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Tools for developing interpersonal skills

In any professional role, I think it’s very important for us to know ourselves well so that we can better understand how we fit in with our colleagues, friends, family, and especially our clients. If we grow an awareness about ourselves, we can soon learn to grow an awareness of each other and appreciate that we’re not so different. These three models are most helpful!

1. Social Styles

Social styles is a theory by Merril and Reid which groups people into four distinct areas. These are analyticals, drivers, expressives and amiables. It is commonly used in the field of social work and it can help us to think about the way we interact with others, and how our interactions may differ. People are asked a series of questions which classify the level of assertiveness and emotional responsiveness someone demonstrates when interactive with others. Some people have two social styles where one is more dominant than the other, for example they may be an expressive with friends but a manager at work. You can find out more here.

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2. 16 Personalities

This is by far one of my favorite models. The theory behind this model, which is interestingly complex, is explained here, and if you want to take the test you can do so here. My personality type is Protagonist.

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3.  Learning Styles

This model looks at learning preferences in individuals and was developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford. Their work is based on David Kolb’s Learning Cycle, and I think that it is quite important to understand so that we are able to effectively communicate information to our colleagues in a way that they can easily understand.

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Fundraising for Mind.org.uk

On Sunday the 26th of August, I will be raising money for the mental health charity Mind. With an elevation of over 3,000 ft, the ascent will take three hours.

Outdoor physical exercise is proven to promote self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. Through the practice of mindfulness, that is, paying attention to natural surroundings, we can hush the busy mind.

Please sponsor my climb of Scafell Pike to show your support for promoting mental wellbeing.

Visit my Just Giving page here

 

Embarking on the LPC

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If you are an LPC student, then well done for getting this far already. You are a proud and astute graduate with a good degree, but do not let that be any excuse to be complaisant at this stage. The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is far from a walk in the park, therefore it is vital that any prospective or new student on the LPC should be prepared to adopt a new mindset towards this exam-intensive program of study. Here are six tips which I hope will fill you with confidence prior to you embarking on the LPC.

1. Reading

I know it sounds like the obvious answer but, trust me, there is a reason why this at the top of my agenda. On the LPC your seminars are run on the basis that the student has done all the prior reading and preparation. Preparation is not too difficult to adjust to since the LLB is delivered in a similar way, but a lot of students do not grasp the importance of reading the textbooks. Once I started reading my chapters in advance, my brain was prepared to absorb the insights shared by the lecturing solicitors in the workshops.

2. Organised notes

Try to spend less time on the meaty and substantive content. You should be confident in yourself that you will be able to gloss over the detail when you’re approaching the exams. Don’t forget that you and your peers are holders of a law degree or equivalent at this stage, so your priorities during teaching weeks are to ensure that you have understood the content, by reading the chapters in advance of seminars, and most importantly, by giving yourself the time to recap over your materials before you store them away in a way that is logical to you. You want to be able to pick them back up with ease in a couple of month’s time.

Paper notes or digital form – totally your choice. Call me a tree-hugger but I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be prepared to use software such as OneNote or Teams (just remember to keep a backup). Your institution may already be offering you a license to Office 365, and some even offer digital skills training, so this is a fantastic opportunity to impress law firms with your tech-savvyness – IT literate individuals are always desirable in the professions as they are having to adapt their systems to stay competitive.

3. Submerse yourself

Many students do feel that the LPC is not very academically stimulating, that it is just a matter of memorisation, but this should not deter you. The law in theory is very interesting, but you are one of the many lucky few who will have the opportunity to see the law in practice. Many LLB graduates go off into the world with sound legal education, but they cannot profess to be skilled in navigating the law with the best interests of a client borne in mind.

“Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

Max Ehrmann – The Desiderata

Make the most of your opportunity by submersing yourself in the subject, this will give you context to whatever it is you are learning. Write your own will, have a look at stocks and shares, ready yourself for the working world! I’m not necessarily advising you to sue a high street retailer or throw your first £1,000 into a FTSE 250 tracker, take caution in your business affairs, but also be prepared to follow your curiosity – wherever it may lead you!

Another handy tip – follow an interesting news story, discuss it with your subject tutor. The world is constantly changing around us, and trust me on this one, keeping up with it in the dawning of the technological age is a real struggle!

