Behind the scenes of our graduate trainee programme

Applications are currently open for Sintons’ graduate trainee programme. We spoke to two current trainee solicitors, Lucy Milnthorp and Charles Bell, to get an insight into what it’s really like to complete your training contract with Sintons.

What’s a typical day like for you and what kinds of tasks do you work on as a trainee solicitor?

Lucy: Day to day, we do a lot of the same work that the qualified solicitors do, but obviously under supervision. I’m mainly office-based but I was in Leeds for two days last week, to attend a trial. We have a lot of contact with clients as well – we’re often the first person a new client will speak to on the phone.

Charles: We had contact with clients right from the start of our contract; we’re not hidden away behind the scenes, we’re right there supporting with client work and attending meetings straight away. As you progress, you get to work more independently and you’re always given the chance to work on new things and get feedback on how you’ve done. And as well as having a supervisor who supports you throughout, you can also shadow colleagues and learn about their different roles.

Lucy: There’s a social aspect to being a trainee as well; we meet up regularly as a group, we support each other, and we even have a social fund we can use throughout the year. We arrange a welcome event for new trainees and we get together to carry out fundraising for the firm’s chosen charity – including our annual trainee challenge which, last year, involved us taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge!

What have been some of the most interesting parts of the job so far?

Lucy: I really like attending court, watching the barristers and seeing the litigation process in action. It’s really satisfying to know that all the work you’ve done on a case counts towards that moment in court.

Charles: I’m working in the construction and engineering department at the moment which is a really interesting area of law and not something I knew much about before, so seeing a new side of the legal process has been great.

What did you find the most difficult when you started at Sintons and were you surprised at the level of responsibility you were given?

Lucy: This was my first experience of office work, so getting used to that alongside new legal concepts was a lot to take on, but everything definitely gets easier as you get more practice. And your responsibility grows as your confidence grows, so it’s not too daunting. If I look back, I realise how much I’ve learnt and grown.

Charles: Balancing the legal work with your own learning can be hard but, as Lucy says, you get better and more confident as you get more experience. You learn by doing and you’re always supported by your colleagues.

Which departments have you worked in so far and do you get a say in which areas of law you’d like to experience? 

Lucy: We’re both in our third seat at the moment. I’ve worked in employment law, real estate, where I specialised in rural and agricultural matters, and now I’m in dispute resolution. We get a lot of say in which areas we’d like to experience. We have meetings with Gemma, who’s head of people services, and she does her best to make sure everyone is placed in an area they want to learn about.

Charles: I’ve worked in dispute resolution, real estate and I’m now in construction and engineering. I’ve enjoyed every department I’ve been in so far so it’s hard to decide what area I’d like to specialise in, but we’re due to qualify in September and will have to start thinking about specialisms in the next few months.

People who are shortlisted for the trainee programme are invited to spend some time in the firm in June. What was that experience like for you? 

Lucy: It’s a full on, intense few days but everyone was so nice that, even though I was nervous, it was still enjoyable.

Charles: You do end up enjoying it. You get to do a few hours’ work in different areas of law – I did construction and wills – and you’re given tasks to work through. There are some group exercises as well.

Why did you choose Sintons as the place you wanted to complete your training contract?

Lucy: It’s big enough that you know you’ll get interesting work and good quality training but it’s not so large that you’ll feel lost. When I came into the firm for the first time I could see myself working here. Everyone was really nice and I knew right then that I’d never be too scared to ask for help when I needed it and I’d get good experience.

Charles: It also has a good balance between based in the North East and having regional, national and international clients. And the whole culture here is about supporting and guiding trainees through their contract and giving them the opportunity to do good, high quality work.

What advice would you give to graduates who are applying for training contracts this year?

Lucy: Narrow down your options to the firms you can really see yourself working for. And try and put your personality onto paper, which I know is hard to do, but you need to make yourself stand out.

Charles: Do your research into different firms. Think about the areas of law that interest you and if there is a particular person whose work you admire or are interested in. Be yourself throughout the application process as you need to find the firm that matches you as a person.

Describe your experience of being a trainee solicitor in three words

Lucy: Growth, responsibility and friendship.

Charles: Development, challenge and support.

The deadline to apply for Sintons’ graduate trainee programme is 31 March 2024. Find out more and apply here.

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