The role of the professional support lawyer (PSL) first emerged in the early- to mid-1990s amongst London’s Magic Circle, and quickly became essential for mid-size and even smaller firms.
However, this golden period for the PSL came to an abrupt end with the global financial crisis and the subsequent recession, which rocked the legal landscape; the greatest shockwaves were inevitably felt by legal support teams, as many firms sought to maintain profitability by shifting their focus to fee-earners and cutting what was quickly perceived as superfluous business functions.
The slow but steady recovery of the economy and the consequent pick-up of client demand since then has meant that the importance of PSLs to law firm operations has once again been recognized.
However, the legal profession is not the same as it was before the recession; this is reflected in not only changes in what is expected from fee-earners, but also support staff such as PSLs. Traditionally seen as a backstage position that mainly involved administrative work and the drafting of precedents, the PSL role is rapidly transforming. A PSL now cannot only contribute to a firm’s competitive edge by providing the traditional technical expertise. it has now become essential to perform tasks ranging from involvement in business development to the provision of training, the capture and dissemination of knowledge, product selection, and project management.
This kind of flexibility is what has made the role of the PSL attractive to those seeking an alternative to legal practice; however, it brings its own challenges. With such a wide variety of responsibilities and functions, it can be difficult to find relevant information on what career development might look like, or the skills needed for the progression. Identifying current issues and future challenges, too, is rendered problematic by this versatility.
The Evolving Role of the PSL aims to fill this information gap. Featuring contributions from current PSLs, it provides up-to-the-minute intelligence from an insider’s perspective on common issues and the
solutions to tackle them.
This is supplemented by advice from experts, ranging from knowledge management specialists to PSL recruiters, and compelling case studies that provide a crucial insight into real-world industry and career experience.
Chapter 1: The PSL – past, present, and future
By Ailish Hogan & Lucinda Troostwky, PSL and KM recruitment specialists at Taylor Root
Chapter 2: What should knowledge lawyers know? Creating your own KL competency framework
By Hélène Russel, founder of TheKnowledgeBusiness
Chapter 3: Demonstrating the value of professional support
By Catherine Hart, partner and PSL at Digby Brown
Chapter 4: Optimising the use of client-facing knowledge products
By Katherine Lang, senior PSL at Taylor Wessing
Chapter 5: A value-add or a complex fad? The role of the PSL in document automation
By Clare Harman Clark, senior PSL at Taylor Wessing
Chapter 6: Evolution in the PSL role – a case study
By Charles Pigott, PSL at Mills & Reeve LLP
Chapter 7: Managing PSL workload
By Karen Battersby, director of knowledge and learning and development at Charles Russell Speechlys
Chapter 8: PSLs and paralegals
By Amanda Hamilton, chief executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals
Chapter 9: What tech is best?
By Lucy Hall, senior PSL at Eversheds Sutherland
Chapter 10: PSLs and business development
By Julia Bateman, PSL at Kingsley Napley
Chapter 11: PSLs in the United States
By Evan J Shenkman, director of KM counsel and research at Ogletree Deakins