Attending the careers panel on construction law last semester, I was struck by the words of White and Case partner, Josh Sgro. “Anyone can give legal advice,” Sgro said, adjusting in his chair. Lawyers must not only be legal problem solvers, but also creative and strategic thinkers, confident in navigating the changing demands of their clients. Sgro’s observations are particularly illuminating in light of what the FLIP (The Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession) Report has called a “tidal wave of innovation and change washing through the legal profession.”
These observations are also important to law students, as future legal professionals. In order to navigate disruption and keep pace with rapid changes in technology and service delivery, we will have to do things more quickly, effectively and for a lower cost.
Why you should try consulting
There are plenty of opportunities in law school to become an adept and well-rounded problem solver. Consulting provides a fantastic opportunity to work on some of the most pressing challenges facing both private and non-profit clients. The emphasis here is on collaboration, diversity and team-focused problem solving. Consultants are able to bring their own ideas, knowledge and experience to the team in order to develop considered and robust solutions for clients.
This is why I have taken on a team leadership role with 180 Degrees Consulting, the world’s largest non-profit consulting group. Our mission is to provide pro bono consulting to non-profits in order to improve their operational efficiency and enhance their social impact.
Why you should think beyond “only legal experience”
I’ve had so many people tell me consulting is “not law.” And you know what? They’re absolutely right. Consulting aims to solve a problem from a variety of perspectives, rather than solely from a legal perspective. In fact, this is where the value of consulting lies for law students. The challenges facing the future of the legal profession do not fit into a neat, one-page hypothetical. They can’t be perfectly summarised in a table, or captured in colour-coded notes. No, not even that brief to counsel you spent your weekend working on, or your sixth straight day of document review, will be enough to equip you for these challenges.
In order to be adept and dynamic leaders in the legal profession, we’ll have to think outside the narrow remit of the law. Our ability to collaborate not only with legal professionals, but with people well and truly outside the profession, will be vital to legal innovation in the future. For example, the Supreme Court of Victoria has engaged Telstra and Microsoft in order to create a new cloud system from scratch and remodel its case management system. It is clear that now more than ever, the legal profession must engage with new ways of doing and thinking.
Consulting with 180 Degrees has equipped me with the skills to solve tough issues in a structured way, alongside people who often think very differently from myself. Learning how to synthesise the ideas of different people into a coherent strategy is a learned skill, and not without its challenges. Teamwork, like any other skill, needs practice and refinement. I’ve certainly become more attuned to how individuals operate best within a team, and how to ensure a group is more than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, however, the experience of working closely with a real client and other consultants has been one of the most useful learning experiences that I’ve pursued as a student. By learning to manage and lead a team, I’ve also learned how to be a more confident and resilient group member in a professional environment.
Most importantly, consulting has deepened my skill set by allowing me to think critically and creatively about tough problems. These skills are not mutually exclusive with the law – they are, and will continue to be, vital to change management and innovation in the future.
Semester two applications for 180 Degrees Consulting are now open. I’d highly encourage you to give consulting a go, even if you are new. All levels of experience are welcome.