In this latest 60-second interview, Peerpoint MD Carolyn Aldous talks to The Lawyer about changes to the legal market, trends in legal consulting and what successful legal teams will look like in the future.

Has the pandemic changed your approach to the legal market?

Our key values have stayed the same, but we’ve had to flex how we operate. While the pandemic has brought with it very significant personal consequences, the legal profession has been forced to undergo a mindset shift, jumping almost ten years ahead, especially when it comes to cultural aspects such as presenteeism, output delivery over the number of hours worked, and so on.

Our clients and consultants have gone through any number of different challenges, so we’ve looked at ways to support their individual needs. This was important to us pre-pandemic but even more so now. The past year has resulted in a period of reflection about what’s important in one’s career, and in life too. What is it that makes us happy?

At A&O we’ve also been doing a lot of work around mental health with a variety of programmes and initiatives aimed at supporting our colleagues. Additionally, the tragic death of George Floyd last year and the Black Lives Matter movement really brought into sharp focus inclusion in all walks of life, and of course within our industry. So within the firm, we’re even more committed to supporting a culture that drives inclusion and diversity in all its forms.

Carolyn Aldous

Are legal consultants in higher demand following the pandemic, given their agile nature?

Absolutely. Twelve months on from the start of the pandemic, we’re seeing exceptionally high demand for our consultants. There are various reasons for this – the fall-out from Covid; businesses not hiring last year; pent up demand from continued regulatory projects such as LIBOR; and the lack of antipodeans and European qualified lawyers in the market have all contributed to the increase in demand.

The pace of transformation and change over the past 18 months has resulted in some very exciting roles opening up in the market which previously didn’t exist, particularly in the fintech, legaltech and payments space. And with increased M&A activity set to continue into next year, demand for lawyers is strong.

We’re seeing the same trends in Australia, Asia and the UAE, where we’ve recently launched. In the UAE, we’re currently supporting our clients remotely but in the process of establishing a regional panel with active recruitment ongoing.

Our clients are also demonstrating greater confidence in their decision making by confirming assignments for longer periods, which is resulting in less movement. With confidence on the rise, demand will continue to outstrip supply for the foreseeable future and I’d encourage businesses looking to hire consultants to identify their needs in good time, think creatively as to how a solution can be found and commit to talent early.

What skill sets do legal teams of the future need to have?

The most successful legal teams in the future will be those that effectively combine a mixture of different skill sets, with a high degree of diversity. Although important, technical excellence won’t be king anymore. As legal teams increasingly look to technology, they’ll be made up of individuals who may not have any formal legal training. There will be lawyers who have pivoted to data science or legal innovation. For example, at A&O we’re starting to hire for a wider breath of skills on our graduate programme with attributes such as open-mindedness, innovation, collaboration and critical thinking high on the list.

Increasingly we’re seeing a rise in lawyers diversifying their skill sets into areas such as project management and legal operations. These roles will play a key part in how in-house legal functions successfully operate.

Has legal consulting become a more attractive career move for lawyers since the pandemic?

That’s an interesting question as we’ve seen both sides of the coin. Initially we saw a big uptick in lawyers interested in making the move to consulting. The uncertainty around job security meant many lawyers wanted to explore their options, putting themselves in a position of control.

The past eighteen months of either total or partial suspension of the normal way of working has resulted in many lawyers reassessing what’s important to them, with some looking to consulting as a credible option. Whether it’s charging up their career by broadening their experience or wanting to use the flexibility to spend more time on other interests, or at home.

More recently, we’ve found that although the number of consulting opportunities out there keep rising, the number of lawyers making the move has slowed. This can be attributed to the buoyancy in the permanent market and the perception of risk that’s associated with consulting.

At Peerpoint we’re very transparent about projected pipelines of work. We work in partnership with our consultants and offer a high degree of support and impartial career advice because we see legal consulting as a very fulfilling career option, regardless of the current climate.

What are three things on your bucket list?

The three things on my list are:

  • An African safari to see giraffes
  • Mastering Italian and living in Tuscany for six months
  • Swimming with whale sharks on Ningaloo reef