Position of Morals
"Publicity or, as we say, visibility is the main characteristic of a lawyer and, in fact, the essence of his demand" IGOR SVECHKAR, PARTNER AT ASTERS LAW FIRM, DRAWS ATTENTION TO
— What opportunities does the legal business provide lawyers with at the beginning of their careers?
— Identifying career development directions, one should consider general labor market trends, where generation Y (millennials) born in the eighties and early nineties, becomes the most numerous category. Generation Z is coming soon. Therefore, both the employers of modern lawyers and their clients should meet the expectations of corresponding generations. Consequently, modern lawyers should learn how to recognize and predict such expectations.
I have met many beginner lawyers in the last six months, such as members of the League of Students of the Ukrainian Bar Association, the Club of Future Partners, etc., and was pleasantly surprised when I learned that practically all young colleagues have already had a legal life and developed an active professional position. If they decide how to develop a career from scratch, there are more than enough options. They do not confine themselves to the classic paralegal position in a law firm. One can think outside the box, even with an eye on a job in a legal or other consulting firm. For example, pursue innovations, very fashionable in our time, with the intention of becoming Innovation Manager or immediately position yourself as a Knowledge Manager or a Professional Support Lawyer, you can become a Project Manager and administer legal projects (for example, there are such posts for large projects at Asters,).
— And what practices are in demand? Which specializations, figuratively saying, have a future?
— A highly-demanded specialization? The answer is simple: it is only lawyers who know "what to do with a neural network". Of course, it is not in our country, but Herman Gref from Sberbank of Russia. It is complicated and not so unequivocal in our country. Nevertheless, this is one of the trends. But first things first.
I cannot say that a particular specialization has some serious importance. If we talk about career building in a legal business, I would highlight three main sets of knowledge, skills and competencies which, in my opinion, are defining and laying a reliable foundation for a successful career in a law firm.
— What exactly do you regard as "must have?"
— First, it is the ability to "sell yourself" outside of the company and to be "visible". It is easy enough to sell yourself inside the company: irrespective of whether you are a paralegal or a partner, doing your job qualitatively, quickly and in large volumes, you can acquire a considerable reputation, the respect of colleagues and, to be sure, show quite a good rate of job growth inside a firm. This was sufficient to build a career a few years ago. But such abilities are no longer enough.
As long as the competition in the market increases, the lawyers that are in greatest demand will, in my opinion, be those, who can participate in a firm’s development not only thanks to work done perfectly (though this, of course, is also extremely important for retaining clients), but also thanks to the ability to bring a new business and increase goodwill.
The time of so-called brain surgeons passes — top-ranked specialists in their field and "home-stayers", who are recognized inside a firm and among few clients, who they have a chance to talk with from to time.
The time passes by of those lawyers who are too busy "to get on in the world" and build a brand and reputation in the external environment, among potential clients and in the professional community. As we say, visibility is the main characteristic of a lawyer and, in fact, the essence of his demand. Irrespective of the lawyer's level and position in a firm, he can be either "visible", or "invisible", and there is a wide variety of types and measurements of visibility. For example, in real or electronic space (Facebook, LinkedIn, specialist blogs, etc.). In the case of "visibility", the lawyer can rely on universal demand on the market, otherwise the circle of possibilities is, of course, much narrower. But this is not the most important thing. Nothing matters but the amount of "visibilities" of all the lawyers (and not only lawyers, but also marketing specialists and some other experts) of a firm makes up a huge part of the goodwill, success and, finally, capitalization of a firm. In many respects it defines the choice of this or that candidate by a firm during the selection process. I expect that the relative importance of visibility as an indicator of a lawyer’s demand will only grow with the development of information technology.
Secondly, I see a clear trend in the growth of importance of the "industrial" specialization, which might force out specialization that is more traditional for us in branches of law quite soon. Branch multidisciplinarity within a certain industry, such as pharmaceutics, agribusiness or transport, will be more preferable to specialization in anti-monopoly or labor law over time. In addition, younger practices and trends are developing actively, such as wealth management, "green" energy, cryptocurrencies, state aid. These and others niches, quite recently "exotic" ones, are already in great demand, and lawyers practicing in them will certainly be in demand.
As far as I'm concerned, the combination of competence of related fields of knowledge becomes the third component of demand — knowledge in economics (competition economics) is becoming increasingly important for an anti-monopoly lawyer, and for an IP/IT lawyer this is knowledge of computer science, etc.
And, of course, as I hinted at the start of our conversation, the most important characteristic is not what you do (the branch you practice in), and how you do it. Legal tech, algorithms, blockchain, artificial intelligence — all this will provide competitive advantages both in the legal market in general, and in the relevant labor market.
— Where can a lawyer prove himself in addition to the legal sphere?
— One can try to combine a legal education as a basis with other professions and fields of knowledge and, in so doing, gain a competitive advantage in another labor market: it is good for a lawyer to be an economist, and it is quite good for an economist to become a lawyer for a short time. In addition, alternative education platforms such as, for example, Legal High School founded by Legal Practice Publishing House, will become a very good addition for starting a career.
— And by way of conclusion of our interview, which career prospects do you believe can attract already established practicing lawyers?
— As to the careers and personal branding of more mature lawyers, it is worth noting that opportunities are also increasing, including some rather unfamiliar ones: you can start or join a legal tech project, go to work in Government apparatus (as the successful experience of many colleagues who are lawyers, who’ve qualified to work in the Supreme Court, been appointed to the Anti-Monopoly Committee, etc., demonstrates), become a corporate lawyer in a large company and, finally, you can return from there to the "classic" profession within a law firm, having earned invaluable experience and had the best of both worlds. I think such "professional diversification" of experienced lawyers will contribute to developing a personal brand and career in general.