Innovative legal businesses such as Riverview Law, Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) and Parabis are demanding a new approach to educating and training new lawyers as they create different roles for them, such as project management and data analysis.
Speaking at last week’s Legal Education and Training Review Symposium in Manchester, Karl Chapman – chief executive of Riverview Law – said he would not employ many lawyers currently available because they do not have the right skills. “They cannot do what’s required in a customer service environment,” he explained.
Riverview is creating a host of new roles – all of which he said need some degree of legal knowledge – such as project managers, scoping and pricing analysts, management information and data analysts, knowledge management specialists and client managers. “Some of best people we’ve got are senior lawyers doing legal workflow and process analysis,” he added.
However, “legal competence is only part of the picture” – clients need to know what to do with the advice to give it any value.
His view was backed up by James Atkin, head of legal, risk and compliance at CLS, who predicted that alternative business structures (ABSs) in particular are “likely to employ and train specific skills for specific elements of client interaction and service delivery, including behavioural as well as technical skills”; while some roles will require detailed legal knowledge, others “will demand a broad but relatively modest knowledge of a large number of legal areas”.
“This isn’t to say career development opportunities will be limited. There will be a greater range of roles, opportunities to move between them, internal training opportunities, more ‘on the job’ training, and opportunities to manage teams which perform them. It ought to be easier to get a first foot on the ladder without having a qualifying law degree, post-degree qualification and training contract or equivalent.”
Mr Atkin said legal services roles will increasingly focus on limited aspects of the customer or operational journey, such as advice, sales, operations, audit and reporting. “Some roles in larger providers will have very little or nothing to do with law, and more to do with risk management, project management, technological solutions and pure service considerations.”
He said future provision should make appropriate training and qualifications available “for the wider variety of customer facing roles we will see. This means behavioural as well as technical skills have to be developed”.
From the floor, Jason O’Malley, head of training at Parabis – which is awaiting its ABS licence to accept investment from Duke Street Capital – said that only 400 of its 1,200 fee-earners are qualified solicitors.
“We have to offer them something else and the market didn’t have anything in place,” he explained. “So we’ve created our own roles and competencies and are now looking for qualifications for those people. So we are looking for trainee technical analysts, trainee team managers; we want to retain these people… and are now waiting for some of the providers to assist us.”
The new roles being created by these businesses are evidence for the predictions of Professor Richard Susskind of how legal jobs will develop in a technology enabled future.