Encouragement, Love and Professional Success

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Kami Haeri, one of the authors of the Haeri Report (the other authors being Sophie Challan-Belval, Eleonore Hannezo and Bernard Lamon).

Our conversation covered a number of different areas: how the Haeri Report came about and why Haeri was selected to lead the commission that prepared it; what approach the commission decided to take in preparing the Report and why; how different members of the profession have received the Report; the challenges Haeri perceives with respect to the legal profession’s governing bodies in France; how legal education can be improved, the challenges new lawyers face when they begin their careers,…

Please don’t hesitate to consult the full redaction of our conversation here.

While Haeri made a number of very interesting and thought-provoking remarks, there is one that stood out for me in particular.

He said “If you gather five interns in your office, you will immediately see which ones have been encouraged and loved.” The way they will have been loved, he explains, is that they will have been encouraged to expand their knowledge, notably with recommended reading. Haeri threw out a couple of examples of what an adolescent could be encouraged to read: To Kill a Mockingbird and Camus’s L’Etranger. But I got the impression those were the first two things that came to his mind on the spot, and that had he taken the time to think further, he could have come up with a long list of works that, in his opinion, introduce new ideas to the reader and force the reader to think about the world in a different way.  Works that, in Haeri’s opinion, would be sufficiently challenging for an adolescent reader without being beyond their reach.

For Haeri, the fact that some new lawyers received this encouragement and love in childhood and some did not produces a “massive gap in equality” when they embark on their careers. This is because those who received it develop two characteristics essential to success as a lawyer: confidence in themselves as well as the ability to speak and behave in a manner that conveys this confidence. For Haeri, these characteristics are just as important as substantive knowledge of the law, if not even more important.

Haeri didn’t stop there. He explained that he thinks that legal education, if designed correctly, can help to close that gap. That is, he thinks that legal education can help the students who, as children, were not encouraged and loved in this manner to develop the soft skills that they need to succeed as lawyers. In particular, he proposes that a special continuing legal education program be developed and implemented—a program directed specifically to new lawyers just entering the profession. For each year in the six (or so) year program, the new lawyer would focus on the development of a specific soft skill.

And Haeri kept going. For Haeri, encouragement and love is needed not only during adolescence but also in early adulthood, and those who get it are, yet again, massively advantaged over those who do not. So, Haeri proposes that such a continuing legal education program would not only help new lawyers to develop the soft skills they need to succeed, but also be used to help them to understand how to forge their path in the profession. Specifically, it could be used to help new lawyers understand the career challenges they face and to make the right decisions to foster the successful development of their careers.

I found Haeri’s suggestions intriguing on a number of levels. Most intriguing is the direct link that Haeri makes between, on the one hand, parental (familial) support in the form of “encouragement and love” during childhood and, on the other hand, professional success as an adult.  For him, the link is so important, and effect is so profound, that when new lawyers arrive at his firm, he can immediately “see” which ones received such support and which ones did not.

Again, the full transcript of our conversation is available here.

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Related posts on this site:

France’s Haeri Report on the Future of the Legal Profession: Intro

France’s Haeri Report and Alternative Structures (1 of 2): Je t’aime un peu

France’s Haeri Report and Alternative Structures (2 of 2): Je t’aime, moi non plus


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