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The people team started with a general brainstorming session, aimed at identifying the key issues relating to ‘people’ in law firms. While a great number of individual suggestions and ideas were generated, these can be summarized in the form
of the following three assumptions/ideas that formed the basis of the rest of the team’s activity:
Enter the matrix
The starting point is for law firms to recruit the people they need (not those they think they want). Nurturing and leveraging talent shouldn’t begin on a new starter’s first day. It should begin before you have even started trying to recruit. To
do this right, law firms need to know – truly know - what (and therefore who) they need.
The people team therefore suggested that law firms should create a ‘skills matrix’ to accurately identify and capture what skills exist within the firm, who has those skills and where any gaps are or might be in the future as the firm’s
The idea of a skills matrix was one of the ideas that the people team actually continued to work on throughout the day. You can see the original model
and read about some of the insights that came out of that exercise here: Enter the matrix: mapping skills in a typical law firm.
Your clients views must be taken into account
Any assessment of how necessary or important certain skills are, should also be informed by clients. As such, skills which might once have been regarded as 'softer' - such as relationship building and other client interaction skills – should
be credited with the importance they deserve. After all, clients have more choice than ever and they are entitled to take technical legal ability as a given so it is often these customer-centric skills that make the difference.
Things not to do
There are also things the people team agreed law firms shouldn’t do. These included:
It was also the team’s clear view that all of the above applies to non-lawyers as well as lawyers and to senior hires as well as junior hires.
In that case firms should be ready and willing to look outside the firm for these skills. Firms might do this in a number of ways, including:
One of the core ideas, was that people must not be treated as mere units of production. Neither should their careers viewed solely in terms of service to the firm – it is a two-way street.
Law firms must seek to understand what all of their staff – at all levels of seniority – actually want from their careers. This means not making any assumptions.
For example, some team members reported working with more junior lawyers who have explicitly stated that they have no desire to become a partner and that they value work-life balance above the more traditional (or even antiquated?) notion of lock-step
Once a law firm understands its people this way, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that they understand the career paths open to them and that they are given the recognition and rewards they deserve - irrespective of job type or seniority level.
This understanding also equips us to help people play to their strengths. This means providing inspiration and encouraging creativity rather than imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to skills and progression.
As important as firm-employee relationships, are the relationships between employees themselves. A large part of this is finding ways to ensure that all of a firm’s people are motivated and – importantly – properly equipped, to share
their experience, knowledge and contacts with one another.
As the team worked through the ideas set out above, it became that many of these would require not insignificant changes to the traditional models and working practices.
The team acknowledged that change is hard and can only really be achieved if there is sufficient ‘organisational slack’. Where a particular practice has been embedded for a long time, finding or creating this slack can be a real challenge.
Specific challenges the team identified included the need for law firms to work out how they could:
The team also thought about what might be the key behaviours of a firm that was ‘getting it right’ in terms of its people and these included:
The idea of a 'skills matrix' (referred
to above) was one of the ideas that the people team actually continued to work on throughout the day. You can see the original model and read about some of the insights that came out of that exercise here:
Enter the matrix: mapping skills in a typical law firm.
Also, Don't forget to read our reports on the output from the other two teams:
Report 2: Process
Report 3: Technology
Or, for a brief overview of the legal service design jam and to find out why legal service design jams are 9x more productive than Jack Bauer read this post.
Finally, to read more about the actual process of running a design jam, read this article by Alex Smith (Senior Product Lead - Platform Innovation at LexisNexis).
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