Career lessons in the legal industry

Career lessons from Chris Jorgenson at BARBRI

We are living in uncertain times and competition levels in the legal sector worldwide seem to have risen higher than ever. It’s a profession which boasts many talented professionals – those who’ve worked hard and done well in school, made sacrifices to progress their career and are working to distinguish themselves. Law firms have the pick of the bunch, and now more than ever, it’s important to be able to differentiate yourself from your peers. As a qualified lawyer in the U.S. and UK, I’ve learnt a lot during my career so far, including what you need to do to stand out from the crowd. So, I wanted to share some of these lessons with you.

 

Make yourself an expert in something

Now, this doesn’t need to be in the area of law that you practice or even necessarily in the field of law. However, when in an interview scenario or when you’re trying to get your foot in the door, it can prove helpful. It demonstrates that you’ve been a student and became an expert in something beyond your legal studies. Research from Time magazine shows that experts in the top 10% in high complexity jobs produce 80% more than average and 700% more than the bottom 10%. Developing an expertise is very appealing to employers and can help you become an essential asset to your firm or company. For example, if you’re an expert in utilising AI within your practice, you’ll be the person the wider team will go to for advice, making you an invaluable addition.

 

Consider cross-qualification

Most people don’t realise that there’s a clear route into cross-qualification in the UK and I certainly didn’t when I initially moved here from the U.S. When I first arrived, I felt that there were opportunities here for me in the legal sector, but I was restricted by the fact that I didn’t have a UK qualification – you can’t practice to a full degree without this. Although the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority still allows legal professionals to register as a Foreign Registered Lawyer (2,758 of whom did so in June 2020) or a Registered European Lawyer (781 in June 2020), there’s uncertainty around how long this will continue following the official implementation of Brexit. However, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) offers a viable alternative. Currently, over 10% of all those on the roll in England and Wales qualify through the QLTS route, and it’s viewed with credibility by employers. If you’re looking to operate on an international level, this qualification will help you to develop important skills which, I believe, can help you to become a better lawyer, and fully understand the differences between UK law and your qualifying jurisdiction. Personally, I found the differences between the law in England and Wales, and the U.S. quite apparent. Despite many overlaps, there are elements that are very unique, and I believe that you can better serve your clients in an international practice if you understand more than one legal system.

 

Focus on soft skills

I touched upon this in my introduction, but I wanted to reinforce the message that the legal industry is fiercely competitive. If you’ve entered into this world, you’ll already know that. Everyone is capable, they’ve done well in school, they’re driven and will likely have made sacrifices for their career. If that sounds like you, that’s fantastic – but what makes you different? Throughout your career, you’ll need to be able to distinguish yourself amongst your peers. After all, we must remember that as lawyers, we effectively carry out a service that involves working and interacting with others. It is important that we communicate and manage projects effectively, whilst compartmentalising your work to the best of your ability. These are skills that will need to be developed throughout the course of your career. The more investment you make, the more progress you will see.

 

Embrace technology

LawTech isn’t going anywhere. Clients will expect law firms and lawyers to have an understanding of the concepts that it presents. (Side note: it is a good area to make yourself an expert in some aspect of legal tech). It remains to be seen how much it will become a part of daily practice. Although many have certainly worked to make predictions in this area. A report from 2017 estimates that robots will take over a third of British jobs by 2030. It is not hard to envision that some aspects of legal practice will soon be handled by AI. But first and foremost, it’s important to be a good lawyer – understanding the law and how to communicate it in a simple fashion. Plus, according to Forbes, AI is still far from mastering critical thinking, leadership and listening skills. Being on the cutting edge of technology must come second and it is moving at an incredible pace, so it’s unlikely that anyone will expect you to have all of the answers. However, if you’re working in an industry that is technology-focused or if you are working alongside businesses in this sector, you’ll need a clear understanding of this in order to represent them effectively. After all, you need to understand the basis of your client’s legal matter.

 

Have as much fun as you can

I wanted to finish on this point because the legal sector demands a lot from you. The industry is known for its extremes and is renowned for attracting high achievers. But in recent years, the mental health impact of this has come to the fore. In April 2020, the Law Society Gazette reported that stress, depression and anxiety cost businesses almost 70 million days off sick, and £26 billion every year through lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity. So, it’s important to find ways to make the process as enjoyable as possible. Keep things in perspective and seek out peers who can offer you support. You may find that the culture may vary amongst firms and companies. I believe it’s all about finding your tribe and where you belong so you can truly come into your own and ultimately, enjoy the process.

