A business focus and awareness of commercial realities are sought after skills for lawyers in the current economic times, said partners who spoke to Lawyers Weekly.
Vijay Cugati, a corporate partner at Allens Arthur Robinson, said organisations are turning to lawyers as trusted advisors - which means looking beyond the legal answer.
"The aim is to ensure an outcome for clients which is technically correct but focuses on their commercial aims and ensures that we aren't giving advice merely in a vacuum [but] it's all about the commercial realities," he said.
"I think we have to be technically excellent but beyond and above that I think [we need] commercial awareness. You need to understand your clients business; you need to understand their risks and what concerns them and you also you need to have an awareness of their industry and what is affecting their business. How you do that is by talking to clients, it's about reading up on them and asking them questions and developing personal relationships with them."
Michael Bradley, managing partner of Marque Lawyers, agreed that clients have always placed a high value on lawyers with commercial skill and the profession is only starting to catch up with the idea.
"I've always placed a pretty high value on what I would call 'real world' experience. One thing I would always like to see in a CV is that someone had an actual job - not so much legal experience - but a job in the real world, particularly one that involved dealing with people [and] customers, because of the basic commercial skills that that teaches," he said.
Bradley added that business skills can be hard to pick up in a legal practice because practicing as a lawyer is "completely different" to the commercial discipline - but having such skills does give a lawyer a "head start" when it comes to hiring.
"I think the more senior you are the more important it gets to have exposure to the business world," he said.
"It's the ability to apply the law to a factual context in a practical and commercial way. The law in the abstract isn't a particularly useful thing but having the ability to understand the way commercial people think and the depth of understanding of a commercial context will give you the ability to apply the law in a way that is useful to clients."
- Sarah Sharples
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