Rounds of redundancies continue to plague the London legal market, with firms claiming the best means for a lawyer's survival and securing future opportunities is a strong understanding of client relationship skills.
According to London law firms contacted last week for the Lawyers Weekly annual London report, corporate legal departments are demanding more from their external legal spends, and asking lawyers to adjust their skills accordingly.
Andrew Lilley, head of employment and incoming managing partner of Travers Smith, said client relationship skills are essential in the current market - skills that some lawyers, after working on a seemingly endless parade of transactions for so many years may find require some fine-tuning.
"A client once said to me a couple of months ago: 'What I want out of my lawyer is to know that they are thinking about me when I am not thinking about them,' and that's exactly it. That's what they want to know," said Lilley. "It's not good enough to sit and wait for the phone to ring for the next deal to come through, you've got to be doing more than that."
For some lawyers, that may mean brushing up on skills that may have been forgotten in the overabundance of transactions that were once available in London.
At Linklaters, partner Annette Kurdian agreed that clients were demanding more: "Clients are increasingly cost-conscious, which has meant that law firms need to be even more focused on delivering value-adding work in a cost-effective manner," she said, noting that some clients are even demanding their law firms provide them with leads to new work. "In this way, we see an even more symbiotic relationship with clients."
According to Tim Jones, London managing partner at Freshfields, innovative thinking is also a must. "Flexibility and creative thinking are especially important skills for lawyers in the current market."
- Angela Priestley
Read the London Report in full, in tomorrow's edition of Lawyers Weekly