 

4. Be kind to yourself

One thing I have found very difficult over the past four years is maintaining a balanced lifestyle when you want to be seen as standing out from the crowd. Those committed students want to be everywhere at once, engaging in all of the opportunities that law schools throw at us, and often bearing the burden of supporting ourselves, and sometimes even our family members, but there does come a point where you can lose that balance.

Be gentle with yourself and avoid spreading yourself too thin. Your physical and mental health are top priority, and if you aren’t looking after yourself, how are you possibly going to look after your clients?

Don’t forget the basics – plenty of sleep, plenty of exercise, plenty of nutritious food, plenty of water, and make the time for some therapeutic or mindful activities. The brain performs better under these conditions – you don’t need to be a doctor to know this. You might tell yourself “I need to pull an all-nighter for this essay” or “I’ll just have some packet noodles because I need to get back to the library”. Take it in moderation, a balanced lifestyle is key to being able to successfully self-manage. You need to be fit and strong so that clients are prepared to place their trust and faith in you.

5. Work with people

The hardest lesson that University brings is the lesson of working with people. This was a lesson I struggled to take on board, having experienced first hand the trickery that some people would play on one another in order to put themselves ahead. Many students have this “It’s a race” mindset which really made me close up like a book and become the independent and self-reliant learner that I am today.

I often tell myself that you must stand alone in order to observe the crowd, but at some point you will have to take that plunge. University brings together minds from across the country and across the globe, it is the perfect environment to start building confidence, network with peers, and grow your personality. Here is a good article which gives you some practical steps you can take towards building on the personal qualities valued by innovative law firms such as Shoosmiths.

 

6. Enjoy it

I am certain that many lawyers look back at their time at University and think of many things they wish they did differently. I absolutely love University life – it is a great place to have fun and connect with people by engaging in all of the sports, clubs and societies there are on offer, and I am really going to miss it! There are various work experience opportunities, fairs to fill your boots with freebies and plenty of discounts online and on the high street. So enjoy it and have fun, because it won’t be long until you are part of daily grind!

If you feel you have tips that you feel have worked for you, please share them in the Comments below for the benefit of other readers.

 

 

 

Personality: Don’t fake it, make it!

I live by this article… worth a read for prospective trainees!

The Inbound Recruiter

Personality

How can you get across your personality whilst also highlighting your skills and legal experience on the application form? Here I share my top tips on how you can enhance your employability by developing your personality.

When I read application forms, I like to see some personality. Candidates that do this well always stand out from the crowd. But how do you show your personality on paper, I hear you ask? It’s not easy. And you may think it’s something best demonstrated at an interview. Well think again, because the first hurdle to a career in law is almost always an online application form, so selling your personal brand to the recruiter, even at this very early stage, is vital.

So, what will make the recruiter take notice? With more than 22,000* people studying law each year, you’ll need something truly unique to help you stand out.

That’s where your…

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Mind and Mood

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In January this year, Lawyer 2B reported that calls to LawCare advice helpline, a service which offers support for lawyers, had risen by 12% last year. Half of those calls were related to stress and depression. But actually, I was really disappointed in what little I could find out on the internet about mental illness in the legal profession, and some of what I did find suggested that mental well-being is still very much a ‘taboo subject’.

 

“If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.”

Prime Minister, Theresa May

A noteworthy omission from the recent Queen’s Speech were the provisions for furthering support for the country’s mental health services, as the Prime Minister had failed to renew her pledge given in the election campaign. I am critical of the Prime Minister who, last year, pledged to “deal with Britain’s longstanding productivity problem”, even though there are credible reports going back over fourteen years which have indicated, time and time again, that mental health is detrimental to productivity in the workplace. 

My underlying intention in this article is to highlight to my readers that mental well-being is a very important cornerstone of our lives, and it can hinder our ability to succeed. Coming from my own personal experiences, I put it to all of my readers that opening up and sharing our experiences can be hugely beneficial to our mental well-being – so here is my story.

My story

 I was feeling very nourished coming back from my experience in China, and that made me feel very confident about my third year and as a result I was setting myself a number of very ambitious goals: I was involved in a Mentoring Scheme with Aspiring Solicitors; I was making a start on my training contract applications; I had a roster of opportunities with the University and London law firms to look forward to; I took on an extra two hours of Chinese language lessons a week; whilst working at Greggs one day a week – I was taking on a lot! My ‘old life’, which I now call it, was described by my counsellor as a “bucket full of water just waiting to overflow”.

