Ten hours, or ten points. That’s how much continuing legal education lawyers are required to reach each year. But if you’re working as a contract lawyer, rather than as part of an in-house team or in private practice, how do you make sure that you have the opportunity to continue to learn, to meet your formal professional obligations and to help build your practice?
Lawyers ask us a lot of questions about the opportunities they can expect when they move from their in-house or private practice roles to join Orbit as contract lawyers. Many of those questions are obvious, such as how many client engagements they’ll have, how they will price their work, where they will be working, and who they’ll be working with. It’s normally during our second conversation that they raise personal and professional development issues and ask how they’ll keep up-to-date with developments in their field, how they will get advice from a senior practitioner in approaching a particular problem, how they will be able to continue to build their ‘softer’ skills, and whether they will get opportunities to mentor and to be mentored.
CPD requirements shouldn’t be viewed as “just ticking the box”. You should access opportunities for learning and development through formal CPD programs, such as those run by your local Law Society or law professional bodies. It’s best to find courses that really interest you and expand your knowledge base.
For contract lawyers especially, learning and development also presents an opportunity to connect with the wider legal community.
This is why Orbit lawyers have access to Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s CDP program. Through it, they have the opportunity to learn and train alongside their private practice colleagues, as well as many of Corrs’ in-house legal counsel clients.
Another concern that is commonly raised by new candidates is what they would do if they needed senior advice and guidance. We get it: leaving an environment where there is partner or GC oversight can be daunting. The best advice we can give is to nurture your relationships and ask for help when you need it.
Orbit lawyers are never left to flounder. When Orbit lawyers go on assignment with our clients, we ensure they are supported by Corrs partners. These partners can provide over the phone ad hoc advice on how to approach a legal issue and even how to best navigate a new team or role.
We’ve found our clients’ in-house teams treat Orbit lawyers as colleagues and are very happy to work as a team on trickier issues.
Everyone knows that they need to be pro-active about their career development and seek out opportunities to learn from others – particularly to build the interpersonal, networking and business-development skills that are vital to a sustainable practice. Another great way of doing this is through a mentoring program, where a more senior member of the profession supports a lawyer with their professional growth and development. This one-on-one dialogue can be incredibly rewarding for both individuals – exchanging support and guidance in how to make both every-day and career-defining professional decisions, and creating opportunities to be challenged by new thinking. A good mentoring relationship shouldn’t be looked on as advice delivered one-way.
When we’ve spoken with Orbit lawyers about what they are looking for in their mentoring relationships, it is that opportunity to sit down and have an informal, yet structured, conversation. It’s not just the outcome of the conversation they find valuable. It’s also the thinking that they need to do beforehand to focus on the issues and the possible resolution. It’s how they respond to being challenged in areas that they thought were ‘safe ground’. What surprised us was that many of the mentors in demand are not lawyers. Many of the issues that lawyers face are not isolated to the legal profession, including gaining support in making career decisions, navigating inter-personal relationships and developing business and professional goals and outcomes. The support for these issues can come from a wide range of mentors within the business world.
We are big believers in the value mentors play in a lawyer’s career path – whether the program is formal or informal.
For those moving into contract legal work, it’s incredibly valuable to be able to talk through the personal, professional and client approaches that will determine your success outside the formal structures of private firms and in-house teams. We can provide access to someone who has already made that transition to talk to about how to make a success of this career move. Our lawyers are thirsty learners, generous with their skills and knowledge, and have a strong desire for continuous improvement.
And if you’re looking for something more formal we recommend the Association of Corporate Counsel Mentoring Program, which Orbit proudly sponsors.
There’s a lot of support that you can receive as a contract lawyer. You will still be linked with your professional colleagues and it will be easy to fulfil your practice requirements. As you make the move into working as a contract lawyer, we will also encourage you to think about what additional support you might need, as well as what you can do to help others.
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 Greg for a confidential conversation on how legal contracting can work for you.
National Talent Manager
Phone: +61 3 9672 3187