Our students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences in Student Law Office. We believe that reflection is what turns experience into learning, and we are keen to develop our students as ‘reflective practitioners’. In this blog post, Katie reflects on her experience of reflection so far.
As with any career, personal development is a key aspect of the legal profession. Reflection allows lawyers to analyse their experiences and improve their practice. Whilst students in the Student Law Office may find the prospect of writing formal reflections daunting, the benefits of doing so greatly outweigh temporary fears.
Whether it be spontaneous or retrospective, reflection allows us as lawyers to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Once we start looking at everything we do with a contextual and critical eye, soon we are able to question what went wrong, what went right, or what could have been done to obtain a better outcome. Did I not plan enough? Was I unprepared and caught off-guard? Did I plan too much? Was I inflexible and not adapting to the client’s needs?
Talking to others
Reflection does not have to be a sole activity, especially at the start of your legal career. Whilst it is important to be able to analyse your own experiences, it is also beneficial to bounce ideas off your peers. Have they done something that you did not? Would you have approached something differently? How was their outcome different to yours? Reflection is all about learning from a variety of situations so you can deal with and adapt to unfamiliar scenarios in the future. Consulting with others simply broadens that pool of experience.
Reflecting as a group can also stretch the boundaries of your own beliefs. Alternative opinions will challenge your own thinking and values. It can introduce you to methods of practice that you had never considered before and also promote tolerance and empathy. For example, speaking to a peer about different experiences could provide insight into a client’s behaviour. Where you might have thought a client was acting unreasonably, a colleague may be able to help you consider their position from a different perspective. This is especially important in a time of constant cultural change.
How does it benefit our careers?
Reflection is something we will be expected to do all through our legal careers. Starting early in the Student Law Office means we are able to develop these skills and step into a firm ahead of the game. Not only that, but by nurturing our ability to reflect we are able to take so much more away from university. There are countless opportunities for self-improvement during higher education that would go unnoticed if we did not take time to reflect on them. Being reflective practitioners teaches persistence and hones our ability to think on our feet. Over time we establish strategies of dealing with the unexpected, utilising our range of legal skills, and evaluating alternative methods to produce better results. Reflection is an ongoing process; a constant mission for self-improvement. Working in the Student Law Office facilitates our personal growth and ensures that we are the choice candidates when seeking legal employment.
This blog post was written by Katie Hutchinson, a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University. After graduation, Katie hopes to secure a training contract in a commercial law firm and enjoys skiing, art and fashion in her spare time.