For those unfamiliar with the term “legal consultant”, they are individuals that essentially provide support to clients on legal strategy on a flexible basis. While they do not provide legal advice, having a legal background allows for a consultant to provide legal “business” perspective and greater value to clients.
The roles of a legal consultant can vary significantly. From catering to start-ups, SMEs, MNCs or law firms… the type of assignments are always unique. So what constitutes a “typical” experience? Below is a guide to the first ten days as a legal consultant starting a new assignment.
During the interview process, and in the lead up to starting, ensure that you have tried to get a feel for the culture of the workplace. Who you will be reporting to, which team you will sit in, and if possible, how they work. Legal consultants should be comfortable with flexible work practices, often working from home, but a more traditional workplace may not. Try to understand and/or set up these expectations in advance of walking into the workplace.
Day 1 to 5
As a legal consultant, you will have been hired for a specific task. It can be challenging walking into a new work environment, with set working practices that offer brand new experiences. But as a legal consultant, you will need to adapt to these challenges faster than a full-time employee. Here are some fundamental considerations to guide you through those first days:
- Plan: Quickly form an understanding of the end goal for the assignment, the deliverables, and potential challenges. Formulate a plan of attack and set up checks to ensure that you are on track to complete within deadline;
- Listen: One of the most useful skills for a legal consultant to develop is high emotional intelligence. People are creatures of habit, and you’re only coming in for a short time to support and advise the team. From day one, trying to understand the dynamics and work practices of the team is key to a seamless assignment;
- Stakeholders: Know the people in the business who you will interact with, get a feel for their level of experience, style of work and communication. Is the expectation that you’ll work independently? Or will you work closely with the team? Your role as a legal consultant is to adapt to the workings of the team. This doesn’t mean you throw out all your previous work practices, but you will need to be more flexible and adapt to how the business works.
- Resources: Consider what resources are available to you to assist you complete the goal of your assignment: people and information. Are there any restrictions? Is there anything you could do to limit the restrictions? Tap into your network! If you have a question, talk to other legal consultants and share knowledge.
You’re just over halfway through this assignment! So you next question should be – how are you tracking on your plan and its end goal? At this point, it’s time to sit down with your key contact and update them on the progress (if you haven’t been working with them closely already). Consider whether the assignment needs to be extended, or whether goalposts have changed.
Day 7 to 9
Deliver your deliverable! Don’t just wait until the last day of your assignment to finish the goals of your assignment. You’ll no doubt need time to sit down with your stakeholders and ensure they are happy with the work.
If your assignment hasn’t been extended, make sure the right people know what you’ve completed, how they will use it moving forward and importantly, where it is stored in the client’s document management system. Off-boarding is an essential part of your farewells to an organisation.
Being a successful legal consultant is more than just pumping out work. It’s about being adaptable and providing a real value add to the client. It is also about your own personal and professional growth in dealing with new and interesting challenges and becoming more perceptive in a wide variety of environments. It’s unique and quite different to starting as a new employee, and as a result requires quite a different set of skills
This post was originally published on the KorumLegal Forum.