Becoming A Lawyer of The Future (O Shaped Lawyer)

By Temitayo Adelami


The legal industry is evolving and growing at an astronomical pace, with the rise in in-house lawyers currently at 22% compared to 15 years ago, were merely 10% of lawyers worked in the house. There has also been a surge in the delivering of legal services. In October 2019, the big 4 accounting firms {Ernest Young, Deloitte, PWC, KPMG} reignited its interest in approaching legal service. For example, PWC currently employs over three thousand six hundred lawyers. Their growth in providing legal services is a result of being people oriented, understanding their clients business and leveraging heavily on technology to make legal advice more efficient.

It is therefore expected that these qualities are what is to be expected of tomorrow’s lawyer.


WHAT WAS THE LAWYER OF THE PAST LIKE?


Previously, the concept of I-shaped lawyer was developed and mooted as a lawyer that had depth in legal knowledge. This concept later metamorphosed into the T-shaped lawyer, which was the lawyer that not only had a horizontal depth in knowledge but had a vertical depth in understanding the client’s business.


FUTURE LAWYER/ O-SHAPED LAWYER


A change in the legal education system, with the Solicitors Qualification Examination, set to be implemented by Autumn 2021; there has been a rethink as to the development of aspiring commercial lawyers.

This has led to a change in the way lawyers and future lawyers are trained, perceived and has bred the concept of the ‘O shaped lawyer’.

An O shaped lawyer is one that is receptive to the ever-changing legal landscape, one that is ready to shift from the conventional technical legal knowledge to a more customer centred lawyer and one that is aligned with a large business focus.

Firms are therefore seeking for people first before lawyers. Lawyers not only understand the law but are also emotionally intelligent and are customer oriented.


CHARACTERISTICS OF O-SHAPED LAWYERS

  • Be Open-minded

Lawyers must be willing to step outside of their comfort zone, seek feedback and take risks. They recognise that to be successful and grow personally and professionally, they will need to work hard, learn and embrace new ways of working. Contrast this with the traditional fixed mindset lawyer, were pursuing a specialisation at the expense of continuous learning and development is much more common. They are also open with how they feel, taking an interest in the well being of their colleagues and treating this as a priority.


  • Be Opportunistic

O-Shaped Lawyers seek new opportunities and attempt different things. They are inquisitive and keen to explore new environments, opportunities and recognise that this will give them new experiences to learn and grow. They see change as an opportunity, not a threat, and will embrace change to shape both their own and their organisations’ futures.


  • 3. Be Original

O-Shaped lawyers are creative in their approach to solving problems. They find a conducive environment that supports their new ways of working and accepts that O-Shaped Lawyers innovative thinking will sometimes mean making mistakes, learning from them and going again. Contrast this with traditional lawyering where decisions are rooted in precedent and "the way it's always been done". O-Shaped Lawyers are not constrained by precedent but are ready to explore, learn and find solutions.


  • 4. Be Optimistic

O-Shaped Lawyers love to take ownership and be accountable for their work. They understand the context in which they are advising and how their advice supports the objectives of their customers. They will not want to be viewed as "just the lawyer" but will be keen to take themselves out of their comfort zone and play a central role in the progress of any transaction which will make responsible for areas that are not purely legal.


  • 5. Take Ownership

O-Shaped Lawyers work collaboratively with their customers to find reasons why a transaction should proceed, not identify dozens of reasons why it shouldn’t. Their positive outlook will enhance their reputation as a great business partner and, even when things might not go their way, they will be far more resilient and able to focus on the good things, not just the bad.


MINDSET OF O-SHAPED LAWYERS


The role of an O-shaped lawyer is to assist the business and clients for identifying opportunities and then capture those opportunities via legal initiatives.

Currently, the lawyer just uses instruments of the law such as statutes and case law as a tool to solve commercial issues.

In the future, it’ll be someone that understands the commercial world, their client’s business and industry, its opportunities, restriction and its complexities and merge that with already existing legal knowledge.


HOW TO EXEMPLIFY AN O-SHAPED LAWYER

  1. Be a problem solver.

  2. Embark on continuous learning.

  3. Provide feedback to both your client and bosses at work.

  4. Have the Courage to challenge clients’ expectations to say what’s tenable and what isn’t.

  5. Develop Emotional Intelligence. EQ is an added advantage to the long list of skills an O shaped lawyer needs.

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