There is no question that the legal profession is one of the most competitive sectors within the economy. It is also one of the most rewarding, respected and recognised professions. But while climbing the proverbial career ladder can be seen as the key determinant for success for many legal practitioners, it is only scratching the surface of what it means to be successful.
Indeed, conventional wisdom has it that to be successful meant advancement to partner and a salary and benefits package that would make most people blush with envy. However, since the recession, the legal sector has become increasingly competitive both for those already working within the profession and new entrants looking to make their mark.
This has resulted in a marked shift away from the traditional view of success being the rise to the top, towards a focus on increasing one’s ‘equity’ within the firm. Put another way, more and more practitioners are realising that they don’t have to hold a seat at the top table to hold influence, they can increase their perceived value by providing evidence of an altogether different kind – solving problems that have an enormous impact on the bottom line of the firm.
Legal practitioners often work long and demanding hours to meet client needs, whatever level they are in their career. For them to feel successful and empowered within their profession, we need to go back to basics and understand their personal beliefs, values and aspirations.
Not everyone is interested in becoming a partner; maybe we need to dig deeper as to why so many legal practitioners strive for partnership. What is it that they really desire?
It’s probably not to do with the money, it’s feeling valued. Recognition that they are doing their job and doing it well. Millennial values are changing the shape of the workforce, with more and more males as well as females choosing work/life balance over their salary.
Money generally isn’t the motivational factor as to why people go into law, they choose a career within the legal profession because they want to help clients and make a difference to people’s lives. Employees want to know that they are valued by both the partners and clients.
If they have these needs met, then law firms will be full of happy, motivated, productive and empowered legal practitioners who will ultimately provide a better experience for their clients. This will of course be greatly enhanced with continued professional training. Not only will this give trainees a sound foundation in legal practice itself, it can enhance your skills. Longer-term, it will provide invaluable insight when it comes to more advanced courses that you will be expected to undertake as your career progresses. Kaplan Altior has developed a number of course pathways that take you from basics to more advanced skills and knowledge. A great example of this is our criminal litigation courses which start with ‘Finding your feet in the Magistrates' Court’ and lead onto ‘Conducting a trial in the Magistrates Court’ and then ultimately Higher Rights of Audience.
By developing this range of skills Legal practitioners will build better and more effective relationships with clients, resulting in more work for the law firm as they will trust who they worked with and want to work with them again.
Successful legal practitioners will be great at communication, presenting themselves and building rapport with potential new clients. They will network to nurture and create new relationships and be able to influence people in addition to acquiring and developing those skills that will aid their future career progression - think, business development networking, effective time (and stress) management, and business writing skills to name but a few .
Being successful in law is about building your own personal brand. Remember why you entered that profession in the first place and be clear on your own values and goals. Build good relationships with colleagues and clients to continue to bring in work and gain new clients and you will be seen as a respected and successful legal practitioner.