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According to the *Law Society, there are five great drivers of change in the legal profession that can be clustered into five groups: Globalisation, how clients buy legal services, technological and process innovation, and wider political agendas around funding, regulation and the principals of access to justice.
This means that legal job skills which perhaps worked five years ago, won’t necessarily be relevant in the next five years. We highlight the top trends that are likely to impact legal jobs in 2019, and how to develop the skills to be a lawyer who is ahead of the curve in times of change.
As Brexit news continues to dominate the headlines, plunging the UK deeper into an era of uncertainty, the demand for lawyers and legal expertise continues to increase. Just as we must have law, so must we have lawyers, and in times of confusion and commercial anxiety, there is a window of opportunity for lawyers to support businesses with their knowledge and insight.
That being said, lawyers must have the attitude and ability to adapt to complex legal and regulatory environments. This would involve proactive learning and networking with industry experts to keep knowledge up to date. Major firms already have advisory teams in place to counsel their own lawyers on the potential impact of Brexit.
*Freshfields is one firm that's set up a Brexit unit, which was in place before the referendum. “It includes six leading partners at the firm, who we can ask any questions we want about Brexit and the plans for the firm,” one of the firm’s trainees told Chambers Student UK. A trainee at another magic circle firm had been involved in such advice-giving themselves: “I helped compile articles people had written containing our advice on the effects that Brexit could have on the financial services sector.” Other firms may host various strategy meetings in the run-up to Brexit.
This is an opportunity to really make your mark as a legal professional. Furthermore, through proactive learning and development of your skills in this regard, you’ll ultimately set yourself up for more senior legal jobs, such as partner in the future.
As the legal profession evolves with commercial demands driven by the advancement of technology, skill requirements will also continue to change for lawyers across the sector. Because digital disruption continues to redefine service delivery and client behaviour, we will continue to see an increased demand for professionals with skills not traditionally characteristic of lawyers.
In addition to legal knowledge and the ability to articulate information about complex cases, solicitors must also possess transaction experience, analytical skills, project management capabilities and social intelligence. As technology continues to evolve, so will the demand for these skills across all legal jobs.
Law firms expect employees to market their services to prospective clients, as well as develop trusting relationships with existing ones. Ultimately, law firms are businesses, so lawyers must appreciate the commercial importance of meeting deadlines, keeping costs low and handling information confidentially.
A client, meanwhile, will expect their lawyer to fully understand how their business is run, and which wider social, political and economic issues may affect them. This demand will remain constant regardless of revolving trends in the industry. If applicable, lawyers must be aware of the short, medium and long-term implications of their client's business proposal, and think strategically about the organisation's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This enables the lawyer to provide pragmatic, business-minded legal advice to the best of their ability.
You can improve your commercial awareness and competitive edge when applying for legal jobs by:
Browsing specialist websites such as RollOnFriday, LawCareers.Net, The Lawyer, Legal Cheek, Legal Week and Legal Futures
Joining industry-specific forums that allow you to attend seminars and network with business professionals
Listening to business-related podcasts or radio shows, such as BBC Radio 4's Today programme
Reading business publications such as the Financial Times and The Economist, and the business pages of a daily newspaper such as The Times
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