A kookaburra chick leaves the nest about 36 days after it hatches*. For the next two months, its parents continue to feed it, teach it hunting skills, help it navigate the environment, and show it how to communicate – raucously. A mature kookaburra stays close to its parents for several years, helping defend territory and rear younger siblings. These birds thrive because of skills transfer, as well as collaboration, adaptability and strong support networks.
By now you will see where we are going with this analogy.
When weighing up whether you are “ready” to fly from the private practice or in-house nest and become a contract lawyer, you should honestly assess the skills you can offer to clients and those that you will need to develop. In doing so, think beyond your technical legal knowledge and experience and reflect on the generalist skills clients want. The good news is that your learning doesn’t stop when you walk out of your employer’s door. In fact, your professional development can actually accelerate with the right career move. For example, through a broad range of flexible lawyering experiences, Orbit lawyers rapidly develop critical technical and relationship skills. Lawyers in the Orbit “flock” also enjoy being part of a team that values collaboration and adaptability and provides mutual support.
Knowing and applying the law are base client requirements. Modern lawyers need to be able to understand their clients’ business drivers and the potential impact of their advice. More and more, clients are demanding todays’ lawyers are knowledgeable in the areas of commerciality, finance, technology and communication.
Commerciality will become increasingly important as automation technologies impact the way legal services are delivered. Commercially strong lawyers are able to problem-solve, project manage and undertake risk management. A strong value-add for clients is that Orbit lawyers are passionate about understanding a client’s business – that is the client’s individual business, how their industry operates and the commercial drivers of success. From Janet, one of our long standing Orbit lawyers: “Being able to work in-house with the client, you really are considered a business partner rather than a purely legal advisor. It really helps you think more commercially.”
As part of understanding business drivers, financial skills, such as being able to work with financial statements, are invaluable to clients. And financial awareness is particularly important for contracting lawyers – these skills apply to both client work and their own practices. As flexible lawyers they always need to consider budgets and pricing.
Lawyers need to be well-versed in technology and technological solutions. This includes basic skills like manipulating Excel and creating presentations in PowerPoint, but also extends to understanding machine learning or other AI technologies that help clients reduce costs and increase efficiencies.
Clients also highly value the ability to effectively and appropriately communicate in a timely way. While we are enjoying our kookaburra analogy, we’re not suggesting lawyers join the dawn chorus. However, clients don’t appreciate being surprised – they want to be told quickly about risks or opportunities, roadblocks, overruns and work-arounds. Clients want clear and succinct advice that meets their expectations.
Flexible lawyering, through the broad range of exposure it offers, can help you develop and hone these valuable skills faster.
Kookaburras are found across the vast eastern seaboard of Australia. They’ve also been introduced into south-west Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Part of their evolutionary success has been their ability to adapt to different environments.
Contracting lawyers need to be similarly versatile. Within the client environment, Orbit lawyers quickly adjust to working within new teams, sectors and organisational structures. They are open to working within new cultures and understand how to demonstrate their value within each organisation.
They also build rapport quickly with others and know how to get the best out of individuals and teams. One area that is particularly important, but often overlooked when lawyers itemise their experience, is their history of building cross-functional relationships within organisations. The experience of working alongside finance, IT, HR and technical experts (such as engineers or health science professionals) is extraordinarily valuable to in-house teams. That’s one of the reasons why we value candidate’s in-house and secondment experience so highly.
Like kookaburra families, we don’t leave our lawyers to fend for themselves. For lawyers, building solid professional skills is a career-long process. We support Orbit lawyers throughout their careers with us – with resources, training and development opportunities.
We have opportunities available for exceptional lawyers with 5+ PQE. You must be established as an ILP or sole practitioner, carry an unrestricted practising certificate and have PI insurance. Email or call Krystyna Conomos for a confidential conversation on how legal contracting can work for you.
Orbit HR Business Partner
Phone: +61 2 9210 6225
*Kookaburra facts from R. Strahan Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia (Angus & Robertson, 1994) and the Bird Care & Conservation Society South Australia Inc.