Monday, November 23, 2009

More money, less proofreading - Legalweek


More money, less proofreading - Legalweek



Stephenson Harwood solicitor Rabia Younus on the transformation from trainee to qualified lawyer
Many of you will have recently received the long-awaited, extremely valuable (and very expensive!) piece of paper known as a practising certificate - proof that you are finally qualified to practise as a solicitor. However, if you were expecting some earthshaking feeling or sudden enlightenment on the mysterious and murky depths of the law, I am afraid you'll have been disappointed. What you will progressively sense, though, is the subtle yet significant transformation of your role within your firm. I qualified in the commercial litigation group at Stephenson Harwood in March this year. Seven months' post-qualification, and the differences between life as a trainee and a newly-qualified solicitor (NQ) are becoming increasingly apparent.
Am I now expected to run matters on my own?
No is the short answer. Nor will you suddenly be expected to know all the answers. In fact, it's likely that you will have almost the same level of supervision as a trainee. You will, however, be expected to be more proactive. Gone are those days as a trainee when you waited for instructions from your supervisor; partners will now expect you to take active steps without being prompted - for example, preparing a draft response to a client query, suggesting a solution to a problem or proposing the next steps in a matter.
A striking difference between life as a trainee and an NQ is the sudden leap in responsibility. Tasks which are not usually entrusted to trainees like conducting meetings on your own, liaising directly with clients, reviewing and commenting on agreements and preparing bills, may now fall upon you. You may also find that partners will rely on you to remember deadlines. As you can no longer hide behind the trainee card if things go wrong, you must be organised, think ahead and, most importantly, diarise deadlines.
What practical changes should I be aware of?
One of the main added pressures of qualification is hourly billing targets. Most firms have informal targets for trainees, but upon qualification these will now become official and be used as part of your assessments and possibly be linked to a bonus scheme. Consequently, it is important that you demonstrate enthusiasm to take on as much work as you can manage and that you record time accurately and efficiently.
A further practical change is continuing professional development (CPD). In order to renew your practising certificate each year, you must attend enough accredited courses and events or engage in accredited activity to accumulate the requisite number of CPD points by the end of the CPD year.
Do I need to bring in clients now that I am qualified?
Not exactly, but you may be expected to start engaging in more business development. This may mean attending more client drinks and seminars to work on your networking skills, or you may go a little further and organise a networking event yourself.
What are the perks of being qualified?
While the increased responsibility may seem a little frightening, it goes hand in hand with more interesting work. A bonus of qualification is that you can finally delegate jobs such as bundling and proofreading to trainees and paralegals, leaving you with time to get stuck into the juicier work.
Once qualified, it is important that you start to delegate work. Naturally, you will find this difficult at first as you may be delegating to someone who is only six months your junior or someone who you are friends with, but it's important - not only so that you can concentrate on fee earning tasks, but also because your clients will not be happy if they are being charged at your newly qualified rate for non fee earning tasks.
Lastly, you will notice a nice little increase in your salary that should make all this extra work and responsibility a little less of a burden.
Rabia Younus is an assistant solicitor at Stephenson Harwood

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