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February 8 2022

How can future lawyers develop client-centric skill sets?

Legal Career Tips

Jenny Sacaj

Jenny Sacaj

Feb 22 Junior Lawyer Lunch Blog Banner

Our most recent Virtual Lunch focussed on how junior lawyers can develop client-centric skills, and the importance of softer, people skills as opposed to black-letter law. The session was delivered by our very own Harry Mellor, Client Development Manager at Flex Legal and Holly Moore, Solicitor Apprentice at ITV and the face behind thatlawblog; both members of the O Shaped Lawyer Future Board.

Holly was the first solicitor apprentice in the UK in 2016, and hopes to be part of the first cohort to qualify via this new route. It broadly translates to a 6 year apprenticeship, and she has completed her degree as she’s worked along the way. Holly views it as being very similar to a training contract, but much more accessible, and aims to go through the SQE.

Why are client-centric skills so important for lawyers?

Holly began by discussing how she has taken and developed skills from each of the teams she’s worked with, which has in turn informed the kind of lawyer she wants to be. The key takeaway being that the softer people skills she has acquired are equally as important than any knowledge on black-letter law - not what she’d expected when she started her legal journey 6 years ago.

In particular, throughout her time with ITV, Holly has found that learning how to communicate effectively with clients has been surprisingly crucial. Clients often lack legal knowledge and on the whole, just want to know what they can and can’t do. As a result, being able to get clients on-side and ensuring that they trust you is often the biggest learning curve as a trainee and future lawyer. Knowing the law is important, but how to offer practical and digestible advice to your clients is essential to your success.

Holly also spoke about the benefits of working in-house, with some main positives being that she’s been able to spend time with so many creative people and harness their creativity for her work. As well as this, the in-house route has helped to develop her business acumen and commercial awareness - vital skills to excel as a lawyer in the real world.

As a future lawyer, it’s important to take the wider picture into consideration. You can become a better, more rounded legal professional by embracing softer skills outside of traditional law, such as being able to communicate well with a variety of people and solving problems efficiently and effectively.

Being a lawyer isn’t enough. You have to be a person too, and this in turn will make you a better lawyer.

- Holly Moore

What is the O Shaped Lawyer?

Developing a more “rounded” approach to legal work is exactly what the O Shaped Lawyer is here to promote. Founded in 2019 by Dan Kayne, General Counsel at Network Rail, the O aims to promote a cultural change in the legal industry, placing human behaviours at the heart of a more modern, progressive legal profession. People first, then lawyers.

The O Shaped Framework has been designed to lead a shift not just in skills, but in mindsets and behaviours too. In this way, they believe that long-lasting change can be achieved across both the formation of lawyers and the ongoing development of lawyers.

Their framework encompasses 5 O’s, which represent the mindset of an O shaped legal professional:

  • Have an open mind
  • Be optimistic
  • Make and take opportunities
  • Be original
  • Take ownership

After 6 months, the O Shaped Lawyer pilot programme found that the individuals who took part were/had:

  • Increased trust from clients
  • Leaders setting the tone from the top with an empathetic and honest approach
  • More innovative ways of working
  • A focus on priorities/better time management
  • A greater willingness to be vulnerable
  • A more inclusive working environment
  • More confident/comfortable
  • Wellbeing always had a place at the top of the agenda

Holly and Harry are both members of the O Shaped Lawyer Future Board and feel very passionate about working to make the legal profession better for those who work in it, for those who use it, and for those entering it.

We’ve still got a long way to go to change the archaic culture of the legal industry, but through working with the O Shaped Lawyer, we here at Flex Legal are on a mission to make law more accessible, inclusive and human for all.

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