Marcus Leese of Ogier explains a typical day for a lawyer in private practice, including the career progression and changes along the way, as well as what it takes to be successful.
Date: Dec 2011
The different elements that make up any particular day, he explained, include specific client work, ranging from drafting documents to drafting advice to conference calls.
In addition, most days will inevitably involve some degree of visiting clients, added Leese, either in their office or in his. This might be, for example, to understand what’s happening in their business and what they are interested in.
At the same time, he said, a typical day would be incomplete without some degree of management of the business, with meetings regarding human resources, business development and internal matters.
A further element of Leese’s typical day is interaction with staff and members of his team. So he spends some of his day working with his associate lawyers, giving them advice and guidance on matters they are working on together.
Changing role of a lawyer in private practice
For a lawyer in private practice, Leese said the role develops and changes very noticeably as the typical career path evolves from being a graduate lawyer, through to associate and then senior associate, and then ultimately becoming a partner.
First, he explained, is the nature of what they do each day. As a junior lawyer, for example, the main focus is client work. As they become more senior and more experienced, they will spend more time on business development and with clients, often on non-transaction matters.
And as they get yet more senior, Leese said they become more involved in the management and supervision of the business.
In addition, more junior lawyers, by definition, have a lot more to learn, so a large part of their work is a mixture of providing advice to clients but also learning while working. While this never stops, it becomes less as they get more senior.
Leese also said that a distinction when getting more senior is being more closely involved with the totality of a transaction. So from working on a small part of a much larger piece of work as a more junior lawyer, those with more experience can sit back and see the totality of the transaction.
A final and important area of change when becoming more experienced is that the supervision, guidance and monitoring of junior lawyers becomes a far more important part of the role, he added.
Required skills and attributes
According to Leese, a private-practice lawyer needs several things to be successful. First, he explained, is an understanding of the law, and one which grows and develops over time, both as law develops and as the lawyer gets more experienced in their career.
Secondly, while technical knowledge of black-letter law is necessary, Leese said it is also vital to understand the commercial and practical implications and applications of technical details, and in a way that is genuinely useful to clients
Thirdly, it is important for a private-practice lawyer to genuinely like and be interested in other people, added Leese.
Whether they are clients, people on the other side of a transaction, or colleagues and other lawyers, he said that the people a lawyer meets are inevitably diverse, so having an interest in people and developing an understanding of them, including being able to read them well, for example in meetings, are important skills.