FWA BLOG

Welcome to our BLOG - Here we share our market insights, a range of unique articles encompassing advice and analysis on a variery of legal career and recruitment topics and utilising our many years of experience and deep knowledge of the legal jobs market. From advice on career development to management skills, our BLOG offers a new angle that can help you gain an advantage in this highly competitive industry.

Motivation is key … Is it all about balance?

Whilst recruitment of the right people is essential – much can be done with further education, training and staff evaluation to improve skills and add value to the service offered.

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Whilst recruitment of the right people is essential – much can be done with further education, training and staff evaluation to improve skills and add value to the service offered.  This is linked to the increasing demands lawyers are making, and the fact that motivation is not always financial.  Lawyers are increasingly looking at the work/life balance, and within this current climate, are less money oriented than quality of life oriented.  This is also tied into ways in which people are looking to change the way they work.  The ‘quick fix’ of a salary increase rarely works, lawyers want to have a life outside work, attitudes are changing.  This does not mean that the solution can be found in working fewer hours – it comes down to the way we are working, and how we can improve what we are doing, without adding to the burden.  This is equally an issue for clients, as they feel the knock on effect.  Clients don't want lawyers to be overworked, stressed, ill, underperforming, the market is too competitive.

 

Getting That Work-Life Balance Right    |    How to add value to the job?

How to add value to the job?

As most lawyers are high achievers there is a tendency to over commit, resulting in work overload and dissatisfied clients.

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As most lawyers are high achievers there is a tendency to over commit, resulting in work overload and dissatisfied clients.  Then there are the inevitable interruptions in the day that interrupt our precious time management planning, not to mention the additional pressure of the high risk and value so often attributed to the caseload.  So it is time to take back some control.

Think about when you are most productive – morning, afternoon, evening – use that time most effectively.  This will also help when you look at where you need structure to your day (or restructure) so that your time is less fragmented – both of these measures require effective planning and organisational skills.  With clients, avoid over committing – it’s always too easy to do, remember clients are interested in quality not speed, not promises that can’t be delivered. 

Delegation 

This is difficult and there are always so-called obstacles that often are excuses about doing the job best yourself, etc.  If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to delegate work, then use it, most people are happy to take on more responsibility and variety.  And for more junior lawyers, working for different partners or associates, then you need to be communicating when there is a potential conflict with the demands of your time, be proactive and ask for guidance when prioritising.  This alone helps you to develop negotiating skills and again adds value to the work you are doing 

IT

How do you compete with the technology geniuses that are the newly qualified and lower level qualified lawyers are generally the ones with the most up-to-speed IT skills – it’s up to you how you market this, how you use this to manage time, and ultimately to save time?  Look at what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Clarity about your objectives in all areas – whether internal firm meetings, meetings with clients, the delegation of workload and what you expect this to achieve – this will smooth out the processes – takes time to set up and initiate, but saves time in the long run.

Finally, adding value to the service offered by improving the quality of service can be more visible to clients, and can be as cheap and simple as adopting a more responsive approach.

Senior Marketwatching |   People Development - The most important asset to a business 

Sun, Sand & Sea…what more can the Channel Islands offer?

It is no wonder people are moving to the Channel Islands, with the lure of the perfect work-life balance on top of the scenic beaches and that relaxed European lifestyle.  The Channel Islands can offer you more than you know whether it is for a few years or for life.

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It is no wonder people are moving to the Channel Islands, with the lure of the perfect work-life balance on top of the scenic beaches and that relaxed European lifestyle.  The Channel Islands can offer you more than you know whether it is for a few years or for life;

  • Excellent climate - need I to say more?
  • 20% Tax rate.
  • Both Guernsey and Jersey have an excellent education system in place.  Which is great if you are relocating with family or are thinking about settling there.
  • Family life will change – late nights are replaced by evening walks over the cliffs and bike rides over the many cycle tracks.
  • There is a low crime rate on both islands.  The State of Jersey Police recently said new crime statistics make the Island one of the safest places in the British Isles, their report from January shows that crime fell in Jersey by 7% from last year.
  • A worry for most people, when they are relocating, is how it will affect their social life.  But there is no need to worry about this as the social aspect of the Channel Islands has never made it easier to meet people with many social clubs to join and networking events taking place.
  • If you enjoy the outdoors, the Channel Islands is the place for you.  Sports play a large role in Island there is various sporting clubs and outdoor activities e.g. Water sports like sailing, and various sports clubs to join.
  • You can earn the same amount as top London firms without all the hours.
  • You will gain experience regularly working with top tier UK and US Law Firms.
  • If you are a millennial, both Islands are nightlife hubs full of rustic cobbled streets with wine bars and Chic Coffee Bars.  These small islands have everything London and mainland Europe have, so no need to worry about missing out on those after work drinks or lazy Sunday mornings reading the newspaper at your local coffee shop.

 

The above benefits are appealing and you may be thinking the Channel Islands is the place for you, but it is a very competitive market and you need certain qualities/skills to be considered;

  • At least 6 months’ experience in certain areas of law such as; Corporate, Funds, Trusts, Private Client, Insolvency and Litigation.
  • Strong academics from Secondary School onwards.  Most firms will ask for a list of your academics.
  • A commitment to relocating.
  • Had a Traineeship with a top law firm.

 

If the Channel Islands interest's you give Cameron or Teddie a call on 01294 850501 for an initial and confidential discussion.  Why not request a copy of our recently updated Channel Islands information pack, which gives you more detail on life in the Islands.

 

Related Blogs

Getting That Work-Life Balance Right          What can influence taking a new job?

Five Secrets: How to Stay Ahead of Technology

Since the 1990s, there has been a continued focus on developing client relationships, as the market becomes more competitive, and indeed we are finding ourselves in competition with technology itself.  Since then we have found ourselves in an ongoing impossible race with technology.

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Since the 1990s, there has been a continued focus on developing client relationships, as the market becomes more competitive, and indeed we are finding ourselves in competition with technology itself.  Since then we have found ourselves in an ongoing impossible race with technology.

Technology is taking over every industry, this affects the legal industry with legal work moving online and clients now able to source answers to their questions or legal queries themselves. We must utilise technology to help solve problems and not work against it.  Yet Lawyers must ensure they add value to their Firms/services that cannot be found from technology, this will ensure clients do not remove Legal services completely from the legal process and they are ultimately not replaced in their Firm by technology.

Firms must understand the importance of client retention and the meaning of “customer life time value”, this is an area in which firms can beat technology.  Promising a service and delivering on the promise will ultimately promote a higher-level of client care that will make lawyers of the future stand out.  This will guarantee Firms continue to be the first port of call instead of a basic internet search.

