Solicitors Journal

Work experience extends beyond tea-making

5970248990_abb0938b30_oSummer is here and, like many firms, we have been hosting work experience and vacation scheme students for the past few weeks.

You can spot them by their black suits, typically wide-eyed youthfulness, and a willingness to help out with just about anything. ‘Photocopying? There’s nothing I enjoy more. And pagination, too? Oh, you spoil me with your trust in my abilities.’ Of course, a week or two in a legal office can only give an abstract and somewhat vague glimpse into the work that goes on every day in legal firms, in-house teams, and local government.

The Law Society’s move last week to fight for the protection of the training contract as the preferred route to qualification may not be universally welcomed – not least by the tens of thousands of aspiring solicitors struggling to secure practical training. The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Training for Tomorrow review is likely to be revisited before any steps are taken to change the qualification process in light of the comments from practitioners.

I was reminded of my own early experiences of legal practice this week when I re-established a relationship with a partner from a firm back home whom I spent many months visiting over the course of my secondary school and university years. After such a long time, more than half my lifetime ago, it was interesting to think back to how much I was influenced by those who took an interest in me. A few visits to court, sitting in on the occasional client meeting, and a lot of tea-making instilled in me a passion for the law (and Yorkshire Tea). Such was the strength of that passion that it still drives me today when presented with an opportunity to shape the careers of future lawyers.

It’s easy to concentrate on your own matters, clients, and billable hours, and leave the supervision of students to someone else. But finding time for a chat during a quick break or taking them along on a visit to court can make all the difference.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone will be inspired by your devotion to your clients and your career, but some of it might rub off and plant a seed which will grow into the next generation of litigators, mediators, advisers, and, who knows, partners and judges. You might never get to see the return on that investment of time and consideration, but sometimes you just might. It’s a good thing to do, regardless.

Although it’s impossible to spend time with and pass on your words of experience and advice to everyone, any additional effort will most likely be appreciated. I took the opportunity to present a tour of the Supreme Court to the students. It may not have been the enlightening lesson in constitutional law that some were hoping for, though it did raise some interesting questions and discussion, not least about the lack of diversity of the justices, which was not reflected in the tour group.

As a profession, we know that there are many obstacles already in our way to delivering justice for our clients, whether in the commercial, civil, or criminal courts. Many of the hurdles that will stand in the way of the next generation of lawyers are probably not yet known or even anticipated, but it’s in our interests, and the interests of justice and the rule of law, to give them the best chances to succeed and to flourish.

This article first appeared in the Solicitors Journal and is reproduced with kind permission

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30545082@N00/5970248990″>Chai</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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