Shiny, glass, city skyline offices. Shaking hands. Making deals.
It all seems so exciting. Adrenaline pumping kinds of stuff. Yet, the stereotypical image of lawyers is, in many ways, incompatible with what 21st century lawyers actually do. Modern lawyers balance a variety of projects and wear many different hats.
As such, these careers now are not shaped only by the strictly legal, and instead legal careers are shaped by creativity, project management and consultancy, just to name a few. These exciting developments in legal careers mean that the simple term ‘lawyer’ is not truly reflective of the unique roles which now make up this profession.
The creative lawyer
The traditional perception is that lawyers are not creative – its embodied in popular mindsets like the legal profession stifling creativity. Yet, there is a new breed of lawyer seeking to challenge this perception, making sure that creativity is brought within the profession.
Salome Coker, brands herself as the ‘creative lawyer’ and through such personal branding she is demonstrating that lawyers themselves do not just have to be defined by their profession. She works as an artist, photographer and as a lawyer.
In a recent podcast for Legal Cheek, Salome spoke about how she created this personal brand as a statement to herself to show what she could do because at the time, she didn’t feel like she could do both.
What Salome’s career trajectory shows is that whilst two worlds may seem apart, they can be brought together and a career for a lawyer can be constructed to include these different elements. Salome’s career shows the real potential for a streak of creativity to run throughout a traditional legal career and that a lawyer can be something much more than simply, and only a lawyer. They can be a creative as well which enables them to bring a different perspective to their legal career and also makes lawyers more well rounded than simply just being a lawyer.
The project manager
For some, legal project management is just another ‘fad.’ For others, the potential which this approach to working has could help to revolutionise the work of lawyers.
Project management is the process of defining the parameters of a matter upfront, planning the course of the matter at the outset with the facts you have at the time, managing the matter, and at the end, evaluating how the matter was handled. It offers the potential for lawyers to put on another hat and to build a project up to meet the demands of clients in a modern world where clients are driving the need for a more proactive, disciplined, or systematic way of working from their lawyers.
The potential for project management within the legal sector demonstrates how lawyers can have access to the skills needed to build projects to fit their clients demands, which takes them a step beyond the traditional remits of the legal profession. Project management also has the potential to enable firms to build a competitive edge, something which is crucial in an already crowded market. As such, this demonstrates how on one hand legal careers are being shaped by the development by new trends but also by an inherent need from the client to make sure they are getting the most from their interactions with a firm.
Whilst lawyers have been traditionally sought for their legal advice, as this century has progressed their advice is not just strictly legal anymore. Actually, the trend is now that lawyers are being asked to go beyond the legal, and providing advice in other areas.
Investment bank Arden have recently claimed that the pandemic has exposed the poor management and outdated operating models of many law firms and in order for high street and mid-market law firms to survive, they must transition into ‘consultant business models.’ This, they argue, has also been accelerated due to the pandemic where firms of this kind have been required to act as a consultants as well.
What’s more interesting about the comments made by Arden is that they say how this model must be adopted by high street and mid-market law firms. Larger, multi-national firms have already been adopting consultancy practises into their work for a number of years but it seems that the profession more broadly must now move towards this model in order for its survival. Arden’s analysis shows a trickle-down effect where in order for mid-sized and high street firms to survive, they must adapt to this model of offering other services in order to keep up. Therefore, it shows that at all types of practices across the legal sector, the pressure from the pandemic combined with the general step-up of pressures from clients means that it is not only conscious decisions which are shaping legal careers, but also responses to financial and societal pressures.
What does this all mean?
From conscious decisions made by lawyers to shape their own career trajectories, to external pressures forcing lawyers to change their working practises to keep apace with societal developments, it’s clear that the 21st century lawyer must have more than just legal knowledge. The 21st century lawyer must be able to wear alternate hats and adopt many roles in order to keep themselves and their work competitive. Therefore, 21st century lawyers have already become much more than just lawyers.