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Law blog: Legal consultant urges students to watch The Apprentice to hone their transferable skills

Law firm recruitment processes are including tasks which are very similar to the tasks the candidates are asked to do in The Apprentice. So, why are law firms doing this?
11 March 2020

Studying law at university is, most of the time, a serious business. Learning the technicalities and rules of law with a view to becoming a legal professional requires discipline and detail, key skills needed for a future career in the law.

So it may come as a surprise to hear that a recent talk from a lawyer with 25 years’ experience urged students to also start thinking about honing skills more commonly tested in reality TV. This is because law firms are increasingly recruiting using techniques that wouldn’t be out of place in programmes such as The Apprentice.

Why is this happening and what does it mean for future lawyers?

Craig Sharpe, a lawyer turned specialist marketing consultant told LSBU students, “market forces are forcing law firms to adapt and in turn, law firms need future trainee solicitors to adapt”.

With a very significant increase in qualified lawyers over a short space of time, buyers of legal services have unprecedented choice and those clients are increasingly looking to set the agenda in the lawyer-client relationship, creating a buyer’s market.

For example, clients increasingly require lawyers to agree flexible and different ways of charging, often including fixed fees and the discussion about fees happens right at the beginning of the conversation.  Additionally, law firms are being asked to share some risk with the client and to think like the client thinks, which is often described as “commercial awareness”. These are not skills traditionally taught at Law School.

The sheer number of lawyers and rise of the internet as a free source of information also mean unprecedented competition, and his is especially the case with majority of law firms in the profession each employing less than 30 lawyers.

Because of all these changes, law firms are increasingly recruiting seeking traits and mentality which is far more than just strong legal acumen.

The Apprentice used as a model for law firm recruitment

It can’t be that often that university students are encouraged to spend time watching reality TV shows, but there’s method to this madness.

Law firm recruitment processes are in some cases including tasks which are very similar to the tasks the candidates are asked to do in The Apprentice. So, why are law firms doing this?

In such a competitive environment, law firms are looking for candidates who can demonstrate:

  1. Adaptability

    An ability to cope with tasks they are not expecting, in other words being taken out of your comfort zone.

  2. Business skills and common sense

    This ties in with clients expecting law firms to be able to see things from the client’s perspective, where commercial cost/benefit/profit/risk considerations are at the forefront.

  3. A competitive approach

    In some cases, group tasks are part of the recruitment process which tests not only teamwork but also a willingness to compete. In a very competitive marketplace lawyers need to be competitive in promoting themselves and their firms and not just technically competent.

Sara Chandler QC (Hon), Visiting Professor in the LSBU law division, commented: “LSBU students are eager to learn about what the world of work in the legal profession. They can do this by undertaking work experience and understanding the need to be proactive, and to adopt the advice given by Craig Sharpe on how to develop their commercial legal skills”.

Craig Sharpe now works with various law firm clients who are embracing the change in the legal profession and market. His clients include Darlingtons Solicitors, based in North London, Streathers, which has offices throughout London and specialist corporate lawyers Gannons. Craig has visited a number of UK Universities and commented after visiting LSBU, “the audience at LSBU were impressive, engaged and interactive. It struck me that the students had a very open minded attitude, which is key for success”.

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