LIFE@VENNS – JOE ASKEW

“When you stop learning you stop growing” – Kenneth Blanchard

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. As a mature candidate, that has not been part of my experience and in fact, I prefer the corollary… when you stop learning you stop growing.

I came to Venns with significant apprehension at the prospect of starting over in the legal arena. Having spent a number of years in the corporate sector and several years abroad, I was not sure what to expect from the path ahead of me. But I soon realized my fears were unfounded.

I arrived back in South Africa on 27 December 2015, after nearly eleven years in the UK, and reported for my first day as a candidate attorney on 4 January 2016. The chance to acclimatize was extremely brief, but I soon realized that my fellow candidates and I were in the same boat. Whether you come straight from university or whether you have been involved in other pursuits, the first few weeks of articles are daunting. Aside from having to learn names, faces and the ways of working within the firm, you are also thrown into the deep end of legal practise which often looks very different to what you came across in the lecture hall.

How reassuring, then, to have landed up with Venns Attorneys!  Despite being one of the largest firms in Pietermaritzburg, Venns nevertheless manages to maintain the ethos and camaraderie of a smaller firm. From the Directors to the cleaning staff, the firm maintains an open and inclusive attitude and I have always felt encouraged and supported throughout my time here.

The life of a CA is challenging to say the least. The learning curve is steep and the expectations are high. Personal growth is rapid and this is due in no small way to the structures in place which lets candidates thrive and develop. This is true even for us old dogs learning new tricks!

CAs are encouraged to ask questions, take responsibilities and be the best they can be. The caliber of attorney produced as a result is of an exceptional standard. Whether an attorney stays with Venns or moves on to other opportunities, they do so having had the best possible foundation for their legal career going forward.

Whether an old dog like me or a fresh-faced graduate just entering the workplace, the secret to success is simple:

  • Bring the right attitude to work each day – even in the less pleasant tasks or assignments you will face. It will also determine how your colleagues and clients view your efforts.
  • Never stop learning you cannot hope to know everything, but at least know how to get the information you will need. Keep your knowledge current and don’t ignore the resources and the experience of the colleagues around you.
  • Be interested in the people around you and take the time to connect. This is a relationship-driven environment.
  • Be effective – Don’t settle for good enough. Strive to be the best you can be.
  • Take pride and pleasure in what you do – we spend a large part of our lives at work so make what you do enjoyable.

Having recently been admitted as an attorney, I have been retained by Venns and I have a thriving and growing practice that keeps me on my toes and forces me to keep learning. One thing for certain is that work is never boring and as they say, “Every dog has its day!”

Joe Askew
Professional Assistant
Litigation Division