February 24, 2016

Professional Skills Course – The final hurdle or a valuable introduction to legal skills?

On the day you finally start your training contract, there are no doubt many thoughts going through your head, but I’m pretty certain “yay more exams” is not one of them. Having slogged through university, the GDL and the LPC, the thought of more exams certainly did not fill me with a sense of joy, but awaiting you during your training contract is the final hurdle – the Professional Skills Course.

Some firms get the Professional Skills Course (PSC) out of the way at the beginning, in a two week blitz, but at RWK Goodman it is spread across your two years. At first this may seem frustrating, but looking back it has actually been very beneficial to have it spread out in this way. For each course you attend you have a little bit more ‘real life’ experience under your belt. The courses are run in conjunction with trainees from similar firms to RWK Goodman so offer the chance to get to know and network with peers in your ‘year group’ from across the South West.

The reason the PSC is currently at the forefront of my mind is that I have just completed my penultimate course – advocacy. Now I won’t lie to you, and I’m sure my fellow trainees would agree, quite a few of the PSC modules are somewhat on the dry side. Personally I was rather dreading the advocacy course as it is one of only a few that actually includes an assessment and having not done a law degree or taken part in endless moots or debates at university I felt my advocacy skills might be slightly lacking. How wrong I was! I can genuinely say that this course was actually fun and  I learnt valuable skills that will transition into the area of law I hope to qualify into.

Located in the historic Grays Inn (where the lunches are legendary), we started the week with the theory of advocacy, building up to a mock trial at the end of the week. This certainly gave the more dramatic among us the chance to demonstrate their thespian flare, as we learnt how to examine in chief and cross examine witnesses, taking it in turns to play the witnesses themselves.

But what if I never plan to be a litigator I hear you cry?! It didn’t matter one bit. The skills we learnt will be equally as useful in a transactional seat as they would be in a contentious seat. Knowing how to interview a client and extract all the information you require in a structured and clear manner is an essential skill for a trainee to learn, no matter what seats you do. Having a greater understanding of presentational techniques, how to structure an argument and build a case is useful in all manner of areas, from conducting negotiations to delivering seminars to large audiences.

The moral of this story is to try and embrace the PSC and treat it as more than just a good excuse for a few days out of the office. While it may seem that you are just jumping through hoops to satisfy the SRA, the skills that you gain through the various modules are essential to helping you develop as a trainee and future solicitor.

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