What do new lawyers need to succeed? Wilford Smith’s Rebecca Smith-Bains considers

Moore Legal TechnologyBy Legal Futures’ Associate Moore Legal Technology

Getting ahead in the legal sector can be challenging. As the graph above shows, more and more solicitors enter the profession each year. With greater competition than ever before and technology creating a broader range of career paths for ambitious young graduates it can be hard to get ahead. In this article, Rebecca Smith-Bains of Wilford Smith Solicitors looks at five things young lawyers need to succeed.


Number of practising solicitors (those holding practising certificates) in England and Wales, 2009-2019. Source: SRA

  1. Everyone is in sales (yes, even you.)

This isn’t something that is covered at university but the raw truth is that in today’s world, everyone is a salesperson. To put that in another (possibly more palatable) way, everyone in a law firm will have some responsibility for generating business.

Whether it’s converting potential clients or upselling to your existing clients, an ability to win business is essential. The days of clients simply materialising are long gone. Networking and referrals are still important, but an ability to handle leads appropriately will set you apart from your peers: quickly.

Let’s clear one thing up: selling doesn’t mean browbeating people into doing something they don’t want to do. We might envisage the predatory lawyer urging a facile client to sign a document but the reality couldn’t be further from that image.

Sales isn’t about convincing anyone or using any tactics to persuade your prospect to do something that is not in their best interest. It’s about lending your expertise and experience to solve their problem or remove their pain.

The way people look for, research, compare and instruct lawyers is changing (or, more accurately has changed). Driven by the internet and people’s experiences with other, more sales-savvy industries, client expectations have changed immeasurably. Recognising that is key to success in tomorrow’s legal world.

  1. Understand the importance of your online presence

From blog posts to social media statements, the importance of your online presence cannot be understated. For a start (and this hopefully goes without saying) a professional online presence which presents you in a favourable light is an absolute must. Dissociating your personal and professional lives is essential. Employers and clients alike will check you out online so ensure that they can only see what you want them to see.

Now we’ve covered the negatives of social media, let’s discuss the positives. Social media can be a great tool for carving a niche or showing your expertise.

Whilst we usually associate building a following with the influencers of Instagram, there is just as much opportunity for lawyers to become influencers in their sector. The key is to choose an area of expertise that other lawyers enjoy learning about, and dedicate time to becoming the go-to resource for updates in this area. Whilst it is always a good idea to create and share content about your particular specialism, you may gain more attention from discussing current topics such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, Artificial Intelligence or working culture. These are just examples and you should identify key trending topics to stay ahead.

Sharing content from other experts in the area you have identified is a great way to build a strong network and find opportunities to collaborate. Having a strong presence online not only looks great to potential employers, but can also result in referral work including opportunities to give seminars or guest post about the topic.

  1. Embrace technology

Law isn’t exactly the most tech-savvy industry. Many lawyers shy away from technology, either because they are too busy or because they have failed to recognise the importance of technology in the future of legal services. Becoming the ‘go-to’ person in your firm for advice or assistance with technology will keep you at the forefront of your colleagues’ minds and make you an indispensable asset to your firm.

Make a point of learning more about new technologies in your firm than anyone else and become a champion for its use. You should also try to identify emerging technologies that may make your workplace more efficient or profitable.

  1. Utilise digital marketing 

This is a combination of the first 3 points. Not only should you understand technology, the impact of social media and be capable of converting clients, you should be able to use the internet to attract clients.

Many lawyers ensure they excel in business development activities in order to make themselves more attractive to firms. However, in 2019, digital marketing should be an integral part of business development strategy in every firm. Understanding how this is best executed can set you apart from other lawyers in your firm.

There are a number of elements that contribute to a digital marketing strategy, and understanding the part each of these play can help you to address the specific needs of your firm. For example, law firms often fall into the trap of believing that their work comes from word of mouth, referrals or networking. However, understanding data and analytics related to digital marketing can provide proof of exactly how much business and even cash your efforts are bringing to the firm.

Learning which elements of digital marketing you can carry out on behalf of your firm (such as social media, blogging or SEO) is an excellent start, but can be time consuming. It may be worthwhile identifying local partners who can carry out this work on behalf of the firm to take your digital presence to the next level.

  1. Identify opportunities for efficiencies in your firm 

Price competitiveness is a real challenge for firms in modern times. We live in an era where clients will routinely call many firms for a quote for work, and simply go with the cheapest. However, this may be an opportunity for you and your firm for two reasons.

First, becoming more profitable doesn’t necessarily mean charging higher prices or bringing in more money. Becoming more efficient is an excellent means of driving profitability in your firm. Technology offers many opportunities to make your firm more efficient, from automatic client updates to contract automation. Try to identify the most time-consuming or labour intensive elements of your work, and look to find a technology based solution.

Secondly, client demand for more efficient services is increasing. Being able to demonstrate that your firm can get client work done with greater accuracy and efficiency can help win you business and build stronger client relationships. It can also generate more business through word-of-mouth, you want every client to say how swiftly you solved their problem.

  1. Recruiting digital talent 

Careers in technology are broad and varied. From coding to paid advertising, there is no way you can learn all of these skills in addition to being a lawyer. However, you can understand what is required within your firm and find the best digital talent to carry it out. Identifying workers with expertise in technology that can improve the efficiency of your firm, handle your social media and even grow your online presence can demonstrate leadership skills. Your role is project management and strategy, which can set you apart early in your career.

One of the biggest differences from the technology sector to the legal sector is that a great number of workers are in the ‘gig economy’ – preferring to work project to project on a freelance basis. Of course, hiring digital talent to work for your business long term can have a great impact but having the option to have digital or technology workers work on specific problems for a short period of time can save money, and makes the decision to hire them much more straightforward.

As you can see, there are a number of ways to stand out as a modern, innovative lawyer in 2019, and that can make all the difference to your career trajectory.  It is up to you how you set yourself apart.

Wilford Smith has celebrated over 30 years in the profession, becoming a most prestigious law firm with a richly deserved reputation for independence hard work and results. They help clients with conveyancing, wills, probate, visas, fraud defence and more. You can find and connect with Wilford Smith’s team of solicitors on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.


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