Suit pressed, shirt ironed, shoes shined, hair cut and beard gone; Company/Corporate Law notes revised; lunchbox stocked and new schoolbag packed. It’s finally time to head to my shiny new office. Gone now is the security offered by the comforting familiarity of the other trainees and the stress-free induction week, from here on in, I’m on my own.
Walking in to the department, “New Boy” stamp firmly affixed to my forehead, it’s hard not to forget that this moment has been hard earned. A whistle stop introduction to the team later and there I am, at my desk. “If you need anything, just ask”, Irene tells me, or was that Debbie. “I’m Hilary, nice to meet you”, says Jordan. “Don’t worry about remembering our names, you’ll learn them soon enough”, says Heather, no it was Louise, definitely Louise, although it could have been Danny, or maybe Duncan. They all seem friendly though so at least that’s one worry dealt with.
Within minutes of sitting down the computer is on and we’re off, tackling the first job for my supervisor. Do the little things well and the more exciting things will follow I remind myself.
Depending on your seat, those little things will differ, but here in Corporate they can range from searching the labyrinthine Document Management System (DMS) for a seemingly invisible document to a simple Companies House search for the names of directors; or the drafting of a deceptively pernickety letter notarising a document for an international client. The little things then lead to more substantial work, with the drafting of licence agreements or company reports being two examples I have been lucky enough to be involved in so far.
Surprisingly it has already been six weeks since that nervy first day. While the majority of tasks are still new, there is a comforting flow of repeat corporate management tasks which occur daily or weekly. These can be undertaken confidently, knowing that I have done them correctly at least once or twice before. Other pieces of work then come thick and fast, from colleagues of all levels, often not in the same office, and on occasion not even in the same country. The tasks can be explained well, quickly or in conjunction with several other tasks – take notes, you’ll be thankful for them later!
Accept any and all jobs, prioritise them well and never turn down the opportunity to learn something new. Avoid becoming bogged down, trying to do something you’ve never done before, to a high standard and in a specific and particular way, all the while worrying about the time you’re accruing and how you’ll record it. It is not necessarily a bad thing to admit defeat. If after clawing yourself free from the clutches of the DMS you are still struggling to find the answer, ask the colleague who instructed you for some pointers – and if it’s still confusing, ask again.
Remember most importantly though, that this new and challenging job is to be enjoyed. Make the most of any downtime, clear your feet, take stock of things done well and things struggled through. Learn from it all and one day soon you might be the person on the receiving end of the questions.
He who does not ask remains a fool forever
Sometime in my first week, my supervising solicitor sat me down and imparted some pointers and some dos and don’ts to keep with me in the months ahead. He also left me with a phrase to mull over and keep close to the front of my mind, swirling around with the new skills I’ve learned and the legal know-how I keep in there, somewhere. He who asks is a fool for five minutes, he mused, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. Maybe there really is no such thing as a stupid question.
On September 11, 2017