You must make your advice different from that provided by an online (impersonal) service and to ensure you are seen as a front runner in the industry.

How to beat technology with excellent service?

  1. Correct training as well as appropriate training structures in place at all levels.
  2. Appropriate delegation that will free time of senior level lawyers to meet with clients and develop relationships.
  3. Junior level lawyers will also need improved delegation skills, in order to handle busy workloads, and make the necessary time available for their clients.  
  4. The firm brand values must be implemented in the same manner throughout the whole organisation and clients should receive uniformly excellent, relevant advice and service.
  5. As a firm you must be providing the appropriate support so that your Lawyers feel both ready to deliver and proactive.

 

5 Minute Career Coach           The Trends Affecting Junior Level Lawyers Going Soft

Interview as an Equal

Most candidates are faced with anxiety and nerves before and during an interview, wondering if they are saying the right things, reacting quickly enough to the interviewer’s questions, if the gleam of sweat lying on their brow and sticky hands have been noticed, and are coming across like a worthy employee. 

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Most candidates are faced with anxiety and nerves before and during an interview, wondering if they are saying the right things, reacting quickly enough to the interviewer’s questions, if the gleam of sweat lying on their brow and sticky hands have been noticed, and are coming across like a worthy employee.  With all this and more going on in a candidates head whilst answering tricky questions, it is likely they feel they are being interrogated which will result in an unsuccessful interview on both parts.

No organisation wants an interview to end with both participants feeling that it didn’t go well.  The candidate could leave with a bad impression of the firm or company, it could seem like an unorganised, unfriendly place to work. 

Interviewers can help put candidates at ease during an interview easily by making it their mission to bring a shy candidate out of their shell. It only takes a few simple adjustments to their technique and some genuine interest and sincerity in what the candidate is saying. You need to get the best out of the Interviewer to get the best of the candidate.

These few tips will benefit both the interviewer and interviewee;

  • Realise the power of the pause – well-timed pauses are good, this will give the candidate time to properly think their answer through and also can act as a silent probe to get more information.
  • Mirror the candidate’s body language – this will subtly engage with the candidate and they will unconsciously feel that you are equals.
  • Research the candidate just like they would you – this will establish a few talking points that will make the candidate more relaxed.
  • Before the interview ensure that the candidate knows exactly what to expect and there are no surprises – there will be no uncertainty for the candidate before, they will be fully prepared reducing any pre-interview jitters.
  • Note to Interviewers – DO NOT take over the interview.  This will automatically make the interview feel like an integration and will be uncomfortable.  The interview should have the flow of a conversation rather than a question and answer.

Remember that a new employee’s first day isn’t their first official day; their first day is the day they first engage with you in the hiring process, that’s when their experience with you starts.  Make it a good one. 

 

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The Graceful Exit          Great Answers to tough interview questions

Great answers to tough interview questions

We are delighted to share with you specific interview guidance based on information that we have gathered over the years from interviewees, interviewers and the HR profession - we hope you find it helpful on your journey.

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‘Great answers to tough interview questions’

We are delighted to share with you specific interview guidance based on information that we have gathered over the years from interviewees, interviewers and the HR profession - we hope you find it helpful on your journey.

What do you think determines progress in a good law firm?

Your answer should include all the positive personality traits you have been illustrating throughout the interview.  Include allusion to the listening profile, determination, ability to take the rough with the smooth, adherence to systems and procedures and the good fortune to be part of a firm that wants you to grow as well.

What are the reasons for your success in this profession?

With this question, the interviewer is not so much interested in examples of your success – he or she wants to know what makes you tick.  Keep your answers short, general and to the point.  Using your professional experience, personalise and use value keys from your personal, professional and business profiles. For example: I attribute my success to three reasons: I’ve always received support from my colleagues, which encourages me to be cooperative and look at my specific job in terms of what we as a department are trying to achieve.  That gives me great pride in my work and its contribution to the department’s efforts, which is the second factor.  Finally, I find that every job has its problems, and while there’s always a costly solution. There’s usually an economical one as well, whether it is in terms of time or money.  Then give an example of your experience that illustrates these points.

Describe how your role relates to the overall goals of your department and firm.

This not only probes your understanding of department and corporate missions by also indirectly checks into your ability to function as a team member to get the work done.

What have you learned from jobs you have held?

The interviewer needs to understand that you seek and can accept constructive advice and that your business decisions are based on the ultimate good of the firm, not your personal whim or preference.

How do you feel about your progress to date?

This question is not geared solely to rate your progress; it also rates your self-esteem.  Be positive, yet do not give the impression you have already done your best work.  Make the interviewer believe you see each day as an opportunity to learn and contribute and that you see the environment at the company as conducive to your best efforts.

Have you done the best work you are capable of doing?

Say ‘yes’ and the interviewer will think you’re a has-been.  Personalise your work history, for this particular question, include the essence of this reply: “I’m proud of my professional achievements to date, especially [give an example].  But I believe the best is yet to come. I am always motivated to give my best efforts and there are always opportunities to contribute if you stay alert”.

Describe a difficult problem you’ve had to deal with.

This is a favourite tough question.  It’s not so much the difficult problem but the approach you take to solving problems in general, this question is designed to probe your professional profile, specifically your analytical skills.

In what ways has your job prepared to take on greater responsibility?

This is one of the most important questions you will have to answer. The interviewer is looking for examples of your professional development, perhaps to judge your future growth potential, so you must tell a story that demonstrates it.  Other skills you may want to demonstrate here are listening skills, honesty and adherence to procedures.

Do you have any questions?

A good question.  Almost always, this is a sign that the interview is drawing to a close, and that you have one more chance to make an impression.  Create questions from any of the following:

  • Find out why the job is open.
  • To whom would you report?  Will you get an opportunity to meet that person?
  • What type of training is required/provided if any?
  • What are the realistic chances for growth in this role?
  • Who will be the firm’s major competitor over the next few years?
  • What has been the growth pattern of the company over the last five years?
  • How regularly do performance evaluations occur?  What models do they follow?

How did your boss get the best out of you?

This is a manageability question, geared to probing whether you are going to be a pain in the neck or not.  Whatever you say it is important for your ongoing happiness that you make it clear you don’t appreciate being treated like a doormat.  You don’t want to work for someone who is going to make life miserable for you.

Do you consider yourself a natural leader or a born follower?

How you answer depends a lot on the job offer you are looking for and the stage you are at in your career.  With more professional experience under your belt, you may need to be a bit more thoughtful in your answer.    You may want to acknowledge that being a leader requires motivating, disciplining staff, and moulding a team involves a number of delicately tuned skills.  You may also want to acknowledge that leadership is a lifelong learning process.  To address the learning curve, you should highlight that in integral part of the skills of a leader is to take direction from his or her immediate superior and also to seek the input from the people being supervised.

