The Frankenstein Solicitor
This article was first published in Solicitors Journal on 22 July 2014 and is reproduced by kind permission (www.solicitorsjournal.com)
There are lots of professions where training requires rotation between different practice areas and being a trainee solicitor is no different. The practice of rotation is designed to facilitate trainees getting the most from their training contract, maximising our exposure and therefore (hopefully!) producing a more 'rounded' solicitor. In its basest sense, rotation between departments envisages trainees gaining solid legal knowhow from each of their seats which will give them an over-arching foundation of legal knowledge. In reality, what you actually gain from rotation is much more subtle and less easily identifiable than simply legal expertise.
At first, moving around can feel highly unsettling and much of my early writing about my trainee experience reflects that fear born of having to be the 'new kid' again every six months. However, reading back through my various pieces, I can see a progression, even in a two year period, as I have started to take the shape of what hopefully now vaguely resembles a junior solicitor. I know that this progression (both personal and professional) is still very much in its infancy, but I also believe that the years to come will not bring the same, almost vertical, degree of change that has taken place during my "formative years" as a trainee.
As a trainee I feel that you should strive to be the most effective sponge that you can be, sucking knowhow from your colleagues at every available opportunity. Rotation increases these opportunities as trainee solicitors are exposed not just to new areas of law, but to a whole tranche of new solicitors, their working practices and, perhaps most importantly, other people's reactions to them! So, whilst on the face of things rotation is designed to tick SRA requirements regarding trainees' knowledge; it is not just legal knowhow that we are exposed to and that we learn from.
My first supervisor's email sign off was always "kind regards" and so since I started training it has been mine and now always will be. Had I had a different supervisor this may not have been the case. While I appreciate that how you sign off your emails is not the most ground-breaking or defining aspect of a solicitor, this example triggered me to wonder what other traits I had subconsciously picked up along the way. The behaviours that you absorb vary from simple stylistic traits, such as above, to more integral practices, such as filing or billing.
Invariably, what works perfectly for one person, will not always translate smoothly for someone else. In fact, what could be seen by some as an impossible way to operate could equally be the only manageable way for others. As trainees, exposure to people's diverse methods is constant and, as a result, we are in an incredibly fortunate position to be able to 'cherry pick' the traits we wish to discard and learn accordingly.
So, while planning, commercial property, family and commercial law have moulded me as a solicitor, the mishmash of all the other components it takes to be a practising solicitor have been pieced together from my colleagues. The result is hopefully less monstrous than Frankenstein's stitched together creation… and more akin to a competent junior solicitor. If it is done correctly, you should emerge at the other end a product of people, not just processes.