‘My supervisor isn’t giving me work’

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By Legal Cheek on


Trainee needs help

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one fresh-faced trainee solicitor finds themselves with time of their hands.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I’ve got a career conundrum as follows: my supervisor isn’t give me anything to do. For context, I am not long into my training contract with a medium sized national law firm and currently sit in the employment team. On occasions 2/3 days can pass without her even emailing! I’m trying to be pro-active and asking if I can help with anything, but she nearly always says no. What the hell can I do?!”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.



It’s good that you’re being proactive, if anything I would advise you to pick up the phone to your senior. In my experience of conversations like this with Partners/Senior Associates, if you actually tell them “I have nothing to do at present, full capacity to assist”, it tends to spark more of a reaction than being softer with it and saying something like “I’ve got a few things to be getting on with, please let me know if I can help with anything”. If that still doesn’t change anything, just try to enjoy the downtime as it won’t be quiet forever.


the question you first of all have to ask is whether your supervisor and the employment team you sat in are generally busy. If they are not, it is natural that as a trainee, you will have even quieter days than normal. If however the team/supervisor are busy, but you are not being given work, this may indicate something relating to your performance or lack of.

Worth identifying which it is and if the latter, then think about having a discussion with your supervisor on this, given you are a first seat trainee, and see where there are any areas for improvement.

Old Guy

I agree with your comment, but isn’t it sad how trainees won’t be told their work isn’t good enough and helped to improve. The approach in this country seems to be to just avoid the trainee and stop giving them work, rather than try to help them get better. Quite sad.


“my supervisor ins’t give me anything to do”? [sic]

It is great that you are being proactive, but you need to widen the funnel. Ask your supervisor for some face to face feedback, and how they see the rest of your seat playing out. Not least, document the fact that you are regularly asking for work.

If you are a member of a larger team, get to know the others. Not just by email or by phone, but physically meet them. Check with your supervisor that there is anything for you to do first, and then ask the partners and more senior associates if there is anything you can help with. Research, creating BD materials, reviewing precedents, whatever. Perhaps this is a quiet time, but there must be something.

If not, there are probably some tasks that you could do for people outside your team – perhaps helping your fellow trainees in other teams – but again check with your supervisor first.

If this continues, speak to the head of the team or the department if that is not your supervisor, or someone in the HR team. It is bad for you and for the firm if you don’t have things to do.

At some point, someone is going to ask why your chargeable time is low, so you need to get on the front foot. It is your career, so take charge. Don’t wait for it to happen to you.


I like how you attempted to do a copy / paste to point our their error (and then [sic] it) and in doing so somehow managed to mess up the copy / paste.

Excellent job lol…


Lol. It was a copy-paste of the text as it then stood. LC have form for silently fixing errors, in this case a small typo, but (to my eyes at least – in some registers of English perhaps it would be ok) a grammatical one remains.

“my supervisor isn’t give me anything to do”


Email your group mailing list for the team/department and volunteer saying you have capacity

Archibald O'Pomposity

You must, having considered the approaches suggested above, consider whether your work so far has been of sufficient quality. There will always be donkey work to push down.

Free money enjoyer

Enjoy it

STB associate

If you want to work hard and make a killing, you need to dust off that CV asap and move to a quality US firm like STB \ the ‘land.

Anonymous trainee desperate for their next fix of billable time

A fellow trainee in a similar position but in a corporate seat.

Simply put – I will have multiple days a week without any work. I routinely ask the team for work and state that I have capacity.

On the rare occasion I will be thrown a bone but most of the time I’m left to faff about.

I am like a starved rat scurrying for the slightest bit of work and then nibbling the scraps in a corner – trying to make the simplest of tasks last as long as possible.

Furthermore, there is encouragement to be in the office and it is excruciating to be sat at a desk for hours on end with no work to do.


Do what must be done


Do what must be done

Girl Misunderstood

I find this as well and I can’t really understand it because why am I in the office wasting my own time if you have nothing for me to do?

Junior Leachman

My question to you is, how long have you been with this law firm as a first seat trainee? If you are there for less than 2 or 3 months, you would not get any heavy legal task to do just as yet? Maybe your supervisor is just feeling you out to find out what type of person you are by testing your tolerance and patience level. NB, you did not say for how long you have been with the firm for as trainee. I suggest that you to do some legal research in the meantime base on the areas of law that you would like to be signed off on at the end of your training contract. You can also try to entertain your supervisor with hot legal tops. You can also draft two opening arguments one for the claimant and one for the defendant and asked your supervisor for a feedback on both. Member, you are a lawyer in waiting, you must make the moments count.


In McDonalds, “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”. In the legal world, if you have free time, get on LinkedIn and profile build! Make connections, see how the real world works, learn new cases… Every second of free time should be used for personal development.


That’s why I don’t want to work in a law company ( they are all so fake, talk nicely ), but after they throw you under the bus to fend for yourself. Get yourself out of there as soon as you can !!

Barney the tree

Why are you here then?

Barney the Chair



Fend for yourself? It’s not an infantry posting to the western front. Write something for the new law journal or solicitors journal, one that takes relatively light pieces from juniors.

Try to identify a problem on a file and write an article about that.


Sorry that’s really unprofessional of her and Impacts your skill and training development I would inform HR and cc her manager. She might have something against you. Employment law world always has work.


Sorry, I’ve been there. Podcasts in office hours helps, pro bono… try and stay stimulated.

Poor management

Kirkland NQ

The answer is pretty simple. Get a few Lambo brochures, and spend your time in the office casually leafing through, asking colleagues for opinions on leather trim options. They will immediately know you are a player and you will be inundated with work.

L&D Lead

If speaking to your supervisor directly does not help, I would suggest speaking to your Training Principal (if the Firm still has one) or your L&D person…

Old timer

Sounds like that firm needs to review its training programme supervision and monitoring. It’s meant to be structured purposive training which improves the trainees initially limited skills whilst getting value for money from the trainees contribution. If they can’t do that they should not be nor allowed to be training future solicitors

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