Saturday, 17 December 2011

Trainee training 2011 - so how did we do???

Well, who would have thought it - it's nearly Christmas and this blog is still going strong! It is very amusing to look back to my first post - I was exceptionally nervous, apprehensive, unsure - you name it - of how I would use the blog, what I would write etc. It is good to know that I have managed to overcome those feelings (well most of the time!) and so to everyone who has been following me - thank you!!!

You may recall earlier in the year that I talked quite a bit about our trainee training programme that kicks off every September when the new trainee lawyers start. Just to recap - we run our sessions over a period of about 8-10 weeks, in contrast to some firms I have worked at whereby the library sessions with the trainees are all finished within their first couple of weeks.

The sessions are run by myself and one of my Managers. This year, we ran the following sessions:

1) Introduction to the library: how we work, what we can supply, charges, plus an overview of copyright restrictions (very important to try and develop an awareness of that early on!)
2) Caselaw: an overview
3) Legislation: an overview
4) Forms and Precedents
5) European caselaw and legislation: an overview

Each session involves a lecture-style presentation from myself and my manager, a chance to ask questions, and ends with the trainees answering questions relating to that session. We then go through the questions with them and explain anything they had difficulties with. For this part of the session we take them to the IT training room, where they have access to our online resources and so can work through real-life examples.

The reason we go back to basics and explain the fundamentals of caselaw and legislation is simply because our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds - some may have studied law at university before sitting their LPC, while others will simply have done another degree, followed by a conversion course and LPC. The LPC is the last stage of law school. However, this means they have all different levels of experience, therefore we have come to the conclusion that all of them will benefit from a recap of the basics, and it ensures that they are all starting from a similar point once they have reminded themselves of this base knowledge.

The one thing that we felt this year should be revised going forward, however, is the length of the sessions. Traditionally we have taken a comfort break halfway through our presentation; this year, however, we got the impression that the trainees found this a little frustrating, and would rather just press on and finish early! We tried this out in our last session and it worked really well, therefore I think it's something we will always offer in our sessions going forward - that way if they want a break, they can have one, but if they want to just keep going, we will do so.

We got very good feedback in terms of the content of the sessions, with some of the trainees saying in particular that the European caselaw/legislation material was particularly helpful, because they had no idea that so much pre-legislative material is freely available online. For the record this kind of material can be of particular interest to the trainees if they are asked to carry out research on a particular piece of EU legislation - there can be some excellent background material in there. We also produce some handouts each year - not for every session, but a handbook in the first session and an excellent guide to European legal research written by one of our PSLs. We got great feedback on this as well. I think the handbook in the first session is very useful to them, because that first session comes very early on in their time with us, and judging from the stunned/exhausted faces we always see before us, I don't think they are physically able to take in everything we tell them! So it's definitely useful for them take that book away to their desks. We include information not only on library services, but tips on Boolean searching, what resources are best for certain kinds of research and so on.

From our point of view, this year's training sessions on the whole went smoothly (I say on the whole - there were the inevitable IT blips/online examples that worked fine at my desk, but failed at the first hurdle in front of the trainees....!) - but I think one thing that both myself and my manager notice more and more with every year, is that many of the trainees give the impression - at least for the first couple of sessions at least - that they do not need to be there. I think the perception of the 'library' is one that they associate with their academic libraries. They have no concept of just how important we are to the fee-earners - although many learn very quickly once in their seats and being asked to carry out research! But in all seriousness, I find it rather sad that yet again, we face these ongoing preconceptions of what people think a library is like - they assume that all we do is manage the book collection and that's as far as it goes. For the most part, I can laugh it off, as one way or another, they come to realise that a corporate library is very different to the one they had at uni/law school....but at the same time, it's also frustrating that simply because of our job title, we are regularly having to justify our presence. When any of the fee-earners find out that we are actually all qualified to MA/MSc level, they are utterly dumbfounded. It is a sad fact that librarianism as a profession is sorely undervalued across the board.

Anyway, on the plus side, this year's trainee training is all done and dusted, the trainees have settled into their seats very well, and my Manager and I have given a collective sigh of relief that that is it out of the way for another year! I really do think we both have learned a lot from this year and have been able to critically evaluate how we did, both in our own opinions as well as taking into account the feedback given to us by the trainees themselves - thereby giving us some food for thought for next year....

Image courtesy of: jscreationzs /

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