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Best Practice: Freedom to thrive

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Cite as: March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.81

Some simple strategies can enhance your graduate's development. 

If you are supervising a graduate lawyer in 2015, there are some simple strategies you can employ to enrich your graduate’s development and wellbeing.

Research shows that the most important factor contributing to satisfaction and success in the workplace for young lawyers is autonomy supportive supervision. This means working in an environment where graduates are supervised in a way that facilitates autonomy, rather than in an overly controlling way. Obviously there are limits to autonomy in the early days of practice. However, consider what autonomy you can give to your graduate. Could they run a small matter themselves, with your oversight? Perhaps you could decide together on a program for the matter, where you plan the steps and timeframes for everything they will need to do and decide check-in points where the two of you will discuss progress.

Another contributor to young lawyer wellbeing is context. Many young lawyers, especially in larger practices, are asked to do discreet tasks on large matters without sufficient context about the client, the matter and the relevance of their task. Can you take 10 minutes to give your graduate more background about the client and where their task fits into the whole matter?

Graduates are eager to learn and improve. Sometimes experienced lawyers forget how far they have come and how little practical experience graduates have when they leave law school. You will make a big difference to your graduate if you can give them constructive feedback about the work they do for you so they can turn this into “feed forward”. If they know what they did well and not so well on a task, they can apply this to future work. You’ll benefit from this as much as they will.

Finally, encourage questions. Graduates often feel reluctant to disturb you and may not ask for important information which could make their work more efficient and accurate. Consider putting in place some guidelines about when you do and don’t want to be disturbed. Perhaps set up a 15 minute meeting every day or two so your graduate can save up his or her questions until then.

Good communication with your graduate will enhance their wellbeing, improve the quality of their work and ensure that, when mistakes are made, as they inevitably are, they can be identified and resolved promptly.


MADELEINE DUPUCHE is a Victorian solicitor and lecturer in the College of Law’s PLT program. Practice tips are provided by the College of Law.

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