Tracy is the founder of the Traineeandme blog, a popular advice platform for trainee solicitors. She currently has a training contract at Rosenblatt Ltd., a unique AIM-listed full-service law firm.
In the episode she shares her journey, including why she started the Traineeandme initiative and what she’s learnt on her journey to achieving a training contract.
Also discussed is:
- Her background in the London pub business
- Some top tips on applications and interviews
- How the platform has helped her confidence as well as supporting the careers of others
- What inspired her to take the New York bar exam, which she studied for in her free time
- Her work as Diversity Champion for In.Coming
- What makes Rosenblatt Ltd. stand out
Rob Hanna (00:00):
Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. Today, I’m delighted to be joined by Tracy Tsao. Tracy is a future trainee solicitor at Rosenblatt limited, a New York bar candidate and the founder of the popular legal blog, Trainee and Me, which aims to demystify the journey to a training contract, by offering resources, events, tips, and support to aspiring solicitors. So a very, very big welcome Tracy.
Tracy Tsao (00:31):
Thank you for having me, Rob, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
Rob Hanna (00:34):
Absolute pleasure to have you on the show. We have been following your content with great interests over many, many months, but before we go through all the amazing work you’ve already done to date, we do have our customary opening question on the legally speaking podcast, which is on the scale of one to 10, 10 being very real. How real would you rate the reality series Suits?
Tracy Tsao (01:01):
Uh, what a great question. Um, I, I used to love suits. Um, it’s not completely made up from my understanding, but I think the timeframes, um, culture, client interactions are all dramatized. Uh, I’m pretty unrealistic, uh, which I’m pretty glad about because I think going into work in an atmosphere like that would be pretty horrifying and stressful, but so I would probably give it a three.
Rob Hanna (01:25):
Yeah. I think, you know, given, given your experiences to date and probably what you’ve seen, that’s a, that’s a fair, fair number. So let’s let, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing.
Tracy Tsao (01:38):
Sure. So I, um, was actually born in New York and I moved to London when I was less than a year old. So I grew up in London. I completed my law degree at the university of Exeter, uh, before going on to self fund, uh, the LPC at BBP. Uh, I secured my training contract at Rosenblatt in the summer of completing my LPC, um, after doing a vac scheme at the firm and I’ve come from not a pub background. Um, but my, my mom, uh, manages a pub in Pimlico. So I started working in pubs from a very young age. Well, not that young from, uh, from the age of 16, 17. And from that I’ve, I’ve kind of spent a lot of time managing pubs as well, most recently, spending a year after my LPC, um, managing one of Mayfair, which was hard work and a lot of fun. And like you said, in my intro, um, I I’ve, I’m currently studying for the New York bar, which I will be completing in my spare time, uh, mainly on weekends while I paralegal at Slaughter and May.
Rob Hanna (02:41):
And we’re going to come on to all of that a little bit later on, but, um, I have to say pub background. That sounds fun.
Tracy Tsao (02:47):
Yeah, I am. I started working in a pub when I was 16, just literally at the bottom, just waitresing, um, and bringing stuff to tables, food, et cetera. Um, and then once I was 18 managed to hop behind my bar and start serving beers to regulars, it was a great pub that I started working in because I lived in the area and my parents used to go to that pub. Um, so I started working there having known and built quite a good relationship with the clients. It was a lot of fun because you’d be on shift and, you know, everyone that you’d know would just pop in and say hello. And it was great to chat with them. I learned a lot, a lot of skills that I take away to, to my legal career. Um, but yeah, I think it was a great learning process leaving that role because it was definitely within my comfort zone. Having worked there for a good number of years, I actually wanted to go to a bigger establishment and, and see what I could learn there. So I got thrown into the deep end, um, being assistant manager of a pub in Mayfair, uh, which in itself was a really fantastic experience.
Rob Hanna (03:51):
Great stuff. So let’s, let’s fast forward then. Did you always, you know, coming from a pub sort of family background, did you always want to go into the law and become a lawyer?
