Please note that due to Covid-19 we have made changes to the arrangement of supervised legal practice conditions. Please visit our Covid-19 FAQ page for details on these changes.
Supervising a newly admitted lawyer is a serious responsibility. It’s important that it’s done correctly, both for you and for the lawyer that you’re supervising.
We’ve developed a set of guidelines to offer you practical advice on how supervision can work and approaches you can take.
What is expected of you as a supervisor?
Supervision involves monitoring the legal work of another lawyer. The goal is to teach new legal skills and guide them, as well as training them on the broader skills they need in legal practice. Skills like time management, interpersonal skills and the ability to prioritise are vital for junior lawyers. Guiding and supporting their ethical development is particularly important.
What qualifies you as a supervisor?
To be a supervisor, you must:
- be appropriately experienced;
- be entitled to supervise another lawyer (i.e. your practising certificate must not carry the supervised legal practice condition or any other condition restricting you from being a supervisor); and
- have the authority to direct, amend, override or intervene in relation to the legal work performed by the supervised lawyer.
You can find out more information in our Supervised Legal Practice Policy.
What do you need to do as a supervisor?
As a supervisor, we expect you to:
- Have daily contact with the supervised lawyer, either in person or via telephone or email. You might provide specific feedback, discuss files or simply touch base.
- Assign work to them that is within their capabilities, and oversee and guide them.
- Actively manage their workflow so that they can complete work and meet deadlines. You should monitor important deadlines yourself, rather than relying on them.
- Be aware of all work they are doing and be informed about the progress and strategy of their files. Make sure they have access to resources and have been trained in how to use them.
- Be aware of instructions they might receive directly from clients, including instructions in ongoing matters or from existing clients for new matters. This ensures that the overall file strategy is on track.
- Conduct regular and structured one-on-one meetings to discuss and review all current matters and give them the opportunity to raise any issues. These meetings are critical and should be prioritised. We suggest weekly meetings at first, moving to fortnightly or monthly as the year progresses.
- Review all correspondence and advice they prepare to make sure it’s accurate. You should have a standard process that allows you to intervene if necessary.
- Provide them with specific and timely feedback.
- Have an open-door policy for a certain amount of hours per week so that the supervised lawyer can discuss issues as they arise. Encourage them to be proactive in bringing up issues and asking questions.
- Where ethical challenges arise guide them in identifying the issues and in thinking through the situation carefully
- Tailor the style of supervision you provide to the supervised lawyer. While your processes should be consistent, they should also be flexible enough to suit the individual. This reduces the risk to your law practice and makes sure that your supervision is effective.
- Allow the supervised lawyer to approach you with mistakes. Mistakes are learning opportunities, both for them and for your firm. Are your systems clear and robust? Does the lawyer have access to precedents and other resources?
- Guide and support them to supplement their supervised practice period with formal CPD activities that are useful and appropriate for their level of experience and that meet identified skills gaps. Training offered in the ethics and professional skills CPD streams are particularly relevant for early career lawyers’ foundational development.
- Consider whether you need training or feedback on how to supervise. Seek feedback from colleagues if you’re not sure.
Your supervised lawyer’s wellbeing
You play a vital role in contributing to your supervised lawyer’s psychological wellbeing. You should consider implementing the Minds Count Foundation’s Workplace Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession.