Where do PSLs make their impact, what is their added ‘added value’?
I first attended the ARK PSL conference in 2015, some three months into my new job. It soon became clear to me that there was a whole spectrum of roles and an array of responsibilities in this field. As I settled into my new role, I focused on building the precedent library, organising know-how provision, and consolidating and facilitating the cross-firm communities of practice. I then moved on to apply my own experience in relation to law reform and legislative developments so as to contribute to the team’s business development objectives.
Knowledge is currency in business development
Having worked in Brussels for over a decade (including eight years in the Law Society’s Brussels Office) I developed a real understanding of the development of legal policy and legislation in its earliest stages and the advantages that knowledge of this can bring. It soon became clear to me that insight and intelligence are valuable commodities and a real must for leading practitioners in their field.
Effective knowledge management and the bottom line
The need for efficient knowledge management processes that are fit for purpose and meet the needs of busy practitioners does not need to be rehearsed here. What I consider in my chapter of the book is how the work I undertake for current awareness and know-how can have an additional purpose in contributing to the strategic direction of the department.
Many in my team are leading lights in their field so require little by way of input on technical expertise. My role therefore is often one of facilitating knowledge sharing, marshalling information and keeping up momentum. However, as with any sector, it is a competitive landscape. To maintain their position, practitioners not only need to excel in their legal counsel but be active and visible in the market.
It is up to me, then, to understand not only the department’s business plan but each fee earner’s practice and their interests. By ensuring that I am on top of the broader developments relevant to them, I can take action to ensure that this knowledge can be translated into marketing action and business development. This can be done by way of content production and media presence, thought-leadership activity in relation to new legislative developments and stakeholder engagement with government, law reform bodies and NGOs.
Joining the dots
Whilst I am a core part of the criminal litigation team, the nature of our firm is one of cross-practice. Whilst there is a collaborative culture within the firm, having and taking the time to build relationships across the practice areas is a key part of what I do. Awareness of, and engagement with, other teams can deliver benefits in terms of improving knowledge sharing and in turn lay the groundwork for business development.
When canvassing colleagues as to how I can best support them, one reported: “Having someone who can bridge the gaps or know who to call in another team is invaluable”. Preparing training for City firms on #MeToo issues – I work closely with the employment and reputation management teams. Cybercrime group members want to know about class actions for data breach and hacking – off to the DR team. A talk to the healthcare sector on recent trends in gross negligence manslaughter, I speak to the regulatory defence team upstairs. Criminal controlling and coercive behaviour and domestic abuse – coffee with the family team’s PSL. This is in addition to the close knit relationship and daily contact that I have with the marketing team and knowledge and information services.
I now understand that session at the very first ARK conference where people talked about the value of know-who as part of know-how!
So back to the theme… the evolving role of the PSL
Some three years into a role that was new for me and new for the Criminal team, it has become clear to me that there is no PSL “one size fits all”. With personal initiative and effective management support you become what your team needs you to be. The work I do is welcomed by the partnership which in turn endorses my value to the wider department. Ultimately it ensures that I feel like a key member of the team and that my (non-fee earning) contribution is properly recognised.
My work as a PSL? Diverse, dynamic and constantly evolving!
This article was written by Julia Bateman, PSL at Kingsley Napley LLP, who contributed to ARK Group’s latest book, ‘The Evolving Role of the Professional Support Lawyer’, which is due to published at the end of September.
The evolving role of the PSL will be discussed at the Professional Support Lawyer conference on 10 October, in London. To find out more and to book your place, visit https://psl-libraries.co.uk/.