Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Trust the Process

I entered the Summer Student program with enthusiasm and a hint of trepidation. How will I fare? Will I be able to meet what are no doubt high expectations? These and many other concerns can become all-consuming in and out of the workplace. As law students, each new experience in our legal education brings new stressors, but they also bring opportunity. This blog post is a reminder for me (and perhaps a few readers) to be intentional in my work and to continue to look for opportunities to learn. In short, I’m trying to be mindful.

Exactly what is mindfulness and how can I apply it to my summer experience?

To counteract the stresses of life, we are regularly urged to “be in the moment.” Exactly what is mindfulness and how can I apply it to my summer experience?

Trust the Experts

I believe that it starts with trusting the experts – trusting that many successful lawyers have walked this path and that our mentors are eager to help us make the most of our summer experience.

Trust Ourselves

Then we must learn to trust ourselves – trust that we will work hard, and we will meet expectations. One lawyer I have worked with quite a bit over the last few weeks mentors us Socratically (a teaching style most readers will be familiar with from law school, no doubt). Instead of answering my questions right off the bat, the lawyer will ask me to try to answer my own question. More often than not, I do know the answer. This lawyer’s mentorship style has made me more confident in my own abilities.

Trust the Process

Next, we must trust “the process.” The practice of summering allows us to gain invaluable practical experience as we are mentored and guided while actively engaged in the practice of law. One month into the job and I have carriage of my own files! Along with many other one-off tasks from various assigning lawyers, I will see a file from its infancy through to the investigative stage, onto the pleadings stage, and beyond. Under lawyer supervision, I will communicate directly with clients and opposing counsel to move the files along. It is amazing how quickly we learn by doing.

Finally, we must trust that taking time away from the office to gather interesting experiences is time well spent. Seek out opportunities to shadow lawyers as they conduct examinations for discovery, participate in mediations and settlement conferences, and appear in court. While it is paramount to meet work deadlines, it is often possible to finish your assigned task at the office and still go on a field trip. As my mentor said, soon enough we will have a great deal more responsibility and far less time to spend away from our own files. I have found that by going on these sorts of field trips, I am better able to understand the human aspect of the file. Meeting our clients, the opposing parties, the opposing parties’ counsel, and mediators is always insightful. In what is an adversarial process, we are able to find common ground and build relationships.

When we undergo a transformation – be it training for a marathon, taking a big risk, or beginning a career – it is important to be accountable to the process. We should remember that there are opportunities to learn around every corner. To bring the mantra of mindfulness into the workplace, we need to trust the process, to approach new challenges with intention. Each new experience is helping me build a stronger foundation upon which to build my future law practice.
Emily K.