Navigating the legal industry in your final years of studying law (and after graduation) can be tricky. Work in the industry is changing quickly and there is no direct path to a final destination in law. However, a dynamic industry can be an advantage if you keep an open mind to new opportunities. Here’s what three of our own LegalVisionaries think of using technology, time management for lawyers and how you can map your career to embrace uncertainty, whether you want to be a lawyer or something else entirely.
Jacquie’s 5 Tips on Technology
Jacqueline Fearnley, Head of Client Care
1. Don’t Fear It. Embrace It
You may be tempted to succumb to those feelings of anxiety. Will technology take over my job? Will it be even more difficult to find work in the legal industry? But the easiest way to take the fullest advantage of technology is to embrace it.
Instead of worrying, ask how you can make technology work for you. We use it to manage our clients, generate documentation and share free information. If we were too busy worrying about technology, we would not have made the time to incorporate it in the best way possible at LegalVision.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a technology degree! Just invest in the skills you do have and be willing to embrace technology to further your skills and career.
2. Focus On The Client
Like in any good business, you are only as successful as your client is happy. By embracing and using technology, you have more time to focus on your client and act as their consultant or strategist.
Keep an open mind so you can learn as much as possible from your clients. You’ll understand more about what they want to see from their firm and what services they value most.
3. Keep Evolving Your Skills
Law firms don’t just want lawyers that understand the law. They need skills that enable them to communicate with clients effectively. Three of these key skills include:
- Problem Solving: The law will continue to change. You need to understand how to learn to meet the client at the outcome they want. Don’t just focus on the law – focus on the solution that the client is asking for.
- Communication: Ensure your client understands you clearly, and respond in a timely manner.
- Commercial Acumen: Think bigger than the legal problem. Can you put yourself in the shoes of your client? Think of the bigger commercial issues they need to consider and be proactive in offering solutions. Act like your client’s business is your own business.
4. Invest in Non-Tech Skills
Communication, empathy, collaboration and business skills (like working in a normal business that isn’t a law firm) are the most difficult for technology to replace. Prioritise these and do not consider legal information more important, because you will learn legal information on the job.
Any law firm can teach you the law, but only a keen and enthusiastic attitude will keep you open to learning about broader skills like empathy and business acumen.
5. Remote Working Tip
Although remote working enables us to work much more flexibly than ever, remember that nothing replaces working next to a human and learning from them. You may be tempted to seek an opportunity that lets you sit on your bed with a laptop, but it cannot help you further your career if you are not learning from others around you.
Remote working offers advantages, but they come with trade offs. So take full advantage of the people around you in the office and absorb what you can from them.
Sophie’s 5 Tips on the Workplace
Sophie Glover, Lawyer
1. Create a Time and Energy Management System (and Stick to It)
Use the tools provided to you by your firm. Good tools will help you manage clients, projects and communication. LegalVision uses a client relationship manager (CRM). It’s a useful way to learn more about your clients with a quick click. Tools like Trello can be used to manage your projects, or Boomerang for Gmail can be useful to manage follow up emails. As you are working, leave a clear trail of processes – that way, you will be replaceable when you go on leave or move to another position in the business. Equally, be indispensable so everyone knows how helpful you are. So create a replaceable position, but be an indispensable person.
2. Be Proactive
Allocate time for deep work. Don’t think of deep work as reactive work – it’s proactive work that you can use to develop long term projects for the firm. It will help you grow your business skills and project management skills. If you see a project that you would like to be a part of, remember that the team can’t read your mind – put your hand up and just ask if you can help. It will open new doors and also help you become unafraid of the word ‘no’.
3. Use Plain English
Avoid Legalese when you speak to your clients. When you use unnecessarily long or difficult terminology in written or verbal communication, you create a barrier for the client who you’re trying to help. Remember that you are the client’s advocate – if a word does not help, remove it. You don’t talk to friends that way, why would you speak to clients that way? Just use clear and direct English.
Practise anticipating what your team wants from you. Don’t think, what can I get out of this firm or business? Think, how can I derive a sense of purpose from my job and what can I contribute to the firm? Perks are nice, but you need to have a sense of purpose and extra care factor in order to enjoy your work and learn as much as possible. Even if what you anticipated is a little off track, your team will certainly appreciate your initiative and with time, you will learn exactly what the best next move is for a project, and you will be able to help your team move a project along easily.
5. Grasp Every Opportunity
When you start out in the legal industry, you generally do not have the responsibilities and burdens that you may have later in life. So take advantage of your precious time now, and volunteer for projects or causes that interest you. Seek out a mentor – they do not necessarily need to be in your workplace. Approach them with enthusiasm and keep the commitments you make. Your mentor will make time for you if they see that you are committed to every opportunity.
Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.
– Eric Schmidt (with Sheryl Sandberg).
Helpful Resource: Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg
Simon’s 4 Tips on Life and Career Planning
Simon Baume, Head of Growth
1. Have a Life Plan (But Be Willing To Bin It – and Frequently, If Required)
Do create a broad plan for yourself. You need a goal to work towards. However, you also need to remember to keep an open mind. If the plan does not work for you, be flexible enough to dispose of your plan and pivot. Have a vague sense of where you want to go, but hold it loosely, because opportunity can come when you least expect it. This is contrary to the advice that tells you to choose your end goal and work rigidly and directly towards it. However, because technology has had such a significant effect on the industry, maintaining a rigid focus may create a barrier to opportunities. So if something unexpected does arise, ride the opportunity the best you can.
