The legal professionals on your team are highly qualified and experienced at what they do. And they do it well. It must be true because they are the ones that generate the income for your practice.
But honestly, do all the legal professionals on your team have the essential skills of a modern lawyer?
The skills that many legal professionals learned while studying won’t cut it for modern practice. You need to make sure that the legal professionals on your team upskill, so your team can succeed in the next decade.
Here are seven ways to upskill your team:
- Change the culture of your team to accept that flexible work is okay – You may have a wonderful flexible work policy that applies to everyone on your team (and I hope that you do!), but it’s useless unless your team openly accepts and uses it. If they don’t, you need to change the culture around flexible work.
It’s not enough for you to promote your policy and encourage your team to accept it. You need to do what you have to do to make it happen. That might mean providing opportunities for education around the need for flexible work and the benefits that flow to your team. It might mean that you need to audit your team’s technology and communication processes to remove any barriers. It might also mean that you need to have a confidential discussion with each member of your team to find out why they believe there are hesitations to accepting flexible work as the norm.
If you’re having trouble achieving this, it’s time to get professional human resource management assistance.
2. Get your team on board with cloud technology – Make sure your practice has a cloud technology setup that enables your practice to meet its goals now and into the future. Then make sure that all the members of your team have appropriate access to the software that they need to play their part to achieve those goals.
Your practice’s technology system will also only be as good as your team’s ability to accept and use it. If your team don’t accept and use it, it will be natural for people to work around the system and use whatever software they find easier to use. The potential risks of working outside the system are obvious. Try explaining why your practice needs a particular setup and listen to any concerns that your team may have. They may have a very good reason which means that you need to make some changes. Otherwise, educate your team, so they know how to use your practice’s chosen technology and use it well.
3. Educate your team about the basics of your practice – Believe it or not, your team of legal professionals didn’t necessarily learn basic business skills as part of studying for their qualification. Yet it is essential to understand how a business generates income, controls costs and uses the profits. It is also essential to understand the importance of planning, branding and marketing, customer service, good management, and minimising potential risks. Does your team understand the importance of these for your practice? You don’t need to share all the details, but everyone on your team needs to know the basics of how your practice runs.
It is also essential for modern practice that your team of legal professionals understands the basics of client experience, branding, marketing and content creation. It is no longer viable for these skills to be segmented to one part of your team and disregarded by everyone else. Work with your team, so every person on your team understands the basics and knows what they need to do as part of their role to help your practice succeed.
4. Transform your team’s legal services into legal solutions – A service is an act of helping or doing work that generally leads to a desirable outcome for your client. However, a solution is the action of using a mixture of products and services in a specific way to solve a problem or deal with a difficult situation so your team can achieve a desirable outcome for your client. It’s the difference between doing a property conveyance and assisting a home buyer to successfully become a homeowner, or giving a business client a document that will fix a legal problem and working with them to manage a difficult situation by providing a quality document they can read and understand together with advice and guidance.
Your practice can do so much more by offering solutions rather than services. Brainstorm ideas with your team around your practice’s target clients, their problems, and what an ideal solution would be. What do they need to solve the problem? What can your practice provide and what can’t your practice provide? The members of your team collectively have a diverse range of skills and experiences, so get them all involved in the process. You will need to find a way for your practice to start filling those gaps or collaborate with a business that can fill those gaps. It is the key to developing a great solution.
5. Design your practice’s processes – Do you know how each of the legal professionals on your team delivers each of your practice’s services? Does your practice have a good process that everyone follows for every client?
It is no longer good enough for your team to deliver your practice’s services in a disjointed way. You need to audit how each of the services is being delivered by your team and design a process for everyone to follow.
Your process needs to be efficient and effective to benefit your clients, your team and your practice. It also needs to be flexible, so your team accepts and uses it for every matter. Consider all the steps that are necessary to solve the client’s problem and redesign each one to be the balance of efficiency and effectiveness that works for your target clients and your practice. Adopting new or different technology solutions may be useful so ask your team what they suggest would work well.
6. Develop your team’s project management skills – It’s not good enough for legal professionals to do only the legal work and leave the rest for everyone else. Your team needs to know how to plan, start, execute, manage and finish all of the work that is needed to reach the outcome for the client. It means that they need to be able to scope the work that is required, manage the time spent on the project (by everyone in your practice), ensure the quality of customer service and service delivery, and make sure it all happens at or under budget. It might sound difficult, but legal professionals can broadly scope even the most unpredictable matters with numerous variables into stages of work which may be updated as the scope becomes clearer.
You’ll find some great technology solutions out there that can help your team organise the workflow of each matter. However, don’t just rely on your team using the software. They need to develop their skills so they can learn to manage the tasks well and take early action for any future problems that they anticipate.
7. Encourage your team to modernise their drafting skills – Most of your team were likely to have been trained to draft legal documents with the law as the central focus. That’s great and helps legal professionals communicate at a high level with other legal professionals, but what does it do for your clients? Honestly, can every one of your clients confidently read, understand and act on the documents that your team drafts for them? If not, your team needs to modernise their drafting skills.
Over the last few years, there has been a significant client-driven shift in many industries towards client-focused design for both services and products. Believe it or not, legal professionals aren’t exempt from this demand. While your team can redesign your legal services together, each legal professional on your team needs to take individual responsibility for modernising their drafting skills. They need to start looking at each of the documents they draft as products they are designing, and each of those products needs to be able to function well for the client. You can encourage your team of legal professionals to modernise their drafting skills by finding useful courses, workshops and other events and helping them to take the time to participate fully.
Audit your team’s skills
By upskilling your team of legal professionals, you’ll be able to lead your practice towards success into the future. But first, you need to know where to start.
What are your team’s current strengths and weaknesses? Look at each point as a team and then for each member. Speak with your team about the importance of upskilling for modern practice and have a private discussion with each team member to see what skills they have and where there might be opportunities for improvement. Take the time to discuss this in-depth, and you might just be surprised by who already has wonderful skills they are hiding away.
Once you understand the current skills across your team, you’ll be able to work towards strengthening them. Make this the year that you make it happen!
We have an exciting new solution coming in 2020 which will teach legal professionals how to add human intelligence to their legal drafting. If you’d like to be one of the first to know when we release our courses (before we release them to the public), join our free Support Legal Community.
This article is written by Deborah Vella and was first published on the Support Legal website
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practising lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Legally Yours Pty Ltd accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.