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Junior lawyer? Supervision is your responsibility too

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Guest article written by Amy Childs of Kennedys Law LLP

Poor supervision in law firms can cause junior lawyers to make mistakes, due to inexperience or uncertainty, which can lead to a claim under the firm’s professional indemnity policy.


Ultimately, supervisors remain accountable for the work their supervisee’s carry out, in accordance with the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors[1]. Further, supervisors must ensure that the individuals they manage are competent to carry out their role[2].

However, supervision is a two-way process. For supervision to take place effectively, a supervisor and supervisee should both be actively engaged. It is essential for supervisors and supervisees to understand how to effectively approach supervision; this is particularly important for junior lawyers, to ensure that they develop the skills they require to become a successful lawyer.

Supervisee’s Responsibilities

The Statement of Solicitor Competence, which defines the continuing competence that the SRA require from all solicitors, states that solicitors should “work within the limits of their competence and the supervision which they need”[3]. This includes being able to disclose when work is beyond their personal capacity and recognising when they have made mistakes or are experiencing difficulties and taking appropriate action; further, it includes seeking and making effective use of feedback, guidance and support and knowing when to seek expert advice.

As a junior lawyer, receiving good supervision will help you ensure that the service you provide to your clients is competent. It also helps you to maintain your competence to carry out your role. Both these skills will support you to act in accordance with the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors[4].

It is therefore important that you, as the supervisee, take responsibility for your supervision and ensure that you are receiving sufficient guidance.


Unfortunately there have been instances where supervision issues have led to a ‘series of deliberate acts of concealment’ or dishonesty resulting in a strike off for junior lawyers. When these cases are put in front of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), the junior lawyers sometimes cite lack of supervision or support as a mitigating factor for their actions. Whilst the SDT may note these reasons in their review, and the law firm may also face fines or investigation for the lack of supervision, sometimes, the SDT finds that the circumstances are so severe, a strike off is the only suitable action to take.

For example, in one such case where a junior lawyer was found to have acted dishonestly, the SDT said that the junior lawyer “had panicked and found himself out of his depth, but he had not sought help from his supervisor and instead he had put on a veneer that everything was alright and had represented to a director that a client care letter had been sent when it had not been”[5]. It would be unfortunate if these were words used about you, if you found yourself in similar circumstances.

If you find yourself with work that is outside your area of expertise, you are struggling with your workload, unable to meet deadlines or produce satisfactory work, it is essential that you seek the guidance you require. Be honest and upfront when you make mistakes and do not act dishonestly to try and progress work; the consequences can be severe.

It may also be difficult to regain the confidence of your supervisor, if they realise that you have not brought issues to their attention.

Practical Steps You Can Take


Know who your supervisor is

This may sound obvious, but it is the first thing to get right. Make sure that you understand who to seek guidance and support from in your organisation.

For example, you may be supervised by different individuals for different areas of your work. Check at the outset that you know who to report to.


Set clear expectations

Ensure you understand when and how your supervisor is available. Consider whether you will be in the office regularly together, or if your supervision will take place virtually. Be aware of any non-working days your supervisor has, or regular meetings that they are engaged with and therefore times they are unavailable.

Understand how much of your work your supervisor needs to review. For example, do they need to approve everything, or only a selection of your work? You should agree with your supervisor what they expect from you, as it will vary significantly between teams and supervisors.


Request feedback regularly

Ensure that you proactively reach out to your supervisor regularly to request feedback, both positive and constructive. This frequency will depend on the diversity of your work and your experience, but at least weekly is often a good place to start.

Be specific about what you would like to receive feedback on, focusing on a particular piece of work or skill that you want to develop.


Keep records of your feedback

Take an attendance note of any meeting you have with your supervisor, to capture any guidance, advice, or feedback they provide. This will allow you to create your own knowledge database, enabling you to refer back to the guidance in future and ensure you’re not making the same mistakes again.


Be open and honest

Raise queries or challenges that you are having, in good time. Do not be afraid to speak up if you are struggling with a piece of work, or to meet a deadline. Emphasise when work is urgent or important.

If you are struggling with work, try and be proactive with how to overcome the issue. For example, propose a strategy for the next steps, instead of simply asking your supervisor what you should do next.

Even if your proposals are not appropriate, this will help you to develop your problem-solving skills. Seeking guidance on your proposed strategy will ensure that you act competently.

Take ownership!

Too often, junior lawyers become complacent with the knowledge that their supervisor is ultimately responsible for their work. However, this mindset will not develop proactive, motivated and independent lawyers. It is your career; take control of it!

[1] SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs Paragraph 3.5(a)

[2] SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs Paragraph 3.6

[3] Statement of Solicitor Competence, A3

[4] SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs Paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3

[5] Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Case no. 11507-2016

Howden Commentary

Supervision is a key issue when it comes to managing risk. It is important that junior lawyers know what they should expect in terms of supervision and understand their own responsibility to be proactive in seeking help and guidance from their supervisor. We recommend that firms share this article with their junior lawyers. It provides useful insight on the responsibilities of supervision and also offers helpful tips on how to approach and get the most out of the process.

The article has been written for Howden by Amy Childs of Kennedys Law LLP. Amy is in year 5 of the Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship Scheme with Kennedys Law LLP and is also mentored by Howden’s Solicitors’ PII Claims Team Manager, David Scott, as part of the “Mentoring in the Market” scheme. This scheme is a valuable market initiative established by Markel and DAC Beachcroft to build networks between those involved in the insurance claims sphere and enable more sharing of skills knowledge and experience. The research and discussion involved in producing this article is a good example of the scheme in action.