Consulting opens up to a new generation
By Marie Kirby, Head of Recruitment, Peerpoint by Allen & Overy
As consulting becomes a more mainstream and integral part of advanced delivery strategies for legal services, client demand continues to expand and we are witnessing a significant uptick in requests for lawyers at an earlier stage of their careers. With many of our mandates coming from investment banks and other financial institutions, we are finding more and more of them looking to bring in lawyers with two to five years’ post-qualification experience on short-term contracts, opening up the benefits of a consulting career to a whole new generation of progressive lawyers.
Time to consider consulting
Many lawyers with less than five years’ PQE mistakenly believe that consulting requires a certain level of seniority before it becomes an option, but that is no longer the case. With heightened demand on the client side, there are many reasons why these lawyers can be motivated to consider consulting, and career enhancement is a significant driver. Moving into consultancy can allow lawyers who are feeling stymied by a lack of variety or career progression in a big firm to get exposure to more variety and gain in-house experience in quality commercial roles without having to make a permanent move.
Likewise, those who might be put off by the lack of work-life balance and the traditional hierarchy of a law firm can find the lack of control over their home and social life to be challenging. Many of the entrepreneurial lawyers that come to Peerpoint seeking a consulting career have some kind of side hustle or other interest. They might be running their own business on the side, developing a web platform or exploring artistic endeavours. By opting for consultancy, they don’t have to stop learning or building experience of good quality legal work while still pursuing those other interests.
Greater flexibility and exposure
There are a number of other things about private practice that increasingly leave some lawyers cold, including the document-heavy nature of certain departments, where there can be little exposure to clients and a limited picture of career success outside the partnership track. For these individuals, the greater flexibility and control that consulting offers, as well as the greater freedom and mobility available – alongside good quality work, pay and career progression – can be very appealing, before they settle down to mortgages and other longer-term commitments.
Finally, we see a growing category of lawyers at the early stages of their career being attracted to consulting because it offers exposure to new industries or types of work that they might not otherwise be able to experience, permitting an opportunity to try something different before they consider a leap into a more permanent role. It can also help people future-proof their careers by avoiding becoming pigeon-holed into a certain area early on.
Reaping the benefits
There are plenty of lifestyle advantages to be gained from a consulting career, which typically involves contracts of up to six months’ duration. Many consultants choose to take longer breaks between contracts to travel or explore outside interests, and some clients also offer the chance to work four days a week or other alternative arrangements.
With the rise of the portfolio career, there is also great potential to build a professional network and make useful and interesting new connections to support future career plans.
Consulting is not for everyone and moving from the security of a big law firm into self-employment does require a certain mindset, as well as a level of resilience and an ability to embrace change and flexibility.
Working with a consulting platform backed by a large law firm means consultants are fully supported by the backing of the firm’s partners, resources and knowhow. For example at Peerpoint, we also have a specialist team that can provide buddies and guidance to consultants, helping them take control of their future, their ambitions and their lifestyle. Because Peerpoint is not exclusive, our consultants are also free to work for other providers when they are not contracted to us.
Our clients are increasingly keen to work with individuals with at least two years’ top-tier post-qualification experience in banking and finance, international capital markets, corporate, financial litigation and investigations or financial regulation. Interested lawyers should remember there is nothing career-limiting about consulting; because of the high quality nature of the work on offer, consulting can only strengthen a CV for whatever opportunities the future may hold.