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Mentoring is the key to combatting the skill shortage of lawyers in training, says senior lawyer.

While babysitting is hardly what you expect when signing up to a legal career, according to lawyer and author Chris Hargreaves, the skill shortage in less experienced lawyers means that the role of a teacher has become just another task for senior lawyers to juggle.  

“The reality is that most senior lawyers, like everyone else in the profession, they became lawyers because they wanted to be lawyers, not because they wanted to be teachers,” he said.  “I think it’s an obligation we have to accept.  There is no other person who can teach a young lawyer how to be a lawyer except a lawyer who’s been doing it longer.”

Hargreaves, who wrote a book of practical tips for lawyers entering the profession, is a senior associate at McInnes Wilson Lawyers in Brisbane and now runs a website and podcast aimed at upskilling young lawyers, Tips for Lawyers.  

“There is an expectation that partners will be responsible for rain making and bringing in work, supervising work, having astute legal knowledge and simultaneously growing their groups and building up their junior staff,” he said.  

While senior lawyers are often juggling many roles and don’t always have the time to be upskilling, Hargreaves insists that many junior lawyers are seriously under skilled when it comes to transitioning from law school into the profession, with many struggling to communicate effectively to clients.  

He said that often junior lawyers are not well practiced in client care, networking or focussed on continuing their professional growth.  

“It seems ridiculous that after four or five years of uni and then six to twelve months of practical legal training you’ve still got a lot to learn but the reality is you do,” he said.  “As with anyone when they get into a new job, they have a lot to learn, that’s the reality of it.”

 

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