Tell me about an event that really challenged you.  How did you meet the challenge?  In what ways was your approach different from others?

This is a straight-forward two-part question.  The first probes your problem-solving abilities.  The second asks you to set yourself apart from the rest.  First of all outline the problem.  Having done that, go ahead and explain your solution, its value to your employer and how it was different from other approaches.

How have you benefited from your disappointments?

Disappointments are different from failures.  It is an intelligent interviewer who asks this question; it is also an opportunity for an astute interviewee to shine.  The question itself is very positive – it asks to show how you benefited.  Note also that it does not give any specific details of specific disappointments, so you don’t have to open your mouth and insert your foot.  Instead be general.  Sum up your answer with “I treat disappointments as a learning experience, I look at what happened, why it happened and how I would do things differently in each stage should the same set of circumstances appear again.  That way, I put disappointment behind me and am ready to face the new days’ problems”.

What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?

You are human, admit it, but be careful what you admit.  Emphasise that having reached a logical conclusion, you act.  You want to use an example that will demonstrate your consideration, analytical abilities and concern for the departments.

 

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Add Value - CV and Interview         CV Guidance & Tips

 

 

The Graceful Exit

The dos and don'ts of a successful interview 

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Dos

  • Ask appropriate job-related questions.  When the opportunity comes to ask any final question, review your notes, bring up any relevant strengths that have not yet been addressed.
  • Show decisiveness.  If you are offered the job, react with enthusiasm.  Then sleep on it.  If it’s possible to do so without making a formal acceptance, lock the job up now and put yourself in control.
  • Review the job’s requirements with the interviewer.  Match them point by point with your skills and attributes.
  • Find out whether this is the only interview.  If not, then ask about the interview process.
  • Always depart in the same polite and assured manner you entered.

Don’ts

  • Don’t discuss salary, holidays or benefits.  The timing is wrong.  Bringing such topics up before you have an offer is asking what the firm/organisation can do for you – instead you should be saying what you can do for the company.
  • Don’t press for an early decision.  Avoid using the ‘other-opportunities-have-to-consider’ gambit as leverage if no other offers exist – that annoys the interviewer makes you look foolish and may even force you to negotiate from a position of weakness.
  • Don’t show discouragement.  Sometimes a job offer can occur on the spot.  Usually it does not.  So don’t show discouragement which can show a lack of self-esteem and determination.  The right image to leave is one of enthusiasm and openness – just the traits you have been projecting throughout the interview.
  • Don’t ask for an evaluation of your interview performance.  That forces the issue and puts the interviewer in an awkward position.

 

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What can influence taking a new job?          Retain over Recruit        Hit the glass ceiling yet...?

 

How to Move In-House

In-house remains as attractive as ever to private practice lawyers looking for that ‘fresh challenge’ and that ‘different role’ particularly in terms of commerciality and business interaction. 

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WHAT’S ‘IN’ IN-HOUSE?

In-house remains as attractive as ever to private practice lawyers looking for that ‘fresh challenge’ and that ‘different role’ particularly in terms of commerciality and business interaction. Because the typical in-house lawyer handles a broader range of work, traditionally it was rarer for there to be a specific link between the professional experience of the private practice lawyer and the specification of the in-house role. Consequently, this has meant that selling a diverse professional background has been generally more acceptable in industry.

 

However even industry cannot shy away from the market trend for specialisation and given the abundance of quality candidates from junior to senior level, companies are becoming more selective and today actively look for some relevant sector experience. Often company/commercial experience is cited as important training for industry but nothing is set in stone.

 

How do you find out what a particular industrial sector is looking for? Seek advice of your recruitment consultant as to the requisite skills, how the market is and how to pursue these sometimes elusive in-house opportunities. Ultimately, if you are considered to have the right personal and commercial qualities you will be offered the role.

 

Preparing for the in-house interview:

For private practice lawyers, the in-house interview can sometimes be daunting especially when the non-legal members of the management team are assessing your business sense and ability to work with management.  This is why research into organisational structure, culture, management, areas of business and the recruiting organisation’s industry is essential.

 

At interview:

Think about the following points:

  • Having the one client is demanding too – how would you manage this single client relationship?  Because it’s not ‘about the following’, organisations are looking for something different and demonstrating your softer skills is very important.
  • How do you manage/develop the team?
  • How do you perform within a multi-disciplinary team?
  • How do you communicate with people who are not lawyers?

 

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In-house versus Private Practice           When to Specialise        5 Minute Career Coach

 

CV Guidance & Tips…that old chestnut!

Before you even begin putting pen to paper you can add more value to your candidacy if you stop and think about what you actually want to communicate in your CV. 

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Before you even begin putting pen to paper you can add more value to your candidacy if you stop and think about what you actually want to communicate in your CV. The simplest way to do this is to take some time to analyse your existing CV:

 

STRENGTHS

Think about the key strengths that set you apart from the competition and bring these to the fore.  These can include academics, skills that add value to the position you’re applying for, experiences of working abroad or any unusual commercial experience.
Detail key skills: Be selective in the information you include and expand upon, making sure you keep less important detail short and to the point.
Get the right balance: Information on your current role should be the most detailed. For example, if you are three years’ qualified, focus on current experience, not what you did during your traineeship.

 

WEAKNESSES

Experience: If you feel you lack experience in certain areas, compensate by detailing the other skills you know this firm/organisation looks for.
Complacency: After the first draft, don’t think you’ve finished. Remove yourself from the CV for a couple of days if you can and go back to it with ‘fresh eyes’.  There may be room for improvement.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Use your CV to help secure the best opportunities for you. This is your chance to shine so think carefully about the position you’re applying for and make sure the most relevant details are clearly stated on your CV.
Use your CV to demonstrate what motivates you and why you are “The One”. This is exactly what recruiting firms/organisations want to know - so tell them.

 

THREATS

A poorly presented CV lacking in clarity and detail. Remember first impressions count and a sloppy CV could imply a sloppy lawyer.

 

Always avoid:

  • Leaving unexplained gaps in your career history - this could imply you have something to hide.
  • ‘Forgetting’ to put in your academics - regardless of the grades, firms need this information.
  • Including bland statements that do nothing to ‘demonstrate your worth’.
  • Only listing interests of a solitary nature - this could imply you are not a team player.
  • The wrong skills fit - if there is no obvious link between your skills and the role you are applying for you might be viewed as a time waster, which could be bad news should you want to reapply for other positions in the future

 

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Add Value - CV and Interview         Great answers to tough interview questions

 

 

Senior Marketwatching

You possibly didn’t choose a career in law to develop your selling skills.  Or perhaps you see yourself more as a strategic manager developing business and re-branding the firm. 

