Getting commercial – developing practical client skills in junior lawyers

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Do you want your junior lawyers to think more commercially?

Number one on the wish list from partners and heads of marketing in international law firms seems to be how to get junior lawyers to understand and apply core commercial skills. For example:

  • Networking
  • Personal presentation skills
  • Thinking from a client’s perspective
  • Making conversation
  • When and how to ask questions of interest to a client
  • Giving clients a reason to hire them

These essential attributes are often lacking because they are not taught as part of the academic “learning” curriculum. Unless a junior lawyer has developed an entrepreneurial skill set outside of their education it is unlikely to have been fostered at university or law school. It is left to their employer to develop these skills internally, but with varied results.

“Educating” vs “Training”

We have found that many law firms admit to spending a great deal of time “educating” their lawyers, in the same way as they would teach legal skills, rather than “training” them practically to embed the people skills they need. Therefore many junior lawyers find it too difficult to put what they have learnt into practice. This is especially true if introversion, rather than extroversion, is their natural preference.

Our legal clients find that our approach to developing people skills is refreshing. Within legal and professional service firms our focus on encouraging an individual’s natural style sits very comfortably with lawyers who see themselves as subject matter experts or professional advisors rather than salespeople.

We not only “educate” the lawyer in understanding themselves and their clients better but also focus on and develop the practical skills “in-role” they need to succeed in engaging with clients. Crucially, we allow lawyers to retain a natural, conversational approach so we (and they) have considerable success where other more prescriptive approaches fail.

Legal MBA Programme

As an example, one long standing client asked us to support them on an innovative legal MBA programme to develop their trainees’ practical skills. They needed help translating the BD techniques learned on the MBA into tangible skills at work.

In partnership with the MBA provider and our client, we designed and delivered several intensive, practical sessions to complement and reinforce their academic studies – developing skills “in role” in simulated client scenarios. The interventions were:

  • Networking strategy and practical skills
  • Identifying and influencing different client styles
  • Winning the personal pitch

This proved a very good investment for our client as once on secondment each junior lawyer was not just “educated” but extremely well “practised” in the skills they needed to really understand the issues the clients faced. They could network themselves into position to influence the key decision makers and develop amazing opportunities for their firm as a result. This was as a direct result of the skills training they had received in small groups using video review. It built their confidence and helped them get better at being “themselves” when they engaged with clients in all situations.

If you are thinking about developing the commercial skills of your junior lawyers, and want to benefit from our experience and expertise in this area we would enjoy having a conversation with you about how we can help.