Investing in the lawyers of the future makes business sense for partners

Comment Piece

07 Aug 2014

Resolution member Joanna Stiff of KGW Family Law makes the case for investing in the next generation of family lawyers.

I was lucky enough recently to be invited by Resolution to attend a talk by Rasheed Ogunlaru. He is a leading life coach, speaker and business coach. I was told that the talk was aimed at all levels of our profession and that Rasheed had regularly spoken in front of various businesses and corporate bodies. I attended ready and willing to learn as much as I could about how I could best further my career and take stock of where I am at the moment, which is what the ‘blurb’ informed me was to be the case.

My personal view going into the seminar was that senior members of our profession need to understand that the future of family law lies with its junior representatives. In an economic climate that constantly puts pressure on us from all sides, it is important to be as confident as we can about furthering one’s own career so as to best promote the businesses within which we work.

As family lawyers I think it is fair to say that we are 'adaptable' as people. We work wearing very different 'hats', be they traditional litigious hats, or collaborative or mediation hats. We regularly advise our clients to be pragmatic and positive and we encourage them to think outside the box, to take control of their lives so as to best set themselves up for their futures. Ironically, I don’t think we are very good at taking our own advice and we are probably not as good as we should be at adapting ourselves for our future careers.

Perhaps we are all so busy providing thoughts and plans for our clients that we sometimes forget to take stock of ourselves and our own positions. I also think many of us are not making the best use of the networks within which we work. It has been said that only 40% of the work we obtain comes through marketing. As such, 60% comes from the people we already know. This is a staggering statistic, when, speaking for myself, I have a file-full of business cards that I have collected over the years, but probably only stay in touch with a handful of those people. I cannot believe I am alone in that respect.

Opportunities come from all angles and from anywhere, so it is important for family lawyers to identify effective strategies to boost our visibility in new markets, and to learn how to better build and leverage the networks we already work in. It is fair to say that having become family lawyers we are all equipped at an academic level, but just as importantly we need to invest proper time to learn the fundamental ‘soft skills’ and know-how to stay on track, manage our own career development, and best further our business potentials. This is a profoundly difficult thing to do because it requires confidence and the ability to hold oneself out in what, for most of us, is an uncomfortable thing to be doing.

What Rasheed managed to do in the space of two hours was provide inspirational and practical career development advice to help all of us in the audience take stock of where we are in our careers, giving us a real sense of what we need to focus on to make the most of what we already benefit from.

There are changes afoot in our practice area which are unavoidable. We are bound to be tested along the way. It therefore seems wise to take control of the things that we are able to control, and that includes the way we conduct ourselves as we progress ‘through the ranks’ on a continuous learning curve. Although I am conscious I do in fact learn new things every day, having attended Rasheed’s course I feel equipped to better deal with the day-to-day skills that will enable me to stand out amongst my peers and stay on track in a positive way, supplementing both my working practice and also my personal know-how.

I do think it is important that we as junior solicitors feel that we have our own voice and that we are empowered to network ourselves and increase our own visibility, since we are the futures of all of our firms. It is fantastic to see that at a national level Resolution is endorsing it's membership group for recently qualified family lawyers, Yres. Jo Edwards, our new Chair, made it quite clear in her opening address at the national conference that promoting the junior end of the spectrum is the duty of all firms and partners across Resolution.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge the more senior members of law firms reading this to take on board the fact that their juniors are their futures and that investing in them and enabling them to equip themselves for positive networking and marketing is invaluable, and can only be a good thing. I appreciate that, from a financial perspective, writing endless cheques for academic CPD events might mean that writing cheques for the more ‘personal development’ side of the equation falls to the wayside, but this cannot be right.

I would urge the junior solicitors reading this to, for want of a better expression, put themselves out there. We all need to represent ourselves in such a way as to make sure that the senior members of our firms recognise our potential and are compelled to see the value of facilitating training courses such as this one to empower us to take control of our own futures. This can only eventually result in ultimate financial gain for all of the businesses within which we work.