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What's expected of you at Partner Level

You possibly didn’t choose a career in law to develop your selling skills.  Or perhaps you see yourself more as a strategic manager developing business and re-branding the firm.  Whatever your ambitions at this stage in your career, and with increasing competition not only from the UK but also overseas, law firms have had to be open to changing their strategies.  They have had to set higher standards in hiring lawyers at every level in a bid to attract and retain the best talent within the firm.

You should aim to influence the key decision-makers whilst demonstrating the following:

  • Commercial Acumen - You may be asked to produce a business plan.
  • Technical Expertise - Demanded by both MDPs and niche practices.
  • Confidence & Assertiveness - If you don’t have faith in yourself, why should the firm?
  • A Working Knowledge of the latest IT Products - Adds value to the business & allows you to work in virtual teams 24/7.
  • Adaptability to Cultural Change - You need to demonstrate a clear understanding of the firm’s ‘unspoken rules’ and be adaptable to change.
  • 100% Commitment to the Partnership - You need to demonstrate that you would put the needs of the firm before your own.
  • A Following - Ultimately, speaks volumes about your abilities. Firms look for proven abilities, calculations and figures.
  • General Management Skills - Including risk, staff, financial and marketing management.
  • Marketing/Business Development skills - As well as cross-selling, you must demonstrate your ability to actually ‘close the deal’.
  • An Understanding of CRM - You must bring an ability to understand your clients, your team and how to implement and monitor a successful CRM policy.
  • Delegation Skills - You must be able to manage your time by ‘letting go’ and trusting your colleagues.
  • Personality - Essential if you want to attract retain & motivate staff.
  • Networks & Peer Recognition - Essential to inject ‘fresh blood’ into the firm.

 

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People Development - the most important asset to a business             What does my personality say about me?

 

 

Add Value – CV and Interview

You can add value in different areas of your professional life: adding value to client care and effectively addressing client relationship management. 

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You can add value in different areas of your professional life: adding value to client care and effectively addressing client relationship management.  You can also add value to your job and how you operate, specifically finely tuning what you are doing with a view to improving the standard of service you provide.  (Give everyone the red carpet treatment).

 

1.  Adding value to the interview

  • Preparation - know the firm/organisation, get informed on the specific area of law, on general market issues etc.
  • Empathy with the interviewer - thorough preparation will allow for some level of this.
  • Focus - you have to demonstrate this at all levels - personal and professional - show that you are focussed, give examples
  • Responsiveness - be proactive - get as much information as possible, be interested don’t just ‘react’.
  • Strategy - demonstrates a strategic mind when articulating your decisions about what industries in which to compete and how to compete in them.

Think complementary strengths when considering which firms you would like to be working for. Do you share common cultural values? The cultural fit is becoming increasingly important in light of the importance of adding value and constantly improving service.

Lawyers at all levels look for quality of work as well as a long-term career path.

You should also be considering how effectively you can work for the firm and its clients. In private practice and industry, when our clients are recruiting they look at the same issues, so clearly we need to be identifying that lawyers and interviewing firms/organisations share the same concerns but are coming from different perspectives. If you can take this awareness into the interview, then you are already adding value to your candidacy, because you are thinking like your potential employer and will be demonstrating like-mindedness and the potential for complementary strengths.

 

2.  Adding value to the CV

First you should reflect on where your current role is taking you.  Think roles, responsibilities and achievements, think layout in a clear, concise and accessible manner, and think relevant information.

If there is any information you feel requires further explanation or detail then either expand in your CV content or seek advice on how best to approach this.  Think of your CV as the most important marketing document that you’ll have to write. It has to be made up of brief descriptions and accurate summaries. It has to be persuasively written and not just a listing of your experience.

What about your professional development - how do you articulate this in your CV?

You can add value through demonstrating a commitment to further education, through your CPD, or indeed through a general interest in developing a specialist area. Another area you could focus on developing is information on your hobbies and interests, particularly as this can be an opportunity to demonstrate increasingly sought after ‘softer skills’. Firms and organisations are looking for dynamism, enthusiasm and a commitment to personal and professional development in an increasingly competitive market. As we have said before, this is what will make you stand out, set you apart from the competition and you will soon feel the benefits of developing your own unique selling proposition.

 

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CV Guidance & Tips          Great answers to tough interview questions

 

Associate Level - Career Planning

Although you have been qualified for a number of years now, you must not lose sight of your career plan.

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...Essential throughout your career

Although you have been qualified for a number of years now, you must not lose sight of your career plan. If you are thinking about moving at your level, then there is something you can do to ensure your soul searching does turn into navel-gazing.

Given your skills profile, ask yourself if you are working in the practice best offering scope for personal and professional development? Is there a skills profile/firm profile match? A property lawyer operating within a mainly corporate practice may ultimately be limiting his/her options for partnership or even senior level positions. Think about how far you can take your skills profile. Similarly, will you become too experienced and too well paid to be able to make a sideways move (to a more junior level position as you see it) and retrain within a different specialist area?  Others may view this as a downward step, given the salary/experience ratio, and firms may be less willing to offer you that opportunity than to a more junior level lawyer. This allows the firm to match salary and experience, as well as allowing them to train up staff within that specific corporate culture.

More senior lawyers bring experience, market knowledge, reputation, followings and the corporate cultural baggage of another firm! You may consider your years of experience as a strength you bring, other firms may form a different opinion. They may consider this as a weakness and as a result draw conclusions, rightly or wrongly, about your adaptability to new corporate cultures. This is why it is very important to consider the retraining issue, and not wait 6-8 years before looking closely at the skills profile/firm profile match. If there is no match, then how likely is this to change in the short to medium to long-term future? Given current trends to specialise, then you should be looking to find yourself in the working environment most suited to your skills that will allow you to develop and progress. Career planning is integral to your professional and personal success.

 

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Hit the glass ceiling yet..?          5 Minute Career Coach

Hit the glass ceiling yet…?

It’s still an important debate to keep at the forefront of any business agenda.

It’s no longer just about the glass ceiling… even if you manage to attain the senior opportunities – you could find that the glass ceiling now comes double, even triple glazed.

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It’s still an important debate to keep at the forefront of any business agenda.

It’s no longer just about the glass ceiling… even if you manage to attain the senior opportunities – you could find that the glass ceiling now comes double, even triple glazed:

  • You might get offered the senior position, but you will get the same pay?
  • Will you get access to the same quality of work upon return from maternity leave?
  • When will firms begin considering flexitime working arrangements as a real options for working mothers (AND fathers)?

