Talent Strategies for the Legal Department of the Future.
How we think about talent needs to change. As increased use of technology becomes the norm, it is also noteworthy that many of the more ‘human’ qualities are what will define the search for talent in the future. As more and more tasks are handed over to automation, qualities such as empathy and judgement become premium in the market for talent. There are challenges for in-house legal teams when it comes to talent management: opportunities for upward progression may be limited by historically flat structures. For many general counsel, nurturing talent also comes with the realisation that the logical outcome of success may be the loss of that talent.
Increased globalisation and digitisation are changing employees’ relationships with their workplaces. Many general counsels now manage globally diverse teams; the logistics of doing this alone are challenging in themselves, let alone when you factor in ensuring that culturally diverse talent is nurtured in the right way. The increase in globalisation and digitisation is also affecting where and how talent works. This has both positive and negative ramifications. We can often choose where we work from and can be more in control of how we work; but is this also leading to a culture of being ‘always on’? Lawyers may often need to be responsive to the needs of other stakeholders, and general counsel must strike a balance between adding value for their stakeholders and safeguarding the wellbeing of their teams. Generational shifts in the workplace demographic are also changing expectations around work – particularly for the younger generations, who expect more flexibility and greater use of digitisation.
How success is defined also has repercussions for the type of talent that organisations can attract. The historical billable-hour formula, whereby more hours worked equals more money for law firms, can lead to a culture of overwork. This can lead to a mindset about what ‘good’ looks like that can lead to negative working practices even in in-house legal departments, where the billable hour is not a factor. As most in-house lawyers will have been trained at law firms, a mindset of more is better can endure.
The need for diverse talent is a also a compelling business imperative for future talent strategies linked to the need for different perspectives to drive creativity and innovation in business and in law. Legal teams are subject to the same business imperatives as other departments; the need to serve a global workforce; the need to increase digitisation and efficiency; and the need to attract more diverse talent. Moving forward all businesses and their legal teams will need talent strategies which blend the human and the digital, as well as the need for greater diversity. Too often, the narrative of the future of talent in the legal profession can seem like a dichotomy between technology and human skills whereas, in reality, it involves both. We also need to be wary of conversations around the future of the profession being determined by certain groups; we do not want to replicate the same lack of inclusivity which is too prevalent.
We also need the ability to truly think differently. Creativity is needed to come up with new ideas whereas innovation is the practical realisation of those ideas. What has often been missing from the legal profession is an understanding of the importance of a diverse range of perspectives, and of how to stimulate different ways of thinking and approaching problems – in other words, creativity. Creativity is crucial if innovation is to be more than just a buzzword. In many in-house teams, creativity is being hampered by challenges such as budgetary and personnel constraints. However, it is important to remember that in its most traditional form, in the arts, creativity is often similarly bounded. Even with unlimited resources, trying to follow a stage direction such as that at the end of Euripides’ Medea, where the titular heroine escapes by ascending into the sky in a chariot drawn by dragons sent by sun god Helios, would present some challenges; but in a student production, with a shoestring budget, there is need for some very creative thinking! In his book on animation studio Pixar, Creativity Inc, co-founder Ed Catmull likewise confirms that necessity can literally be the mother of invention; some of the studio’s best work was produced under the most challenging conditions. So just because you do not have unbounded time or unbounded resources, maybe necessity is the best mother of invention.
What will be crucial is having an approach to talent which ensure your legal team has a range of different perspectives, which will only be possible with true diversity of experience.
That is where, for all businesses, the key to the future of talent not just legal talent lies.
Dr Catherine McGregor MCMI ChMC
Consulting, Thought Leadership, Training
+44 (0) 7753 196264