Qualifying as a solicitor takes a lot of time. It demands fortitude, hard work and in my case some late nights in trying to juggle my degree and working for my father-in-law who was the local undertaker.
Looking back, like a lot of our ritualised education practices, I do question whether the course was as focused as it could have been. Knowing what I know now, a lot of the material was irrelevant and without much purpose although that said I would not change anything.
However, in demanding that amount of time it felt (highly) valuable and in my case satisfied my need to help others – I spent a year in the Free Representation Unit and dealt with a whole multitude of cases, including a 3-day employment tribunal case where Counsel was on the other side (he is now a QC).
Little did I imagine when I went into practice that all of that learning appeared to count for so little. In the end I felt that I had gone back to the time I was in recruitment where the sole basis of success was judged by how much I could bill.
Now I would be the first person to accept that running a legal practice is no different from any other business but more emphasis should be placed on other aspects of what people bring to the party:
- Client handling skills;
- Helping other colleagues;
- Training to become more of an all rounder;
- Considering the strategic direction of the department;
- Developing mentoring relationships.
This is not so that people can shirk their fee earning duties but just so that they feel valued for other things. In the end with too much emphasis on billing it just brings about dicontentment and frustration and in far too many instances, people feel bound into the profession for the money and not much else.