial awareness and understanding. For example, I attended a talk on commercial acumen for junior lawyers, which was run by DASLS in conjunction with Kitsons LLP. One of the key takeaways from that session was the importance of business management within a law firm and the concept of “lock-up”, which was a term I had heard used around the office but hadn’t fully appreciated its importance to the overall cashflow of the firm. These events help to develop an understanding of the wider business aims of a law firm and how, as a junior lawyer, you can help contribute to achieve these.
I would recommend taking advantage of these types of events as they help provide an overview of the commercial considerations that law firms currently face and also provide you with an opportunity to meet with other trainees within the local area.