The Learning Situation at Law Firms – Abstract
Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 31, 2008
Erika Abner has recently made available her interesting article, “Situated Learning and the Role of Relationships: A Study of Mentoring in Law Firms” (forthcoming Canadian Legal Education Annual Review) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
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This article examines the multiple workplace influences, including mentors and other developmental relationships, on the growth and development of young lawyers from law school through the first few years of practice. Eleven lawyers in six different large multi-service law firms located in a major Canadian city participated in the research. Three primary methods were used: an in-depth interview, brief questionnaires on mentoring behaviors and practices, and the Role Construct Repertory Test.
Learning occurred within a richly diverse field of influences, including mentors, supervisors, senior lawyers, peers, and clients. These relationships strongly affected the invitational qualities of the workplace in terms of access to work and support for learning. Learning was not separated from work, as these participants constructed a learning curriculum through mentors, supervisors, and friends. The dynamic tensions of support and challenge described throughout this article illustrate the critical distinctions between learning to be a lawyer in law school and learning to be a lawyer in practice. These participants were required to continually balance relationships, work, law firm culture and their own growth and development over a considerable period of time. This research illuminates the social world in which these participants learned to practice after law school.