On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Professional Support Lawyers: All You Need to Know
The demand for Professional Support Lawyers (PSL) in legal firms across the globe has steadily increased over the past seven years, despite once being perceived as a "dead-end" career path. The role has become a vital component of a legal team and a desirable career move for those wishing to remain in the legal sector without the pressure that comes with working as a fee-earning lawyer. Tasks can vary from researching changes in precedent and legislation to business strategy and management. Generally, the role has become much more established in the last decade with increasing opportunities to develop within the role as well as the business development that firms gain from having a PSL, or multiple PSLs, in their team.
Specifics Of The Role
Knowledge management has grown in importance in the legal industry. In addition, the rapid increase in online research tools requires tech-savvy individuals to keep fee-earning lawyers up to date with changes to the law and ensure the firm does not fall behind competitors in this regard. Many assume the role is limited to the task of researching black letter law. However, this is not the case in modern-day PSL roles. Naturally, assigned tasks may vary from firm to firm and by experience level, but can include:
- Legal Research – keeping up to date with precedent and legislation as well as communicating any changes. A PSL may also deliver training to fee-earning lawyers on changes to the law.
- Marketing and Business Development – contributing to the growth of the business through social media expansion or press releases.
- Business Strategy and Management – improving business operations, procedures, and knowledge management.
The salary also varies from firm to firm, but due to less responsibility and often fewer working hours than fee-earners, a PSL may earn 5-20% less than fee-earners.
Career Progression In a PSL Role
Many people make a career change to further their career in a specific industry. Those who hold traditional views of the legal industry may believe that a fee-earner moving into a PSL role is a step back in career progression, however, this is no longer the case. In fact, a PSL role can be extremely desirable to working parents as it offers fewer hours, the ability to work part-time and have weekends off. The role is not client-driven, which allows for more flexibility and an excellent work-life balance. Furthermore, it is an excellent way for those who are no longer fulfilled by practicing law to revitalise their knowledge of black letter law.
In addition, this role is a fine opportunity for prospective lawyers or practicing lawyers who have qualified in the last 5 years to develop their legal knowledge, gain practical experience supporting fee-earning lawyers and gain insight into working in the legal industry. Whether or not those in this role intend to stay in the legal industry, relevant practical skills can be gained from the marketing, training, strategy and business development aspects of being a PSL. Therefore, a PSL role should not be overlooked by those seeking a legal role nor by employers.
How To Get Into a PSL Role
The all-important question to answer now is how one may get into a PSL role and the requirements for the job. Firstly, a good academic background is desirable. This not only demonstrates your excellent legal knowledge but also demonstrates commitment, organisational skills and research skills. Secondly, some experience of working in the legal industry is preferable. Again, this may vary from firm to firm as some may prefer a candidate to be fully qualified and also hold post qualification experience. This is so candidates have an awareness of the requirements of fee-earning lawyers and the pressure they are under in order to better understand the role and the responsibilities a PSL faces. Some firms may be more lenient with their requirements.
The Legists Career Search Engine is a great online resource with a ‘Professional Support Lawyer’ category. This will allow you to find a PSL role that is right for you and to find out more information about the requirements of a PSL role.
By Zoe Morrison