Committing to making lawyers better people

Lawyers today have to wear many hats. It goes without saying that they need to be first-class legal practitioners, but they also need to be equally adept corporate advisers, people managers, marketing supremos, business developers… the list goes on.

To be proficient in a chosen legal discipline is no longer enough and that is why some firms are starting to invest time and money in their greatest asset – their people. And it's not just investment in developing work-only skills.

Increasingly, firms are looking at ways in which they can develop lawyers as individuals rather than merely highly-trained automatons.

Firms are demonstrating a real commitment to training and personal development for students, trainees, assistants and partners.

This ever-expanding process can involve training in languages, negotiation, time management, delegation and any other area which will assist the all-round development of individuals and help them become professional, businesslike, competent lawyers and men and women of affairs.

Equally importantly, firms are placing an ever-increasing emphasis on developing lawyers who are user-friendly, approachable and personable.

Of course, lawyers will sometimes be called on to work long hours, cancel weekends and make last-minute alterations to prior arrangements, but by investing in their overall training and development, firms can broaden their horizons and help them realise their full potential.

Those of us responsible for the future of our firms should encourage lawyers to have both a life outside the office and to enjoy what they are doing during the considerable time they spend looking after clients.

This is good commercial practice and sound common sense. The firms that will succeed in the future are those that recognise this trend and realise that a production line of legal services, no matter how efficient, is no longer enough.

Clients want lawyers who are individuals in their own right, who understand their clients' business needs and are therefore able to discuss a subject on equal terms and offer sound legal and business advice in a confident, mature and informed manner.

Lawyers, for their part, realising that their working lives will revolve predominantly around their chosen firm and its clients, will be looking for firms that take a broader interest in their overall training and development and see them as real people and not merely fee-generating machines.

Firms which ignore this simple premise do so at their peril.

David Bramson is senior partner at Nabarro Nathanson.