2. Be a Jill of All Skills or a Jack of All Trades
Specialising in a niche field can be tempting to make you more ‘employable’. However, this perspective may be considered a bit old school now. Try and instead collect a whole series of skills that will mesh together in an interesting way. Communication skills, collaborating, or perhaps understanding business models clearly may work very well for you. A strict legal niche may not bring you as far when you are doing business in a law firm. Diversify your skill set – do not consider it a waste of time! It will drive you further in the day to day business of the law firm.
3. Be the Best at Following Orders
Although you should always put up your hand to be a part of a project, remember that you will not get what you want if you cannot follow simple orders. So focus on doing the job assigned to you better than anyone else can. If you work with a keen and enthusiastic attitude, there is no way you will be overlooked when you have a request. Be thoughtful, be thorough, and complete work as best as you can so that the person you are helping has less to do because of you.
4. Act Like An Owner
It seems contrary to Tip 3, but it’s important to find a balance. Act like an owner of your client’s business, and act like an owner of the law firm you are working at. Don’t be afraid of tasks that seem menial or unimportant to you. You will see how your projects fit into the business purpose – act like it’s your own money and your business.
Helpful Resource: The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the key pieces of technology you might see at a NewLaw firm?
- Client Relationship Management (CRM): This tool might be custom built, depending on the needs of the firm and its clients. At a glance, it gives you all the information you need to know about your client.
- Document Automation: Non-legal people can now download their own legal documents based on their input using document automation technology.
- Artificial Intelligence: The application of artificial intelligence may be used to document review. The technology can recognise a document as a legal document, then distinguish what kind of legal document it is. It may also be able to identify clauses and then identify issues or challenges within those documents that may require changes.
- Project Management Tools: Like Trello and Slack.
2. What is the future of NewLaw firms?
- Personal law firms are taking up space in NewLaw. They are very customer centric and can make personal law much more accessible to smaller clients.
- NewLaw will continue to break off – some firms may be hybrid, providing legal services and technology. Some firms may just offer legal technology products.
- The best NewLaw firms will base their plans off the conversations and feedback they have with clients.
- A focus on real innovation. For example, LegalVision has a lab that is dedicated to proactively creating solutions to better improve the entire customer experience – not just the provision of legal services.
3. What will happen to the billable hour?
- The billable hour may slowly disappear.
- Law firms may consider value based pricing to be more important. A consumer will want a specific solution and will be willing to pay $x for that solution.
- Clients may want to work with a budget, a fixed fee, a subscription fee or other value based solutions.
4. What is Client Care at LegalVision?
- Usually, you will begin as a ‘graduate’ in this role. You are a Legal Project Manager (LPM) in the Client Care team and you perform a needs analysis for new client enquiries.
- The potential client calls and explains their idea or challenge, and the LPM helps the potential client work out what they need and helps them understand that LegalVision has the perfect solution for them.
- You are talking to clients from day one and you will work closely with the legal team to better understand how to speak to clients.
5. Why should I choose NewLaw over a traditional law firm?
- Graduates working as LPMs at LegalVision have client facing experience from the first day. They are on the phone with potential clients all the time – CEOs, business owners, startup founders, employers.
- Every person in the client care team and the legal team at LegalVision are helping set the trajectory for the law firm business side. They aren’t stuck in a paralegal or legal assistant role. It’s a dynamic role that helps each team member quickly understand business and communication skills with clients.
- The skills you learn as a corporate lawyer are the same in most traditional firms, so your unique value proposition as a lawyer is reduced. You are valuable – but everyone is in the same boat as you. But if you have experiences and skills that are unique, like many in the NewLaw space, then your unique value proposition is clearer and more exciting. Your skills are also more dynamic and applicable in real commercial scenarios. LPMs are speaking to valuable clients from the beginning, as you will do for the rest of your career.
- As an LPM, you are given a great deal of responsibility in a NewLaw law firm. You are quite literally contributing to the revenue of the firm. Rather than photocopying papers or filing, you are upskilling daily.
6. What is the day in the life of a Legal Project Manager (LPM)?
- No two days are the same.
- LPMs have two to three areas they focus on. This enables them to best answer client enquiries (for example, patents, leasing or tax).
- Queries come from client enquiries online or via phone. Every time an LPM answers a query, they create a solution and email it to the enquirer with a scope and price outline. The LPM follows up and speaks to legal teams to try and create new solutions for clients.
- LPMs also attend training on legal areas; have daily stand up meetings; Article Days to write content, and days to answer client queries specifically and not take on any new enquiries.
7. How can the LPM role be translated into skills in a strictly legal role?
- Lawyers at LV don’t really have a hugely different day from a day in the life of a LPM.
- You can translate the skills from Client Care to any job. Communication specifically is a skill you hone quickly, as it forms a significant part of your day to day work speaking to clients and other lawyers on the phone, face to face and online.
- After your time as an LPM, you’re still on the phone to clients when you transition to a strictly legal role. You’re teaching potential clients what they need and helping them understand that LegalVision can do it for them.
- LPMs and lawyers both are client facing roles.
- An LPM gives general information and teaching, but a lawyer is helping a paid client, so they give personalised advice.
Find out more about careers at LegalVision.
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