Just a moment...
Chaynee Hodgetts' Foreword: Solicitors Journal: September 2021
Just retired. Just a junior. Just a practice manager. Just a clerk. Just a trainee. Just a pupil. Just a secretary. Just a pretty face. Just a…? Just a moment. In your work in justice, how many times have you heard someone utter “but they’re just a...”?
Here at Solicitors Journal, we’re interested in you – our readers. And, as we patiently progress through the pandemic and ping-demic, we want to reflect you. Nobody reading this is “just” an anything. In legal practice, and the justice system beyond, every person, in every role, plays their own key function – without which, things just wouldn’t work the same way. We are a mysteriously somehow-still-moving machine, that only works when all its parts are present. Those parts are people - including you.
In my set, our Clerks (Del, Lee, and Martin), make our world go round – and we wouldn’t be the same place without them. Each different in their own unique way, they’re the best bit about going into chambers. Your firm will have someone similar – in person, or online – who just makes the day better, and the place run as it does – and, without whom, it just wouldn’t work.
So this issue is for you. We recognise everyone who interacts with firms, courts, and the profession more generally, has a role to play. This issue, we’re shaking things up – featuring content from an even wider range of professionals than before – and we’d love to hear from more of you. We’re your Journal – and no matter what your role or responsibilities, we’re all on the same team.
Just because someone left school at 11 or 15, or is back from maternity or paternity leave, or is a trainee, or has been off unwell, or is about to retire, or has variable billable hours, or has a different way of doing things, or… the list goes on. It doesn’t matter. As long as the person turns up (in person or online), no matter what the hours (especially with the increasing uptake of flexible working and “WFH”), the difference they make does make a difference.
And that’s before we’ve considered their effect on the clients. True humanity is often embodied in the subtlety of being able to set someone at ease, no matter their station or situation in life. Our practice management and support staff, and our trainees, often end up in client-facing duties when things haven’t necessarily gone so well, or at a first hearing. We can all learn a lot from how they demonstrate, often by actions as much as words, that everyone is human - and that a combination of common sense and common courtesy, can go a long way.
Let’s also not forget to look at the person behind the position. No matter how much we think we know our colleagues, there are always things we don’t see. It’s often these “unknown unknowns”, or “Black Swan” events, that completely change our perceptions. In recent times, people’s lives have changed – and with it, people have changed too.
We might have an idea of what someone’s like, based on what we’ve seen of them at work. But often, for so many of us, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to which we don’t admit, until it forces itself centre stage, usually after having built up to the point of becoming a crisis. As the saying goes, perhaps try to walk a mile in somebody’s shoes before you take a view?
So here’s to our support staff and trainees – with any hope, some of whom are reading this. Let’s listen, look, and learn – as well as leading by example. As for considering others’ views, this issue is full of them – and we’d love to hear from more of you. Together, we are more than just the sum of our parts. Let’s keep moving…
Ms Chaynee Hodgetts FRSA is our Features & Opinion Editor, a Mature Pupil Barrister with Nexus, the Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, and an Honorary Lecturer in Law.