TLAMPARALEGALS AND REFORMING THE GIG ECONOMY

POSTED BY EDWARD ON 15TH FEBRUARY 2017

From fine food and travel to accommodation and taxis, disruptive technology and services are changing our patterns of consumption. Traditional career routes are vanishing with them, to be replaced by “the gig economy”.  Artificial intelligence, distance and flexible working are already transforming the legal market, and one of the biggest losers could be entry level legal professionals.

Tlam is innovating in this space by creating Tlam Paralegals for Law Firms and the Commercial Awareness in Practice (CAP) programme for Law Graduates – two opportunities that we think graduates and law firms should be part of.

“We can see a desperate need for support that is ‘office ready’,

realistic, disciplined and determined to make a difference.”

The gig economy holds huge opportunities for law firms, but also aspiring lawyers who seek to learn the trade properly before making their mark.  The gig economy winners so far have solved the dilemma of finding trustworthy ‘sub-contractors’ for what may be short term engagements with Uber and Amazon’s star rating schemes. However, they face class action suits across the globe driven by a flaky definition of employment. Writing in The Guardian, NYU Business School Professor, Arun Sundararajan, commented on how these new business models offer greater freedom for employees, but also widen the opportunity for a privileged few to exploit the rest.

The paralegal labour market has been part of the gig economy for many years. Law graduates may spend years as a paralegal for different firms. Only the lucky few make the transition from paralegal to trainee.  At best it is a waiting game, with little in the way of either income or hope to show for years of study. There has been some reform over the years; new professional institutes and reinvigorated training pathways are helping budding lawyers to find their feet in the profession.

However, the market factors driving the legal gig economy threaten these training opportunities. Legal services are becoming more commoditised and it is now easier than ever before for consumers to find free legal information. Competition is ramping up in areas such as conveyancing and contract drafting as new technologies have been introduced. Litigants are also under pressure to cut fees in the face of new court mechanisms such as precedent H. With all these factors considered, it is no surprise that there is downward pressure on legal fees.

The inevitable pressure on costs is shrinking meaningful investment in training at graduate entry. This means that gig economic behaviour amongst firms is likely to expand.

However, legal services are a great deal more complex than taxi rides or discount clothing. In a market characterised by oversupply, the firms that win in the future will be those that win the public’s trust. This is reflected in those they employ. Scaling up at short notice presents the problem of how to ensure they are hiring a competent legal mind with a good fit for the job. Whilst employment agencies can fill the gap, they typically charge a fortune, adding no value and often making little effort to achieve a proper match.  As firms turn to recruitment agencies, the labour market is becoming increasingly dynamic but there is little incentive for mid-size firms to train their own from the start.

The larger firms are winners in this market.  The badges of all the magic circle firms are on most of the Russell group law societies.  Student law society presidents promise to do more for students interested in non-corporate law, but it is a difficult task to achieve.

There are many small to mid-size firms doing a fascinating range of work from alternative investments, corporate and international trade to civil litigation and family law. They are great places to work.

In 2016 there were a record number of legal start-ups globally.

Thanks to new disruptive technologies and business models, some of these new firms will grow exponentially and may be advancing on the market share previously held by the top 100. However, these are the firms that shun the trainee market and struggle with finding and keeping talented legal brains. With that considered, how then do you break through?

For Law Firms: Tlam Paralegals

There is a strong demand for paralegals with hybrid skill-sets in mid-size and new firms. Tlam Paralegals aims to fulfil this skills gap. We train highly qualified law graduates to bring enviable quality experience to our clients.

So far all the running has been made by graduates with starry academic records.  Our experience in the field tells us there is an appetite for qualities and skill sets which are sometimes harder to spot:

  • Technological literacy;
  • Marketing;
  • Business management; and importantly
  • Financial literacy.

Tlam has been in the outsourcing business for nearly 10 years serving law firms up and down the country.  We have got to know the innermost thoughts of partners on how to prosper in the turbulence of the law market. We know there is a desperate need for support that is “office ready”, realistic, disciplined and determined to make a difference. 

We have piloted a model where we send out paralegals with lateral skill sets and knowledge in areas such as financial management, data architecture and marketing. The training is partly done in our offices, building and maintaining the financial architecture for our outsourced firms and partly through our network of recently retired solicitors offering valuable mentoring.

Meanwhile, our own recruitment efforts have clearly demonstrated the availability of talent in the huge pool of law finalists. Traditionally the challenge taken on by firms is to identify the law graduates that have commercial promise. We are transforming graduates with promising legal brains into commercially astute, legal business-people.

For Law Graduates: The Commercial Awareness in Practice (CAP) Programme

The CAP programme based in our offices in Gloucestershire and London gives candidates the platform to combine legal experience with Tlam Paralegals, alongside our financial management and innovation projects within Tlam. We will also be offering a new internship for 2017, providing a platform to learn some financial management skills in the summer.

Join Our Reform Agenda
Graduates who work with us know they will have a real advantage in the legal labour market.
Employers know they can trust us to select and deliver the very best support for whatever task they have.

Get in touch and join us on our reform agenda.