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Professional support lawyers

Increasingly larger firms are recruiting professional support lawyers - an outline of the role of a PSL and what firms look for when recruiting a PSL.

The majority of major law firms now employ professional support lawyers (PSL). This can be an excellent option for lawyers with family commitments or those who simply enjoy the type of work carried out by a PSL.

So what does a PSL do? Examples of PSL work are

  • Information dissemination – busy fee-earning lawyers may find it hard to keep up to date with changes in the law and recent case law. The department PSL will collate and disseminate key information to the rest of the department
  • A PSL may also present department training sessions
  • A PSL is ideally placed to liaise with the firm’s marketing department and prepare marketing information, such as client information guides
  • Maintaining a good bank of up to date precedents is often a key part of the role of a PSL
  • A PSL in a larger department may have strategic responsibilities
  • Contributing to the firms IT information management may be a key part of the role as more firms use IT resources for this purpose

Considerations

Flexibility

Working as a PSL may offer more flexible working options such as part-time hours or working from home. Generally even a full-time PSL will be able to work shorter and more predictable hours than a fee-earning lawyer.

Remuneration

Typically a PSL may be paid about 10-15 % less than a fee-earning lawyer of equivalent experience, but this is not always the case. Increasingly the larger firms are paying salaries equivalent to those paid to fee-earners and a PSL may also receive a share of any department bonuses plus the usual employee benefits such as a pension etc.

Career progression

It is often seen as more difficult to progress up the career ladder to partnership as a PSL but again the larger firms are putting structures in place to allow for more defined career progression for PSLs and partnership may not be out of the question. Each firm will vary in their approach so the key is to do your research.

What will a firm look for when recruiting a PSL?

Both personal qualities and academic ability are important. Generally a PSL will be a lawyer with experience in private practice. At least 2-3 years post qualification experience is the norm, and often a higher level of experience is desirable. Most opportunities are in the commercial specialisations, although increasingly large private client departments are recruiting PSLs. Key qualities are:

· Strong academic abilities

· Good communication skills both written and oral

· A enthusiasm for the area of law involved in the role

· Good organisational skills

· Increasingly strong IT skills are important

If you enjoy the cut and thrust of client work, working as a PSL may not be for you. For those with the qualities required of a PSL, it may provide an excellent alternative career in the law.

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