I write this, my first piece for The Lawyer, amidst a scene of carnage. Not in the legal landscape – though recent weeks have seen some big stories, and the future promises similar excitement – but in my house.
Ashley Connick is about to start his LPC before starting his training contract in August
I depart tomorrow (I am writing in late September) on a trip of a lifetime, travelling through Africa for two months on an adventure that will bring me many experiences, including the nightmare of fitting 8 weeks’ worth of clothes and equipment into a rucksack. The idea to travel did not come from me: I had planned to spend the time between my GDL and my LPC in London, doing bits of work here and there whilst enjoying the freedom to relax without the pressure of studying.
A friend who is a couple of years ahead of me in the qualification process asked me what my plans for my time off were. On hearing them, he was shocked: “how can you not go away? You’ll only appreciate the freedom if you travel. Don’t waste this opportunity – you may not get another one.” He told me that his post-LPC travels had been liberating, and that the best feeling he’d ever had was whilst watching a sunrise with the knowledge that there was no work waiting for him the moment he returned, as had been the case with every previous holiday. I couldn’t fault his logic, and somehow that thought has turned into last-minute panic as I turn my house upside down trying to find a pair of binoculars.
Reflecting on my friend’s advice, I realise how valuable this experience will be. Making the most of free time opportunities is not something I think many lawyers excel at. Certainly, I know plenty for whom this is the case (as many of them would freely admit), and this is a category I can see myself falling into. My short working life already shows indications of that being the case, and my technological attachment is such that I’m sure prising a work BlackBerry out of my hands will be anything but simple. The FT’s Tim Bratton recently wrote about the ability to switch off whilst on holiday (I also wrote something on this topic, albeit from a slightly different angle) and asked the question of whether lawyers who had been brought up with technology that allowed them to be contactable all hours of the day and night would be the ones who knew when to switch off. If my trip gives me nothing else, I hope it will teach me that my current reliance on technology is unsustainable, and that switching off occasionally is therapeutic. I’m expecting that’s a lesson I will need reminding of once I start my training contract next year.