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From a Trainee to Partner

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Chris Drinkall, Partner

17 years. Seven teen years! That’s how long I will have been a qualified solicitor in September 2021. From joining Rollits as a trainee in September 2002 and qualifying in September 2004, embarking on life in the firm’s litigation department, to becoming a Partner and heading the firm’s Property Dispute Resolution Team, it has been eventful to say the least.

So, how did I get here? A’ levels at Sixth Form, a law degree at the University of Hull, Legal Practice Course at what was then the College of Law in York, a 2 year training contract with the firm, and then a whirlwind 17 years of working with some fantastic colleagues, hundreds of clients, appearing before dozens of judges, instructing experts and barristers galore, and jousting with lawyers from a whole range of firm.

Throughout that time I’ve dealt with all manner of civil disputes, travelled all around the country for meetings and Court hearings, had sleepless nights (some good, some bad!), enjoyed the highs of successful outcomes to cases, and the lows of when things don’t conclude how I wanted them to. I’ve given talks to conference rooms full of people, I’ve played my part in helping commercial clients resolve complicated and business critical issues, and I’ve found myself howling with laughter with a client as we put up security fencing to secure their premises as 1:30 in the morning. And looking back as I write this, I can’t think of anything I would change, because all of it has contributed to making me the solicitor, and person, I am now. So, with the benefit of those 19 years of experience, what would I tell the 21 year old me, if I had the chance?

Remember the law

The number of people I have come across in the profession who haven’t looked at what the legislation or case law upon a particular issue says is bewildering.

Be confident…but don’t be arrogant.

Look what you’ve achieved already to get to the stage where you’re embarking on a career as a solicitor. You are bright, you are intelligent, and you can do this job, but you have to work and focus every day.

You will get better and better as time goes by, but accept that you will never know everything. 19 years on from when I started with the firm, I am still learning, and I expect to keep doing so until the day I stop working.

And remember, it doesn’t matter how good you become individually, you’ll never get close to being as good as you are when you work as a team with your colleagues.

Don’t be afraid of nerves

Nerves are a good. They ensure that we prepare properly. The day you stop getting nervous about, for example, appearing at a Court hearing, is the day you’ve likely taken for granted the outcome and are setting yourself up for a fall.

Don’t be afraid to asks question.

It’s better to ask what you think someone could consider to be a stupid question (they likely won’t) and do something right, than not, and be made to look stupid.

You will make mistakes

You will get things wrong. Learn from it, and don’t beat yourself endlessly about it. But don’t try and hide your mistakes. Almost everything can be fixed, one way of another, and your senior colleagues will support you, provided you tell them.

Learn how to switch off

Technology means that you can be contacted 24/7, pretty much anywhere on the planet, if you allow yourself to be. There’s no right and wrong way to do it, but find the way that best helps you switch off when you leave the office, and learn not worry about not being always being on call 24/7!

I have turned off the “push” setting on my emails so that I don’t get notifications on my mobile phone that I have an email unless I physically go and check. The trick then is to not keep checking!

Out of Office

Trust your colleagues. You’re not so critical to the business that they cannot possibly cope without you for a week or 2 whilst you recharge your batteries (and if you are, maybe you need to look at how you change that)!

I confess that when I’m on holiday, I’ll check my emails 2-3 times a day, just so that I can see what is going on, and also because it means when I get back to the office, I have a small number of emails that I know I need to look at, rather than have to traipse through what looks like pages and pages of emails. I may also occasionally drop a colleague an email to let them have my thoughts on an incoming email.

Find out what works for you, but remember, you are on holiday, you have worked hard for it, you deserve it, so enjoy it.

And most importantly……

It will be hard. There will be moments when you doubt yourself. But stick with it, it’s worth it.

Chris Drinkall

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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