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Printers, Stupid Questions and First Impressions: My First Week at DLA Piper

What the…?

How do I…?

How does paper even get there…?

I'm stood at a printer on my first day. It has more flashing lights than the Starship Enterprise, probably costs more, and currently has paper jammed in places which, frankly, defy all common sense and most of physics too. 

Maybe I should backtrack a little.

My name is Cameron, and I'm a first year trainee at DLA Piper Sheffield. After two spectacular weeks of induction in London (I'm saving those for a slow week, plus it takes a while to get clearance from Dominique to tell you about them), this is my first week in the office for real. After a half day of induction into IT and general housekeeping, I've just come down to my new department (Safety, Health and Environment - 'SHE'), and just volunteered to do some printing. Printing is easy, right? A good way to make first impressions?

Oh, how little I knew.

Long, long story short, it took me hours and earning a PhD in printer engineering to finally clear the blockage - note to self, do not print in A3 if you know what's good for you. I suppose the moral of the little nightmare above is that everyone, no matter how well prepared they think they are for their first day, has silly questions and crazy moments of something approaching idiocy.

But that’s okay! 

My first week I wasn't that up to speed on IT, time management was totally alien to me and I was an amateur at the legal issues I was being asked to cover. But here's the thing - all of that is exactly how the people I work with felt on their first day. I fixed the printer myself (I have the diploma to prove it), but I could have asked for help. Now obviously this is qualified by who you ask: for a partner or a senior associate it's been a while since they were quite that useless, so they'll probably chuckle and leave you to it a bit. But associates and other trainees do remember their first day, and more often than not they'll smile at your dumb questions and gently point you to the article you should have read a week ago which quickly fixes everything.

The other resource in this strange new office world you live in is the secretaries - as a tip, make friends now and quickly. They are the ones who will save you when an email mysteriously vanishes, or you need a matter number without any information, or any one of a range of other tricky points. Your secretary team will steer you through the worst of the 'new kid' moments with minimal fuss and noise.

First days, and indeed first weeks, are scary; I'm not ashamed to admit that I was hours early to my first day. But if I've learned one thing in my first week (I swear I've learned loads more, it's a figure of speech!), it's that everyone has them. That sounds obvious and possibly like working life is steadily sending me crazy, but the thing which settled me into working here most of all was when the lawyer I'm sat with laughed and said 'ah it's okay mate, we've all had days like this'. If I had to pick a favourite thing about working here at DLA, and I'm glad I don't, it's that the culture here isn't kill or be killed, or survival of the fittest or any other macho fight metaphor you choose to name. It's about settling you in, being friendly and getting you in the best position to do your job well. That's pretty great, especially when you may have just broken a billion pound printer!


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