May 21, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

Why does the legal industry need O Shaped Lawyers?

May 21, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

The legal industry is undergoing a seismic shift. Alternative legal service providers and legal tech are challenging the business model of private practice firms. To adapt to these changes, the legal sector needs a new generation of lawyers: O Shaped Lawyers.

What is an O Shaped Lawyer?

The O Shaped Lawyer Programme was launched in 2019. It seeks to fundamentally change the formation and development of lawyers.

The programme seeks to cultivate O Shaped Lawyers, these are lawyers who are more rounded or more ‘O’. They are human-centric and emotionally intelligent lawyers who are not just fluent in the law, but also their client’s businesses.

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The legal industry revolution

The legal industry is undergoing a radical shift. The explosion of legal tech and alternative legal service providers (ALSP) is challenging the sanctity of private practice firms. These low-cost, convenient solutions are increasingly seen as alternatives to private practice law firms. Revenues for ALSPs grew by 27% between 2015 and 2017, from $8.4 billion to $10.7 billion.

In addition, the re-emergence of the Big 4 accountancy firms in the legal sector – following the 2008 financial crisis – threatens to cannibalise private practice firms’ market share. By way of example, PwC is now home to 3,700 legal professionals in 90 countries, whilst KPMG boasts 2,700 legal professionals in 80 countries. That is bigger than many international law firms. What’s more, these accounting firms offer an array of complementary business services, from auditing and consultancy work, through to financing and tax work.

These trends are putting increasing pressure on law firms to adapt. And this is where the O Shaped Lawyer comes in.

In a market saturated with alternatives, law firms – and lawyers – can no longer rely on providing excellent legal analysis. Clients are seeking excellent commercial advice too.

This means a fluency in law and business is essential. Lawyers need to intimately understand their clients’ businesses, creating value through legal initiatives.

Reforming the education system

At the heart of this need for change is the education system. The O Shaped movement seeks to radically reform the education system to prepare the lawyers of tomorrow, not yesterday.

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) was introduced in 1993. However, while the legal industry has undergone seismic shifts over the past 30 years, the LPC has not. This has led to the overhaul of the LPC and the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). This new route to qualification requires aspiring solicitors to complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE) and to pass two sets of exams, SQE1 and SQE2.

Starting in September 2021, the SQE will gradually replace the LPC as the gateway into a career as a solicitor. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) says the SQE will create a consistent, high standard of entry into the profession.

Whilst the SRA has come under fire for allegedly diluting the quality of legal training, the O Shaped Lawyer group sees the introduction of the SQE as a positive step to making a long-lasting change to the education system.

The group says the SQE marks a shift in the way law is taught, from academic excellence to a broader skill set. This is an opportunity to move away from focusing purely on the law, and to see law in its broader context.

The group sees the lawyers of the future as business advisers, as well as legal advisers. Legal knowledge is the minimum. It is everything a lawyer does above and beyond that which creates exceptional service.

O Shaped Lawyer course

As part of its efforts to reform the education system, the O Shaped Lawyer group has teamed up with The University of Law to produce the first-ever O Shaped Lawyer course.

Currently available as an elective on ULaw’s professional skills course (PSC), the one-day course teaches delegates about one of the three key skills of an O Shaped Lawyer: building relationships.

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O Shaped Lawyer