It was around November last year that it all started to crumble. I was stood at the train station and had just been informed that my train to London had been cancelled. Bear in mind that the week before hand I was ’stung’ by Virgin Trains when I had to travel on materially the same train from Preston instead of Lancaster.

I had become increasingly worried about what impression this would give to the people who had offered me those opportunities. I started to become very anxious and constantly on edge: I was struggling to sleep because I was worrying that I was losing traction, and I felt that my attitudes were hindering my ability to build healthy connections with the people around me. Eventually I reached a point where I had enough of pleasing people when I couldn’t even please myself.

Keeping life balanced

I thought that “taking water out of the bucket” would help me to eradicate the problem completely, and whilst it did help, it actually opened up a whole load of doubts that I had about the direction of my life. I was saying to people “What am I going to do – I am this ‘Solicitor To Be’ that doesn’t want to be a solicitor anymore!” and I felt like I was disappointing all of the people around me that were rooting for me.

I realised that it was time to take care of me first, but being unaware of what the next nine months would bring, I became very isolated and started sitting by myself in lectures. I hated having to interact with other students, and being isolated allowed those negative thoughts to snowball over time. Toxic thinking made me very ill and I was becoming even more withdrawn from the course. The only gratification I had was the money I was earning in my new job with the University’s Student Recruitment team – and I enjoyed spending that on ways to distract myself from my problems.

Getting help

My course leader, Stephanie Jones, invited me to go over a personality test similar to those which many commercial firms have incorporated within their recruitment processes. This was one of the additional opportunities that I had signed up for about a month before my issues had begun, and I was in a much clearer mind-set when I had completed it. As I said, I did not actually want help at first, but my course leader had chased me up on the appointment to go over the results so that I could get a picture of what kind of profile potential employers might see. I think Stephanie could tell that there were significant changes to my attitudes since I last saw her – I believed that she understood me and what I was going through, and this had given me an opportunity to reflect on the ups and downs.

We spent almost all of the lunch period going through each area of my personality, and afterwards, reconciling this with my friends and family was helping me to make sense of the negative behaviours I had adopted. When I started sharing my problems with the people who knew and understood me, it translated to healthy positive thoughts. My thoughts were clearer and I was becoming less passive and more active. I do still really regret becoming socially withdrawn from studies, and I am still struggling to reintegrate with the cohort.

Take back control

Now that I am thinking more clearly, I have had to make some tough decisions, but they are the right decisions for me. My ambitions meanwhile are to return to China to start a one year teaching post after graduation – this a similar route that trainees I have met in London firms have also pursued.

Since then things have been falling in to place. I have been invited by the British Council to be the University’s Campus Ambassador, which I am told will increase my success in an application for the teaching post. In the other hand, I have my Immigration Law and Practice module coming up this year.

Although it is not the most conventional career aspiration, I am hoping that with all of these opportunities under the belt, I can find a career which will satisfy both my love for the law and my love for China.

Helpful Links:

Young Minds

NHS – A guide to mental health services in England

Special thanks 

My family, including my mother and sister who are outstanding contributors to the Mental Health profession.

University academics, including Stephanie Jones and Fiona Bledge, for their compassion during difficult times.

University of Central Lancashire Counselling Service.

 

 

Resilience, skills and employability through the ‘China experience’

A fantastic blog from Monira Ahmed, an international careers enthusiast within the University of Central Lancashire Careers Service. Thank you for the opportunity to collaborate!

Everything Careers

For anyone looking to enrich their university education and gain a unique set of skills and experiences, China is definitely a place to visit.

China’s global education and economic influence is still continuing; it dominates the list of leading universities in the developing world, and it’s strategic importance for UK companies is well illustrated with the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative; launched by the Chinese president in 2013, it sets out to improve and create new trade routes, links and business opportunities between China and over 60 countries across Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. As the report highlights, the ‘potential exists for powerful partnerships between British and Chinese companies.’

With a wide range of study and work experience programmes, China has become more accessible for today’s students and graduates. And the good news is that steps have been taken to provide opportunities for students who may not ordinarily consider going to the country.

One initiative has been the…

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