Lessons learned since qualifying…
1 October 2019 by Lisa O'Boyle
I qualified recently in January 2019 and I am working in the family law team. My feelings about qualifying were a mixture of excitement and fear. I was excited to have my own clients and develop my own working methods but I was terrified that I would make mistakes, not be good enough for the job or do something wrong. I thought it might be useful to share the 4 lessons I have learnt since qualifying. It would be useful to find out what other young lawyers have learnt so please feel free to share and discuss your own experiences…
- I still have so much more to learn…
Even though I am now qualified and have all the required qualifications, I am still learning new things every day.
Some days feel manic and too busy, but I always try to take the time to pick up the Red Book or browse PLC to check the law. Even when I think I know the answer, I try to refer back to the wording of the law. Early in my career is the best time to try a forge good habits and good practice.
What I find most difficult is that, in family law, the outcome of the case will largely depend on facts. Advice to the client will often be practical, common sense advice and outcomes vary from case to case. Without
decades of experience, I am finding it difficult to predict outcomes and advise clients. This leads me to the second thing I have learnt.
- Discussing work, matters and cases with colleagues is a must.
Experience is not something that books or university qualifications can teach. It comes with practice and it comes with time. It is a challenge and I am still learning to be patient with myself.
In the meantime, I rely and learn from my colleagues’ experiences. Discussing my work and cases with
colleagues, who have the decades of experience I lack, is essential. It prevents me from making mistakes, it guides me in the right directions when I am not sure what to do, and it reassures me or makes me feel more confident in my work.
Sometimes it may feel like colleagues do not have enough time but I know that they would much prefer that I take the time to ask questions and discuss uncertainties instead of doing something wrong.
- Can do attitude
I have found that the added responsibilities that come with qualifying have taken me out of my comfort zone. It is daunting to take on new challenges and find myself in situations that I have never been in before. By adopting a can-do attitude, telling myself I can do this and just throwing myself in the deep end, I usually discover that can-do more than I thought. The key is preparation, research, precedents, consult colleagues, and learn from my experiences. Having a can do attitude allows me to build up my personal experience with the hope that, next time, I will know what to do in a similar situation.
- Enjoy the process of learning and celebrate successes
It is important not to solely focus on the outcome but to also enjoy the journey of learning. In family law,
successes are not entirely dependent on your abilities as a lawyer. Whether a case is a success or not will also depend on your client, the judge, the other side, other experts involved in the case, and other external
factors. When there is a good outcome it is important to celebrate. Even if there is not a good outcome I can still find comfort in the fact that I have tried my absolute best and that I can learn from this experience.
To sum up, qualifying comes with its many challenges but with the right attitude and the right support these challenges can be overcome. I find that all this hard work is worth it because my job is interesting, I work with great people and it is rewarding to know that I am helping people at the most difficult time in their lives.
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