The value in mentoring and experience
Karena Nicholls, UOW School of Law Tutor and Partner at Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers, has invested time and effort into the mentoring and graduate programs partnered with the UOW. A strong advocate for showing the students the ropes early on, Karena is passionate about getting students exposed to the world of Law. She speaks about the developing program at Coutts.
Coutts offers student placements for an Internship Program, mentoring and other initiatives such as work experience and graduate roles. Many of these have led to part time and full time employment for students.
Karena strongly believes “[they] discover some of the best up and coming talent through the programs offered to students and more firms should offer similar programs”.
Students come to Coutts to experience what it’s like at the forefront of a law firm. Coutts takes time to expose students to the real forum of practising law. As a full service firm, Coutts provides diversity to students, often tailoring their experiences to the areas of the law they might be most interested in. Karena understands that students benefit most from having the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and perform meaningful work. At Coutts, they definitely receive this, intertwined with of course, the mundane work that is not so glamorous.
The programs emerged out of the need to gain talent, not necessarily based off the law school results, instead focused also on developing people skills. As an employer these skills grow over time and we have seen students blossom through the programs offered at Coutts. They teach you the skills outside law school such as time management and delegation.
As a mentor for Lucy Program at UOW and the Law Society, Karena has always told mentees to be compassionate, to provide client service and to be able to interact with other staff such as secretaries and administrative staff. This may sound really simple, but if you haven’t worked in an office before it can be very daunting and sometimes conflicting. Many of Karena’s mentees have thanked her for their new found confidence, to enter the work force. They discovered while they may still have worries about knowing all of the laws, they were equipped solidly in how to interact professionally with people.
Coutts prides their program on thinking outside the box. If they simply give students the answers, how will they develop into a well rounded practitioner that can solve the complex and hard issues? This is their point of difference, they don’t follow the trends. Coutts is a strong firm with strong values of care, communication and clarity that provides strong foundations for the up and coming talent. Many of their lawyers were once paralegals.
With more and more law graduates entering the workforce each year, competition can be fierce. Karena believes the key is to have more exposure and more experience then the person sitting next to you. “Employers are more likely than not going to look at your history and involvement with legal work and this can be accomplished through a program, volunteering at a legal clinic, a work experience placement or paid part time or full time work”, says Karena.
The Law Society did a study which found law students are anxious about placement in the workforce due to lack of employment opportunities. Everyone at law school wanted to be a commercial lawyer and even now we see that coming through. However, once you expose yourself to other areas you may find other opportunities arise and you are genuinely inspired.