 

For more information about our QLTS prep course, please get in touch today: https://barbriqlts.com/contact/

Chris Jorgenson, director of Institutional Partnerships at BARBRI

Preparing for the QLTS exam

Preparing for the QLTS exam – 5 things you need to know

The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is the qualification required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for international lawyers seeking to cross-qualify and practice law in England and Wales. In fact, 15% of all admissions to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales are through the QLTS and with the UK legal services industry worth £30bn, it’s easy to see why so many people are keen to sit the exams. But preparation is key.

The QLTS exam itself comprises of two parts, the QLTS MCT, which is a multiple-choice test, followed by the QLTS OSCE – Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The good news is that the QLTS has been designed to allow legal professionals to work and study at the same time and in most cases qualify in under a year! Which means those already working can still enhance their career prospects and take advantage of the increased demand for cross-qualified lawyers.

To help those thinking about undertaking the QLTS exam here are ‘Five things you need to know’…

1. Don’t miss the boat

Don’t miss the opportunity to undertake the QLTS in the first place! Did you know that from September 2021 the qualification route for solicitors in England and Wales is changing? This means lawyers wishing to practice internationally from other jurisdictions will have to sit the new SQE To take the exam component of the QLTS in January 2021 and undertake the MCT portion first as is required, you need to enrol with a recognised provider as soon as possible!

 

2. Choose wisely 

Make sure you choose a reputable, established provider to undertake your QLTS with so that you have the best possible chance of passing. At BARBRI, we have been in the legal training business for over 50 years and have helped more than 1.3 million people pass the U.S. bar exam and become attorneys around the world. We’ve been running the QLTS since 2018 and have helped over 700 people pass the exams through access to the best teaching and learning support and technology platforms.

 

3. Establish good habits

It’s not always easy combining work and study, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve studied. Many of our most successful students find that setting aside regular time before work, at lunchtimes or in the evenings, or at weekends, and sticking to the routine helps them to stay focused and fit in their studies around the rest of their work and life commitments without it becoming overwhelming. Find what works for you and stick to the plan to avoid cramming!

 

4. Take the help on offer

As part of the BARBRI offer, all students undertaking the QLTS have access to continued one-to-one mentoring and support. Make sure you use this to both help with content for the QLTS exam and to organise your study. We even offer our students an online PSP or Personal Study Plan, which organises the material and expedites the learning process, increases retention and heightens comprehension.

 

5. Draw on your experience

Drawing on the experience you’ve had in your career to date can really help to bring your QLTS studies to life. Many of our students find that despite having to fit their studies around a busy working life, the fact they can relate much of what they are focussing on back to real situations they’ve encountered really helps to consolidate their learning. Don’t underestimate what you’re capable of!

 

For more information about our QLTS prep course, please get in touch today: https://barbriqlts.com/contact/

The Legal Profession in England & Wales Explained: Solicitors & Barristers

By Victoria Cromwell, Head of U.K. Programmes, BARBRI International

What does it mean to be a lawyer in England and Wales?

Here, the legal profession is split into two distinct branches: solicitors and barristers. While these roles overlap to an extent, they represent two very different qualification paths for aspiring lawyers. Let’s take a look at both routes to legal practice.

The Role of the Solicitor

Solicitors provide legal advice to their clients over a wide range of practice areas, ranging from buying and selling houses to helping businesses with the legal issues arising from commercial transactions. Solicitors are able to represent their clients in lower courts and, with training known as Higher Rights of Audience, can become solicitor advocates and represent them in higher courts. This is usually a right only given to barristers.

If you chose the path of solicitor, you may work in private practice in a law firm, as part of the legal department of an organisation (known as working “in-house”), or for local or central government. Currently, there are around 136,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Route to Qualification as a Solicitor

There are two primary routes to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales for domestic students: via a qualifying law degree or a non-qualifying law degree. Legal apprenticeships are also available, as is a route to qualification through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).

After obtaining a qualifying law degree, law students sit the Legal Practice Course (usually a year in duration) and then undertake a practice-based two year period of recognised training, or a training contract, as a trainee solicitor. Those students with a non-qualifying law degree need to do an additional period of study and take a course known as the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), which is effectively a conversion course, and then progress on to the Legal Practice Course and training contract like students with qualifying law degrees.

