‘Technical brilliance is no longer enough’
There needs to be more focus on the development of young lawyers’ soft skills so that they can add value for their clients, according to the Sydney Junior Lawyers Committee.
Five junior lawyers from Minter Ellison (pictured) have formed the Sydney Junior Lawyers Committee to help develop not only the hard skills but also the soft skills of lawyers at associate level and below.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, lawyer and committee member Maxine Minter said the group organises events and creates opportunities for the junior lawyers to practice soft skills such as networking, relationship building and business development.
“Soft skills is probably our strongest value add for our junior lawyers,” Ms Minter said. “These days in the market it’s not enough for you to be technically brilliant, you also need to value add for clients in almost every piece of legal work you do for them.”
She continued: “We organise formal networking events and informal social events, to instil in our juniors that every event is an opportunity to build relationships on a holistic level, not just when it’s advantageous to them.”
They also organise workshops and training sessions to improve the junior lawyers’ hard skills such as their knowledge of the law, their knowledge of legal practice and conventions in their areas.
On top of this, the formation of the committee itself, whose members span from associate level down to graduates, is an opportunity for junior lawyers to sit on a board and experience that management role, according to Ms Minter.
“This is a skill set in itself in terms of organising a committee, and investing time and coming up with programs and the like. So by handing down to our next lot of junior lawyers and getting them to invest in the firm and invest in the environment here, they are developing another skill set,” she said.
While the initial committee served for 18 months, the future members will serve a 12-month tenure so the ideas stay fresh and as many juniors as possible have a chance to sit on the board, Ms Minter explained.
Ms Minter said that while the legal profession does have a history of supporting and developing juniors, they saw the opportunity to teach them more.
“Partners are incredibly busy on their own things, it’s not reasonable to ask them to work on the juniors’ careers in terms of understanding all the other things that the firm does and working on their BD skills,” she said.
“It’s that kind of adage that you can take a horse to water but you can't make them drink – [partners] can take them to the networking events and the like, but if the juniors don’t have the skills to be able to network effectively and know what’s expected of them, then it’s an opportunity lost.”