• thelegallybrunette

Trainee Diaries - A Virtual Learning Journey

A stack of four books, the top one open, sits on a desk in front of a bookshelf stacked with textbooks and other manuals.
My life is an open book. My manuals are opened frequently, too!

At the beginning of the month of April, the season of Spring still vibrant and thriving, myself and several hundred trainee solicitors awaited the start of the Professional Practice Course Part 2 with bated breath. Whether it be the chance to expand on legal knowledge with carefully (!) chosen elective subjects, the need for much missed social contact and catching up with the friends made in Blackhall the year before or simply a brief breather from the office environment, it was something to look forward to. Unfortunately, a pandemic, global in size and unprejudiced in its infection in the shape of the Corona virus, swept through the entire country, prompting a swift lockdown and a hurried migration to online methods of teaching, as well as embracing the virtual learning space. It was with much effort and co-operation from lecturers, speakers and tutors alike, that permitted the PPC2 to go ahead for 2020.

Here is my experience so far. All opinions are my own, of course!

A white desk showing an arrangement of an open laptop, mobile phone, pink notebook and pen, and a pair of hands holding a mug of tea.
How I wish my workspace would appear on good days...

The course began on the scheduled date of 6th April, and personally, I was glad that the commencement had not been pushed back for a short period, as I was looking forward to getting started, so thankfully, there was no delay on that front.

The migration to an online learning method of teaching is a huge task to undertake, and I applaud the Law Society's efforts in making the course accessible in this time of pandemic. It is not an easy task and all the efforts are appreciated, and the Law Society have been open to any feedback regarding playback, access or time management issues.

As to the learning materials for the course, recorded lectures are accessible for the duration of the course as well as a populated discussion forum on the educational platform, Moodle, along with other valuable resources for modules and the invaluable Shrink Me psychology and wellbeing course.

So far, the pressure of exams is a future worry and for that I am immensely grateful as the academic work always comes first, juggling preparation work and lecture viewing time as well as practical project work.

In these initial weeks of the course, the delivery of course content will continue to prepare the next generation of legal professionals, who will surely become the most proficient at online meetings. If we can imagine virtual courtrooms in the next decade or so, that reality may be even closer now after this online experience of Blackhall.

Collaborating with my fellow trainees on a crucial project formulating a law firm's business plan still lies ahead, but the enthusiasm is at a high level and the engagement with each other has been very welcome, especially for anyone who may be living alone or apart from family at this time. The sight of a wall of faces during a Zoom call has been a much needed sign of the community that has existed from the early days of the professional practice course.

Being able to catch up with each other on a peer to peer level will always be important, not just for the social interaction, to be able to boost the network connections and be able to rely on each other in the future once the road to qualification ends.

For the most part, working from home has been an adjustment that has alerted me to the importance of organisation and compartmentalising a work space from the laid back living space that has all the comforts of a home. It's made me more conscious of my surroundings, about the amount of clutter that may distract me, the folded laundry in the corner or even the open window just a few feet away.

Though one great positive I will say that working from home has as opposed to sitting in a lecture hall has been the steady supply of hot drinks and the personal pace of learning is one of the benefits, in my opinion.

For anyone finding their concentration dipping during the day, I would definitely recommend the Ella range of granola bars to keep the energy levels up at a decent level which you can buy in Marks and Spencer on your next grocery shopping run.

The social interaction has been indeed lacking in these times, but thankfully, I have been kept sane with online mental health seminars, professional development online events organised by Junior Chamber International Ireland cleverly titled 'Coping with Corona', free yoga classes with Himalaya Yoga Valley Cork and online Zumba classes with my teacher from the Elbowroom fitness studio have certainly helped me both physically and mentally during this strange period.

One thing that I found beneficial during this time of home learning is by taking a mini social media break, which has been demonstrated by many other influencers and communities online, just involving deleting the most frequently used apps on my phone. Not only is my focus improved and my attention span increased, but I am gravitating towards Duolingo for brain training learning, a Scribd app trial for reading books at my leisure and Spotify for study playlists if my fingers truly need to be kept busy. It can truly be a blessing with the right mindset.

Guiding myself through online study has been a learning curve, but the mindset has always been important as well as the need to acknowledge the extreme times we are living in. I choose to be proud of the work that I do and the academic tasks I accomplish with the good fortune that mutual support, a community and resources are at my fingertips. That element of gratitude is something that has greatly assisted my mental health, to remember and know what is truly important.

To be able to take charge of my learning and my study practice in such a way will surely stand to me in the future. In terms of furthering my legal skills even further in areas that I am very interested in, the Law Society kindly offered trainees on the course to enrol in a mediation course free of charge as a supportive measure for this time of pandemic. This is an area that I wish to have more experience in as part of my career path in future so I gladly registered for the course and look forward to starting to improve my skills in that field. While not the ideal setting or what what expected by the trainee group this year, truly this virtual learning journey may prove to reap the rewards for this next generation of solicitors who have coped with such uncertainty and came through as determined, calm and forward thinking professionals.

To all my readers, fellow trainees and friends, I send you all the best during these strange times. It has been a challenge so far, brimming with uncertainty, but hopefully when we are able to come through this crisis, then the future will be that bit brighter.

Stay safe. Take care of yourselves and one another. Thank you for reading.

Himalaya Yoga Valley Cork - free classes during the pandemic (schedule changes each week): https://yogacorkireland.com/join-us-for-live-online-classes/

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