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  • Writer's pictureJaap Bosman

Becoming a lawyer post covid-19

Because of the pandemic most universities had to close their campus and move to online education. In countries where getting an education is expensive, this has already led to numerous court cases of students demanding a refund. Even the most prestigious universities such as Harvard and Yale have serious challenges to meet students’ quality expectations.

All this may be bad enough as it is for existing students, for those who were to graduate the situation is even more disheartening. Some final exams have been cancelled or postponed. Schools around the world have postponed their graduation ceremonies, moved them online, or canceled them outright. You may have seen pictures or video footage of ‘virtual graduations’ where robots acted as stand-ins for teachers and students. It is not a happy time to graduate right now.

It is also not a happy time to enter the job market. The legal market no exception. Uncertain how the future will develop many law firms have installed a hiring freeze. Also many summer intern programs got cancelled, leaving graduates and students wondering about their future. I can only hope that you see this is a great waste of talent.

The legal profession is people business first

Not recruiting during the pandemic could be wasting a great opportunity. In any other year law firms have to spend sizable budgets to attract the most talented law students. Today, with most firms having a hiring freeze, there are great opportunities for those who are bold enough to hire. At TGO Consulting we have developed an innovative recruitment tool for law firms that can be employed remotely and that have proven to be highly successful. Students love it.

Employed in practice our recruitment tool has also showed to open a door to more cognitive diversity as they seem to attract a wider spectrum of students than the usual recruitment methods do. This not only creates interesting group dynamics, bust also further widens the potential talent pool.

Despite all the excitement about the future of Legal Tech, being a great lawyer remains very much a human thing. Law firms are only as good as the lawyers they employ. The business of law is peoples business. That is also one of the reasons why some clients prefer to follow a lawyer when that lawyer moves to another firm. Law firms very much need human talent more than anything else.

The Creation-Production Divide Concept©

Pre-pandemic, most law firms have used legal cases as part of their recruitment process. The tier-1 law firms focus on straight-A students as they are looking for the most brilliant legal minds. The evidence however strongly points towards the opposite: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor. Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial after year-one.

If we ask companies for the reason why they select a more expensive tier-1 law firm over a mid-market firm, legal excellence does not make it into the top-3. Invariably knowledge of best market practice and people skills come out on top. For your clients legal knowledge is not a differentiator. Also mid-market law firms will have sufficient legal knowledge to get the job done. Clients just do not consider their strategic insights, negotiations skills, creativity and so on the be on par with the best.

Back in 2018 we at TGO Consulting were first in describing the Creation-Production Divide Concept©. Studying tons of data and interviewing real-world companies, we concluded that the actions of a lawyer can be split up in two distinct parts: creation and production. Creation is the part that is completely connected with the human skills that make a great lawyer. It encompasses defining a smart strategy, the ability to find workable solutions, creativity, pragmatism, negotiation skills, and so on. Typically ‘creation skills’ are strongly reflected in positive quotes from clients in legal directories such as Chambers and Legal500. For your clients the value is in creation.

As creation is about the brilliant mind and personal skills, production is about a process. Production encompasses everything that needs to be done to materialize the fruits of creation. Production is execution. It is typically labor-intensive work such as drafting and reviewing documents. This is legal technical and operational execution. On this level there is very little distinction between a first-tier law firm and a second tier or mid tear law firm. All lawyers with decent qualifications can get the execution right once the strategy is set. For your clients there is very little value in production.

You should be looking for a new breed of lawyers

For law firms operating in the upper segment of the market, the justification of the higher price is in the extraordinary human skills, which are part of creation. Production -execution- is not significantly better to justify the mark-up in price. Clients do not turn to premier law firms because of their great knowledge of the law. Clients are looking for the best possible ‘creation’.

So if the value is in human skills, why are you still looking for straight-A students? We have already established that top grades are not a predictor of success and now we also know that it is not knowledge of the law that brings you the best clients. We strongly believe that law firms in our segment of the market (high-end) should prioritize human skills over technical legal knowledge.

This will require a revamp of the recruitment process. Less focus on students that have the highest grades, more focus on students that are smart, creative, curious and emotionally intelligent. It will also mean that there needs to be less emphasis on solving legal cases and more on teamwork, curiosity and legal creativity.

As mentioned, we at TGO Consulting have developed a unique tool that can be used with students in times of social distancing. The tool focuses on the aspects mentioned above. The feedback we got so far has been tremendous: students love it! It opens their eyes to what working as a lawyer could be. If you are interested to learn how this tool could be used in your firm, please drop us an email. There is so much talent out there, that it would be an enormous waist of opportunity not to act right now. Be bold, be courageous and start hiring talent again.


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