Think differently to access the best talent
With the Law Society Gazette reporting this week on a buoyant legal talent market as the UK navigates the world of work post-lockdown, we at Obelisk Support are increasingly being asked by our clients how they can use flexible resourcing to keep ahead of their growing workload. So what’s the secret to getting the best results from working with flexible legal consultants? And why is thinking flexibly about more than just short-term contracts?
“When I started Obelisk Support, I had a vision of a world of legal work that wasn’t constrained by the artificial barriers created by office life – such as hours and location. Instead, I saw that leveraging technology and trust could make these constructs obsolete and unlock access to all the talent in our industry.”
The GIFT of flexible resourcing
Tapping into the talent of lawyers who want to work as flexible legal consultants gives busy legal teams fast and efficient access to new skills and extra resource. Having helped legal teams build their ideal flexible solution for over ten years, we have a clear understanding of the ingredients that make such an engagement go well. We call it the GIFT of flexible work:
Start by defining your goals
Let’s look at each of these elements in more detail. Goals are the obvious starting point. You have work that needs to happen, deadlines to meet and peaks in demand to manage. Sometimes your goals are easy to define and communicate. They may already be part of someone’s job description and you are looking for extra help while that person takes leave, for example. In other situations you might need to invest some time in detailing:
- What exactly you are expecting from your flexible resource?
- How will work flow to them?
- What tools, system access, resources and information will they need access to?
- What are the concrete deliverables and deadlines?
An experienced consultant won’t need war and peace, but investing some time in putting together a headline brief will help them start delivering for you faster – and make it easier for colleagues in your team to understand their remit. Read more here about how our client Ocado approach this process.
Set your flexible talent up to succeed
The other area it’s worth giving some consideration to upfront is induction. You may have the luxury of tapping into established processes and support from your organisation’s IT and HR teams. If not, here’s our checklist of the basics:
- Technology – does your consultant have access to all the systems they need?
- Stakeholders – do you need to make any introductions?
- Processes – are your approval processes clear? Do you have playbooks to share?
- Communication – what’s your preferred style and method of communication?
- Business context – do you need to signpost background information, for example on your company intranet?
- Etiquette – do you prefer them to be available on messenger tools? Are there certain days that it’s better to be in the office if possible? Are there team meetings or huddles that they should attend?
Again, an experienced consultant will be resourceful and self-sufficient, so they won’t need excessive amounts of information. However, spending some time making sure the basics are in place from Day 1 means that they will be able to deliver your legal work more quickly.
Don’t be afraid of honest feedback
Once an engagement is underway and the work starts flowing, it’s important to share feedback. Every legal consultant will want to know how they are getting on and if there are any areas for improvement. The advantage of working with a provider like Obelisk is that we can help with delivering feedback and coaching if necessary. Always share feedback as quickly as possible, both positive and negative. As far as you can, always make sure that feedback is:
- Timely – if something is not as you expect, air your concerns straight away
- Specific – share detailed examples
- Actionable – share what good looks like and the steps to get there.
Also, make some time when you can to ask for feedback from your consultant. Professional legal consultants have a bank of experience you can draw on and can give you access to a different perspective on your work.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Finally, think about teamwork. Whilst a legal consultant may by their nature be a temporary collaborator, it’s still important to consider how they will be working alongside your permanent team. Be clear about roles and responsibilities from the outset. Nominate a member of your team to be a “buddy” and help your consultant settle in. Invite the consultant to team meetings where it is necessary and useful, and encourage them to contribute if they have ideas or previous experiences that could be relevant. It’s particularly important to pay attention to the team dynamic when you’re working remotely. It’s easy for mis-apprehensions or confusion to creep in when contact is reduced, so make sure your communications are clear.
Maximise the flex advantage for your team
Challenge yourself to think as creatively as you can about the work you need to deliver and the best way to resource it. Sometimes this is to bundle work up into a role, either full or part-time, for one person. That’s not the only solution though. Once you’re clear about your goals, you can start to think more widely. For example, for our client CDC, Obelisk Support has created a dedicated team of legal consultants and paralegal resource. This has become “a natural extension of the in-house team”, Andy Wallace, Deputy Chief Legal Officer at CDC told us, “We’re really impressed by how quickly they’ve been able to turn work around without compromising on quality.” Working this way doesn’t only benefit you. It’s a fantastic way for those with limited availability to stay in their legal career, helping to keep talent in the legal industry.
Tapping into the skills, experience and energy of the freelance legal community is the easiest way to increase your talent advantage. Whether you are working with a provider such as ourselves or running contracts directly, we hope you find our GIFT a useful tool to optimise how you use flexible resources in your legal team.