Law grads lack business skills, says report

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A survey with leading south west law firms has identified five factors which are holding law graduates back from becoming high achievers.

The survey also showed that undergraduate law degrees are not effectively teaching the business skills that students need for a successful career in law.

The survey with ten of the leading law firms in the south west, including Coodes, Michelmores, Womble Bond Dickinson and Browne Jacobson, was conducted by Truro-based Kies Consulting.

Michael Schauer, director of Kies Consulting, said: “The transition from an academic to commercial world can be an uphill struggle for junior lawyers. Our research has shown that the factors that decide which junior lawyers will be high achievers is not just down to legal excellence. Practical business skills are vital and this is something that many new graduates struggle with.”

The need for improved attention to detail among junior lawyers, particularly in business writing was identified by 92% of participants in the survey. Junior lawyers’ lack of emotional intelligence and the ability to build resilience and perseverance was highlighted as a barrier to success by 83% of the survey’s participants.

The survey also pin-pointed junior lawyers’ lack of commercial awareness and difficulty in establishing the necessary work ethos as issues. Finally, respondents identified the need for a well-balanced mistake culture in a firm, where mistakes are seen as a starting point for a learning opportunity.

Schauer added: “We hope our research sparks discussion among law firms and law schools on how to address the root causes of the issues that are holding junior lawyers back.

“Irrespective of whether universities or law firms pick up the baton to resolve these issues, the feedback we have received suggests that unstructured learning by observation and imitation during a training contract is not enough. It seems unlikely that the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam next year will resolve these issues as it will focus on technical issues.

“Learning programmes which are practice orientated will reduce the burden on senior staff coaching younger talent and will speed up the return on investment on a firm’s training contract.”

Kies Consulting has developed a Junior Lawyer Career Programme to give junior talent the foundation to improve their professional and personal effectiveness. The full Junior Lawyer Effectiveness research report and more detail on the Junior Lawyer Career Programme is available at www.kiesconsulting.co.uk

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