Anecdotal evidence suggests new lawyers may struggle as they begin legal practice. Little is known empirically about their actual experiences. This paper provides some insights into what occurs in this transition. It reports on a qualitative study currently underway tracking new lawyers through their first year of practice. Preliminary analysis of data from interviews and from workplace observations suggests clinical legal education can play a significant role in smoothing the transition and helping new lawyers develop their sense of professionalism.
This project builds on similar UK research which followed law graduates into their vocational training year. The authors tracked new lawyers in the context of their post-admission practice with a small cohort of recently admitted lawyers interviewed and observed in their day to day practice. This paper describes what these new lawyers say is important to an effective transition – developing autonomy, learning to deal with uncertainty and finding an accommodation between their developing professional values and those modelled by their firm and colleagues. Clinical programs offer opportunities for an early reflective exposure to these experiences.