The new reality in the legal profession

This month’s post comes from Julia Rosińska, a second year law student, aspiring to specialise in international arbitration and commercial disputes. Julia is passionate about exploring the impact of technology on the legal profession, self-development and also works as a Life Coach.

 

Has the role of a solicitor changed in the last 20 years? How does one become an outstanding candidate in such a competitive market? How do changes within the legal profession impact current students?

All of these issues were discussed in a recent seminar with Craig Sharpe, Marketing Manager at Darlingtons, a full service London law firm. Taking part in the discussion with Craig was a valuable experience. He came not to discourage, but to raise awareness of what being a solicitor in the 21st century means. These days the legal profession is challenging and requires future solicitors to think in a broader context about the legal profession. The catalyst in this is the number of practicing solicitors – which from 1960 has rapidly grown (The Law Society, Entry to the solicitor’s profession 1980-2011). A competitive market requires current students to not only be commercially aware and attain high grades, but to also keep up with technological advances and to invest in self-development.

What’s more important – tech or trust?

Surprisingly, magic circle law firms are not the only leaders in implementing technology. I was recently impressed with Darlingtons Solicitors, a West End London law firm, that has been adapting various technologies to meet not only their needs effectively, but their client’s as well.  I saw that smaller law firms may have the advantage of working more closely and personally with clients by which it is easier to create a trust relationship, and later on find the best possible solutions in the most cost-effective way.

People skills now paramount

The legal market is changing rapidly. People skills have always been an important part of legal practice but never more so and there are implications for students as law firms increasingly look not only for evidence of people skills at an earlier stage, but the ability to be innovative.

As a law student, I have often found that in order to get ‘there’, each individual has to make themselves stand out, but there is no map to detail how to get ‘there’. It is considered by students that high grades are the key to success however in his talk, Craig highlighted other important aspects, that are often taken into consideration when prospecting candidates. Passion, drive and motivation are necessary ingredients, as well as being able to think outside the box and also retaining some individuality. The ability to develop people-skills, be an excellent listener and teamwork are key attributes the ‘ideal’ candidate should possess.

Last week’s talk positively influenced my perception of pursuing a career in the legal profession despite increased competition and the impact of technology taking a firmer grip. In my view, artificial intelligence is making the role of lawyers easier by freeing up more time to focus on more important tasks, such as better understanding a client’s needs and coming up with creative solutions rather than being tied up with research that can be easily automated.

Moreover, I became aware of the possibilities and potential difficulties to consider. Mostly, attending Craig’s talk opened my eyes to the ways I should broaden my target law firms to apply to work at. In smaller firms such as Darlingtons, there are often earlier opportunities to develop knowledge and key skills. I definitely feel more motivated now, I have a sense of direction, and what is more I now possess a clearer picture of what to expect if I become a solicitor in the future.

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