Standing out in a competitive sector


The legal industry has always been highly competitive and even more so for those at the start of their careers looking to make their mark and progress through the ranks. Savvy younger solicitors have always tried to get ahead by networking, applying early for training contracts and taking a targeted approach to securing a job at the firm of their dreams. However, with the rule book truly shaken up as 2020 has turned most sectors on their heads, including the legal industry, there is an opportunity for ambitious young professionals to find new ways of standing out from the crowd. The pandemic has bought huge changes in terms of the way we work, expectations and priorities for firms and clients and which sectors will survive and thrive in the coming years. For those at the start of their careers, getting recognition will be about understanding and harnessing what this means for law firms and the skills they’ll need. Jody Tranter, head of BARBRI Altior explains.

Soften up – skills for success

According to new research carried out post-pandemic by legal software company Wolters Kluwers in its 2020 Future Ready Lawyer survey, ‘meeting changing client/leadership expectations’ was the second biggest trend international lawyers predicted would impact their firms over the next three years. While legal training is, of course, mandatory and a key part of the early career of a young solicitor with the Professional Skills Course (PSC), training in softer skills, vital for building and managing strong client relationships isn’t always considered as important as technical knowledge. However, being able to gain the trust and respect of clients and colleagues is key to being successful and advancing your career.  Your Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should include developing these softer skills further. Particularly in a post-pandemic world where being able to navigate through unchartered waters and engender the confidence of others is essential to your success.

Where to start – quality training

Many individuals at all stages of their career will choose to focus on CPD to support career progression, as well as the regulatory competence statement. There are a variety of legal training providers on the market, however, choosing one that has specific legal sector experience and understands the nuances of the industry is the best place to start. BARBRI Altior has over 40 years’ experience, specifically in legal sector training and works with solicitors from their early days in the profession, right through their legal careers.  Personal development courses which help nurture skills including; business development and networking, time and stress management, negotiation skills and dealing with difficult people will prove vital over the coming months. Investing in the development of your personal and professional skills, given their increasing importance in the ‘new world’ post-COVID-19 is certainly one area where you can give yourself an added edge.

Take it higher – expanding your horizons

In addition to this, consider what areas of your professional practice you could enhance to make you stand out too. The Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) course is a popular choice at BARBRI Altior with solicitors looking to do just that. It enables them to practice in the Higher Courts in England and Wales and can now be undertaken via an online exam, making it extremely accessible as many continue to operate remotely. Course attendees can seek to qualify for either the civil or criminal courts, or both. Using BARBRI Altior’s legal industry know-how the course programme has been designed to be directly applicable in the workplace and benefits attendee’s overall communication and case management skills as well as enhanced advocacy. Being qualified to offer additional services will create a point of difference between you and your peers and potentially open up new opportunities to you, with increased earning potential and enhanced professional status.

Next generation know-how – tech smarts

As well as investing in your own skillset, think about what you can do to help your firm thrive. Leadership figures will notice those who embrace the ‘new normal’ and help the firm navigate the crucial next couple of years. Technology know-how is one of the key areas where many younger legal professionals inherently have the skills their firm needs to both survive and thrive post-pandemic. After all, investment in LawTech has almost tripled over the past two years. Yet, while not denying its huge potential and growing importance in the legal sector, many partners and senior lawyers have failed to harness it, partly due to lack of time, but also due to lack of understanding and fears around data, home working and other things that need careful consideration. However, due to the need to embrace technology overnight when COVID-19 first hit to support home working and client-facing and operational necessities, law firms had no choice but to react and adapt. From a positive perspective, this has rapidly accelerated firms use of technology to the benefit of clients, staff and operations. For this reason, young legal professionals who understand technology and its potential have become more attractive to law firms than ever.

In addition to simply being a ‘digital native’ by generation, stand out from your peers by enhancing your understanding of the latest homeworking technologies, legal social media strategies and the emerging LawTech industry. Get involved in internal technology committees and other initiatives at your firm for a chance to demonstrate your expertise in these areas, while at the same time reminding colleagues of the value you add to the firm.

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