However, many women do feel that the glass ceiling is showing some cracks, and that over time, it will come down completely.  The number of women in senior management roles has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, but still remains at a very small percentage of overall managers, and of then men are promoted over women, because assumptions are made that women would not carry out certain functions.  The reality is that there are fewer women than men in positions of power and influence – leading to men promoting men over women because of invisible bonds that exist, predetermined by whether you use a cubicle or a urinal!  Another assessment of women’s inability break through the glass ceiling is that women will fight for everyone but themselves – women need to learn to demand more … men already do.

As far as the legal profession goes, statistics show more female students studying law, and a much higher proportion of young female solicitors to males.  So with more women studying and qualifying, then isn’t this the best indicator of cracks in the glass ceiling?  According to a Professor of the LSE School of Law Department, ‘the hole in the glass ceiling is so shaped that it is mainly women whose lifestyle characteristics most resemble men’s who achieve higher position’. Isn’t that a sad assessment? This macho culture of working long hours is not easily adaptable to being a working mother.  If you cannot guarantee that you will be there to see the deal through to the very end then you may as well bail out now and we’ll get someone (read: male) who is committed to this firm. And here we reach another sad assessment: being a working mother somehow is not compatible with being a dedicated professional.

Going back to statistics they also show that when women are leaving the legal profession when they are having children and a significant number are not returning.  The flip side of this according to some is that it reflects the quest for a more balanced quality of life: if returning to work will not deliver the quality of life I seek, then why go back?  However, law firms should take care not to assume that all lawyers on maternity leave will not be returning, nor should this be turned into a competition of who can prove herself to be the most super of women.  Avoiding stereotyping female lawyers from the outset makes it easier to avoid prejudice.

You’d think a profession filled with smart people could work out for themselves that inequality and discrimination, invisible or not, just doesn’t pay. Law is a conservative profession, which means that change, whilst not impossible and difficult to achieve, can happen.

 

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5 Minute Career Coach

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a career change - especially if your friends and peers are making what look like life-changing decisions or the job market is looking very enticing.

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“HOW CAN I BE SURE I WANT TO MOVE JOBS?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a career change - especially if your friends and peers are making what look like life-changing decisions or the job market is looking very enticing.  If you are fed up staring at the person opposite you or find you are increasingly going online to check out cheap flights then maybe it is time to move… you’re stuck in a rut and need a change.  However, this rut could also be a temporary lull in your motivation and, if push came to shove, you’d rather stay where you are ’cause it ain’t all that bad’.

So how can you be sure about how you feel?  Are you really ready to move on or is it that your current role could indeed satisfy your long-term ambitions following some honest discussion?

  • If you were to list the elements of your current role that get you down/bore you/make you unhappy, are there any aspects that realistically could be changed if they were to be addressed or do you feel it would be like hitting your head off a brick wall?
  • Do you find the work challenging; it’s just that there’s too much/ too little of it?
  • Does the way you are expected to work ultimately suit your personality, i.e. autonomously or as part of a team and does it bring the best out in you?
  • Do you get fulfilment from your current role?
  • And if so, would remaining with this current firm/organisation allow you to fulfil your long-term career goals?
  • Do you know what your long-term career goals are?
  • Is it a case of grass-is-greenerism… are you really just looking for a comparison?
  • Are you confident you can positively address any concerns you may have about your current role without it sending off alarm bells?
  • Or do you feel you would benefit from some impartial advice from a third party?

Unfortunately only you can answer these questions.  There is obviously lots to think about and sometimes just talking it through can really help clear your head.  The truth is, we’ve all been there… those times when you fantasise about practising darts on your boss’s head, or telling your clients what you really think of them.

Don’t let the soul-searching get you down.  If it is impartial advice you want about how you are feeling at work, then sometimes it really is good to talk… and we’re here to listen.

 

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The Trends Affecting Junior Level Lawyers - Going Soft?

When it comes to identifying the skills recruiting firms/organisations are looking for, technical ability should be top priority, but not the only priority. 

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When it comes to identifying the skills recruiting firms/organisations are looking for, technical ability should be top priority, but not the only priority.  Today, skills sets fall into two generally accepted categories: ‘harder skills’ - covering technical expertise – naturally expected at all levels; and ‘softer skills’ - a broad and overlapping mix of management skills.

 

WHAT ARE ‘SOFTER SKILLS’?

Research suggests a number of broad categories for soft skills, which include:

  • leading or supporting the group as appropriate and your ability to identify which is appropriate
  • effective communication and relationship building
  • adopting a proactive or reactive approach
  • intuition and rationale
  • supervision and feedback - being able to do both and take both
  • empathy
  • stress management
  • time management & organisation
  • willingness to tackle and learn new tasks
  • dealing with conflict
  • enthusiasm & energy
  • determination
  • confidence
  • chemistry

 

WHAT DO THEY SAY ABOUT YOU?

They provide the interviewing firm with an essential insight into your personality and how you feel about yourself, your chosen career, what you would be like to work with and what you can contribute to the firm.

At interview, interviewers will search for indicators of your softer skills in your responses rather than ask direct questions.

 

SO HOW DO YOU DEMONSTRATE SOFT SKILLS?

Because these are effectively intangible skills, it can sometimes be difficult to articulate the soft skills you have developed.

 

Written communication:

Keep your ideas focused, provide information quickly and clearly and focus on solutions, clearly express your thoughts and ideas, try to write diplomatically and naturally, be professional.  You can also try applying this to your CV.

Verbal and non-verbal communication:

Listen and respond. Participate and contribute. Speak tactfully and assertively and adapt how you speak to your audience. Use appropriate body language. Respect others’ opinions. Be creative and don’t be afraid to demonstrate your vision and ideas. At interview, effectively and positively describe your skills and knowledge by illustrating how past experiences are proof of a particular skill or attribute.

 

This brief overview demonstrates that we can’t ignore what is happening in terms of what skills are in demand.  With old hierarchies and structure being replaced with a more flexible and customer-centric approach, where team working and CRM play a key role, it seems that going soft is no longer an option… it’s a fact of life.

 

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What can influence taking a new job?

As individuals move through their career, then family considerations can take increasing or decreasing importance when it comes to making a move.

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THE FAMILY

As individuals move through their career, then family considerations can take increasing or decreasing importance when it comes to making a move. What do we mean by this? Well, if a lawyer has a young family, their commitments to family life might well be greater than say someone with grown up children. Equally if it comes to relocating, then someone with children settled in school may be less willing to uproot the family, even when it does appear to be a great opportunity. More people today are less willing to sacrifice family stability for career advancement. As an employer you can take some steps to ease the transition. Whether this is developing a network of contacts for new employees with families who will be able to provide some practical advice and guidance on what’s what.  In fact you don’t need to wait until the offer is on the table.  You could show your commitment by establishing these links in anticipation of making an offer.

