Reflective Practice and the Law Society’s Professional Development Profile

We have talked about how developing a reflective practice is good for learning, for fostering creativity and for improving performance, thus making your practice more effective. Reflective practice can also help you specifically develop or enhance competencies in the Professional Development Profile

Essential to Cultural Competency and Reconciliation

To act in a culturally respectful manner and to work towards achieving cultural safety with your clients, you must become self-aware and understand how you are situated in relation to your clients, the legal system and society. It is particularly important that you seek to understand the impact of your behaviour on others. You must become sensitive to cultural, gender, race, class and other lived experiences and appreciate your own personal biases and the assumptions you hold about people, as well as the power imbalances inherent in your relationship to your clients and your professional privilege, all with a view to openness, integrity, authenticity and respect for others. This will help you serve your clients better and to work as an active agent to change systemic racism, discrimination and injustice within the legal system. 

Taking a culturally respectful and trauma-informed approach to practice as a professional absolutely requires the ability for critical self-reflection. 

Related Domains: Cultural Competency and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Truth and Reconciliation.

Helps You Serve Your Clients Better

In addition, being a legal professional can involve a significant amount of problem-solving. To do this, you must be able to integrate different areas of legal knowledge that you have previously learned about in silos and think about a holistic solution to complex problems. Reflection is key to this process, and to continuously developing new strategies and approaches to problem-solving. 

Effective communication is also crucial to serving your clients. Reflective practice helps you develop emotional and social intelligence, which are essential to developing effective communication. It will also make you aware of and challenge your own values, ethics, prejudices and assumptions, thus being able to relate better to your clients and to respect their views and emotions. 

Efficiency is critical to managing your practice. Efficiency practices include clear goals, succinct and professional communication, and the ability to critically assess whether your practices are efficient or could be improved including proficient file and knowledge management and the use of technology. You need to be thinking about these efficiency issues on a constant and continuous basis in order to keep your billings reasonable for clients. Reflective practice creates a habit, or way of being, for continuous improvement of your practice.  

Related Domains: Legal Practice; Lawyer-Client Relationships; Practice Management; Continuous Improvement.

Fosters Ethical Behaviour

To act in an ethical manner, one must apply ethical frameworks appropriately in complicated situations and resolve personal value and ethical conflicts that arise. Reflective practice helps you to understand how your personal values influence your decisions and actions and to handle situations where you are faced with making decisions contrary to your value system or moral code.  It encourages a greater alignment between your values and actions, thus strengthening integrity and leading to authenticity; these two qualities are related to ethical practice and also to personal well-being. 

For example, if a client asks you to act in ways that are not legal or ethical, you must be able to take steps to recognize and identify the dilemma, ascertain your professional options, discern the way forward with a trusted colleague or mentor when you are uncertain or conflicted (always protecting client confidentiality), develop a plan of action and act on it with integrity. This will often mean setting clear boundaries with clients and others about what you will and will not do, which is not always easy. 

Strengthening your own capacity to reflect, as well as your capacity to reflect productively with others, such as colleagues, mentors and clients when appropriate, will support you in each of these steps. However, the consequences of not acting in accordance with your own values, as well as the Law Society’s Code of Conduct can range from uncomfortable feelings all the way to regulatory discipline. 

Related Domains: Professional Conduct; Well-being; Professional Contributions. 

Contributes to Your Well-Being 

Uncertainty is at the heart of professional work, as professionals use their judgment, experience, intuition, as well as their knowledge and skills, to solve problems. By its very nature, reflection creates uncertainty by questioning our own assumptions and ways of doing. By becoming a reflective practitioner, you will learn not only how to manage uncertainty, but how to thrive in it.  

As we have clearly seen in the COVID-19 pandemic, legal professionals and the legal system must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and to function in the midst of great uncertainty. Reflective practice fosters an acceptance of the uncertainty inherent in legal practice and makes you more adaptable to changing circumstances. 

Further, by self-reflecting on your own opinions, values and principles, you are able to stand apart from them just enough to avoid being completely identified with them. Therefore, when your values, opinions and principles are being challenged, as they inevitably will be, you are able to avoid the devastating feeling that your whole self has been violated. In this way, reflective practice builds resilience. It also increases the ability to engage with others who do not share the same views and values as you do. 

In your practice, you may also deal with injustice, racism and other difficult circumstances. For your own well-being, you need to build resilience to cope with these realities of practice, as well as the impact of vicarious trauma on yourself, especially if you are dealing with conflictual situations, particularly those relating to domestic violence, refugees, children, personal injuries, victims of crimes or structural violence or systemic racism. In dealing with these situations that arise in some practice contexts, which involve much unrecognized and undervalued emotional labour, it is important to learn to reflect, and to ensure you take adequate steps to ensure your well-being and continued fitness for practice. You must be able to recognize and manage the emotions that inevitably arise in these situations, for your clients and for your own sake. 

For these reasons and others, reflective practice has been shown to increase job satisfaction and decrease work-related stress.

Related Domains: Well-being; Continuous Improvement.

In the next section, we’ll start applying what you’ve learned so far.

Last modified: Thursday, 2 March 2023, 11:42 AM