Book review – Exercising Professional Judgement: Mastering the Craft of Lawyering

Book review – Exercising Professional Judgement: Mastering the Craft of Lawyering

The fourth in Dr Fiona Westwood’s series has just been published and is a must for any solicitor taking the nurturing of young lawyers or their own professional development seriously.

Following Achieving Best Practice-shaping professionals for success (2001), Accelerated Best Practice-implementing success in professional firms (2004), Developing Resilience-the key to professional success (2010), her latest work draws on her Doctorate of Professional Studies in Legal Education.

What sets Dr Westwood apart from a lot of commentators is her street cred with the legal profession. She actually was a Glasgow solicitor and knows, understands and empathises with the profession. And that these days is a breath of fresh air.

Like the previous books it is readable, punchy and incisive. For those using this as a manual for traineeship design, it works. For those wanting a starting point for deeper understanding of this area, it is well-referenced and builds on the work of the Carnegie Foundation and William Sullivan. A favourite of mine. His Work and Integrity-the crisis and performance of professionalism in America (2005) is inspiring to those of us still of the view that being a solicitor is not all process, gearing and money.

She is concerned about the community of practice and in particular what ABS may do to further fragmentation. As she identifies, the critical in any legal firm is culture. Plain and simple.

Other jurisdictions and professions are compared. I find the route to qualifying as an architect of particular interest. As my younger son went down this route I became aware of their better and earlier exposure to practice. Too many young prospective solicitors, even if they do get a traineeship have invested five years before coal face legal work.

And she is right. Time for reflection is difficult to carve out - but we must.

Buy this book. Read it and pass it around the office. Let’s try to reclaim true professionalism from the money men and the pure academics.

Douglas Mill

Exercising Professional Judgement: Mastering the Craft of Lawyering by Fiona Westwood, Pub by Troubador, pp168, £24.99.

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