Links in radical move to reject over-specialisation

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  • About time. But let's wait and see if it actually happens in reality...headline grabbing is all well and good.

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  • So firms get associates that are easier to move into other departments when things get quieter, and associates get greater flexibility at the cost of expertise....
    So who loses out as these associates get more expensive but not all that more experienced in any one area? Clients...
    And who wins?... the partners, since they don't have to get rid of so many people, and can move people around when departments get busy. Oh, and the partners don't hand so much of the client relationship to the associates, so less risk of them becoming chummy with the clients and stealing them.
    If they are going to create an army of generalists then there really is no reason to stay with the big firms unless you need a massive amount of people on a piece of work (and even then the smaller firms may be able to mobilise an army of contracted lawyers)... clients go to the massive firms FOR specialisation.

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  • I know loads of people that haven't been offered a NQ job in the seat that they wanted and have ended up working in an area of law they are not very interested in. I think this idea will give NQs much greater flexibility when they qualify. But there is always the worry that you can be good at lots of different areas of law but an expert at nothing......

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  • This sort of idea has been floating about for ages. I think its great because as an associate you can quickly specialise in one very specific area of law but then if you want to change jobs or are made redundant you can find it difficult. The idea also mirrors what happens in America.

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  • This has got to be a rotational training scheme rather than creating hundreds of generalists. Having been on the other side of the table as a client, I wouldn't be happy to pay for some associate to get up to speed on an unfamiliar area of law, but equally I would rather have lawyers who are all-rounders and can take a commercial view.

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  • Taking a commercial view is not inconsistent with being a specialist, nor is being a bit of a generalist consistent with being commercial...
    If that is what people want then I would try and get associates more secondments...

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  • LOL Are Linklaters admitting that Slaughter & May's approach is best?

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  • jack of all trades, master of none.

    would clients pay 2 yr pqe rates for someone who's got 6 months' relevant experience?

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  • This is not as easy as it sounds. From PQE2 onwards clients will expect a certain competency level in the area that the associate is providing them services in. I was in this situation at a big US law firm in London and was challenging to say the least, to have advanced skills in derivatives but little or no experience in eg eurobond offerings.

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  • The rush to specialise is much too early these days and in order to give a the best service to a client a breadth of experience is invaluable so that you can at least recognise there is an issue even if you do not know the answer and it makes life more interesting for the lawyer

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  • As an experienced in-house lawyer I am often disappointed at the lack of knowledge of a wide range of areas by solicitors in practice. Lawyers need to have a broad experience, but also have a certain expertise. Linklaters are taking teh right approach.

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  • A lawyer with broad general knowledge must be a more rounded lawyer and having general knowledge does not preclude being an expert in a particular field. In my experience, far too many young lawyers have tunnel vision. If it makes a lawyer more adaptable, that must be of benefit both to the lawyer and to the employer, which is a good thing at times like this - everyone benefits, including clients.

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  • In response to anonymous at 10.09am, I think whether clients gain or lose depends on the clients themselves. I deal mainly with SMEs and OMBs with turnovers of sub £50m and almost universally they *love* what I would describe as 'relationship managers', a role which, to do well, brings with it a need for more generalist knowledge. I think in the rush for exponential growth through the nineties and noughties, the fact that legal practice is primarily about relationships has been largely forgotten...

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  • What goes round comes round? The swing of the pendulum...? To be a real specialist and of value to the client it's essential to understand the general legal environment in which the specialism exists.

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  • I'm surprised this is news at all since the problem (and the solution) has been around for over a decade. A solicitor should not specialise until he/she has at least 5 years PQE.
    The profession is plagued by "Well Frogs" who cannot see the context of any advice they give leading to scenarios at all levels of the profession where narrow, misguided and even downright bizarre advice is given.
    This article (intentionally or otherwise) reminds us of what was lost when the profession decided to let insurers tell them how to run their offices - leading to the death of the family solicitor and the drift towards faceless "call centre" legal services.
    Bravo to Links - if not for tackling the problem convincingly at least for recognising that the problem exists!

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  • following up on my earlier post (10.09), I do expect assistants to have some broader experience of other departments/practices - isn't that called a training contract, though? I agree that people specialise very early on in their career and find themselves stuck in an area that they fall out of love with, but isn't law at a city practice a trade-off?
    Or is the point that you need to extend the rotations because you don't see much real law at Links until you're qualified, and are largly a pagination monkey until then...
    I'll be interested to hear how this goes. I guess associates will find it easier to get hours down as they'll end up doing a lot more "getting-up to speed", but it will be interesting to see how much is passed on and if there are tensions about write-downs. I don't get the impression that Links and Slaughters have the same approach vis-a-vis getting the hours on the clock so let's see how it fits in to their general regime.

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  • Less early specialisation and more generalisation is better for a lawyer's career development.
    The solution to whether a client is prepared to pay for a 2 year pqe rates for what is effectively a 6mth pqe lawyer in that field - is to ensure that billing rates rise less precipitously per year, at least for the first 5 years. And along with that, pay for junior solicitors as well. Seems to be as good a time as any to implement this.
    Will junior lawyers be prepared to accept the quid pro quo of better generalist training in the form of slower rising salaries for the early years?

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  • Any structural change should be driven by one requirement only:
    Delivering a quantifiable benefit to clients who, after all at the top of legal services delivery food chain. A fact some partners seem to forget from time to time. If a change is self serving and designed to massage or protect partner income first it should be dropped. It really is nto that hard to work this one out.

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  • Welcome to the post-crunch world.
    I know that this is the practice at international firms working in the Middle East.

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  • This is long overdue.
    The horror stories which I (as a generalist Co-Co lawyer) see everyday - still shock me.
    How about two (2) lawyers (in the same silver circle firm, but) who have never met (because they work in separate buildings) - one drafting Articles of Association and the other drafting the linked Investment Agreement - but neither reading the other's document.
    That's how you get one lawyer spending eighteen (18) months insisting that a clause should be included in an investment agreement, the lawyer on the other side refusing - and each of them oblivious to the fact that the equivalent provision was already in the standard form Articles they were using.
    ... or how about the magic circle firm that send twelve (12) associates to a completion meeting attended by myself and one assistant - and the magic circle firm still failed to collect a GBP £ eight figure cash sum at completion (by accepting a contractual obligation to pay). Surprise, surprise, the American VC that I represented decided (ultimately successfully) to set off the payment obligation against their warranty / indemnity claims (which duly followed - as night follows day).
    We need more generalist lawyers (with a 'bolt-on' specialism) - People who can ultimately graduate to be 'General Counsel' if they do not make Partner.

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