Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What to do with a trainee who has no interest in your department

Trainees - ive said many times on this blog - have a pretty hard time at most law firms. Its a rites of passage thing and unfortunately youve just got to get thru it.

Most trainees will be better for it because things can only get better. Some trainees will leave the job as a result of their experience and frankly tosspots like that we can do without anyway so no harm done. If you cant stand the heat as a trainee your unlikely to make the grade as a fully fledged lawyer. Most good trainees have nothing much to worry about, doff your cap, keep your head down and impress when the time comes.

Now I generally have a lot of time for trainees because Im not a dyed in the wool masochist like some at our firm. But I do have one pet hate and that concerns trainees who clearly couldnt give a toss about your beloved department as they pass thru on their training cycle.

I have a trainee at the moment who clearly does not want to be anywhere near the personal injury department. She is counting the hours until she departs and she's currently only 3 weeks into a 6 month stint.
After weeks of complete disinterest and barely concealed boredem, today I exploded and unfortunately had to chew her to pieces in front of the crew. It was no more than she deserved.
I spent half an hour trying to explain the not so finer points of working out a limitation date from the day of the incident. She just didnt get it and kept on fixing a date exactly 3 years hence instead of allowing for weekends, bank holidays and on one occasion Christmas day.
The lady is not only thick (she though a loss of amenity claim involved the closure of a local gym) but she has no interest in trying to learn.

What you should do is get your head down, pretend that the departmental job you are doing is THE most interesting legal job on the planet and oooh and aaaah every time someone mentions a decent settlement or quirky client story. Its the done thing.

What you dont do is make it plain that you are marking time, cant wait to ditch the department and head for the hallowed turf of conveyancing land or some other dark place at the earliest opportunity. This lady couldnt manage a shopping trip round Tescos without asking for help let alone deal with commercial law which is her "career goal"

Im sorry to say that today she finally provoked me into a two minute tirade. I pointed out that regardless of whether she likes PI or not - she is stuck here for 6 months with me and she has 1 week to show that she gives a damn otherwise her training contract is in the bin. If she doesnt even pretend to show a little interest she is out the f*ckin door. I will see to it personally.

She apologised weakly , looked around for sympathy, saw there was none available and then left for the loo bursting into tears before she got there.

She'll be spending more time in the loo if things dont improve rapidly.


Nearly Legal said...

Speaking as a paralegal, oh dear, oh dear.

I've actually won some cases (not PI) following on from successfully disputing service date, notification dates and dates for response. I'm currently running (under supervision of course) an application for permission to appeal out of time where accounting for every few days is crucial. Getting the dates right is hardly just a PI issue. Commercial future? Chortle.

That said, chewing her out in public, particularly putting her traineeship on the line, was harsh. That will be round the firm like lightning and follow her for a long time even if she transforms her approach for you. If she does change her attitude and competence will that also be broadcast?

legalspy said...

Hi Nearlylegal

Thanks for your comments

Unfortunately public floggings are occasionally necessary and on this occasion completely justifed.

>>If she does change her attitude and competence will that also be broadcast?<<

NOPE - there might just be a glimmer of hope that her contract will be extended.

matrix said...

I read your comments and basically you need to have a look in the mirror at yourself.You will see a b**ly staring back at you.You now seem happy to wallow in your unacceptable behaviour.People like you should not be put in a position to run a personal injury department.So what if you can't explain clearly what the limitation period on a pi claim is, is that her fault or yours.No wonder she prefers to spend her time thinking of pastures new.You probably think you arrived as you are without training.Maybe you received similar treatment yourself and now think the table is turned and its your place to dish some out.Like attracts like and sooner or later you will meet someone to put you in your place.

legalspy said...


Im happy to respond

I agree that to an extent there is an element of bullying in the way that I have dealt with this lady. Most people in a senior position are called upon to "bully" to some degree at some point in their working life - its generally known as a component of management. Some might deem it coercion or assertive persuasion but if you want to call it bullying then thats fine by me and heres why.

Ive just read your blog

It seems that basically you consider yourself to be a knight in shining armour helping out downtrodden personal injury victims who fall into the hands of useless solicitors.

You make bold assertions about how solicitors operate such as this little gem

>>To coax the victim o go to the solicitor the accident claim specialist must sugar his language with ‘no win no fee’ persuasion otherwise the victim won’t go with him<<


>>Some solicitors bark is worse than their bite<<

Your grasp of English is even worse than your grasp of the personal injury system in the UK.

Then to rub "pepper in my wounds" to quote another of your crap phrases, you then try to flog a "book" or "guide" of some kind that is designed to help people through the process and avoid those nasty solicitors who just dont give a damn.

Your blog has google ads on it yet youve written one poor post that links to your even poorer website.

What you say on your blog and on your site makes no sense - bends the truth and is so badly written my 13 year old could have done a better job.

Solicitors are not bad people. They are not out to shaft clients. The system does not always help with speed and efficiency but as a profession I think we treat people fairly. Many of your comments on your blog are badly researched and just plain wrong.

Now youve stirred things up a little you will get a boost in traffic and maybe even a link or two.

So well done - your comment post wasnt a complete waste of time after all

Bagpuss said...

I agree with nearly legal - chewing her out in public seems a bit excessive - Obviously we don't know the full details, but there is nothing in your entry to suggest that you had spoken to her about thee issues before you "exploded" and "had to" chew her out in public.

Of course as a manager you sometiems have to be tough with staff but to leap straight to public humiliation seems a bit OTT.

Do you have any formal processes for on-going assesment of trainees?

Anonymous said...

I'm a trainee solicitor, and I can say it's people like you who give this profession a bad name. It's likely that you have a few years on you (experience, shall we call it?) and you've got a chip on your shoulder. I presume (as in my case), she has the intelligence and academic qualifications to be there. So there's no point in thinking you're more intelligent than her.You've just been around the block, and bitter for it.

legalspy said...

Dear Anonymous

Im sorry that you feel people like me give the profession a bad name. Unfortunately for you there are lots of people like me in this business so get used to it.

Trainees who turn up in a dept and toss it off do not have a future in that dept - or possibly the firm. Trainees who get their heads down and work hard to gain respect along with a little knowledge / experience will, on the other hand, undoubdetly do very well in this business.

Sadly most trainees leave Uni with such an inflated idea of their own importance that they cant handle the grim reality that is life on the shop floor.

I speak as someone who once lived in the same narcissistic bubble and subsequently has seen the cycle repeat over and over - year after year.

So dont get on your high horse - work hard and dont piss around in any of the depts you work in. Thats the message

And if thats me being bitter then so be it - read my profile - I bleedin love this business and I am still enjoying a wonderful career. I will however, continue lambasting timewasters until I hang up my practicing certificate and expire.