As the last of the September sun fades and we begin the credit crunch game “heating or jumper”, it would be wise to remember that autumn, like spring, is also a time for new legal growth and celebration. It is also the time when family favourites return to our screens and the ratings battle begins. But what parallels are there to be drawn between these shows and the new legal year?
The producers of the X Factor must reduce 100,000 desperate wannabes down to around 12 exceptional individuals to go on and perform for the judges, leaving only one real winner: Simon Cowell. For 45,000 undergraduate law students starting their legal careers by trying to obtain that ever elusive training contract the odds aren’t much better. Some may make it through the first round with a strong application and a supporting CV. Some may slip through the net and forever be ‘the ones that got away.’ Others may be put through purely for the Partners entertainment. Some will be definite favourites who deserve a place. What is certain this year, however, is that the one million pound recording contract…I mean, Training Contract, will be much harder to secure than ever before. Who will the winner be? Obviously, it will be the firms who will reserve their right to terminate the contract at any time prior to commencement or immediately upon the end of the deal.
What about those lucky few who do secure a training contract? These bright eyed, but not necessarily sequinned trainees entered the firm as unknown entities, much like the D-list celebrities stumbling through this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. They have successfully negotiated the last two years trying to make a good impression, but what does the future hold for them?
As many newly qualified lawyers have found this year, jobs are scarce. It is increasingly important to show you are an all-rounder. You are less attractive to a firm if you are good at the steady waltz but lose your way with the cha cha cha. In a modern law firm you must be a proficient academic lawyer as well as good with clients and an accomplished ‘business developer’.
Starting out on my own legal career, I was always told to be nice to everyone– you don’t know who they are and how they might help you in future. This includes of course the other trainees, not just the partners. Just like on Strictly, ultimately your colleagues become competitors (or a Judge in Alesha Dixon’s case). Remember it is possible to be gracious in defeat and in victory – one only has to look at John Sergeant!
And finally, what of Bruce Forsyth, the octogenarian who has been the face of Saturday night TV for the past 50 years? Well, take comfort from the fact that even Bruce must retire sometime. All those partners holding out for the senior partner to retire just bide your time. Like Brucie, make the show unimaginable without you!