Ola joined Shoosmiths as a paralegal in the construction team and is now a trainee solicitor in Shoosmiths’ Birmingham office. Here she shares her top tips on giving your career a boost by getting to know your clients.
One of the key skills of a good solicitor is to think like a client. This is not something that you are likely to learn during your degree or LPC, but you will pick it up once you are in practice as a trainee (or potentially as a paralegal if you get the opportunity to work directly with clients).
There are a number of ways to improve your ability to think like a client, here I share my top three:
1. Go on a client secondment
This is probably the quickest way to learn. When you go on secondment to a client’s in-house legal team, you essentially become a client yourself and you can observe first-hand what clients want, how they think, and what their concerns are. It is important to remember that all clients are different and what is a concern to one client might not be relevant to another, but the basic principles are the same.
Not all trainees get the opportunity to go on secondment so if you do not get to or have not done a secondment, then don’t worry, your interaction with clients during your training contract will help.
2. Know your client
In order to think like a client, you need to know the client. You need to understand their business and be aware of the wider commercial standing of the business. If it is the first time you are working with the client – do your research or ask your supervisor questions. Review the client’s website to see what they do and who their competitors are. Simply, be interested! This is incredibly important, because it will help you in all pieces of work for the client such as reviewing documents, drafting documents, or giving a piece of advice. Really try to establish what matters to the client -why they ask you for advice and try to think about any possible consequences. Consider whether the client is commercially sophisticated? Or is it their first deal of that type or have they done hundreds of similar transactions?
Law and legal issues are often seen as a necessary evil or a hurdle to get over in order to finalise a transaction but they often come with risks. Clients are very rarely interested in the law, instead they need solicitors to offer a pragmatic, commercial advice tailored to their business. They need solutions to their problems and it is important to make sure that this is what you offer them.
3. Ask questions and listen to feedback
Even once you have got to know your client’s business, you know the main competitors, you think you know what the client wants and how they think, even then your work is not over. Clients often provide feedback even if it is not always obvious –you often need to read between the lines. This feedback will tell you if you really and truly understand your client’s needs and whether you do think like the client.
As a trainee or even a paralegal, you will be exposed to a variety of clients and business from various industries and walks of life. Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor if you can attend client meetings, networking events or lunches.
Meeting a client face to face might not always be possible for a junior, but do try and make sure you get the most out of every opportunity.
Learning to think like a client often comes with practice. The more you understand the area of law in which you practice and the more you know the client, the better you will become at thinking like a client.
For more advice on getting to know clients, read Amy’s blog post “How to think like a client”
If you’d like to apply for a summer vacation placement or training contract at Shoosmiths, click here.
For anything else you, you can contact the graduate recruitment team via twitter or email.