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Inch wide, mile deep mentality: Why specialising is a good move for your legal career?
I read an article this week in the Recruiter magazine which observed that recruitment companies have had to narrow their focus in order to survive the economic recession. Back in the 1990’s large recruitment business with a multi-discipline approach thrived; clients could be serviced with a one stop shop for all their HR, IT, legal and accountancy recruitment needs. Many of these former giants have fallen away to more niche recruitment agencies. BCL Legal as a business had to change in 2008 in order to survive – moving away from a focus split by geographic regions to one specialised in specific sectors. At BCL an “inch wide, mile deep mentality” thrives – covering a small area but drilling down to really understand your clients’ business and your candidate’s needs.
As I was reading this article I was thinking how this could also apply to the legal field. I am often asked by newly qualified solicitors as to whether it is too early to specialise after qualification or whether taking a niche role will close doors later down the line. My thinking is that an “inch wide, mile deep” legal move is a good one and that in an ever changing market place having a USP and carving a niche for yourself will raise your market worth. As we all know recent changes to legal aid funding and the Jackson reforms has hit the traditional law firm on the high street. Moving forwards there will be fewer opportunities for general practitioners and fewer hires made for people with broad backgrounds. The firms that will grow and thrive will be the ones that manage to offer specialists services under a unifying brand. Take the top defendant insurance practices in Birmingham, they all offer a wide range of services but they have lawyers who specialise in one area whether that be large loss, subrogated recovery, industrial disease or insurance fraud.
Obviously picking a specialism that is on the decline would be ill advised but there is no doubt about it, differentiation in the current market means employability.
Whatever path you choose there will always be transferable skills that you can demonstrate further down the line should you wish to change and specialise into a new sector. We are currently advising a pension lawyer who is just about to attend a banking litigation interview and vary rarely do I place a fraud lawyer into an insurance fraud role. Being able to communicate the synergy between your current role and the role you are interviewing for is a key interview skill no matter what your background.
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