All prospective solicitors also need to undertake the Professional Skills Course, which is usually completed during the period of recognised training. On completion of the training described above, an aspiring solicitor can be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales.

It’s worth noting that after autumn 2021, the opportunity to take the existing domestic routes to qualification (CPE, GDL, LPC), and the current route to qualify as a solicitor in England & Wales for foreign-qualified lawyers, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), will be limited due to the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is due to replace all previous routes to qualification. For more information on the SQE and how it will affect your route to qualification, view the BARBRI SQE calculator.

The Role of the Barrister

The Bar Council which regulates barristers in England and Wales in the public interest defines barristers as:

“…specialist legal advisers and courtroom advocates. They are independent, objective and trained to advise clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their case. They have specialist knowledge and experience in and out of court, which can make a substantial difference to the outcome of a case.”

Barristers (or Counsel, as they are often referred to) are usually self-employed and take tenancy in a set of chambers. Chambers are occupied by groups of barristers who often specialise in the same practice area and share the cost of premises, etc. Currently, there are around 16,000 practising barristers in England and Wales. These are the lawyers who wear the wigs and gowns!

Unlike solicitors who are retained or instructed directly by their clients, barristers are typically instructed by solicitors to act on behalf of their clients. Although clients can now instruct barristers directly, this practise is still unusual.

Barristers were historically the only lawyers permitted to represent clients in the higher courts. However, this is no longer the case with the introduction of solicitor advocates. Barristers often specialise and advise on complex areas of the law, and advise solicitors on points of law on complicated or unusual cases. This is known as obtaining an opinion from counsel.

All barristers are initially known as ‘Junior Counsel’ until they become Queen’s Counsel (QC for short), which is a recognition of outstanding ability. The process of becoming QC is known as “taking silk”, on account of the different (silk) robes that QCs wear. Barristers are all members of one of the four Inns of Court based in London: Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple.

The General Council of the Bar is the approved regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.

Route to Qualification as a Barrister

Much like solicitors, barristers can start their qualification journey by undertaking a qualifying law degree or a non-qualifying law degree and CPE/GDL course. Aspiring barristers must then successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test and join an Inn of Court before commencing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which can either be taken over one year full-time or two years part-time. The BPTC is a vocational course designed to give students the skills required for their careers as barristers. It includes advocacy and exercises in drafting legal documents and writing opinions. Having completed the training requirements set out above, a student would be “called to the Bar”. At this time, they are considered a qualified barrister but will not be permitted to practise until they have completed pupillage.

Pupillage is the final stage of training to become a barrister―a period of training under the supervision of a barrister. Pupillage lasts for 12 months and is usually undertaken in a set of barristers’ chambers. Pupils are required to complete an Advocacy Training Course in their first six months and a Practice Management course in their second six months. After the pupillage year, a pupil would hope to be offered tenancy in the chambers where they undertook their pupillage.

Charting a Course into International Law

Guest blogger Michael Rasmussen, Esq., Chief Compliance Officer & Deputy General Counsel
for
 a Florida financial services firm, takes on the QLTS in his pursuit of an elevated international career path.

When I graduated from Nova Southeastern University – Shepard Broad College of Law in 2012, I had a pretty solid strategy for myself. I wanted to get on board with an in-house legal department and set my career firmly in motion.

Having done well in several securities law classes in school, I was able to get my start in the securities industry as an Examiner with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. From there, I went on to work with several compliance services companies before landing my current role in in-house counsel for a financial services firm. I focus exclusively on compliance matters in the registered investment adviser and broker-dealer space. It was a difficult industry to get in to, but I see many great opportunities here.

Although my early strategy has proven to be a fairly good one and I enjoy what I’m doing, the notion of learning a new legal system had become appealing in the last year or so. I wanted to stretch myself intellectually and professionally by taking on a significant new challenge. That’s how I arrived at the decision to move my career trajectory international and qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales through the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessments.

Some Words of Wisdom

I sat part one of the two-part QLTS exam, the Multiple Choice Test (MCT), this past July with good success. I would compare the MCT portion of the QLTS to the Multistate Bar Exam in the U.S., except that the MCT covers more topics in less depth. Every learner is different in their preparation, but I found the multiple-choice questions offered in the QLTS Prep by BARBRI course to be extremely helpful.