Tracy Tsao (04:01):
Yeah. Um, I think when I was deciding, uh, what degree to do, uh, at university, I think law was always kind of on my mind. I’m not quite sure the exact reason why, but I think I, I, I did want to go into a role where I, you know, was providing a service to clients and had client interactions and building relationships. All of that was really important to me. So I think once I was at university, I really enjoyed studying kind of the technical aspects of law and how that’s applicable, you know, in the real life context. And so I think going down this list of route just made sense to me while I was at university
Rob Hanna (04:37):
Great stuff. And so we have to talk about your increasing in popularity by the day legal blog, which I mentioned in the intro, uh, trainee and me for those who are not familiar about it, um, what is it and what inspired you to start?
Tracy Tsao (04:54):
So trainee and me is, um, a platform that helps aspiring solicitors get vacation schemes and training contracts by passing on as many tips and advice that I’ve learned. And also other successful trainees have learnt, um, in the hope that they will also get, you know, vacation schemes and training contracts. Because I think when I was applying for, um, my vacation schemes training contracts, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I think universities can improve on the support that they give, especially from the law schools, because you know, what makes a strong application is something that I taught myself by learning from others. So, you know, that’s why I decided to create trainee and me. Um, I think what kickstarted, it was actually speaking to a mentee at the start of the first lockdown. So back in March, um, and she was concerned that she would be at a disadvantage for, uh, applications to firms because law fairs and networking events were obviously being canceled because of the pandemic I was on furlough.
Tracy Tsao (05:58):
So I had a lot of time on my hands. So I thought, why not create a virtual networking event? Um, I made a post on LinkedIn to see the interest and I put a post up and it just blew up. So I ended up spending a couple of weeks planning a four day virtual networking event, uh, which connected aspiring solicitors and current and future trainees solicitors from a range of national international, uh, magic circle firms. And I think around 230 aspiring solicitors and a hundred trainees came along, um, and they all accessed the event from I think, across 11 countries. So it was a really, really great, um, event. So I think from then, I’ve just grown trainee and me by creating regular events. I’m just trying to target, you know, what pieces of information are missing, what do aspiring solicitors want to know. And I reached out to trainees who I think would be suitable and have the knowledge that these aspiring solicitors are looking for. And it’s just great. We just get along, write guides, um, and, and just pass on as much information as possible.
Rob Hanna (07:00):
Yeah. And I think it’s a really wonderful initiative that you’re running. And I really do think that the platform adds so much value to the next generation of, of, of legal professionals. Um, you have created a website for trainee and me where people can have applications reviewed. Tell us more about that.
Tracy Tsao (07:16):
Sure. So I, um, I think as the page was becoming more popular, I was getting more frequent requests to review applications. So at the beginning, I, I focused around the mentees that I’d taken on, but obviously as the page grew, there were more,aspiring solicitors, who were reaching out wanting help. So in a bidto help as many aspiring solicitors, uh, as possible reviewing the applications and CV, but also managing my time effectively because obviously I can’t just review applications day in, day out. I decided to create a website, um, to also have everything in one place that I’ve done that through the website. I created a booking system where I have available slots per week. Um, and people are free just to book in a slot, I’ll invite them to send over their application or their CV. And I aim to turn it around, back to them, uh, within three, three days. So yeah, the website was a, a bit of a challenge, uh, to create, I appreciate all the websites out there that are trying to make it as easy as possible. Uh, but with my knowledge, even, even the easiest of platforms, I still found a challenge building a website. Uh, but I’m glad it’s his out there now. Yeah,
Rob Hanna (08:25):
That’s brilliant. I know, obviously you’re learning a lot of new skills along the way and that sort of segways onto my next question. In terms of what do you gain from helping and mentoring others?
Tracy Tsao (08:34):
There’s a lot to gain. Um, I think the main thing that I’m really grateful, uh, for, for this experience today is just the confidence to speak to new people. So I was actually someone at university in my second or first year. I was just really timid to go to networking events , law fairs go because I just found speaking to people really scary. And I know that sounds really strange coming from my pub background, but for some reason in my head, I thought it was really different speaking to people in, in a pub and the customers there, uh, that was absolutely fine for me. But speaking to people that I didn’t know in a kind of professional networking setting, I found that really intimidating. Um, and I think it comes down to me being scared of saying something wrong or just coming across in a negative way. And I think that was a bit of a mental block for me in, in those kinds of situations.
