Ed: ‘Articles’ refers to a 2-3 year internship done in the legal and accounting professions in some countries, which is required to obtain a certain qualification (e.g. attorney or chartered accountant).
It’s the ultimate taboo. Attorneys and accountants alike quake at the very mention of the phrase “ceding my articles.” It goes against everything we have been told and all opinions (wanted or otherwise) seem to point in the same direction, don’t do it!
So here I am, one of careless few who threw caution to the wind and made the leap of faith. I joke, those who know me know I’m hardly spontaneous and overthink most things. While ceding your articles is a big decision, it shouldn’t be one that you refuse to consider because of its illicit stigma.
Here are questions I contemplated before ceding my articles:
- Is it too early in my career to make this kind of move?
- How is my CV going to look with less than 18 months of experience at two different law firms?
- Am I quitting when the going gets tough?
- Isn’t it a right of passage to suffer through your articles and emerge with epic war stories on the other side?
The answers to these questions might paint a pretty grim picture: a young graduate who clearly lacks any sort of grit or determination, can’t stick at a job for more than 18 months, has bounced around a few law firms, couldn’t cut it in litigation, and buckled under the pressure.
As much as serving your articles is merely a requirement on the checklist for admission as an attorney, it also provides the opportunity to gain two years of valuable experience, to make mistakes in a more forgiving environment, and to build the basis of your professional brand.
Want to switch firms? Ask yourself these questions
With that in mind, here are some more questions that are equally as important to consider if you’re thinking about switching firms:
- Will I be able to expand my knowledge by practicing in a different area?
- Would I gain expertise elsewhere that I would miss out on if I stayed where I am?
- Could I make new connections to grow my professional network?
If these questions are easily answered with “yes, yes and yes,” then who cares about what people might think or how your CV might look?
Don’t get me wrong, job-hopping every three months and resigning when the wind blows in the wrong direction is not what I am trying to encourage. No matter where you go, there will be elements of your job that you can’t bear and tasks you will do your level best to avoid but that’s where the grit and determination come in. It’s much easier to stick at a job where you enjoy the work, you are learning new skills and you have opportunities to grow as a young professional in a positive environment.
After ceding my articles, I went from being comfortable in a courtroom wearing a pencil skirt, and a court gown throwing around words like “Your worship”, “warrant of arrest” and “granted as prayed” to being uncomfortable in an office where people wore jeans on a Tuesday and I was assaulted with words like “lodgements”, “levy clearance figures” and “occupational rental”.
But I was allowed to ask silly questions. My duties and responsibilities were clearly defined. I was encouraged to attend courses, networking events, and present myself to clients as confidently as possible.
The benefit of hindsight
While it’s always difficult to know if the grass is greener on the other side, sometimes we have to back ourselves to take a leap of faith and hope for the best.
Six months down the line, I am still learning something new every day. I like to think I would be able to answer almost any conveyancing question you could throw at me. I have connected with professionals on both a business and a personal level and I have been forced out of my comfort zone on a daily basis while marketing myself as a young attorney.
Maybe the picture is not so grim, after all: a young graduate who is eager to learn with 18 months of varied experience working in a traditional law firm as well as a conveyancing firm with a more dynamic approach and who has shown notable determination in taking on a new challenge to develop her skill set.
Are you jumping ship or copping out by ceding your articles? Absolutely not! You are broadening your horizons as a young professional. It’s not a decision to make on a whim or without careful consideration but don’t be intimidated by the negative reproach. I jumped ship and I’m so glad I did.
Do you have any questions about switching firms? Ask me in the comments!
Oh, and please help Trench Life reach other young professionals by sharing this article if you enjoyed it!
- Ceding your articles: Jumping ship or broadening horizons? - May 18, 2020
- Defining your niche: The big question for young attorneys - April 18, 2020
Charity Mthembu says