10 September 2019

Report reveals legal skills blind spot

Research reveals “fundamental disconnect” between skills set ideals and reality among solicitors.

There is a skills blind spot potentially blocking future-proofing of success by solicitors, according to the latest Bellwether report titled, ‘The Good Solicitor’s Skill Set’, published by LexisNexis UK.

Human skills

The global provider of information and analytics says 9 out of 10 solicitors agree that good business and human skills are important for success, but in practice, human skills are considered a higher priority. Of the 22 attributes put to the survey sample, 4 in 5 of the qualities identified by respondents as top priorities for success are human skills including common sense (89 percent), inspires trust (87 percent), willingness to listen (84 percent) and speaks plainly without jargon (81 percent). However, legal skills remain the number one skill for success, with 91 percent of the respondents naming the ability to identify the real problem and decipher what the client really wants. The only business skill that appears in the list of attributes – i.e. developing and retaining clients – occurs in sixth position by 81 percent of respondents. Clearly, while solicitors believe business skills to be of critical importance to success in principle, in fact it is a ‘nice to have’. Only 48 percent of respondents believe that the ability to generate business is a vital skill with 35 percent citing entrepreneurial skills as a priority. Substantially less than half of the survey sample (40 percent) think that service industry skills are important.

Blind spot

Jon Whittle, market development director, LexisNexis UK, commented “There’s a noticeable blind spot with regards to skills among solicitors. They understand, in the abstract, what is needed to be successful, but they are blind to their own failings and are potentially even reluctant to make adjustments in the way they approach legal service provision. With the legal market opening up to non-law firms and the changes in the SRA Handbook in November this year, resolutely closing the skills gap needs to become a priority for solicitors.” The full report is available here.