A survey published by the Law Society Gazette revealed that recruitment and retention were the main concerns for UK law firms at the start of the year. This remains the case as we settle into June following a series of events, including the trigger of Article 50 and, more recently, a hung parliament. Among such uncertainty, the legal sector stands to be highly competitive. With this in mind, we take a look at a few of the skills widely sought-after in lawyers by law firms.
- Excellent verbal communication skills
In light of recent data from APSCo that revealed a summer slowdown in legal recruitment activity, it’s now more important than ever for those in the sector to sharpen these skills. Legal professionals, notably lawyers, need to communicate in a clear and concise way with coworkers and clients alike – especially since the legal sector thrives on detail and information.
Ultimately, people buy from people they can trust. So, there’s a real demand for lawyers with the ability to deliver expert legal advice and insight with clarity and confidence, in a bid to help win and retain business in such a competitive environment.
- Client care and negotiation skills
A natural extension of verbal communication skills, client care skills form the essence of healthy, mutual long-term working relationships. For example, the same APSCo survey found that Real Estate continues to be the largest practice area in terms of the number of advertised vacancies. Commercial Property Lawyers typically act on behalf of a range of UK-based and international clients, including developers and investors. Transactional work can involve leasing, estate management, and acquisitions. Residential Property Lawyers, on the other hand, usually act for private UK homebuyers, homesellers, and landlords. Transactional work can involve overseeing sales and purchase, renting, and remortgaging.
Naturally, both areas result in increased client interaction. And for Real Estate clients involved at the heart of these transactions, it can often be a highly stressful and emotional time – even more so in the uncertain climate of a post-Brexit Britain, marked by fluctuating property prices and the value of the Pound.
Lawyers will need to keep a track of what stage of the process they’re at with multiple clients before updating them – often at the same time, depending on the intensity of caseloads. And it’s equally important to provide easy-to-understand guidance on issues facing buying and selling property. Plus, they’ll have to negotiate with the likes of estate agencies, developers, and other party solicitors. It’s all about striking a genuine connection with peers, particularly clients, in order to ensure a smooth and speedy transition of steps. It’s this high quality of service that will engender confidence in clients to bring much-needed repeat business to the law firm in question.
- Networking and business development skills
Extensive broad and specialist legal knowledge forms the foundations of a successful career within the sector. But that’s just the start. Lawyers need to consider the bigger picture, i.e. the heightened importance of client business in order to drive firm growth. In a market characterised by the previous and current year’s economic and political changes, it’s more challenging to gain the trust of clients as they’ll ultimately favour law firms that provide time-efficient services and solutions at the best value for money.
And given that word-of-mouth or a preceding reputation simply isn’t enough to keep/attract clients and their lucrative business, lawyers will benefit from prioritising networking opportunities wherever possible. Indeed, law firms will expect both junior and senior lawyers to build up a relevant list of contacts to help push business development activities.
So where to go? The likes of seminars, conferences, and black-tie dinners, or even charity/community-based events are a good platform to connect with like-minded professionals and prospective clients. This personal approach is great for lawyers to build rapport with and show the latter just why their law firms are the frontrunners for specialist legal advice and support.
Ultimately, the UK is constantly undergoing a series of changes that affect how businesses operate. For instance, with Theresa May having confirmed that we’re set to leave the single market, there’s a rise in the number of companies looking to navigate around the inevitable legislation changes and the implications they bring for employment and immigration. Lawyers in these practice areas are therefore well-advised to stay up-to-date with current affairs that influence the outlook of the legal sector; a move that will help convert any initial enquiries into new business.
Make your next legal career move – search and apply to our latest vacancies. Or call 020 7078 0213 to speak to our team of experts here at Kingsley Hamilton People.