My MCT exam was conducted in a standard test-taking centre in New York City, where basic proctored exam rules were enforced (e.g., put your computer away before the exam, do not discuss exam materials with others). As a relatively fast test taker who doesn’t spend much time re-reading questions, one frustration I had with this specific exam is that it is to be taken collectively with other test takers with no ability to start or leave early. The exam can be especially stressful for some people, so be prepared to deal with other test takers who may not be their best selves on test day.

Thinking Ahead

With the MCT portion of the QLTS now behind me, I’m very much looking forward to having the ability to practise law on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. My belief is that an international law career will open many new doors for me to enhance the service offerings of my employer.

Once I complete the second part of the QLTS assessments, I anticipate leveraging my additional qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales in a manner that will help my firm seek out clients and relationships in areas that would otherwise not be available. On to the OSCE!

Lawyers on LinkedIn

Why Every International Lawyer Should Be on LinkedIn

By QLTS Prep by BARBRI

It’s okay if you’re not obsessed with social media. Not everyone is. But with that being said, there is one social networking site you might want to pay some attention to: LinkedIn.

If you have an existing profile, this would be a great time to make sure your social presence is solid. As a lawyer considering or in pursuit of an international career, your profile will matter both globally and locally. Here are some reasons why.

LinkedIn is Your Brand Space

Brand identity is important in the global marketplace, not only for businesses but for individuals as well. If you are pursuing a career as a foreign lawyer, you can create a personal brand for yourself on LinkedIn that shows who you are, what you’ve done, and why you would be valuable to any firm or business with international interests.

Even if you don’t have extensive international work experience or high-profile connections, you have internships, extracurriculars, and training that deserves to be highlighted. Your LinkedIn profile will help make you visible to other attorneys and potential employers to showcase whatever work experience you do have, and, more importantly, your professional achievements. A well-thought-out profile will allow companies to quickly notice you and make contact with you.

Recommendations Speak Volumes

Much like a professional company profile might include client or customer testimonials, you want to include recommendations from your work colleagues, clients, professors, and others who are willing to provide a statement on your behalf. Recommendations are a real testament to your expertise and capabilities. They can be especially important if you are aiming to secure a job or take on additional clients in an area of the law in which you have little background.

LinkedIn is also a great tool for locating friends and colleagues and finding out who works at a company in which you have an interest. It’s a way to get directly introduced by one of your network contacts to someone who may be able to support your career endeavors.

There is Power in Groups

Go beyond personal profile updates and private messages with your connections. You can expand your network significantly and create more work opportunities by joining LinkedIn Groups and discussions on topics that interest you.

Use the power of Groups to boost your potential network and reach people you’ve never met in a professional setting, without the breach of etiquette that can come in blindly reaching out to new connections. Make sure to let each potential connection know how you found them and why you want to connect with them.

Join as many Groups as you feel are appropriate. As you network more on LinkedIn and engage in different discussions with different people, your audience and your network will grow exponentially.

Face-to-Face Meetings Still Matter

When used correctly, LinkedIn is a great networking and relationship-building tool. But, interpersonal connections cannot thrive exclusively on social media. While the digital environment provides a great platform to start connections far and wide, and easily nurture existing ones, face-to-face meetings are still important to build camaraderie and deepen established relationships.

It’s not always possible due to geographical limitations and schedule restrictions, but whenever you can, try to schedule an in-person meeting or a coffee break with your most important or newest connections. Even in the digital age, you want to strike a balance between your LinkedIn world and connections outside of the platform. You’d be surprised how much a face-to-face meeting can still mean to a prospective employer or client.

Boost Your Brand

Speaking of your profile, you should always be thinking about how you can make your personal brand shine. An increasingly effective way to do this is to connect where your clients and colleagues are ―on LinkedIn.

Having a stellar LinkedIn profile will help you connect with industry professionals, network, catch the attention of potential employers, and establish thought leadership. Through your personal profile, you will build trust for yourself as a legal expert and help drive business growth for your firm. It should be an integral part of your strategy as you set your sights on becoming an international lawyer. Learn more about the power of a LinkedIn profile.

Remember, BARBRI is with you every step of your international journey. The QLTS Prep by BARBRI programme will help get you on your way to becoming a successful solicitor in England and Wales. Best of luck!