 

THE PACKAGE

It sounds obvious, and it is. You need to know what competitive salary rates and package benefits are in your market. Salary as we know is not the top reason people move. However, it is one of the reasons, especially when there is a move from private practice into industry and vice versa. Don’t lose sight of the fact that lawyers have a strong idea of going rates, but they are also very interested in hearing about the bigger picture. That is, what benefits can they gain with you: subsidised gym membership, car allowance, child care vouchers, enhanced maternity and paternity leave, opportunity to buy shares? From your perspective as employers, remember that although it is worth thrashing out the salary package, inflexibility on the part of your potential new employee might just be a stalling strategy for someone who is not entirely sure if they want to join your firm or is using your offer as leverage to broker a better deal at their current firm.

 

THE QUALITY OF WORK

Just as salary is not a top reason for moving, quality of work on offer is. At interview, you need to really identify what it is that makes this person tick. Is it a varied workload? Is it the big deals?  Is it someone who wants greater autonomy? Is it a need for greater support and resources for personal and professional development? What are they telling you and can you offer this?  These desirable traits are not the sole reserve of the top firms.  It is all in how you sell the opportunity to interviewing candidates.  As a small firm, you do need individuals who can work independently, and can adapt to the variety you have on offer. Equally you may be a larger practice, and your need is for a team player who will be dedicated to a small number of key clients, or indeed one client.  It’s all in how you market what you do and how you see this translating into greater job satisfaction and development potential for the individual.

 

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People Development - The most important asset to a Business

If successful recruiting is about more than just hiring people then People Development is the first stage in any programme focusing on Business Development. 

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‘People Development – The most important asset to a Business’

If successful recruiting is about more than just hiring people then People Development is the first stage in any programme focusing on Business Development.  And consequently, People Development must mean more than staff training.  Staff training – two words which should enthuse employers and employees alike. As with many training courses or one-day workshops, attendees are filled with motivation, inspired to implement those changes in order to improve both their professional and personal lives. Training does not solve all resource, cultural and ability problems.  Many meet great difficulty in the implementation of new ideas and fresh approaches to business development.  All too often, the very people who have decided that their employees attend these courses meet these ideas with disinterest.

Commitment to developing staff can be demonstrated through training schemes, internal and external development, empowering staff where they are involved in decision-making, visiting clients to find out first-hand what their real needs are.  This allows people to develop for their own good and for the good of the firm/organisation.

Marketing strategies, which aim to motivate staff internally, result in higher levels of productivity, loyalty and commitment to the employer. This could be introduced through quality initiatives, client care programmes, essentially examining ways of pulling together business development and people development.  The latter should play an integral role, not an additional role to business operations.  This commitment to development has to come from the top, and is generally the role of partners and HR professionals, who also need to be supported.

3 key areas which emphasise why People Development plays a pivotal role in Business Development

1. Improve communications

Investment in training does represent a cost to the company in the short term, which, if implemented correctly will be recouped in the medium to long term.  However, while firms/organisations are increasingly investing in formal training courses, there is little investment in development overall. The result is firms/organisations paying lip service to training, without real investment in people development.

2. Review performance of teams & individuals

As the speed of employee turnover increases and recruitment costs rise, firms/organisations should think strategically how to keep people instead of throwing money at them.  Employers have to assess the following: Firstly, identify the staff likely to move on - these will be younger, better-qualified people with shorter service, marketable skills, few responsibilities and low morale.  Secondly, employers have to assess the consequences of a member of staff departing - will this jeapordise important projects?  Others leaving may not have such far-reaching implications.  Linked to this is the issue of where to find the additional resources, which are necessary to retain staff.

3. Improve effectiveness of managers

People management needs to analyse employees' attitudes towards authority, discipline, and their general attitude towards management.  This allows an examination of 'management personality' and its ‘compatibility with the employees'. The employees’ approach to management should be generally positive.  Employees will stay within a supportive working environment, where people are managed in a way that is open, participative and allows them to grow as individuals.  The dangling of a carrot will be an immediate temptation, however research shows that it is the cerebral rather than the financial rewards that keep most professionals at work.

While careful screening is important at the recruitment stage, a dedicated focus on improving effectiveness and communications, on an ongoing basis will ensure that business needs are met in a positive working environment.  Risk analysis should be incorporated at the recruitment stages as well as the employee exit stages, and necessarily becomes part of the more holistic approach to business development.

 

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What does my personality say about me?

There are a number of universally admired key personality traits which constitute your passport to success at any interview.  Use them for reference as formulate answers to tough interview questions.

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WHAT DOES MY PERSONALITY SAY ABOUT ME?

There are a number of universally admired key personality traits which constitute your passport to success at any interview.  Use them for reference as formulate answers to tough interview questions.

Personal Profile

The interviewer searches for personal profile keys to determine what type of person you really are.  The presence of these keys in your answers tells the interviewer how you feel about yourself, your chosen career and what you would be like to work with.  Few will arise from direct questions.  Your interviewer will search for them in your answers to specific job-performance probes.  The following words and phrases are those you will project as part of your successful, healthy personal profile:-

  • Drive - A desire to get things done. Goal-orientated.
  • Motivation - Enthusiasm and a willingness to ask questions.  A recruiting firm realises that a motivated person accepts added challenges and does that little bit extra on every task.
  • Communication Skills – More than ever, the ability to communicate effectively with people at all levels (internally and externally) is essential.
  • Chemistry – The interviewer is looking for someone who does not get rattled, wears a smile is confident without self-importance, gets along with others – in brief, a team player.
  • Energy – Someone who always gives that extra effort in the little things as well as important matters.
  • Determination – Someone who does not back off when a problem or situation gets tough.
  • Confidence – Not boastfulness.  Poise.  Friendly, honest and open to employees at every level.  Not intimidated by the big fish, nor overly familiar.

 

Professional Profile

All recruiting firms and organisations seek candidates who respect their profession and their employer.  Projecting these professional traits will identify you as loyal, reliable and trustworthy:-

  • Reliability – Following up on yourself, not relying on anyone else to ensure the job is well done, and keeping superiors informed as and when necessary.
  • Honesty/Integrity – Taking responsibility for your actions.  Always making decision in the best interests of your employer/client, never on personal whim or preference.
  • Pride – Pride in a job well done.  Always taking the extra step to make sure the job is done to the best of your ability.  Paying attention to the details.
  • Dedication – Whatever it takes in time and effort to see a project through to completion, on deadline.
  • Analytical Skills – Weighing the pros and cons.  Not jumping at the first solution to a problem that presents itself.  Weighing the short- and long-term benefits of a solution against all its possible negatives.
  • Listening Skills – Listening and understanding as opposed to waiting your turn to speak.

