Enter the matrix: mapping skills in a typical law firm

This post is part of a series reviewing the 'Legal Service Design Jam' event that LexisNexis hosted, in collaboration with The Bio Agency, at Janders Dean's 2016 'Horizons' conference in May 2016.

For the background to the skills matrix examined below, please read these posts first:

In this article, we take a closer look at one of the outputs from the group that focussed on the issue of ‘People’ .

Know thy firm

A key insight that came out of the People team’s session was the importance of knowing what skills law firm has and – importantly – where they can be found.

Finding and documenting this information was important for a number of reasons, including:

  • Recruitment: improve recruitment by recruiting for skills (rather than just focusing on the ‘conventional’ skillset of a lawyer, for instance)
  • External consultants: identifying where there are skills gaps that may need to be filled (temporarily or otherwise) by external consultants
  • Training: being able to target training where it is needed in order to reduce/remove skills gaps
  • Team selection: being able to assemble teams for particular projects based on the particular mix of skills required
The making of the matrix

The team brainstormed a list of skills/characteristics to focus on and proceeded to map these out on the basis of whether they were:

  • legal or non-legal
  • senior or junior

This was captured as a matrix with four quadrants, divided as follows: senior (upper quadrants); junior (lower quadrants); legal (left-hand side quadrants); and non-legal (right-hand side quadrants) – and this was the result:

Skills Matrix (original)

If (for the sake of clarity) we tabulate the key skills/characteristics and where they were placed on that matrix, we get the following:

Skills Matrix (Tabulated)

Headline observations

It is interesting to note that the skills were identified as being very evenly distributed between senior and junior personnel and between the legal and non-legal parts of a typical law firm.

At the same time, it is probably fair to say that this placement of particular skills/characteristics reflects a fairly ‘conventional’ view of the split between senior and junior and legal and non-legal. For instance, ‘leadership’ was very much seen as a ‘senior’ skill and it was felt that more junior employees would have the freshest views and the most enthusiasm.

But are things really that simple?

Change ahead?

The overall theme for the event was innovation and if law firms and the industry at large are to start/continue innovating, won’t some of these skills and characteristics be distributed differently?

Here are some of the areas we thought about, after the event.

Project Management

Project Management was identified as being split across legal and non-legal functions, with senior lawyers engaging in ‘ad hoc’ project management and more junior non-legal staff having the skills in technical project management.

As ‘legal project management’ continues to mature into a distinct occupation in its own right, ‘ad hoc’ project management by lawyers should continue to decrease. At the same time, the amount and perceived importance of technical project management by non-legal staff is likely to increase, potentially resulting in such skills residing at an increasingly senior level within law firms.

Mentoring

Mentoring was viewed as still typically senior to junior but mentorship can and should happen (and increasingly is happening) in all and any directions (including between peers).

Leadership

Leadership skills were identified as sitting with the more senior members of a firm – both legal and non-legal.

However, if law firms adopt more modern working practices (such as working in ‘agile’ project-specific teams based on getting the right mix of skills and experience) and against a background of an ever-increasing need for efficiency, looking to senior staff to lead all projects/teams makes little sense – both in terms of productivity and profitability.

Innovation

Innovation was placed on both sides of the legal/non-legal divide, somewhere in the middle in terms of seniority. As the wider findings of the three sessions (people, process and technology) demonstrated, innovation will need to be at the heart of almost everything law firms do – particularly in the short/medium term.

As such, an aptitude and appetite for innovation should arguably be given (at least) equal weight as more ‘obvious’ qualifications (e.g. a 2:1/1st class degree in law) when recruiting.

More jam here...

Introduction and overview: Legal Design Jams - 9x more productive than Jack Bauer

Overview of the Legal Service Design Jam process: 'Jamming' - the way forward for legal service design?

Reports exploring the output from the three teams of 'jammers':

Report 1: People

Report 2: Process

Report 3: Technology

 

Relevant Articles
Area of Interest