By: Miriam A.A Kwateng.
Pupil, Zoe, Akyea & Co.
As a new lawyer, the realities of pupillage can be both challenging and rewarding. Pupillage is a practical training period that all aspiring barristers must complete before qualifying as fully-fledged advocates. While law school may have provided a solid foundation in legal knowledge, pupillage is a critical phase of a lawyer’s development, and it comes with its unique set of challenges and experiences.
During pupillage, you are essentially an apprentice to a more senior barrister, and you will spend most of your time shadowing and assisting them in their work. The goal is to gain hands-on experience and learn how to conduct yourself in court, prepare legal arguments, and interact with clients.
This blog explores some significant considerations and realities new lawyers face during this transition period from being a student to a working professional.
Choosing The Right Firm
This critical decision can affect your professional growth, job satisfaction, and future career opportunities. Therefore, it’s essential to take the time to research and evaluate potential firms carefully. Firstly, you must research potential firms and consider your career goals/aspirations, that is, do you want to work in a large or small boutique firm? Are you interested in a specific practice area or industry? Do you want to work in an exact geographic location? Once you clearly understand your career goals and aspirations, it’s time to research potential firms. Use online resources such as LinkedIn and the firm’s website to learn more about the firm’s size, practice areas, clients, culture, and reputation.
Subsequently, it is vital to consider the firm’s culture. Culture is an essential aspect of any law firm. Choosing a firm with a culture that aligns with your values and work style is crucial. Consider factors such as the firm’s work-life balance, inclusion initiatives, mentorship opportunities, and social events. In the same light, trust your instincts after researching potential firms and attending networking events. Choosing a firm that feels the right fit for you would be best. A firm that aligns with your goals, values, and aspirations will provide you with the support and resources you need to succeed in your career.
What to expect during Pupillage
One of the biggest challenges of pupillage is the workload. A firm will expect you to work long hours, often well into the night, to complete your assigned tasks. It is a full-time commitment where you will work hard and make the necessary effort to succeed. You will handle your assigned workload around the high-pressure environment of the legal profession. As a pupil, you will have exposure to the intensity of court proceedings, the weight of client expectations, and the need to produce results within tight deadlines. You will be required to perform at a high level consistently and demonstrate high standards of professionalism, ethics, and advocacy. Similarly, you must demonstrate excellent legal skills, attention to detail, and a commitment to client service.
Despite these challenges, pupillage is also a significant growth and learning period. You will have the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best legal minds in the profession. You will see the legal system’s inner workings and learn how to navigate its complexities. You will develop a deep understanding of the law and how it applies in different situations. To maximise your experience, you must display diligence, persistence, and critical thinking. A good pupil can think critically and analytically and apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems. Such persons put in the effort needed to succeed in their workplace and are persistent in facing challenges and setbacks. They also take responsibility for their learning and academic progress and make the necessary effort to achieve their goals. Thus, with dedication, hard work, and a commitment to learning and growth, new lawyers can overcome these challenges and succeed in their legal careers.
Perhaps most importantly, you will begin to develop your style and approach to legal practice. Pupillage is a time of experimentation and discovery, where you can try different strategies and techniques to see what works best for you. You will learn from your mistakes and build the confidence and resilience necessary to thrive in the legal profession.
How to prepare and conduct yourself in the Courtroom
Lawyers must take specific legal and preparation steps when appearing in court to ensure success. One of the critical first steps is to have a comprehensive understanding of the Ghanaian legal system, including the court structure, relevant laws, regulations, and the rules of procedure. This knowledge is necessary to present a compelling argument in court and navigate the legal process successfully.
Similarly, thorough legal research is also essential to prepare a strong case. Lawyers must analyse relevant statutes, case law, and legal commentary to understand the legal principles that apply to their cases. This research will also enable you to develop a legal strategy that aligns with the case’s unique circumstances and prepare responses to potential objections. Conducting a mock trial is also an effective way to identify weaknesses in your argument and refine your legal strategy.
Furthermore, as a new lawyer appearing before an Honourable Court, you must always adhere to court rules and procedures. Familiarising yourself with the rules of practice for the specific court you appear in is essential. These practices include adhering to court timelines, submitting documents on time, dressing appropriately, and following courtroom decorum. Therefore, by following these steps, new lawyers can successfully navigate the court system and increase their chances of success.
In conclusion, pupillage is an essential and valuable phase that every new lawyer must undertake upon successful completion of the legal course. As such, preparing yourself mentally, physically, and academically is vital by sharpening your swords and being open to experiencing a new thing. Certain essential qualities, such as time management, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and perseverance, will be vital in navigating the maze of success and growth within the legal field.