Undoubtedly 2020 has been a time of rapid change for the legal sector, arguably the most change the industry has ever seen within such as short space of time. As COVID-19 hit across the globe, the ‘virtual’ law firm of the future became reality overnight with everyone from junior support staff to partners working remotely.
While many sectors were hit hard and difficult decisions had to be made by businesses, including law firms, understanding of the future of work was accelerated. Most significantly, the rapid adoption of technology by law firms to enable people to work remotely and keep operations going.
Armed with this ‘proof of concept’, despite the lockdown easing, many firms are now planning to continue remote working. One of the world’s largest law firm’s Dentons recently announced it is shutting two of its UK offices. Staff at the offices will work from home permanently and the firm will continue to ‘look at the use of technology with the aim of moving towards a more agile way of resourcing work’.
As well as changes brought about by COVID-19, routes into the legal sector are also changing. Given the events of the past six months, many industry commentators are calling for the introduction of the new Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) to be delayed another year. However, the SRA is planning to push ahead with its introduction in Autumn 2021 as planned.
Despite huge changes in the industry and the road ahead complex, confident use of technology and a broader skillset than ever are must-haves for future lawyers who want to succeed.
Confidence around using and trying new technology is one of the key areas where younger legal professionals are inherently desirable when it comes to getting hired. While not denying the lifeline technology has provided firms during the pandemic and its huge potential, many partners and senior lawyers are still wary when it comes to technology. This is partly due to lack of time, but also due to lack of understanding and fears around data, home working and venturing into the unknown.
However, the sector remains highly competitive so over and above simply being a ‘digital native’ owing to generation, increasing your knowledge of a particular technology and its future potential is very worthwhile. For example, you might have an interest in social media and the strategies employed by law firms here. Another area of great interest to partners is the impact Lawtech is going to have on the future. By being up to speed on the bigger, commercial issues, which stem from this you’ll be memorable.
There are several emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, which firms are also keen to have in-house expertise on. These innovations will potentially impact everything from how firms get paid to the signing of key legal documents to the rise of virtual courtrooms. Being (or being willing to become) an expert in one of these areas could elevate you above a similar candidate.
In a post-pandemic world, being able to navigate through unchartered waters and gain the confidence of your clients and colleagues is essential. Despite all the technical training in the world, lawyers who don’t have the softer skills to build relationships and connect with people will find it difficult to progress their careers. Particularly in a tough commercial environment.
However, this allows younger lawyers to acknowledge this and approach Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a key part of their career development from the outset.
Some firms do invest in bespoke softer skills training for their fee earners. However, as softer skills are not a regulatory requirement, many lawyers, at all stages of their career, decide to make their own investment in CPD. This is becoming increasingly popular given the need to demonstrate softer skills post-pandemic. As well as showing that you have a broad skill base, giving the best value and ROI to your firm as headcounts are closely monitored.
There are several legal training providers on the market. However, chose one that has specific sector experience. BARBRI Altior, for example, has over 40 years’ experience in legal sector training. We offer personal development courses which help nurture softer skills include areas such as; business development and networking, time and stress management, negotiation skills and dealing with difficult people and will also be supporting the delivery of SQE Prep courses in 2021.
For more information and to speak to a member of the team, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org