Young litigation solicitors and their perceptions of movement from qualification to the 3-year watershed

Ching, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-9815-8804, 2009. Young litigation solicitors and their perceptions of movement from qualification to the 3-year watershed. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The objective of this interview-based study, blending a phenomenological standpoint with the disciplines of grounded theory analysis, is to articulate the essences of the perceptions possessed by recently qualified solicitors practising litigation of their own developmental journey from qualification to the 3-year watershed, a point by which the profession assumes professional autonomy to have been attained. The study first discusses solicitors' training, in its political context, providing an outline of litigation practice measured against relevant competence frameworks, including those intended to mark the point of qualification for the future, demonstrating that the point of qualification may be characterised by stress, uncertainty and mixed messages as to the status (if any) now achieved: a period of "professional adolescence". The currently proposed competence framework for the point of qualification is analysed so as to extract from it an assumed "competence for development".

The literature relating to CPD; adult learning; nature and acquisition of expertise and workplace learning is then analysed in the context of the interview group. The existing CPD scheme is found to permit, rather than to encourage, development including the "aspiration" required to increase the scope of activity (contrasted with enhancement of the quality of performance). The andragogical assumptions, in particular those of self- direction and autonomy, are compared with the literature on the novice-expert spectrum, reconciled by concluding that the period of professional adolescence may depress developmental autonomy. Further discussion of expertise includes the questions whether junior lawyers perceive expert traits in colleagues; whether they assume that expertise is acquired unconsciously by accumulating "experience" or whether they perceive expert rules as susceptible of being taught. The discussion of workplace learning considers manifestation of the andragogical assumptions in the workplace, contrasting acquisition of tacit learning through "experience" with deliberate "engagement with experience" including classic reflection-on-action but also embracing the asking of questions and other recourse to colleagues. The role of the employer as definer, constrainer or supporter of developmental activity is woven into discussion at all stages.

The methodology adopted is a pragmatic synthesis of phenomenology with the disciplines of grounded theory; deployed in face-to-face interviews and detailed coding of transcripts. Analysis first examines perceptions of the benchmarks of qualification and the three year watershed, concluding that prior experience in the training contract informs not only feelings of confidence and competence at the point of qualification but contributes to a perceived "deficit' which preoccupies and defines developmental activity in many for at least the subsequent two years. CPD, whilst ostensibly prioritised as sanctioned learning, is, despite assumptions that it involves didactic legal updating, perceived as addressing parts of that deficit subject to constraints about tightly defined relevance of content and level and appropriate delivery which supplies manageable steps for implementation of what is learned. Workplace learning is perceived as more valuable, allowing in particular for the repetition of tasks and the experiencing of the whole of a transaction seen to be absent from the training contract but informing the unconscious acquisition of expertise. Nevertheless, aspects of engagement with experience, in particular asking questions and the use of self-selected "slight seniors" are apparent, whilst reflection-on-action is possible for those whose deficit is less pronounced or who are able to draw on assistance for implementation. The study then concludes with an examination of the shape of the assumed competence for development derived from the picture provided by the interviews.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Ching, J.
Date: 2009
ISBN: 9781369314335
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author and may also be owned by the research sponsor(s) and/or Nottingham Trent University. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the first instance to the author.
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 18 Sep 2020 10:55
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 12:47

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