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Lorna Baldry

Lorna Baldry

Founder & CEO, Brightlink Learning

Since lockdown began, at Brightlink we’ve seen an increase in career planning and changing in the legal sector in Wales via our learning community. So, is it wise or even necessary to prepare for the worst whilst working and hoping for the best?

The idea of preparing for the worst is not necessarily something people do often – least of all when it comes to their career.

We’re usually either going where life takes us or working toward something we aspire to. We’ve been told that if we work hard and strive for excellence, success will come our way. This might still be true to a certain extent but there are no guarantees in life, and we are feeling that more acutely than ever in 2020.

Businesses are growing more and more cautious in the current economic climate as uncertainty continues to mount. In Wales, we have seen companies swinging between the extremes of either moving away from temporary and contract roles to a traditional, full-time permanent approach or taking the reverse direction, depending on the sector and specialism or niche.

In some areas of law there is good news for job seekers on the hunt for their next role. In others furlough continues or heralds redundancy. Employees might be facing pay freezes and having to change routes or specialism within the legal sector if they want a promotion or even just to retain their employment.

This is only the beginning of what is being seen as a ‘long-term trend’ with our clients reporting that work is now being either very positively or very negatively impacted by the pandemic and everything that comes with it.

There seems to be little in the mainstream, taking the middle road through changes or towards normality, whatever that means.

What’s changing?

There are some patterns in the changes people are making to their career plans, for example changing area of practice to an area perceived to be more in demand or to have more longevity, such as conveyancing. There are also some more drastic changes though, with some talented people leaving the legal sector altogether. There are also many who are seeking extra strings to their bow by dual qualifying or adding additional practice qualifications to their areas of expertise, expanding their skillset and experience. They’re hoping this will also improve their likelihood of retention in a current role or improve their employability as they move on.

The Westminster government recently came in for widespread criticism upon launching an ad campaign for re-skilling. Its intention and communication may well have been questionable but within the legal sector since March we have seen many people coming to the conclusion that they will feel safer if they re-skill or upskill. There are a number of ways we’re seeing these changes taking place:

  • Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers, already fully qualified, studying additional subjects to offer employers dual/ multiple specialisms.
  • Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers choosing to dual qualify as Solicitors as well.
  • Paralegals leaving the legal professional altogether.
  • Professionals from other sectors, such as education where the pandemic has been especially hard hitting, choosing to change career and start from the beginning within the legal profession.

As businesses in the legal sector in Wales how can we retain the best talent while we still have to stay safe and meet business needs?

  1. Be as transparent as you can with the whole team.

Share what’s happening, the requirements placed upon you by Welsh or Westminster government, the changing needs of your clients and how this impacts what you need and what you need to do as a team. Let your team contribute to and therefore take ownership of some decision making so they will really buy into the longevity and success of the business.

  1. If you would value additional skills or qualifications let your team know.

Even if you can’t afford to pay for it, if you think it would be useful in their future career advise them along those lines. You may be able to offer more development than you think, you can contact training providers and ask them how they can help you retain your team and keep them engaged, motivated and skilled. They may be able to offer 0% finance options and even some discounts or scholarships if you enter into a preferred training provider agreement with them.

  1. Learn together.

Take some time to share learning with and between your team. Stay in touch with those on furlough or working from home and make sure they know they’re valued and appreciated. When we began the Home Working Network in March it was incredible how many people told us their organisation’s leaders had not contacted them at any point just to say hello, ask how they were and if they needed anything. Those who have thrived and grown have been keeping in touch and making the most of technology and blended learning options to keep their team well and developing.

  1. Point team members you can’t keep with you in new directions.

If you have no choice but to let some team members go, this happens sometimes in business. Signpost team members you are losing to resources and people who can help them, excellent recruitment professionals like Sarah Castle at Yolk Recruitment, the Home Working Network from Brightlink, and the Legal News Wales community, for connecting and staying up to date and let them know that they shouldn’t lose confidence they still have a lot to offer.

Not only will you be doing the right thing, the kind thing, you’ll also be showing your remaining team members that you are an organisation they want to be a part of and to share positive perspective on whenever they have an opportunity.

Lorna Baldry

Lorna Baldry

Founder & CEO, Brightlink Learning

Lorna is Chief Executive of Brightlink Learning and is also a Director of the social enterprise and co-operative Restorative Change. Brightlink offers accredited online learning for lawyers and bespoke packages for whole organisations to support CILEx lawyer qualifications,  mental health and wellbeing, domestic abuse awareness and team line management, group, peer and self-supervision.