There’s been a lot of talk recently about Artificial Intelligence dramatically reducing the need for as many lawyers over the next 15 years; this follows the report by Jomati Consultants called Civilisation 2030: The near future for law firms. Even if you think this is far-fetched, there is no doubt that over the last couple of decades the legal profession has seen a dramatic growth in process driven work; I know that things are very different from when I started in practice 20 years ago. Indeed, even now case management systems and other computerised processes routinely carry out many elements of the work which used be completed by lawyers or secretaries.
When you couple this with the fact that technological and societal advances mean that purchasers of legal services are becoming increasingly sophisticated and expecting more value for money and better service, it’s clear that being a lawyer now requires a different skill set than most lawyers have learnt at law school.
So what will it take to be one of the lawyers who survive and to thrive in this vision of the new world order? Well the good news is that the writers of the Jomati Report consider that clients will still need actual lawyers “….especially those that could empathise with the client’s needs and show real understanding and human insight into their problems.”
What this highlights is the need for law firms and individual lawyers to develop their skills around client relationship management; effectively what is known as ‘Emotional Intelligence’. These are skills we don’t really learn at law school and once qualified, because we have spent so long learning how to interpret and apply the law, then this is naturally where our focus is spent.
Now we do know that the Legal Education and Training Review has, over the past few years, been looking at the skills which lawyers are taught and the SRA has published their Competence Statement for Solicitors. However, the Competence Statement or guidance doesn’t give on how to obtain these skills, it merely sets out what skills you are required to confirm you have on an annual basis.
So there’s a stark choice for those already in practice to make; take the pro-active step to upskill yourself or risk being left behind when those currently studying enter practice.
You may think that you are pretty good already at dealing with clients but the changes highlighted above show that “pretty good” won’t necessarily cut it going forward. What’s needed is excellent rapport with clients of all shapes and sizes so that you are first person who springs to mind and the natural call they make regardless of problem they have.
We all know that clients (just like the people they are!) are all different and we often inevitably get on with some more than others. Emotional intelligence is often considered by lawyers (who deal in hard facts) as ‘wishy washy’ but actually there is real science and skill behind it. Learning these skills allow you to become adaptable so that you can get on with all clients.
The biggest mistake we make with clients is being lawyers all the time. We are so focused on the client’s problem and explaining to them the legal solution that we often forget to listen. This is after all what we spent years training to do! I cringe when I look back on my early career and think of some of times when I made exactly this mistake.
One of the most effective ways to achieve rapport is to ensure that you know and understand your client which you can do through properly honed questioning and listening skills.
There are many other tools which will help an emotionally intelligent lawyer to build rapport with clients and understand them effectively:
- A properly considered client profile and each client –which is shared amongst all who interact with that client
- Ways to understand your client’s preferred “information reception” style
- Learning what words to use with which clients to gain maximum influence or persuasion
- The ability to put yourself in your client’s shoes
- The ability to read your client’s body language
- Learning to understand your client’s true motivation
Given the current shape and forecasts for the legal world, developing your ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and effective Client Relationship Management strategies is vitally important for your future. In this way you can become a ‘Trusted Partner’ to your clients.
If you’d like to learn these tools, we are delivering one day courses for MBL Seminars which will give you a real head start on becoming an emotionally intelligent lawyer by equipping you with the tools you need:
CRM for Lawyers: London and Edinburgh – Balancing Regulatory Requirements with Client Care
or Northern Ireland – Client Relationship Management for Lawyers in Northern Ireland
Alternatively, if you’d like to arrange for this seminar to be delivered in-house to a larger group, we’d be delighted to discuss this with you so either call us on 0121 270 8008 or email email@example.com