30 July 2014

The associate of the future

Lawyers On Demand reveals the three steps associates need to follow to succeed in the fast changing legal market

Associates of the future have to follow a new roadmap Rasica

Lawyers On Demand (LOD), the alternative legal services provider launched by UK law firm BLP in 2007, has teamed up with leading Canadian consultant Jordan Furlong to devise a ‘three step process’ for the modern associate, enabling those working within the industry to prepare for the ongoing changes seen within law firms and legal employment.The release of the associate three step process follows LOD and Jordan Furlong’s recent report, titled ‘The New World of Legal Work’, released in February 2014, which predicted an employment revolution within the legal industry and an end to secure full time employment, moving to the alternative ‘solo lawyer’ model in an age of agile employment. 

Hard work less important

Commenting on his three step process, Jordan Furlong said; “Associate lawyer positions have traditionally required hard work and a willingness to make a long-term commitment which have been balanced with good remuneration, secure employment, and the chance of partnership. Today, the first benefit has shrunk, the second has almost disappeared, and the third is not only less likely but is also a less attractive option than ever before. As traditional legal jobs begin to fade away, new legal employment opportunities will begin to proliferate, promising more choice, flexibility, and customisation than most ‘jobs’ could ever offer.” 

Jordan goes on to explain that these new legal employment options all share one common trait in that “they are located outside the four walls of the traditional law firm”. The New World of Legal Work report predicted that future legal employment will be agile and entrepreneurial in nature, rewarding the self-starter who builds a reputation for value, effectiveness and foresight. Project lawyer work will flourish, and individual lawyers with strengths or backgrounds in particular areas will be in demand. 

With such prolific changes being predicted, what can associates do to prepare for a new legal landscape? Jordan’s three step process is aimed at helping those working within the legal industry better prepare for the changes that lie ahead.

Associates Three Step Process:

Step 1. Planning

•         Figure out what your market value proposition should be based upon the skills and experiences you’ve already accumulated during your ‘legal job’ years and upon your inherent talents and interests.

•         Choose a ‘base of operations’, whether that is a region, a market, or a practice area. 

•         Solidify the networks you’ve developed within that base, focusing them towards your market proposition. 

•         If there are business skills or know-how you feel you lack, including sales, client service and time management, acquire them sooner rather than later.

Step 2. Launching 

•         Develop your expertise, and a reputation to match, within your chosen community. 

•         Aim to become ‘head-turningly’ great at something highly useful at your earliest opportunity. 

•         Take on new projects; seek referrals and self-publish your know-how through blogs and social media. 

•         No matter what your lifestyle was like when you were a law firm associate, switch into ‘start-up mode,’ running a streamlined practice in a frugal environment. 

•         Become actively involved in whatever legal community you have chosen.

Step 3. Growing 

•         Figure out your maximum-comfort zone, whether it’s a legal niche, a mode of work, a client or regional base. 

•         Do what most law firms fail to do and differentiate yourself: what can clients get uncommonly, or even uniquely, from you upon engagement? 

•         Remember to tap the latent legal market: the blue oceans, the overlooked markets. Risk management, legal health plans, and preventive law will be among the emerging practice types to exploit.

Simon Harper, Co-Founder of LOD, said; “If you are an associate at a law firm, or if you’re several years into your career, regardless of your current position, the legal environment has changed more during this brief time than at any period in the last several decades, with little warning and even less guidance about how to respond. Since LOD was founded in 2007, we have seen attitudes shift and ‘agile working’ is now seen as a desirable means of employment. As the market continues to change, and all those working within the industry recognise the need to adapt, we hope this three step process helps some prepare for what the legal profession may look like in years to come.”

The ‘Three Step Process’ can be found at www.lod.co.uk. The New World of Legal Work report can be also downloaded for free at www.lod.co.uk/newrules.

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