Lucy Parker is a solicitor at Ramsdens Solicitors LLP who qualified in 2018 as a legal aid solicitor and blogged for us. Now she is looking back over the last twelve months and considers some of the important lessons.
Almost a year ago, I qualified as a legal aid Child Care solicitor. Qualifying as a solicitor was a huge achievement for me. It took me almost ten years from University to being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors.
I consider some of the important lessons I have learnt along the way. Importantly, I ask myself is it still worth it?
Many of my peers said I would experience imposter syndrome for a good few months into qualification. I certainly encountered this.
You suddenly find yourself thrown in the deep end and fully responsible for your case load. I found myself questioning simple things that I probably wouldn't have whilst I was a Trainee Solicitor. I was so conscious of making the right decisions for my clients that this led to me questioning myself and my abilities.
On reflection, imposter syndrome is entirely normal and is perhaps a good thing. Over confidence can be dangerous and my view of "if in doubt - check" remains to this date. I am slowly, but surely, gaining confidence (not over confidence!) It is perhaps a cliché but every day really is a learning day at the office!
Support is key!
I am lucky to work in a team full of very experienced staff who are all more than willing to support me. Without the team I have around me, I wouldn't be where I am today. In my department, there's no such thing as a "silly" question. I am able to talk things through with colleagues and I can say with confidence that I know my team has my back.
Expect the unexpected
Legal aid work is tough. Child Care proceedings turn a parent's life upside down. You can be under the false apprehension that everything is going smoothly in a case before the entire factual matrix is turned on its head. You have to have the ability to adapt and ultimately react to a sudden change in a parent's circumstances. This includes hearings listed at less than an hour's notice! You need to be able to demonstrate outwardly that you in are in control even if in reality you are paddling rapidly underwater!
Resilience is something I work on every day – I can't say I have perfected this yet! Representing parents whose children have been removed from their care can be emotionally tough. For many parents, I may be the only person they talk to. They often have no family, no friends and often have deep seated issues stemming from their own childhoods.
Some days, you carry that emotion home with you. I have found it really important to have an outlet and time to "switch off" from work otherwise it becomes all-consuming.
Is it still worth it?
Child Care Law is so important, we represent some of the most vulnerable members of society and as solicitors and barristers, we all work incredibly hard for our clients. Undoubtedly, there are parts of the job that are frustrating; the cuts to legal aid, the pressures upon the Court system and the significant cuts to Local Authority resources for families. With the current uncertainty in the economy, I cannot say with any great confident that this situation will improve for families in the short term. All I can do as a Legal Aid solicitor is continue to strive for the best possible outcomes for the parents I represent.
There are, of course, days when I question my choice to become a solicitor. I do not seek to create a picture of pure bliss. It is a tough job, in a very challenging area of the law. Ultimately, however, I love fighting for the rights of parents and their families – it is worth it.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
Read Lucy's blog on: Take a holiday, avoid sunburn and burnout: tips from a trainee solicitor
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