 

Achievement Profile

Most companies have limited interests: making money, saving money (the same as making money) and saving time (which does both).  Projecting your achievement profiles, in however humbler a fashion is key:-

  • Money Saved – Every penny saved by our thought and efficiency is a penny earned for the company.
  • Time Saved – Every moment saved by your thought and efficiency enables your company to save money and make more additional time available.  Double bonus.
  • Money Earned – Generating revenue is the goal of every company.

 

Business Profile

Projecting your business profile is important on occasions when you cannot demonstrate ways you have made money, saved money, or saved time for previous employers.  These keys demonstrate you are always on the lookout for opportunities to contribute and that you keep your boss informed when opportunities arise:-

  • Efficiency – Always keeping an eye open for wastage of time, effort, resources and money.
  • Economy – Most problems have two solutions: an expensive one and one the company would prefer to implement.
  • Procedures – Procedures exist to keep the company profitable.  Don’t work around them.  That also means keeping your boss informed and respecting and following the chain of command.  Do not implement your own ‘improved’ procedures or organise other sot do so.
  • Profit – All the above traits are universally admired in the business world because they relate to profit.

As the requirements of the job are unfolded for you at the interview, meet them point by point with your qualifications.  If your experience is limited, stress the appropriate key profile traits (such as energy, determination, and motivation), your relevant interests and your desire to learn.  If you are weak in one particular area, don’t offer this information – perhaps that dimension will not arise.  If the area is probed, be prepared to handle and overcome the negative by stressing skills that compensate and/or demonstrate that of will experience a fast learning curve.

Do not show discouragement if the interview appears to be going poorly.  You have nothing to gain by showing defeat and it could merely be a stress interview tactic to test your self confidence.

 

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Retain over Recruit

When it comes to recruitment, much of the emphasis lies in working out a strategy to attract the best people to your firm / organisation. You know you need to pull out all the stops.

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CAN IT BE DONE?

When it comes to recruitment, much of the emphasis lies in working out a strategy to attract the best people to your firm / organisation. You know you need to pull out all the stops. But what about retaining staff? Developing and maintaining a specific retention strategy can often fall by the wayside.

Recruiting new staff and developing your existing people will always involve a cost element. How do you weigh up the benefits of developing your people against the risks of them moving on regardless? More importantly, what if you do not develop them and they stay?

Here are some basics to consider if you want to keep your lawyers 'sweet':

Appreciate individual needs

Each employee will be looking for something different, something individual. Play to their strengths. Make sure the commitments you made when hiring them are there throughout their career with you. For those who have highlighted they want business development experience, give them that exposure with the freedom to test their creative abilities. For the person showing more potential for managing people, custom-build a programme that suits their role and status.

Communicate

Despite an increasing choice of technological communications channels, many of us are still not getting it right.

  • We all agree e-mail is great. As well as saving staff from leaving the comfort of their chair, it provides an audit trail and lets everyone see that they are communicating. But is it becoming too easy? If you really think about it, these perceived advantages are not for the benefit of the recipients! Why not actively encourage more face-to-face conversation as part of your team building strategy?
  • Everyone should be taking the time to ask themselves if communication really needs to be communicated. Does it fall into the 'nice to know' or 'need to know' category? Key concepts here are filter the important stuff and adapt the message to your target audience.
  • Communications technology is a costly business, so make sure time is spent actually communicating.
  • Don't underestimate the value of a handwritten note or a voice mail message. In an age dominated by e-communication, taking the time to write a note or speak to a colleague can make the recipient feel more valued and set you apart from the competition.
  • Of course formal meetings and appraisals have their place, but critically so do two-minute chats by the coffee machine or a quick lunch to touch base.
  • Over utilising corporate / technical jargon may make us feel good about ourselves, but colleagues would probably prefer straightforward language.
  • Saying 'thank you' may seem obvious. However, there are few things we all like to hear more than a genuine 'thank you' which can go a long way to making staff feeling valued.

Ultimately, people are your most important resource. Remember that your people have the potential to add enormous value to your business, and boasting about attracting the best is one thing... being able to hold on to them is something else!

 

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Getting That Work-Life Balance Right

The increasingly competitive global market brings more pressures, potentially longer hours and more demanding clients. 

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The increasingly competitive global market brings more pressures, potentially longer hours and more demanding clients. We are finding that along with this growing demand on time, more and more lawyers are talking to us about the importance of achieving the correct work/life balance when discussing their career development.This is the case not only for working parents but also for lawyers who have other family commitments, want to work from home, take on further study or just want to have a life outside the office.

So how are law firms reacting to this shift in priorities? Although there is still a long way to go, a few Scottish firms are beginning to realise that people actually work more productively when they can balance work and the rest of their lives and as such, are more open to flexible working hours. Sometimes this can mean incorporating a 5 day week into 4 days, which although is not ideal, is a step in the right direction.The problem is that our priorities shift throughout our lives and are sometimes quite difficult to define.

For example, you're having your review and that increase is coming at just the right time and is well deserved but what, if any, are the expectations going with it and how do you fit this into your quest for a more balanced life?

The other extreme to knowing your limits in terms of your own productivity is the concerning phenomenon of 'presenteeism'. More and more we read about employees working long hours in a bid to prove to their bosses that they are dedicated and hardworking. Never is this more poignant than in recession times. Is law really any different?

So the big question is how do you go about improving the work/life balance? How do you achieve it? When is the right time to seek it out? Unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers.You need to be clear in your head about what it actually means to you as an individual. Seek advice from friends, colleagues, family and your recruitment consultant.There may be some risks for you - some partners may question your commitment.Whatever your approach, remember it's a life change that you are making, so it' s worth it and while it won't happen overnight, with some careful consideration and planning, it can happen.

 

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When to Specialise

We have decided to spotlight on a specific trend in the legal market – namely the Specialisation issue.

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We have decided to spotlight on a specific trend in the legal market – namely the Specialisation issue.

Given how the market is developing, we consider this an area worth addressing as it has far reaching implications for lawyers at all levels of qualification, in both private practice and in-house.  We feel today it is not so much a question of whether to specialise, but rather when to specialise.

Specialisation 

Over the years, there has been a growing trend that is becoming increasingly evident in Scotland and is even more prevalent in the English legal market place, namely the trend to specialisation and the move away from the general practice. This is a phenomenon that has developed during the course of the 1990s, and constitutes just one of the many developments that we have been experiencing in the legal market place over the years.  Specialisation has arisen from different market factors - political, technological, economic - that all influence the structure of the market and the competition.  In recent years, some of the many changes to the structure of the legal market include the ABS,  high profile local and cross- border mergers the emergence of the Interim lawyer and the expansion of in house legal teams, to name but a few.  These developments concern every legal practice across the board, and consequently affect the broader commercial strategy of firms/organisations, as well as affecting the successful achievement of the career objectives of the individual lawyer.

