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25 January 2020

This is the one thing tomorrow's lawyer can't live without

Published on 25 January 2020

When the average person thinks about lawyers, ‘confidence’ is often one of the first terms that come to mind. They know their subject matter. And they can be boldly assertive. However, despite outward appearances, lawyers aren’t always RESILIENT. But, to meet the challenges posed by a disrupted legal services industry, this has to change.


Looks can be deceiving

Altman Weil profiled thousands of lawyers over 20 years and found the average lawyer scored in the lower 30th percentile in terms of resilience.

It may be hard to hear (especially if you’re a lawyer!), but low resilience comes with thin-skinned tendencies and resistance to feedback.

Altman Weil describe it is as a ‘self-protective quality’.


What is resilience?

Resilience can be framed in a number of ways. On one level, it’s the ability to bounce back after receiving criticism or rejection.

At a deeper level, it can be viewed as the capacity for stress-related growth. It’s our ability to develop our coping skills when faced with adversity.

In this current age of disruption, resilience is a vital trait.


Why lawyers need resilience

Changing client needs and technological innovation are disrupting the way lawyers work. Clients are now demanding cost certainty and lower prices.

But this is the big one: they don’t want to pay for your time – they want to pay for a solution.

This means lawyers are going to have to fundamentally change the ways they work.

Alison Laird, Head of Innovation and Project Delivery Asia Pacific for global law firm Pinsent Masons says, ‘I think the majority of lawyers are pretending it’s not going to happen.’

‘But we are on the cusp of enormous industry change. And the more that clients push in terms of cost pressures and timelines, the more lawyers are going to concede to doing things differently,’ she said.


Weathering the storms of change

A rapidly changing industry means those in legal services will need to get used to a level of ongoing uncertainty. They will need to show agility and resilience as the industry moves swiftly and in unfamiliar directions.

Legal services will need to experiment with new technologies, processes and ways of working. And, as anyone who has taken Year 7 science knows, not all experiments are successful.

Which means the contemporary lawyer needs to be open to the idea of failure. Which is why, again, resilience is so important.


It’s okay to ‘fail’

Alison says, ‘The bread and butter of a lawyer’s job is to minimise risk in every way. So, it’s a complete mentality shift to tell lawyers that, actually, you need to be creative and take more risks in your job.’

‘We need to get the industry comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to fail.’

‘The good news about resilience is that it’s a learnt trait. While we might see others seemingly face adversity and move on unphased, it doesn’t mean they are any stronger than us, psychologically or emotionally.’

‘By understanding disruption and the skills lawyers of the future need, it’s possible to develop your resilience,’ she said.


Become resilient in the face of disruption

Disrupt or be disrupted - The age of the legal intrapreneur and entrepreneur is a six-week course that forms part of the newly created Master of Legal Business at The College of Law. It will equip you with the skills and resilience you need to face the uncertainty that comes with disruption’s challenges.

The subject is part of the College’s newly formed Master of Legal Business and is led by Teaching Fellow Alison Laird.Learn more about this unique course.