Proctor : September 2019
18 PROCTOR | September 2019 Eleanor Sondergeld is a Queensland Law Society junior legal professional development executive. Notes 1 By Peter Capelli, the Director of The Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources. 2 washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/ wp/2014/09/05/what-employers-really-want-workers- they-dont-have-to-train/?utm_term=.71b5fbf8073b. 3 I was inspired in regard to this by Stephen Scheeler’s keynote address on breaking the mould at QLS Symposium 2019. If my years at university taught me anything (and I absolutely include myself in this cohort), it’s that those who choose to make the law their profession are often not particularly comfortable with making mistakes, or admitting there might be something they don’t know. There is a separate conversation to be had about the value of embracing uncertainty and creating spaces where making mistakes is encouraged to drive innovation.3 Extending you skillset, or improving your competence in day-to-day tasks, can make a meaningful and positive difference to your confidence at work. I think there are two key ways junior practitioners can take control of their professional development in this regard. Looking up You should receive training to be able to complete tasks that are a part of your current role. However, if you want to get ahead and learn skills that are outside of this, it can be harder to justify to yourself, your colleagues or your employer the investment in time and/or resources for training in a skill that is not strictly necessary for your role. Upskilling is often put in the ‘nice to have’ basket and is not always considered an essential part of training, but a simple way to build this into you day might be to ask if you can assist a colleague with a discrete part of a matter, or offering to take notes in client meeting. Sink or swim? BY ELEANOR SONDERGELD Life is full of moments where we feel thrown into the deep end without a life-vest. There is a particularly high concentration of such moments in the first few years of legal practice. In rapid succession, we move from university to practical legal training (PLT), to practice. Finally, one day we wake up after admission to find the ‘graduate’ in ‘graduate lawyer’, has disappeared from our email signature. At this moment, the excitement of progress pulls us back down to earth with the weight of expectation that new responsibility brings. You do know what you’re doing now...right? I regularly hear from my peers (junior practitioners and graduates) that gaining enough practical training and ‘on the job’ guidance can be a challenge. While it might be argued that every generation has faced this challenge when entering the profession, research has shown that organisations provide substantially less training then they used to. A United States study1 found that, on average, new workers in 1979 received 2.5 weeks of formal training annually, while by 1995 this had dropped to 11 hours. 2 We can only guess what it has dropped to now. This training deficit can be compounded by feelings of embarrassment to ask questions, or we may have been told that the only way to learn is by making mistakes. Looking out It goes without saying that the most valuable educational resource you have may be your colleague, sitting across from you. However, there is often great value in looking outside your firm to gain perspective on what else is happening in the legal landscape. Joining professional organisations, attending events or pursuing further study are all options to expand your knowledge horizons. I have it on good authority that even when your email signature says ‘partner’, the feeling that maybe you might be in over your head continues to rise to the surface every now and then. No matter where you are in your practice, or your experience level, there are a great range of resources offered by Queensland Law Society. So the next time you feel out of your depth have a look at our on-demand library (qls.com.au/on-demand), upcoming events, or let us know how we can help with your professional development needs by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.