For many junior lawyers, the first professional appraisals that we will ever experience will take place during our training contracts. The idea of spending an hour discussing your performance with a supervisor can feel rather scary (and reminiscent of receiving a school report) at first. However, once you know what to expect, appraisals can become a valuable tool to steer you in the right direction as a trainee.
As the old saying goes… ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’. Don’t worry; you are never going to ‘fail’ an appraisal. However, like many things, good preparation beforehand will ensure that you get the most out of the process. It may also help to calm any nerves that you might have.
Both you and your supervisor are required to complete a form to assess different aspects of your performance in areas such as commercial awareness, written communication and your ability to work with others. Although completing the form can seem daunting, it is actually a useful way to remind yourself of some examples of your achievements during your seat (of which there will be many!), and is a good opportunity to reflect on areas where you could improve. Don’t be afraid to write positively about instances where you feel that you have performed well.
No surprise there!
Trainees often worry that they are going to receive unexpected comments in an appraisal. This is simply not the case. You will have regular catch ups with your supervisor, both formal and informal throughout the course of your seat, which is a good way to get on-going feedback. A few days before the appraisal meeting, you will also exchange appraisal forms with your supervisor so you will both be aware of everything that will be raised.
This also allows you some time to reflect on the objectives that your supervisor has set for the future and to consider how you might try to achieve these.
Two- way feedback
The appraisal meeting should be a two-way process. Your local training principal will attend and they will encourage dialogue between yourself and your supervisor. Your supervisor is not only providing you with feedback on your performance thus far, they will be keen to hear about which skills you feel that you need to develop and particular areas that interest you.
Make the most of the appraisal process by making constructive use of the feedback that you are given. Revisit the objectives set in your first appraisal regularly. They will help keep you on track throughout your training contract and will most definitely help you prepare your next appraisal form!
The second one is not nearly as scary- I promise!