Today’s legal eagle encounters very little that relates to the above. There may be drama and excitement but it often plays out in modern offices with business-casually dressed lawyers working on laptops and tablets. Will an episode of “Suits” provide the necessary insight into what a legal career is about? It’s close in many respects, but unfortunately, the answer is still no.
The legal profession worldwide is undergoing change and demanding change from its practitioners. Unfortunately. the academe and profession frequently lag behind these demands, with the law struggling to stay in touch with changes in technology, business, and growing globalization. Clients recognise this too, and otter feel frustrated by the lack of understanding and the ability of the law and their lawyers to match the pace of their businesses and ventures. But where does this leave you, the next generation of legal graduates? Firstly, you must answer for yourself the question of whether you want a career in law. Such a career can involve becoming an attorney, advocate, in-house lawyer, or working for the government as a public prosecutor or state attorney. All of these options will, however, only follow years of studying, long working hours, stress, and anguish, and then more hard work. As bleak as the picture may seem, law is not without its reward, but mostly only after many years of effort. So, if you’re not sure about a career in law, I suggest making sure first before embarking on a career that can be very unforgiving for the uncertain.
But if you’re sure, read on…
In a recent international survey on the future of the legal profession, it was interesting to note that lawyers believe the biggest threat facing the legal profession is a lack of innovation by the profession. The inability of the profession to adapt and be innovative, both in the use of technology and the development of services and efficiencies to better and more cost-effectively serve clients, was identified as a major threat to the continued relevance of the legal profession.
So what does this mean for you, the future lawyer?
It means you will have to:
- be innovative and creative:
- be tech-savvy;
- be business-minded; and
- develop management and other skills.
Only then can you hope 10 be relevant and capable of serving your clients.
None of these skills, however, relate to the core skill of legal expertise, gained through a proper university law qualification. As much as a law degree is essential to a legal career and a well-grounded understanding of the law, these additional elements have become important aspects needed for a successful career.
The legal profession is highly competitive, with thousands of graduates competing annually for limited positions for entry into the profession. The profession and law firms, in particular, must comprehend the need to evolve and be more innovative if they are to survive. This has affected recruitment strategies and a growing focus on identifying candidates with not only good academic results but also innovative ability, tech literacy, business acumen, and emotional intelligence. Extended vacation programmes, internships, and intensive recruitment testing are all part of the new milieu of law firm recruitment aimed at helping firms identify candidates who can contribute to the future of their firms.
So, if you want a successful career in law, you are going to have to do more than register for a law degree and show up for class. You will have to be competent in using technology, stay up to date with current affairs and trends, broaden your horizons by getting involved in university and other activities, identify and participate in internships or vacation programmes to refine your understanding of what firms are looking for, and consider adding specialised subjects to your pre- or post-graduate curriculum to bring new expertise to the table that will help set you apart.
This is what the profession needs, what firms are looking for, and what clients expect from their lawyers.
Credit : Lesley Mokgoro