In terms of response to this trend, we have observed reactive and proactive approaches, both of which work in their own way. From clients, some responses have included streamlining or consolidation of activities, merging practices or selling parts of the practice.  Candidates also adopt a variety of strategic approaches, from a planned early specialisation to retraining at a later date in a different practice area, to further study in order to open up their options for specialisation.

Early specialisation

Clients look for candidates with good potential.  Where you have limited experience, you have to have researched the area in which you wish to specialise and be prepared and able to clearly explain why you are interested in this area, as well as why a firm should consider you.  A lack of knowledge and hesitancy should be avoided.  Enthusiasm has to be informed and a considered approach to communicating your transferable skills has to be adopted, both in your CV and at the interview stage.  In fact, with no proven track record in that particular area, you have to really sell your enthusiasm, commitment and motivation.  Firms see you as an investment but you have to be worthy of this investment - you need to communicate in no uncertain terms your capabilities and competencies.

Handling your own career

Don't lose sight of your career plan.  Given your skills profile, are you working in the practice best offering scope for personal and professional development?  Is there a skills profile/firm profile match?  A property lawyer operating within a mainly corporate practice may ultimately be limiting his/her options for partnership or even senior level positions.  Think about it…how far can you take your skills profile?  Similarly will you become too experienced and too well paid to be able to make a sideways move (as you see it) to a more junior level position to allow for retraining within a different specialist area?  Others may view this as a downward step, given the salary/experience ratio, and firms may be less willing to offer you that opportunity than to a more junior level lawyer.  This allows the firm to match salary and experience, as well as allowing them to train up staff within that specific corporate culture.

More senior lawyers bring experience, market knowledge, reputation, followings and the corporate cultural baggage of another firm!  You consider your years of experience as a strength you bring, other firms may form a different opinion.  They may consider this as a weakness and as a result draw conclusions, rightly or wrongly, about your adaptability to new corporate cultures.  This is why it is very important to consider the retraining issue, and not wait 6-8 years before looking closely at the skills profile/firm profile match.  If there is no match, then how likely is this to change in the short to medium to long-term future?  Given current trends to specialise, then you should be looking to find yourself in the working environment most suited to your skills that will allow you to develop and progress. Career planning is integral to your professional and personal success. 

 

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In-house versus Private Practice

Is the grass greener?’  We identified the growing emergence of in-house opportunities, as well as the fact that similar skills apply in both private practice and in-house.  

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Trends, Myths & Realities

Is the grass greener?’  We identified the growing emergence of in-house opportunities, as well as the fact that similar skills apply in both private practice and in-house.     More specifically, we have observed growing trends in the financial services, oil & gas, media and utilities sectors, as well as a high demand for transactional lawyers.   The reasons behind the general increase for in-house lawyers are firstly economic: it is more cost effective to have an in-house adviser than outsourcing all legal work.  Secondly, in-house allows the organisation in question to retain control to a greater extent over their day-to-day issues as well as larger transactional issues.  Hence one of the reasons for greater interest in corporate transactional lawyers. 

Myths of working In-house

  • Shorter working hours
  • Relaxing environment / ‘Easy day at the office’
  • No time sheets/billings
  • Greater job security
  • More commercial involvement in the running of the business (through exposure to day-to-day operations).
  • Overall increased quality of life as pressures have been removed
  • Salaries increasingly in line with PP – additional benefits are also improving

 

Realities of working In-house

  • Quality of life – does it improve – as companies are not outsourcing their legal work anymore, they are demanding more from their in-house lawyers
  • Shortage of good in-house lawyers means increased demand to deal with heavier workloads – therefore longer hours worked than anticipated
  • Increased responsibility with ltd back up support – also ltd resources - you can’t borrow from other dept’s resources.
  • Internal politics of different depts – where do your loyalties lie?
  • Not your own master (or mistress) – you are immediately accountable to the company you are working for.
  • Industry is more volatile, and reacts quicker than private practice to market/global changes.  Stability depends on the industry (no one is indispensable)
  • Some pressure to add value to overall running of business
  • Requires skills in relating to a wide spectrum of internal clients from varied departments/sections (but who are all equally ‘clients’.
  • Stressful environment  - some industries require rapid responses from their in-house legal team (if you are part of a team that is), and you have to honour these tighter deadlines/restrictions
  • You are an ‘overhead’, therefore have to work harder to get respect
  • Difficult for returning to PP as PP is becoming increasingly specialised – in-house you are expected to know ‘everything’ about the law
  • No following

It is also a fair observation that over the past 10 years, private practice lawyers have had to be a lot more commercial, and there is a growing emphasis on their business development skills.  Law firms are telling us about the increasing pressure to widen their skills profile to include marketing, business development, the pressures of client relationship management, and all this while having to bill the same if not more hours.   Those lawyers in in-house positions are realising that the rumours of job security and an easy life are not necessarily true, and that there is the burden of being expected to know ‘everything about the law’.  Companies are outsourcing less and demanding more from their own lawyers.  In-house there are extra responsibilities – you cannot assume that someone else has checked through decisions.  More responsibility is the result of fewer resources and the fact that you cannot ‘borrow’ from other depts for advise/assistance.  And all this within a business context that is traditionally more hierarchical than private practice.  Have you seriously considered these aspects to the in-house role?  This is by no means a bleak picture that we are painting, we are very much aware of how the business environment is changing, all we suggest is you be aware of this as well.

The in-house role

So what is the role of the in-house lawyer?  In-house lawyers are effectively part of the client’s business team, using their legal skills to promote the interests of the business.     The in-house lawyer traditionally acted and still does in many instances as the interface between the client and the external law firm, the in-house lawyer managing all aspects of that relationship.

In house lawyers know the underlying dynamics of the company far better than any external law firm will – in-house counsel are best placed to relay an external lawyer’s advice internally.  In-house lawyers are far more involved in the commercial processes, and often play crucial roles within the business, not only as advisers but also as negotiators and managers, there for the need for broad commercial skills is greater in-house than in private practice.

The transition

The skills base is broad enough not to require any formal training; a lot of it will be on-the-job. If you are joining a team, then the experience of your colleagues facilitates your transition. But formal training particularly in management is being recognised as beneficial/essential to in-house lawyers.  We have seen qualified lawyers moving in-house from private practice and vice versa.  However, we would also state that in our experience, private practice lawyers are more attractive to industry on the whole than industry looking to return to PP.

Whatever your motivations or your expectations, moving in-house should be the result of thorough research into the company you are moving to.

 

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