Tracy Tsao (09:32):
So obviously it’s something that I did work on because it’s important to be able to network, to, to get training contracts, et cetera. Uh, but even after I secured my training contract, this was something that was, uh, I was working on. And I think trainee and me has really given me the confidence to, to be able to meet people, uh, and have, you know, really great conversations with that, that I just haven’t met before. So I get a lot of messages from aspiring solicitors who are really grateful for me spending my time and, uh, helping them, but I think they don’t realize that a lot of the time that I’m, I’m also learning so much too. And it’s, it’s, it’s been really, really great. So
Rob Hanna (10:11):
They’ll be a lot of, you know, a whole range of people listening to this podcast from aspiring, uh, solicitors, right the way up to partners and, and all of the other things in between, um, as well. But what one piece of advice would you give to aspiring solicitors who are applying for training contracts?
Tracy Tsao (10:27):
Um, I think my piece of advice would be to not be scared and not to limit yourself because you’re scared of the outcome. I think when I was applying for vacation schemes and training contracts, I did procrastinate a lot because I didn’t want to spend all this time writing application for it just to not, you know, to get, uh, to receive a message that they just obviously mass send out with a rejection. I think that did hinder me applying myself, but if you’re not scared about receiving rejections, and if you view rejections as a learning process, then I think is a lot it’s quite productive because I wouldn’t really be where I am now, but didn’t really apply to the things because I was scared of being rejected.
Rob Hanna (11:11):
That’s really good advice. And, you know, it’s, it’s what I like to call it. And well-documented around sort of failing forward, you know, rejection that is all part and parcel of the process. And should in many respects try and see that in a positive lens in terms of moving forward. So yeah, couldn’t agree more. The worst thing people can do is give up or, you know, one rejection then knocks their confidence completely the wrong thing to do. Um, keep going because something will land in the end and onto then the, the New York bar I again mentioned in your introduction, you’re a 2021 New York bar candidate. What inspired you to do New York bar and how will you use it in practice?
Tracy Tsao (11:51):
The New York Bar was something that I have been considering doing for a while. I wouldn’t rule out going back to New York. Um, I think me in the future, uh, I definitely want to have the experience of living abroad somewhere. Um, so having been born in New York, uh, I think it’s just a, quite a nice little circle of life. Uh, if I ended up going back there, uh, but also I think the main thing is just creating the opportunity to do so. I left my pub role and I hadn’t secured a role yet. So, uh, I had a bit of time on my hands and I thought, you know what, why not just get started with it? How I will use that in practice. The exam is not easy. I think it’s one of the hardest exams, uh, law exams out there, this, from what I’ve heard. So I think the main thing that I will use and learn from it apart from obviously the technical knowledge is just how to time manage, because obviously I’m going to be doing it while working full time. Um, so I think getting that done while doing a full-time intensive role is a, is a great skill.
Rob Hanna (12:58):
Yeah, no, couldn’t, couldn’t agree more. And I think it’s some, you’re absolutely right. It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s very rewarding and, um, I wish you lots of luck in advance for the New York bar and, you know, you recently had some, some more good news on the top of your, your, your training contracts, which you secured with Rosenblatt in that you secured a paralegal role with slaughter and may in their disputes department. So talk us through how you achieved that.
Tracy Tsao (13:24):
Yeah, sure. So I sent off my, my CV, uh, and got invited to a interview with a associate and a partner at the firm. It was a funny situation because I obviously, I think that the last interview that I had was a couple of months ago, but apart from that, I haven’t had a lot of, you know, back to back interviews that you normally do have when you’re applying for training contracts. So it was a bit out of touch from there, from interviews, but spending a lot of time coaching, uh, aspiring solicitors and helping them with their interviews a piece of advice I always give them is to be yourself, to relax, enjoy the process and not get too stressed out with the whole preparation. Obviously preparation is key, but you know, it’s all about performing well on the day. So saying that when I was in my prep, uh, for the role, I was very stressed out.
Tracy Tsao (14:17):
And I think because it was such a great opportunity, um, and you know, when you want something so bad, you just want it to go well. Um, and I think because I had 48 hours, less than 48 hours to prepare, it was a lot of waking up early, blocking out time to do my research, you know, to, to create answers for the questions that I probably have. And it actually just when the event, when the interview came around, I was very nervous at the beginning. Uh, stuttering, stumbling over my words. And just in the middle of the interview, I just thought to myself, Tracy, you need to pull it together. Otherwise you’re not going to get at this because you can’t even get your answers out smoothly. Um, but yeah, no, very, very, uh, excited to be joining the team. Uh, it’s a great opportunity and I’m really excited to learn as much as possible to bring to my training contract.
