Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Should we be placing more importance on helping to build the personal development skills of newly qualified solicitors?

Do you remember your first day as a newly qualified solicitor?   I am assuming you can as we often remember the first day of a significant event.  Did it include a bigger caseload, more responsibility, new expectations, a new secretary, greater targets, new colleagues and perhaps even a new suit?  

Just as I remember my first day at primary school involved making a Humpty Dumpty collage with my teacher, I also remember my first day working as a newly qualified solicitor.  I was certainly wearing a new suit and was no doubt hoping not to fall off the wall!
Qualifying as a solicitor is a significant event in someone’s legal career and requires personal development in many key areas including case management, client care, time management, decision making, practice development and building effective relationships.  However, it can be a real challenge for newly qualified solicitors to remain focused on these areas.  They lead busy lives and understandably often give priority to delivering their case load.   However, underperforming in any of these key areas can result in stress and loss of productivity and motivation.

So should we be placing more importance on helping to build the confidence and personal development skills of our newly qualified solicitors?

Two emails which have landed in my inbox in the last few days suggest that we should.  The first advertised an alumni career coaching service, which is being launched in association with a law college in response to an interest in one-to-one careers support and personal development services.  The second advertised the Junior Lawyers Division’s Newly Qualified Solicitors Forum which is a one-day free skills event for newly qualified solicitors to equip them with the skills necessary for life in practice.  

A career coaching service and a skills event are two fantastic resources which will help ensure our newly qualified solicitors develop into the best solicitors and stay sat on the wall!

I would be really interested to hear your comments and ideas.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

How to be the best law firm

What factors do you believe contribute to the success of a law firm?

Money and reputation are a given but what about job satisfaction, staff morale, low staff turnover, professional recognition and preferment?   

In his recent paper on ‘Law firms and the formula for success’, Stephen Mayson considers all the above to be important contributors to the success of a firm and I consider this to be great news!   I often work with solicitors who are struggling to find career development opportunities and as a result their job satisfaction, morale and commitment are low.   How does the contribution of these individuals help drive forward the success of the firm?

Stephen considers staff contribution to be one of 3 principal factors which contributes to the relative success of a law firm.  In this respect, he primarily refers to the contribution of partners and writes about the importance of connecting what the firm needs its partners to do with what the partners actually do.   He discusses the scenario of partners committing to an agreed total contribution of hours within which they must achieve all those things collectively required of them to make the firm successful.  This consists of both chargeable and other time and therefore recognises that doing more chargeable hours at the expense of other investments that the firm requires is unlikely to foster sustainable success.   Furthermore, he states that personal plans should play on the partners’ individual strengths and become relevant on a daily basis.   The partners’ contribution to the firm’s profitability is then a measure of the return on partners’ total contribution of chargeable and investment time.

I believe this scenario can be of great benefit to all solicitors.  The solicitors I have coached often say their strengths and interests are not being utilised, the opportunities for career development are limited, and they are becoming disillusioned with the daily chore of meeting chargeable hour targets.  This affects job satisfaction, staff morale and staff turnover which are all important contributors to the success of the firm.  Just think of the fantastic potential that is released when aspirations and strengths are matched to the wider objectives of the law firm.

 What factors do you believe contribute to the success of a law firm?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Part 2: A great way to enjoy building greater business and career opportunities

Now use your preparation from last week’s blog to create useful business opportunities from meeting the right people...

In this blog, I am going to refer again to Andy Bound’s networking techniques from his book, The Jelly Effect.  The techniques are straightforward and effective and will show you how to get results!

So, imagine you have now entered a networking event with your business cards, pen, name badge and list of professionals who would be most useful to you.  You approach an individual and tell them your name. What now? 

1.     Ask the other person what they do and find out as much as you can about them before telling them anything about you.   This way you show an early interest in them and discover their ‘usefulness’ to you, enabling you to tailor the remainder of the conversation around this.

2.     During your conversation about the other person’s business, ask:

‘What professions are good contacts for you?’ 

I agree with Andy Bounds when he says that this is the most valuable networking question.  I used it for the first time at a networking event a couple of weeks ago and received a fantastic response.  People are genuinely surprised when you show such an interest and will remember you, especially if you then introduce them to one of their useful professionals!  

3.     It is your turn - talk about what you do, not what you are!  This will be more interesting for the other person and prompt further questions from them.   For example, I may begin by stating that I help junior professionals achieve great careers.  

Now explain the need for your work and confirm that you help meet that need.  For example, I may initially talk about professionals wanting to find fulfilment and reward in their careers, such as through improving their work/life balance, progressing in their current career or increasing their confidence.  

Close your explanation by giving an example of when you have achieved great things with a client.  At this point, I may talk about when I achieved a fantastic result helping a junior solicitor, who was feeling really stressed and de motivated at work, become more confident and productive.   In using this approach, you will have learnt a lot more about what I do rather than what I am (which is a career and performance coach by the way!).

4.     Remember to chat!

5.     If the other person is one of your useful professionals, at the end of the conversation ask if they would mind if you dropped them a line in a couple of days to arrange to meet for a coffee.  Ask for their contact details and whether they would like your business card. 

6.     Now thank the other person and move on to talk to somebody else. You are now enjoying building greater business and career opportunties!

Write your networking pitch now and ensure you follow up on all your useful contacts!