Following the anniversary of first being in lockdown, I wanted to reflect on the last year of my training contract (which has largely been at home) and review how my supervisors and I have worked together to continue to advance my required skills and focus on my informal skill learning, self-management and overall well-being.
This was prompted by Fiona du Feu of The Law Society who has looked at the difficulties trainees have faced over the last year in ensuring they still learn the required skills to become a competent solicitor after the shift and removal of an office-based training contract to a predominantly home-based training contract (https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/blogs/keeping-close-supervising-and-mentoring-trainees-remotely). Fiona focuses on some of the practical difficulties and how both supervisors and trainees could work together to overcome these.
Firstly, Fiona starts by mentioning those 'informal soft skills' which, when based in the office, are built naturally everyday by actively sitting near colleagues to listen in on phone calls and/or sitting in on client meetings. Being in lockdown completely removed these informal exchanges of information. My supervisors made sure to replicate those meetings and calls by scheduling video calls and frequent catch-up calls, all of which I was included on. This, in turn, not only imitated that informal exchange of information, but pushed me that step further to have the opportunity to have more face-to-face time with the clients, allowing them to get to know me and come directly to me more often. Out of this, my supervisors have encouraged me to lead parts of the calls and answer questions presented by the clients and this support and encouragement has notably refined and developed my communication and client management skills.
Secondly, Fiona touched on post-pandemic life (which I hope is coming sooner rather than later!) and ensuring trainees' growth of self-management skills are continued, focusing on managing our days in respect of deadlines, meetings, completion priorities and unexpected interruptions. I think my cohort of trainees are 'special' because of the rapid development of flexibility and adaptability skills in such a short period of time. Personally, lockdown alone has allowed me to improve these skills by taking responsibility for my own learning and workload and ensuring my supervisors are fully aware of what I am doing so they can equally plan their day. Fiona's article notes that she often sees trainees 'spoon fed'. However, my supervisors have gone above and beyond to make me feel and become self-sufficient by continuing to give me more responsibility each day and constantly looking for opportunities to advance my learning. Due to this continuing support, my developed (and developing) self-management skills allow my supervisors to be able to give me work at a level that challenges me and further develops my competence - quite the opposite of being spoon fed!
The last point of Fiona's article I wanted to touch on was wellbeing - physical and mental. Wellbeing has definitely been at the forefront of everyone's mind at PDT, as well as the rest of the country's, during this last year. Being away from the camaraderie of the office, it can be difficult to feel supported and connected, but PDT quickly recognised this and strived to ensure that no-one felt this way. In fact, I have managed to have more uninterrupted personal face time with my supervisors to review work and have those general catch ups that are missing from the office day to make certain I am not working 'alone' at home. The proactive management of the firm has meant our team meetings are kept fun, light and encouraging to all, which creates a safe and performance enhancing mindset.
Although we are starting to move back into the office again a few days a week as restrictions ease, I know these skills and the positive attitude that I have gained over the last year will stand me in good stead as my career progresses and I approach qualification in September 2021 and I have PDT to thank for that.
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