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:

Chris Jorgenson, director of Institutional Partnerships at BARBRI

Preparing for the QLTS as a Working Attorney

Preparing for the QLTS While Working

[ By Claire Flores , Senior Legal Manager, Americas, BARBRI International ]

Preparing for the QLTS

There is no single right way to simultaneously work and study when becoming dual-qualified as an English solicitor. Every individual is different. With that being said, I am happy to share my personal story of what it has been like to work full-time and study for the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) as a licensed Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) attorney.

I will confess upfront that the thought of re-engaging in a study routine was a little unnerving. I sat the state bar exam in 2014―I can’t believe it was half a decade ago! This summer, however, I decided to take the multiple-choice portion of the QLTS, known as the MCT. It had been five busy years since I had taken an exam of any kind.

The MCT exam assesses your knowledge on 11 subjects in English Law. There is a lot of material that can come up. From knowledge of the English and European judicial review process to understanding the European Human Rights Act of 1998. Thankfully, the QLTS Prep by BARBRI Personal Study Plan (PSP) made it easy for me to organize my time and work through the program like a to-do list. My online PSP gave me the right combination of substance and skills learning, so I could expedite my studies while still boosting my understanding and retention.

If you are a working attorney with the desire to take on the QLTS, I’d like to offer a few tips from my own experience to help reintroduce you to studying and exam-taking after some time away.

Set a Routine, and Stick with It

My typical workday runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so I had to make time around these hours for my QLTS studies. The MCT exam started at 8 a.m. sharp, or 7 a.m. in my time zone, and my brain works better in the morning. For this reason, I made a conscious decision to rise at 6 a.m. during the week to complete a couple of hours of study until work began.

This routine might not be your cup of tea. It’s important to find a consistent study pattern that won’t become disruptive to your job or other commitments. Find what works, and stick with it.

Channel Your Best Efficient Self

For me, creating a mini cheat sheet was the best way for me to process and remember the information in a timely fashion. I found it immensely helpful to create my cheat sheet after watching a lecture and reading the outline to internalize the rules in my mind.

When I was asked to “revise” something, I would then quiz myself from my cheat sheet. If I truly didn’t understand a concept, I would go back to the outline to review the chapter again. Afterward, I used practice questions and mixed sets to drill the information into my memory. Seeing the different ways a certain fact or word would distinguish one answer from the next was incredibly helpful.

This was my approach to my bar exam studies using the QLTS Prep by BARBRI PSP, and it worked well for me. Essentially, you want to reflect on your most efficient techniques for reviewing, and keep them up.

Make It Fun

Consider the subjects that you most enjoyed in law school and think about how the English system is different. The differences between the U.S. Constitution and the U.K. “Constitution” (Hint: They don’t actually have a document called the Constitution) was fascinating to me. Learning about those differences felt more like a fun method of discovery than rigorous studying of new subjects. Being curious about the various areas of law helped me better remember topics in the long run for the MCT.

Lean On Your Mentor While Preparing for the QLTS

QLTS Prep by BARBRI provides you with a one-on-one mentor who is available throughout the program to discuss your study habits and how you are doing as you are preparing for the QLTS. They will be honest with you on your progress, good or bad, and provide guidance as to how to improve. My mentor was great at recommending assignments that helped me spend my study time where it would yield the best results. I could tell my mentor was deeply committed to helping me pass the MCT exam―and it paid off.

I recently learned that I passed the MCT portion of the QLTS!! Thank you, BARBRI. Now on to the OSCE.