In a recent blog post ‘End of Lawyers and the Legal Services Act’ I mentioned some of the current challenges facing those of us that run law firms. These include the need to become deeply multidisciplinary, and also to provide the more innovative solutions the market needs in order to drive down costs.
In my area of practice – which is Internet and IP law – ‘multidisciplinary’ essentially means having a solid grasp of IT. So, although like most growing businesses, I am constantly preoccupied with thoughts about what services to offer and who to employ, there is this underlying essential requirement that any staff hired should be highly IT savvy.
One of the advantages of being a regulated law firm is that there is no shortage of highly motivated and talented ‘would be’ lawyers constantly knocking on the door in search of work experience. However, surprisingly few of them offer the level of IT competence we ideally want to see in candidates. Being in their early 20’s I would have thought they would emerge from their studies extremely proficient in IT, but that is rarely the case. The level of knowledge of Outlook, Word, Spreadsheets, and other applications often leaves much to be desired, and as a small law firm we simply do not have time to train people up in these areas. They need to be able to hit the ground running. I've learnt that a distinction in the LPC, or a First in Law, is generally not indicative of suitability to work in a fast paced environment like ours where the ability to multi task, to be practical, learn fast, and have common sense, are more likely to lead to success.
Similarly, the ability to write is such a key asset to be able to offer an online business such as Azrights – but this is unfortunately not a skill generally evident among those who are aspiring to become lawyers.
Therefore, offering advanced IT or writing skills would stand out from the crowd of CVs. My advice to ‘would be’ lawyers, for what it’s worth, is to acquire these skills and once you have them highlight your abilities in your CV.
Currently law graduates offering work experience in related areas, such as journalism, marketing, PR, internet marketing or web design are more attractive than those who just offer law, regardless of class of law degree. So instead of focusing purely on legal knowledge and learning - which is actually rarely a unique selling point given the level of competition out there among law graduates - it is better to acquire these wider skills. In my view, this upskilling, and acquring a good understanding of marketing, would enable a law graduate to stand out from the crowd and stand a good chance of getting a training contract in this fiercely competitive market.
The world of law is indeed changing rapidly, and the sooner this is reflected in the education ‘would be’ lawyers receive the better for everyone. Those finding it difficult to get a toe hold in the profession, would also benefit from reading Richard Susskind's books and the article by Stephen Mayson both of which are hyperlinked in my earlier blog post mentioned above. An understanding of the market forces that are changing the face of the legal world will help the new generation of 'would be' lawyers to understand the type of skills they may need to acquire.