Continuing Competence: How Mentoring in The Legal Profession Can Help

A directive was given by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that effective 1 November 2016, all individuals in legal practice would be evaluated based on continuing competence in place of the then continuing professional development (CPD).

This change meant a change of focus towards one’s quality of practice without counting hours. It also meant that one would have to identify learning and development gaps they may need to fill to gain better competence.

What better way to better identify areas of learning and development than through mentoring.

Generally, junior lawyers are often turned to for advice as well as solutions not yet tried and tested by law firms. The speed and urgency with which these lawyers are expected to provide solutions can be overwhelmingly exhausting. However, the navigation can be managed with a helping hand from a senior lawyer or a partner.

Senior colleagues can come in handy when it comes to giving guidance and direction to finding new solutions to challenges thrown at junior lawyers and paralegals since they have been down this road before. Mentoring should not be a consideration only when times are hard but should be harnessed by every organisation even in the good times to provide wind to its sails. Companies that have a culture of mentoring generally enjoy witnessing the personal and career growth of their people especially with the requirement of continuing competence.

The legal profession is one of the professions that face high levels of stress, anxiety, addiction, as well as mental health issues. Unfortunately, the statistics have grown worse in the recent past especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ensuing worldwide lockdowns. Mentoring goes a long way in addressing an individual’s wellbeing- an issue that emphasises.

As we advocate to bring mentor and mentee together for better continuing competence evaluation, below is what continuous competence seeks to achieve, and also what mentoring attains;

● Identifying and reviewing learning needs

● Undertaking learning to meet the needs

● Reflecting on the learning outcomes

● Identifying and reviewing future learning needs

And this is the meeting ground. So, what makes a good mentor? does not advocate for “a one size fits all” kind of mentoring, but rather seeks individuals of different groups, seniority, and demographics among others. However, there are traits most desirable in an effective mentor, and these include; good listening skills, ability to be available, ability to share some experiences, insights, and learnings as well as become a trusted confidant and possibly friend.

A junior lawyer or paralegal to best benefit from mentoring is one who is; teachable, gives their time, is respectable, and can communicate their needs.

Both mentor and mentee stand to benefit during these interactions with the mentors getting better insight into recent trends in the profession, gaining better management and organisational skills while the mentees gain from the expertise and guidance of the senior lawyers and partners.

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Peer Pioneers

Peer Pioneers

Mentoring Action Plan - Strategic Human Resource Management