DWF Ventures managing director Jonathan Patterson talks to The Lawyer about equipping graduates with the right skills and finding talent outside of the legal industry, ahead of his session at the Business Leadership Summit on the 25th September.
Is the education that graduates are receiving equipping them for the profession in practice?
No, not completely. A lot of universities have recognised the need to change and have started to look at the curriculum and structure of courses but I think there is still a long way to go. I would like to see more cross disciplinary teaching combining subjects like law and business or law and computer science. I think there is also value in more vocational opportunities for students to experience real life roles and in particular the newer roles that are emerging rather than just the conventional legal ones. The University of Manchester with their Law and Technology Initiative is a good example of how it can work.
Do you think the traditional route to partnership will stand the test of time or can you see alternative ways to reaching the status of partner emerging?
I think it might stay in some organisations but in the majority I think it will change. At DWF we recently became a PLC with a more corporate structure so we have for some time had alternative routes to senior level roles rather than just career routes focussed on lawyers becoming partners. I think the industry as a whole needs to attract different types of skills and roles so will need to be more flexible in the career routes offered.
Are law firms succinctly open to talent outside the legal industry?
If you had asked me this question two or three years ago my answer would have been no. However I think in the last couple of years many firms have become much better at recognising the value of having a wider range of expertise and experience. I think the big challenge is attracting the right people and showing that legal services is an interesting and challenging sector to develop a career. This is particularly challenging in skills areas like data science and technology development where you can be competing with big tech names like Google and Amazon as well as the usual professional service firms.
What do you think the legal roles of the future will be?
I think part of the challenge is no one really knows. I think roles will change and adapt and the best we can do is think about potential scenarios that stem from macro trends like more global and data driven business models and increased automation and digital technology. I would expect to see some essential skills emerge that include more right brain capabilities like creativity and empathy as well as more emphasis on things like digital and design. As more knowledge and repeat process work can be programmed into systems I expect that human characteristics such as customer experience and creative problem solving will command more value than they do today.
If you were to study again, what course would you choose and why?
Good timing for this question as I have just chosen to study again and am a few weeks into a Masters in Management Practice so feel like the new kid in school again. As managing director of DWF Ventures I cover a lot of different areas and activities so I wanted to find a course that enabled me to think about how I can improve performance in all aspects of my role rather than just one specific subject or area. The format is also structured more like an apprenticeship so it is better suited to working full time while studying.