The Business of Law programme serves as a means through which trainee solicitors undertaking the Professional Skills Course (PSC) are exposed to the key competencies required to understand and excel in the legal industry. In recognition of the feedback received from law firms, the University of Law (ULaw) has catalogued these aptitudes under Business, Law, Working with Others, and Self.
It is vital to have a strong grasp on these areas so that you and your law firm work to the optimal potential, otherwise business will be less profitable and could eventually lead to job losses. Consequently, firms must have confidence in their employees’ ability to maximise commercial opportunities and aid the smooth running of its procedures. Both the PSC’s core and elective modules compel trainees to consider these competencies to put their best foot forward as knowledgeable and valuable company assets. We shall examine how Working with Others comes to the fore in the programme.
Improving how to work with others
By displaying how critical teamwork is to the solicitor’s skill-set – regardless of the firm or department’s size – forming and strengthening professional relationships is a crucial takeaway of the PSC. This is done with an emphasis on respectfulness, efficiency and a hands-on approach to helping a team when and where needed. Appropriate verbal and written communication will be studied, as well as customising the message to suit the recipient, be it a colleague at the same level, higher level or even a non-legal expert.
While being a productive and reliable self-starter is a good strength, working well with co-workers means that not only could some tasks be completed quicker, but also it means others will note your willingness to contribute and support others alongside your practical abilities. If they can attest to your professional value, it could open doors for you later down the line. At the end of the day, people want to work with people who they can get on with and trust to deliver.
How the modules encourage you to work with others
As per the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) PSC Written Standards, the course’s three core modules produce the chance to evaluate and advance how to work with others in different manners.
In Advocacy and Communication Skills, trainees should be able to recognise when their team may encounter ethical issues in both criminal and civil cases and provide solutions that appropriately handle these problems during a trial. Trainees are also expected to prepare and portray their line of argument, along with any relevant evidence, in a way that is clearly conveyed to the opposition, the jury and witnesses to assist the timely and streamlined progression of the case.
The Client Care and Professional Standards encompasses three elements that each call for distinct aims and objectives. The Client Care and Communication Skills portion underlines the importance of suitable correspondence with clients to demonstrate that their requests are being considered whilst managing any unrealistic expectations, hopefully de-escalating situations which would otherwise result in official complaints.
Professional Standards concentrates on negligence warnings and thus how to ensure team members work proactively to avoid them, alongside client confidentiality – collective problem-solving to craft a robust argument without revealing the client’s hand is a significant element of the profession. Furthermore, in Work and Case Management, the capacity to manage one’s time and adhere to time limits will prove the utility and convenience of asking others for help when necessary.
As part of Financial and Business Skills, trainees will be conscious of bringing in non-legal professionals for their own specialist services (whether that is an accountant or other forms of financial advisers) in certain scenarios. Here legal jargon will need to be avoided for effective communication and a recognition of the materials that the expert requires in order to conduct a thorough analysis and report on the client’s standing.
Although the elective modules are selected by your law firm, or with their input, there are certain ones that go into greater depth about how to efficiently work with others. If enhancing your teamworking abilities in a legal setting is a notable goals of yours, you should consider the following:
- Advanced Communication Skills – this develops the Advocacy and Communication Skills core module using psychology and neuroscience studies. It explores the role of emotional and social intelligence in the legal workplace and how variations in male and female brains should be considered when determining what is valid communication, as well as how groups or teams operate on a mental level.
- Coaching Skills for Lawyers – this inspires trainees to work with their clients in a manner that holds them as not just an adviser, but also as a pillar of support for clients. By exhibiting behaviours that make the client feel heard instead of lectured to, a deeper level of communication can be achieved, and the client should feel as though the trainee is truly on their team.
- Consultancy Skills for Lawyers – this is similar to the abovementioned elective, but on a more commercial level. It encourages trainees to work with clients to ensure that the legal advice given is a suitable match for the entire business structure, rather than to simply accept the instructions given to them. A more active approach will again reassure the client that the trainee is on their team.