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Making the most of the trainee-supervisor relationship

October 2023: As London trainees rotate through their four different seats, they'll work closely alongside their dedicated supervisor. Former trainee Adhuv Prinja is now supervisor to trainee Serene Reza. We asked them to explain how future trainees can get the most out of this important working relationship.

"When you start off as a first-seat trainee, a supervisor is your first point of contact for many things, big and small. As you progress through the training contract, it's common for the supervisor's role to evolve from direct management into an advisory, mentorship-style role with increased focus on the 'bigger' issues such as career progression," explains Serene.

Creating an environment for trainees to fulfil their potential

"A supervisor's role is to ensure that their trainee is supported, encouraged and provided with the best environment in which to learn, grow and ultimately realise their full potential," says Adhuv. "As supervisors, it's up to us to ensure that our trainees maintain a strong development trajectory through their training contract. This covers the professional, legal and technical aspects of the role—for example taking the time to provide day-to-day training, providing good-quality work and constructive feedback on that work—but also mentoring and advice on their development more generally."

Learning by osmosis: The benefits of working closely with your supervisor

Trainees usually share an office with their supervisor, and this proximity provides a great chance to learn on the job, according to Serene. "Learning by osmosis is a very real and valuable thing. Sharing an office is a great opportunity to observe how different supervisors approach particular types of legal issues, or deal with clients and other lawyers."

Adhuv Prinja

Maximising your experience with your supervisor

Adhuv says, "As a supervisor, you want a trainee to be engaged, enthusiastic and proactive. It can be daunting moving to a new seat and being dropped into an unfamiliar team, transaction or jurisdiction. Build a rapport with your supervisor and connect on a human level. You will feel more relaxed in the seat and find yourself in a less formal environment in which to learn."

Be authentic and honest

Serene says that the key to building a successful working relationship is being open and honest: "I think it's very important for trainees to be themselves. Authenticity and openness are usually obvious and are important to building working relationships. This also applies when it comes to your approach to tasks and asking questions. Be honest when you don't understand a task or why it's being done—supervisors are there to help, and they can only do so if they know you need advice in the first place." 

Finally, Serene points out that every supervisor was once in a trainee's shoes. "However senior they are, every supervisor was once a trainee. They know that the learning curve can be steep, and that unfamiliarity with tasks or practice areas can be daunting."