What I wish I knew when I was a trainee

13th Oct 2020

Mark Caddle, now a partner at Withers & Rogers, shares his time as a trainee and what his advice would be to his younger self.

Mark Caddle

Juggling exams and the ‘day job’ can be demanding. As a trainee, your time can be stretched to extremes and being able to reflect on how this is impacting you is often a rewarding exercise.

When I was a graduate trainee, studying for exams was very familiar, but being in a commercial environment was not – particularly with all the demand it brought.

The need to develop and understand the skills involved, plus managing the expectations of your team, is often at odds with studying and looking at the law through an academic lens.

Sharing is caring

I found it really useful to speak with other colleagues at the same stage as me, not only from my firm but from other firms as well.

Being able to share our experiences, helped us develop an overview of the role of a trade mark attorney, and it really helped me shape my path.

If you are in private practice, I recommend spending time with in-house peers – it can be really enlightening.

The change in demands between being a graduate trainee and a qualified attorney can be challenging. This is why having exploratory conversations with others ahead of you in seniority is an investment in a more fulfilling, and less surprising, future.

Know your firm

As well as external colleagues, it very important to "know your firm".

This is probably most true for your direct line manager and the team within which you work. Where possible, having conversations with senior members of staff or longstanding members of the firm can provide insight into the firm's expectations and life as a qualified attorney.

Luckily for me, my firm was very supportive of my time as a trainee.

Take a break

I would also say that being mindful of the combined pressures of exams and work is important.

Breaks and downtime are paramount.

Many firms nowadays will be enrolled in IP Inclusive, which has done great work in promoting mental health awareness in the profession.

LawCare is also a helpful resource. Your firm may even have resident Mental Health First Aiders.

Seeking advice when things become overwhelming can be very relieving. Reach out when needed.


On reflection, being aware of your personal short term and long terms goals, and being conscious of the factors you can influence, is something I, personally, could have done better.

That said, each trainee journey is a different one, but knowing what motivates you and what you need to do to progress your career, both within your firm/company and externally, is essential to a happy traineeship and career.

Mark was a trainee in July 2011 and became a partner in April 2020.