Rob Hanna (15:06):
Excellent. And congratulations, once again, I’m sure you’re going to get tons of experience that’s going to be of so much value to you as you go through your career and into a training contract. And you’re also a diversity champion with Incoming. What does that involve?
Tracy Tsao (15:22):
Yeah, so incoming is a great platform, um, that has a lot of resources and videos from a range of people, uh, from HR to partners, um, at top law firms. Um, so as diversity champion, my role is to increase awareness of incoming, and I do this by hosting, uh, events and, uh, writing guides. We’ve got one event coming up, uh, in the new year, uh, which will be on case studies, but I’ve also written guides on, uh, cover letters, applications, uh, and there’s a Watson Glaser guide coming out soon as well. So if anyone would like to receive those, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
Rob Hanna (16:05):
Brilliant. And you definitely don’t sit still. You like to keep busy. Um, so what are your plans for the, for the future?
Tracy Tsao (16:12):
Next plan coming up is to qualify obviously. So 21 and 26 that’s 2023 will be a great year for me. After that, I will. Well, I mean, it’s, the dream is to stay at the firm that I qualify into and to just to get as much experience as possible help aspiring solicitors grow trainee and me into a, you know, more solidified platform, maybe hire new members, uh, to join the team and just help as many aspiring solicitors as much as possible.
Rob Hanna (16:41):
Brilliant. And just as a sort of, couple of final questions from us, you, you are joining, um, Rosenblatt’s and for those who may not be too familiar, it’s, it’s worth sort of mentioning a little bit about the firm and, and the way they’re structured, because it’s different to, um, say magic circle firms or other more traditional firms. Would you like to sort of explain that because it’s called Rosenblatt limited? Yeah.
Tracy Tsao (17:03):
Yeah. So, uh, Rosenblatt is a firm that is a full service law firm, it specializes in dispute resolution. It also does corporate employment work it’s listed in 2019. So it is a public law firm, um, and it’s part of a professional service group. Um, and RPG holdings also have a, um, M and a firm and also litigation funder. So, uh, it’s quite unique in that there’s a lot of cross referral work between those three companies.
Rob Hanna (17:35):
Yeah. And I think that’s a very unique model. I know a few other firms, I think Gately and some others recently went down that model as well. And for us, just looking to, to wrap up Tracy, what’s your perception of the, the current landscape of the legal industry and how do you think it will change during your career? Because you know, legal tech is coming in. There’s so many variables and things and legal secretaries slowly but surely embracing change. What, what do you think is happening now or may change in the future?
Tracy Tsao (18:06):
I think the best thing to have come from the pandemic is the shift to online resource is if we’re looking at litigation as well, there’s a lot of shifts to remote hearings. And I would hope that that kind of increases the access to justice because it’s a lower cost solution to the problems that we’re seeing now. So I would hope that that continues. And for us, obviously, there’s, there’s a lot of legal tech that’s going to be coming out. Um, and I think for us as young lawyers, uh, is important to kind of keep on top of it, learn about it, um, and just be really open and receptive to the changes that are coming our way.
Rob Hanna (18:45):
And if people want to follow, get in touch about anything we’ve discussed today on the show, what’s the best way and platform for them to do that. Feel free to give any shout outs to your web links or relevant social media,
Tracy Tsao (18:59):
Three main ways to contact me. Uh, you can contact me through my website, traineeandme.co.uk. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, um, Tracy Tsao, and you can reach out to me through Instagram, uh, trainee and me.
Rob Hanna (19:14):
Well, I’d just like to say on behalf of all of us on the legally speaking podcast, thanks a million Tracy. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the show, learning more about your journey. It’s truly inspiring. So we’re wishing you lots of continued success with your training contract and various other initiatives, but from all of us for now over and out.
Tracy Tsao (19:31):
Thank you very much.
Rob Hanna (19:33):
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast. If you enjoyed the show and want to help support us, remember to leave us a rating and review on Apple iTunes, you can also support the show and gain exclusive benefits bonus content, uh, much more by signing up to our Patrion page, which is www.patreon.com/legallyspeakingpodcast. Thanks for listening.