Do you ever feel that we’re just a little bit introspective within legal? We can learn a lot from others in legal, but diversity is said to breed creativity. And at Crafty Counsel, we agree. That’s why we went beyond legal to ask ‘what can we learn?’.

[Related content: ‘Lawyers – Consider Expanding Your Multidisciplinary Teams’ from Bloomberg Law]

‘Lessons Beyond Legal’ asks professionals, who don’t practice law or who have spent significant time in other fields, what insights they have for lawyers. Ahead of the release of season two this month, we’ve shared three of the learnings from season one of ‘Lessons Beyond Legal’ for you to catch up on.

This article features thoughts and learnings from:

  • Leanne Bentley, Operations Director at Bluebird Support Services, who has spent over 30 years in document production and as a secretary at law firms in London.
  • Shaz Aziz, Director of Client Solutions and Engagement at Neota Logic, and ex-private practice lawyer.
  • Ivy Wong, who left an Associate role at a magic circle firm (Allen & Overy) and moved to Lexoo as an intern. She’s now a Product Manager on HighQ at Thomson Reuters.
  • Helen Burness, Director of Saltmash Marketing, shares why lawyers in firms should pay attention to marketeers.
  • Dr. Imogen Staveley, GP and Deputy Chair of Warwickshire North Clinical Commissioning Group shares her lessons from a career in medicine which could be relevant for the legal industry.

1. Reach out and ask for help.

As perfectionists, lawyers have difficulty delegating or asking for help. For fear of it not being perfect, lawyers take on everything themselves. However, Leanne Bentley notes how important it is for lawyers to learn how to ask for help. Trust others – you don’t have to manage everything yourself.

Lawyers saying ‘I don’t know” are three words missing from the lexicon. 

Leanne Bentley

2. Respect other professionals

Once you’ve mastered the art of asking for help, you have to give up some control to trust the judgement and expertise of other professionals. Everyone has a role to play in a business with their own skills – some of which you might not have. Understand the value in those skills, and treat them other professionals with the respect they deserve.

For instance, Helen Burness discusses this in relation to marketing. In which she notes marketing needs to be viewed as part of the team, and valuable commercial partner, rather than the legacy view of a cost centre. Marketing needs lawyers to work with them as a team to deliver strategy, provide technical expertise for content and work as brand advocates.

Leanne Bentley shares lessons for lawyers.

3. Discover your interests and path

In legal, there is one career path which is spotlighted more than others. It’s difficult to get away from the perception of the law firm ‘partner track’ as the frame for what is ‘normal’. However, the legal world has so many alternative routes and roles to offer.

Shaz Aziz and Ivy Wong both spoke about the need to spend time pursuing your own interests to understand what makes you tick. For instance, if you’re interested in technology, explore that more. Know what you enjoy, and don’t enjoy, and use that to discover where you fit in legal.

Ivy Wong shares her lessons for other lawyers.

4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

As we mentioned above, lawyers are perfectionists. There’s a culture that exists in which mistakes are not a possibility. We’ve spoken before about creating a culture where mistakes become learning opportunities which are openly shared.

As humans, we will make mistakes and being a lawyer doesn’t exclude you from that. Plus, if you’re afraid to make mistakes, then the chances are that you’ll make more. There needs to be a cultural shift endorsed by organisations, but lawyers can also change how they view mistakes.

Similarly, Dr. Imogen Staveley discusses the power of checklists as something which lawyers could learn from. For instance, checklists don’t take away from the immense technical skill needed by surgeons, but they do help to minimise the risk of mistakes. In her interview, Imogen discusses the development of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist which famously formed the jumping off point for Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto.

There are so many lessons which we can apply to our careers in legal when we look beyond ourselves. We have to step outside our own world to continue personally learning and growing, but also improving the legal industry.