The Evolving Role of the Professional Support Lawyer

Up-to-the-minute intelligence from an insider’s perspective on the changing role of the professional support lawyer.

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  • Publication date: October, 2018
  • Pages: 90
  • ISBN: 978-1-78358-349-2


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

Full Overview


Ailish Hogan
Ailish Hogan qualified as a solicitor in 2002 and spent four years specialising in corporate finance before joining Taylor Root, a legal recruitment consultancy, in January 2007. Together with her colleague Lucinda – and their collective 20 years recruiting for private practice firms at Taylor Root – she established a dedicated PSL team. They now focus on recruiting professional support lawyers and knowledge managers into a range of City, niche and West End law firms, and work with a wide spectrum of candidates, from those wishing to make their first move into a PSL role to experienced PSLs considering new opportunities.
Lucinda Troostwyk
Lucinda Troostwyk read law at Birmingham University and qualified as a corporate solicitor in 2005 before joining Taylor Root, a legal recruitment consultancy, in 2006. Together with her colleague Ailish – and their collective 20 years recruiting for private practice firms at Taylor Root – she established a dedicated PSL team. They now focus on recruiting professional support lawyers and knowledge managers into a range of City, niche and West End law firms, and work with a wide spectrum of candidates, from those wishing to make their first move into a PSL role to experienced PSLs considering new opportunities.
Hélène Russell
Hélène Russell of TheKnowledgeBusiness is a lawyer (non-practising) and specialist in knowledge management. She has worked as a self-employed KM’er since 2008, and specialises in translating complex academic thought leadership and cross-boundary theories into practical tools to improve the efficiency and profitability of law firms. Hélène is the author of Knowledge Management Handbook (2012) and Practical Projects in Legal KM (2015), as well as several chapters for ARK’s multi-contributor books. She is a frequent conference speaker and runs regular open KM training events, as well as overseeing nationwide KM community groups. Hélène has completed an executive MBA with distinction, with a focus on antecedents to knowledge sharing within UK law firms.
Catherine Hart
Catherine Hart graduated from Glasgow University and has over 25 years’ experience in civil litigation, mainly in the field of personal injury. Catherine has worked in professional support for 11 years and has experience of setting up and establishing the PSL role in two law firms. She joined Digby Brown in 2014 and became a partner in 2017. Along with a team, Catherine supports fee earners in all the firm’s offices across Scotland. As well as the more traditional aspects of professional support, Catherine’s role has developed into areas of management, including risk management and regulation. Catherine is a passionate advocate of the professional support role. She has written articles and delivered talks on the importance of the role and the value that PSLs can bring
Katherine Lang
Katherine Lang is a senior professional support lawyer in the real estate team at Taylor Wessing LLP. As a PSL, Katherine advises on complex transactional and structuring points, provides legal training, maintains the team's bank of precedent documents, and keeps the team and clients abreast of legal developments and their business impact.  She has written articles for legal and trade publications such as Estates Gazette, Property Week, Construction Week and LexisPSL. Prior to joining Taylor Wessing, Katherine was a transactional lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP for thirteen years.  This included two years working in the UAE, both in the Dubai real estate team and on secondment to a client in Abu Dhabi.  Katherine has also worked as a research assistant in the Property and Trusts Law Team at the Law Commission.  Katherine graduated from the University of Oxford in 2001.
Clare Harman Clark
Clare Harman Clark is a senior professional support lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP, building on a legal career that began with nearly a decade at Clifford Chance and a stint at Russell Cooke. Before retaining as a lawyer, Clare worked as a journalist and within a government press office, and still regularly publishes articles in national and trade press.
Charles Pigott
Charles Pigott has been a professional support lawyer in Mills & Reeve’s employment, immigration and pensions team since 2001. He trained in the City and – before joining Mills & Reeve – worked as a partner in a large London legal aid practice. His main responsibility is to help the firm deliver a better service to its employment clients, collaborating with colleagues across the business. Charles currently edits the Mills & Reeve employment blog “hrlawlive” and the firm’s Brexit hub. He also writes regularly for the New Law Journal on employment topics.
Karen Battersby
Karen Battersby is the head of knowledge and learning and development at Charles Russell Speechlys, and is responsible for the firm’s knowledge management, library, and learning and development departments. She has many years’ experience in knowledge management, as well as a commercial lawyer, having practised both in private practice and in-house. Karen is an experienced lecturer and trainer, having taught everything from legal CPD courses to MBA qualifications to lawyers and other professionals. She established the UK’s first postgraduate qualification in knowledge management for legal practice at Nottingham Law School. Karen also developed one of the first webinar and online learning businesses for the legal profession.
Amanda Hamilton
Amanda Hamilton is chief executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.
Lucy Hall
Lucy Hall is the sole senior associate professional support lawyer for the banking team at Eversheds Sutherland in London. She supports over 100 banking fee earners in the UK and internationally, and specializes in corporate finance, project finance, and real estate finance. Lucy is responsible for writing and delivering training, collating know-how, keeping the team up to date with legal and technical developments, as well as creating and maintaining precedents. She was previously a senior professional support lawyer in the finance groups at Hogan Lovells and Mayer Brown, having previously qualified and worked as a fee earner for almost eight years.
Julia Bateman
Julia Bateman joined the team as a professional support lawyer at Kingsley Napley, the leading criminal defence firm in the UK, in July 2015. She is responsible for knowledge management and “know-how”/ current awareness development for the criminal litigation team (including business and financial crime, general crime, and EU/international). She has a particular expertise in European criminal justice, having started her career in this area with a traineeship in the European Commission. From 2001-2003, she worked at the European Parliament as political advisor and was the first to hold the post of justice and home affairs policy advisor. She was head of office from 2008 and returned to the Law Society headquarters in London as head of international in 2011. She is a non-practising barrister. 
Evan J Shenkman
Evan Shenkman is the director of KM counsel and research at Ogletree Deakins. He helps firm attorneys work smarter, faster, and more in sync; creates internal and client-facing collaborative tools; and manages his firm’s PSLs and legal researchers. Past projects include development of his firm’s enterprise search tool (ODSearch), their SharePoint intranet (ODConnect), their agency charge tool (IntelliCase), and a vast array of firm AI and analytics tools. He also manages the firm’s KM Legal Resources Center, a SharePoint home for the firm’s vetted model documents, practice guides, links, and subject matter experts, and its 50-state survey collection. In his spare time, Evan is co-chair of the NYC Practice Support Lawyers Network, presents at ARK and ILTA conferences, and coaches travel soccer teams.

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