Growing Young PI Lawyers
22nd Apr 2016
No I’m not going to take you through a step-by-step ‘birds and the bees’ type discussion on how we can genetically influence the birth of children such that they are destined to grow up as young personal injury lawyers.
It is clear that law schools are pumping out more and more lawyers every year. In 2012, the total number of law graduates reached 12,742 up from 6,149 in 2001 – an increase of 107%.
Many of us look at these law students now and think back to those years spent racking up hours of reading, making case notes, and preparing for exams. Perhaps we wonder if they really know what they are getting themselves into. I know I do.
Twenty plus years on as a personal injury lawyer, and after 18 years as a Principal/Director of my own firm I have seen many changes in the progression of the ‘law student’ and the development of the young PI lawyer.
I undertook my law degree as an external student via articles of clerkship over five long years of full-time work and very part-time (my parents would argue no time rather than part time) external study. I’ve since employed articled clerks, law students, law clerks, and had the pleasure of indenturing one of the last ever five-year articled clerks in Queensland.
To this day, it is still my very strong view that this form of entry into the profession (via an extended period of practical on the job training) is by far the best for the student. Such an option offers the best of both worlds: practical experience in personal injury practices, and expert academic tuition at one of our law faculties.
Putting all of that to one side, each and every law graduate comes to the profession as a young lawyer needing much in the way of experience and growth before they can truly offer skill and expertise in providing advice in any area of the law.
How do we as experienced lawyers assist these young graduates grow into young independent personal injury lawyers?
Over my years of working with young lawyers in my PI practice, I have developed a few principles that I find extremely helpful in my day-to-day dealings with my team:
- Always Have An Open Door
- It’s imperative that the lawyer knows that they can approach you;
- Whatever the issue, whenever the time, if they know they can always come to you and bounce a question, address an issue, or simply ask a silly question, it goes a long way to making them feel comfortable;
- It also clears blockages, in that the lawyer won’t park a job waiting for the time to be right to ask the question, hence they can adopt a ‘one touch’ approach to managing their work and address and deal with an issue immediately.
- Empower other Senior PI Lawyers
- Adopt a united approach to tutoring a young PI lawyer across all senior lawyers in your firm;
- There will be times when you are not available, and making sure the young lawyer knows she/he can go to other senior members of the team in these instances again frees up production, and ensures that they are able to get on with the work they are doing;
- Ensure other senior lawyers are aware and willing to assist and that a consistent approach is adopted; and
- A shared load is a more manageable load, and diversity of opinion from a range of practitioners is healthy in a firm.
- Be Patient
- Following and adhering to the above is great, BUT it is useless if you don’t then give the lawyer the time to get what he/she needs out of the interaction; and
- Put to one side the pressures you have to deal with in terms of what you yourself are trying to achieve and focus your attention on the needs of the lawyer.
- Regular Scheduled/Diarised Meetings
- Organise and keep a fortnightly or monthly meeting with each lawyer/or student;
- This meeting gives them the comfort of knowing that at the very least they will be able to get you to themselves to discuss any issue that may be confronting them with the PI files they are working on;
- Set an agenda for the meeting with specific files to address and discuss;
- Or let the lawyer set the agenda with specific things that they would like to achieve in the meeting, specific types of matters they’d like to discuss, particular stages of certain cases.
In my opinion, the more you give in terms of your time, the more the PI lawyer gets in terms of experience and growth —and the more you collectively get in terms of firm culture, return on investment and improved team spirit.
It is a win-win situation!
Faran Gouldson is the sole Director of Gouldson Legal – a Queensland personal injury plaintiff litigation firm, which commenced in late 1998. He has over 20 years’ experience in Queensland personal injury law and understands the challenges that clients face when approaching compensation claims. Faran has worked with thousands of injured Queenslanders in his time and predominately now specialises in especially complex and catastrophic claims.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).