Professional support lawyers can shape their role with technology and through collaboration...
Much has been written recently about the concept of “job crafting” – the ability to evolve your role by learning new skills and following your own strengths and interests. It’s a fascinating idea and I’ve come to see that I’ve been doing this (and continue to do so) ever since I became a Professional Support Lawyer.
Eight years ago, I stepped from fee-earning as a Principal Associate in our employment team to work as a PSL. The focus of my role was to support fee-earners with their ever-increasing requirement for providing training to clients by way of legal updates, briefing notes and the like. Over the years the process of my work has changed significantly – in no small part to being open to, and championing, different technologies. Innovating with technology has shaped my role, broadened my skills and networks, and through this has brought value to the business.
1. Get across key messages
PSLs often stand at the intersection between the ‘practice of law’ and the ‘business of law’ and my role is no exception. I need to look at ways of getting across key messages to clients not only about employment law but also, more broadly, our firm’s business offering.
Back in the day legal training for clients was very much “chalk and talk” and, to coin an over-used phrase, “death by PowerPoint” was the main vehicle to update and educate clients. Now there are so many different media and channels that can be used to speak with clients (both internal and external) to get messages across. So, for example, I now design and produce video, e-learning and podcasting to reach clients. Clients love these, fee-earners and colleagues respond well to more innovative material to work with and it also ensures that I can keep motivated by continually learning and creating.
Investigating and implementing technology has the benefit of extending my own skill set and satisfying my interest in the latest innovations in learning design. It has also taken me down some interesting self-development which I might not have had the chance to before, such as becoming familiar with learning needs analysis, instructional design and learning theories. Understanding how to use the technologies, and their strengths and weaknesses and seeing a finished product can be exhilarating. However, it’s important to be realistic about what can be achieved in the time available, and also has a business case behind it.
When thinking about shaping your role – through technology or otherwise – it is crucial to understand your firm’s wider business strategy. You will then see where your role sits in that - this will give you a clue to where you can innovate and expand on what you offer. I often refer to my firm’s and team’s business strategies to make sense of the work that I do, and where I can add value.
2. Collaborate across the business
Of course, no PSL is an island and experimenting with, and getting stakeholder buy-in, for using new technology is not a one-person process. In my work I need to reach out and collaborate across different functions and I’ve found it essential to establish good networks with colleagues in business development, marketing and of course the IT team. This ensures that any project is lined up with our communications strategy, is on brand, and, perhaps more importantly, I can sense check whether the project is technically feasible and has a return on investment.
3. Exposure to other aspects of the firm
These internal collaborative networks bring other rewards. Opening up internal networks increases your exposure to other aspects of the firm and you can learn so much about how the ‘business of law’ works. It might well take you in directions and lead you to projects you never thought about and perhaps re-invent or at least rejuvenate your role.
I hope this has given some insight into how I’ve shaped my role and maybe given some inspiration. I’m really looking forward to discussing these, and other issues, with other PSLs in October.
Anne Adamson is a Professional Support Lawyer at Mills & Reeve and will be speaking about career development at the Professional Support Lawyer 2018 conference on 10 October in London. For more information and to book your place, click here.