A model that many people experiencing the above issues tend to gravitate towards is legal consultancy – the practice of providing legal services to businesses and individuals – as it often affords employees more flexibility in how and when they work, the freedom to choose which clients they take on, as well as the potential for increased earnings.
Many people who make the move into legal consultancy do so based on unrealistic expectations about the benefits they will receive, which are often based on the embellished images that are pitched to them by recruiters. Additionally, candidates often make the mistake of not properly considering what it is that they want to achieve. As a result, a considerable number of lawyers end up at firms that are a poor fit for them or fall short of what they were looking for.
Therefore, it is crucial for law professionals to take several key points into serious consideration before they decide to jump with both feet into the arena of legal consultancy.
What do you want?
A common mistake that candidates make is opting for the first legal consultancy firm that they come across without establishing what is important to them, or what it is that they hope to gain from working in this way.
If someone is looking for greater support from their employer – e.g., having secretaries, paralegals, juniors, trainees, etc., to assist them with their work – it does not make much sense to go somewhere that will offer them none of that. Instead, they need to be clear about what it is that they want, and then they can begin to look for a firm that is most able to meet their requirements.
Another consideration is whether the practice has a strong background or capabilities in the field that they work in. If there is a clear disconnect between the lawyer’s experience and the areas that the firm specialises in, they may find themselves struggling to integrate. As an example, if a property lawyer is looking at a firm that is not on mortgage panels, they will be prevented from working with a large number of potential clients and may find themselves having to turn away referrals due to an inability to act for the lender.
Are you in a position to do it?
Lawyers should be under no illusions about the fact that being successful in legal consultancy requires no small amount of time and effort on their part, so it is vital that they are in a position where they can offer both.
Before accepting a role in legal consultancy, lawyers should think about whether the time is right to be making a change. Like going out and making any new business venture, you need to be in the right place, both mentally and financially, to do it. In many ways, consultancy has similarities to starting your own firm, but with the backing and support of a far larger organisation.
Further to this, candidates need to consider whether they have existing relationships with clients or referrers, or a realistic plan of getting them. At some firms, there is assistance with this, but the onus will always be on the consultant to take the lead in generating business to allow their practice to thrive. Legal consultancy is a highly competitive market, and as such having a large pool of contacts at your disposal is one of the best ways of getting the edge on the competition. Without this, it can be more of an uphill struggle to begin working in this environment. A slight caveat to that is that some of the most successful consultants have started with nothing more than a plan and gone on to make hundreds of thousands – if not millions – in annual billing.
Does the firm care about your wellbeing?
With an increased focus on wellbeing at work in recent years – driven by various high-profile awareness campaigns around mental health issues – workers are on the lookout for firms that will have their best interests at heart.
On top of this, the changes to traditional ways of working that the pandemic has brought – such as flexible working – have given many people a greater work-life balance, and as such finding a place of work where this balance can be achieved has taken on increased importance for lawyers.
Unfortunately, however, there are still many legal consultancy firms that are not doing enough to support employees to work in ways that are better for their mental health. Indeed, a survey of 2,000 workers commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 38% of British workers didn’t feel confident enough to talk openly about a mental health problem for fear it would affect their job prospects or security.
To avoid having a bad experience, it is sensible for lawyers to speak to consultants who are working with a firm that they are interested in joining. This is a way of gaining first-hand insight into what working with the business means in practice and is likely to be like if they were to join.
Are the necessary resources in place?
Technology plays a hugely important role in the world of work today, and without access to the relevant technology and resources, people are often incapable of doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Legal consultancy is no different to other sectors in this regard.
It is a given that most consultancy firms have what they need to allow people to work remotely. But there can be a huge difference in technology systems, downtime, billing systems, etc., which should be looked into ahead of joining.
Furthermore, lawyers who want to work in the office will need to ensure that there is the option for them to do so. With many businesses having decided to move to an exclusively remote working model, people can no longer take the availability of an office environment as a given.
In today’s remote working landscape, legal consultants should have the freedom to choose where they want to work so that they can do so most effectively.
Lots to consider
There are many things that law professionals need to consider before taking a position with a legal consultancy firm, but the most important of all is whether they are prepared for the environment they are entering.
Legal consultancy can be tough, and people need to be aware of this and realistic about what it is that they are hoping for by working this way. There are many unscrupulous firms that do not have their consultants’ best interests at heart, and it can be easy to end up working for one of these if lawyers are not careful.
By working with an experienced, well-regarded recruitment company that specialises in legal consultancy, lawyers will be able to take advantage of their in-depth knowledge of firms in the industry, significantly mitigating the chances of making a misstep, and will therefore be far more likely to make the best and most informed decision for their individual circumstances, whatever they may be.
About the author: Alex Dick is the Managing Director of Alexander Lyons Solutions.