The legal industry has a reputation for being highly competitive when it comes to securing a coveted training contract. However, for many lawyers, the real competition begins post qualification in the race to progress to senior associate and potentially make partner. With the recent pandemic turning the legal industry on its head and sector winners and losers emerging overnight, career prospects have also become ‘make or break’ for many.
However, while uncertain times are unsettling, they can also provide a unique opportunity to rise to the challenge and showcase the reasons why you’re a valuable asset to your firm. With everyone from trainee to senior partner having to react and adapt as we emerge from the pandemic, demonstrating an agile mindset and the key skills you bring to your firm (or a potential firm) is more important than ever to make sure you stand out.
Your technical skillset and legal knowledge may be similar to that of your peers. However, your ability to build strong relationships with clients and colleagues as you climb the ranks is where you have an opportunity to shine. Even if you have exemplary knowledge of a certain area of law, if you can’t earn the trust and respect of others and build rapport, your career prospects will suffer. The adage ‘people buy people’ is as true for professional services as any other sector.
Research by legal software company Wolters Kluwers in 2020 found that ‘meeting changing client/leadership expectations’ was one of the biggest challenges international lawyers predicted they would face post-pandemic. In times of a challenging economic climate, this is never truer as you rely on the strength of your relationships with clients and colleagues to manage expectations and navigate unchartered waters. With this in mind, developing your softer skills is very important in achieving your career ambitions.
Find your USP
Another way to break from the ranks and progress your career is to think about what you can offer that is different from others. In marketing, this is called your ‘Unique Selling Point’ or USP. It might sound corny but identifying and exploiting it is how many household names have won out above their competitors. Do you speak other languages? Do you have a voluntary role outside of work, such as trustee of a local charity or chair of a local business group, that could bring kudos to your firm? What skills have you invested in? Have you undertaken any additional professional qualifications? The key is to find something that you have a genuine passion for and to harness this to your advantage – and of course that of your employer!
Take an international outlook
One way that lawyers who are interested in working internationally have expanded their horizons is to cross qualify so they can practice in other jurisdictions. This enables them to fulfil their career ambitions and benefit their clients and firm by offering a higher level of service and better ROI. The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), which is the SRA recognised qualification for lawyers seeking to cross qualify and practice law in England and Wales, has been specially designed to allow legal professionals to study and work at the same time.
In many cases, lawyers 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. One further point to note is that the QLTS is changing in October 2021, so many savvy lawyers are getting ahead and enrolling now.
Turn to technology
If technology is your thing then there has never been a better time to build your expertise and position yourself as the ‘go-to’ person in the firm. Despite recognising its importance and potential, pre-pandemic, many firms hadn’t seized the opportunity provided by new technologies. However, having had no choice but to embrace tech to keep operations going when lockdown first hit, this sentiment has rapidly changed, and for the better.
Homeworking technologies have been embraced, and this shift in attitude has also opened the door to other emerging technologies. From live chat to AI through to Cryptocurrency – there are many areas of technology where an associate with a keen interest and knowledge in a particular topic could easily become the expert in their firm and play an important part in its future, as recently noted by our own Chris Jorgenson.
For more information about the QLTS prep course and to speak with one of the team, get in touch today: https://barbriqlts.com/contact/