Troubador Exercising Professional Judgement

Released: 28/11/2016

ISBN: 9781785898594

Format: Paperback

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Exercising Professional Judgement

Mastering the Craft of Lawyering


Unique to the legal profession, this book focusses on one of the core aspects of professional practice – the ability to exercise judgement. While described by both lawyers and their clients as an essential part of successful practice, the methods that enable its development have, to date, remained unarticulated. The UK legal profession is responding to disruptive change that is altering its structure and ‘community of practice’, and this is having a significant effect on both its work and future roles. Despite the use of information technology to ‘commoditise’ much of its routine work, the practice of law continues to become more complex and specialised, requiring interpretation and the exercise of professional judgement. Historically new entrants to the professions learned under the tutelage of an experienced practitioner who allocated tasks of incremental complexity and responsibility and provided commentary. This traditional ‘apprenticeship’ also instilled an appreciation of the norms and standards required to become an admitted member. As law firms adapt their trading structures to respond to market pressures, there is a risk that this training structure becomes dissipated and their ‘community’ fragments. Yet, judgement has to be exercised and ‘defended’ based on what is regarded as established practice. Exercising Professional Judgement:?Mastering the Craft of Lawyering addresses all of this and, based on extensive research within UK law firms, regulatory and professional bodies as well as other jurisdictions and professions, provides a model that explains its constituent elements and describes processes and activities to enable novices, in particular, to continue to develop the ability to exercise it. While concentrating on the craft of lawyering, its contents are also relevant to other professions where the training of novices has to be embedded in organisations that need to match their people and resources with risk, client satisfaction and quality service.

Why I wrote the book
Accelerated Best Practice – implementing success in professional firms
My first book, ‘Achieving Best Practice – Shaping Professionals for Success’ (McGraw-Hill, 2001) grew out of my frustrations with being part of the management team of a professional service partnership. We had found it increasingly difficult as the marketplace affected us to source support that was directly relevant to the challenges we were facing in running a business that had also to reflect our professional values. Frustrated by this lack of practical help, I resolved to write my own book to provide answers to the challenges of managing a professional firm. Once I moved full-time into management consultancy, I supplemented my own experience with detailed research into why some firms were growing and successful in the same market as others who were dying. As a result, I devised the Model for Success for professional service firms.

That was in the year 2000. Eight years on, the Model has been applied in a wide range of professional organisations. It has been adapted and improved. This second book encapsulates the results of those applications and provides the ‘accelerated’ Model for use in ambitious firms who want to change and change fast. It provides a holistic view of a professional firm, looking at its internal workings and external focus. Its Segments encompass leadership and management, strategy and processes and provide practical techniques and solutions. They build into a complete circle of understanding of professional management and its application, and deliver the ability to change which is so vitally needed in today’s marketplace.

Developing Resilience – the key to professional success
In recent years, I have seen good professionals and their organisations struggle with the sudden and rapid change that the marketplace has imposed upon them. Some seemed to be more resilient to this than others, so I set myself the task of working out why this was the case. I found that successful organisations allowed their professionals to self-manage as much as possible. I noticed that good professionals needed more help with developing personal resilience than people who did not care about the quality of what they did. The very fact that good professionals took personal responsibility meant that they were likely to be upset by an error of judgement or making a mistake. This often had a cumulative effect on their confidence, with the result that they were more likely in the future to question what they did and the career choice they had made.

I had also begun to think about the longitudinal aspects of learning how to be a good professional and my own early experiences of being a novice in my profession. My work in vocational education led me to observe that some students were ‘naturally good’ practitioners and seemed to have an inherent resilience and ability to self-manage and motivate. When I saw them again in practice, they were enjoying their formal traineeship and making the most of their work-based learning opportunities. This, in turn, caused me to observe the impact that great masters can have in showing younger professionals how to acquire good judgement and learn how to progress in their careers.

As a result, I set to write this book blending all of my experiences with the aim of offering practical advice about how to first, cope with and, secondly and more aspirationally, succeed in professional practice. What I hope makes this book important and unique is that it sets the development of resilience in the context of professional practice - the messy, difficult, challenging lifelong career that good professionals believe in and care about, and reflects the essence of what we are.

Scottish Legal News

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Fiona Westwood

Fiona Westwood graduated LLB (Hons) from Glasgow University in 1974 and became an enrolled solicitor with the Law Society of Scotland in 1976. During her professional career as a solicitor which spanned 20 years, she had extensive experience of client work, ranging from running a branch office specialising in legal aid through to establishing and leading a large commercial property department. In 1987, she was headhunted to help manage an ambitious amalgamation of three long-established law firms, where she had particular responsibility for business development for the new firm.

She set up her own management consultancy in 1994, specialising in working with the professional sector. Her clients include large multi-national practices, niche and regional professional service firms as well as public and not-for-profit organisations. Services include strategic planning and change implementation, leadership and management skills and client development projects.

She has researched and written extensively about professionals and their organisations. Prior to its publication, McGraw-Hill nominated her first book, ‘Achieving Best Practice – Shaping Professionals for Success’, as their September 2000 Book of the Month. Her second book, ‘Accelerated Best Practice – implementing success in professional firms’ concentrates on strategy and leadership, operational effectiveness and client relationships and was initially published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2004 with updated editions by Matador in 2008 and 2015. Her third book, Developing Resilience – the key to professional success’, published in 2010, focuses on helping individuals and organisations cope and respond positively to marketplace pressures, the imposition of external regulation and clients increasingly looking for immediate access to their professionals.

Since 2000, she has served as a co-opted member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Practice Management and Client Care Committees, on its Working Party on Standards and as CPD Project Leader of its Education and Training Review. In addition, she has recently contributed to and co-edited ‘The Calling of Law – the pivotal role of vocational legal education’ (Westwood and Barton 2014) and co-written with Vicky Ling two books for The Law Society on client care and handling complaints. She writes regularly for business and professional publications, speaks at business conferences in the UK and has worked on international collaborations with universities in Hong Kong, the Middle East and Australia.

She has also been a Post-Graduate Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Legal Practice at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law and the University of Strathclyde as well as the Director of Continuing Professional Education at the School of Law, the University of Glasgow. She teaches on a number of professional Masters programmes and was awarded Doctor of Professional Studies in Legal Education in 2015 by the University of Chester.

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