What’s ‘upskilling’ and why should law firms and lawyers be taking notice?

What is ‘Upskilling’?

Like ‘furlough’, ‘zoombombing’ and ‘PPE’, ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ have been new words to come out of 2020. In the face of crisis, many businesses have found themselves needing to pivot – fast. Not only have we been learning new languages and new baking recipes during the pandemic, but we have also been learning how to navigate Teams and Zoom, how to adjust to our changing job roles, and how to retain a visible and professional profile in the remote workplace.

Put simply, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of continual learning. To survive (and thrive) in the new normal, we have had to adapt.

Why is ‘upskilling’ on the agenda for law firms right now?

Over recent years, a ‘skills gap’ between actual and required skills has emerged in UK businesses. This is driven by new technologies and digitisation. So-called ‘soft skills’ are also caught by this trend: critical thinking, collaboration, resilience, adaptability and communication. COVID-19 has thrown light onto the lack of such skills, and how they make businesses less agile, and ultimately poorer.

According to PwC’s report, Talent Trends 2019: Upskilling for a digital world, 79% of global CEOs say they’re ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about the availability of the right skillsets. Further, approximately 94% of today’s workforce (30.5 million UK workers) lack the complete range of skills they will need in 2030 to perform their jobs well. Upskilling these workers would bring a productivity uplift of 6-12%.

Law firms are no different to other businesses. They need to continually update the skillset of their workforce in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

You may be asking: what stops them from simply hiring more people who possess the skills they require? Upskilling or reskilling (i.e. investing in you) offers powerful benefits over hiring for skills.

  • Controlling salary costs. Employers must compete against each other when attracting new hires with premium skills. As a result, new recruits are paid on average 20% more than reskilled workers.
  • Avoiding onboarding requirements.
  • Boosting morale.
  • Retaining staff. A study conducted by LinkedIn found that 94% of employees would stay with a company for longer if there were training opportunities available. In the same study, 87% of millennials polled reported that development is important in a job, which is significant given that they are expected to reach 75% of the workforce by 2025.

So the business case is clear for investing in skills training. The Covid pandemic has simply brought added focus as staff adapt to new ways of working.

Taking control of your career and ‘upskilling’ yourself

Clearly, it’s in your firm’s interest to retain your talent; this saves them money and time. But don’t wait for your firm to work out what skills they want you to develop. Your priorities and your firm’s priorities may be related, but they are different. You want a rewarding career, a good quality of life, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are reaching your potential. Your firm primarily wants you to be productive. So, while they will invest in training, if you passively wait for them to give you the key to your personal priorities, you are likely to be disappointed. Training offered will be designed to deliver their business needs, and against an allocated budget. To achieve personal success, you must be an active learner. It’s up to you to evaluate your career goals, plot a roadmap to get you there, and fill in the training gaps.

It’s no secret that a lawyer who can present well raises their professional profile; a lawyer who can organise their time and delegate effectively is less stressed and more efficient; a lawyer who produces perfect first drafts reduces the time and cost of redrafting; and a lawyer who pays attention to client care attracts glowing reviews and more work. In short, a lawyer who invests in their training becomes indispensable to their firm. And when they move firms, they carry their success with them, rather than relying on external factors to bestow it.

Get ahead of the curve

While ‘upskilling’ is on the agenda it’s the perfect time to work out which skills you need to work on and then identify your options for developing them. This might include reading or asking for mentoring or coaching from a senior colleague, as well as finding courses or other training options. If you need funding, then arm yourself with the commercial knowledge to make a business case. You might find your firm is willing to pay but remember you may also have to invest your own time and money. This is ultimately about you. What do you want? Why? And how are you going to get there?

Whether it’s communication skills, managing difficult conversations, or legal project management that you think will give you the edge, now is the time to take the plunge.

If you’d like to discuss your professional development options, get in touch with us by emailing ask@KinchRobinson.com or calling 0114 273 8300.

About the Author

Emily Reed is an e-learning designer at Kinch Robinson. Developing our library of online e-learning courses specifically aimed at legal and claims professionals.