Background: I graduated from Manchester University before training and qualifying as a real estate lawyer at DLA Piper in 2000, I switched to legal recruitment in 2003, when I joined a large international recruitment agency. I quickly becam…
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Advice for professional support lawyers and know-how lawyers
The role of the professional support/know-how lawyer has evolved rapidly in recent years. No longer confined to drafting precedents in a dusty back office, today’s multi-skilled PSL is an integral part of the team. The role can be both internal and external facing, with the opportunity to become involved in marketing and business development, including client training.
Which practice areas?
Every practice area has PSLs. The bigger City firms have PSL teams that operate within a management structure.
What does the role involve?
The role today is more visible and, as mentioned, can incorporate a wide variety of areas, including:
- Precedents: Drafting, monitoring and updating precedents.
- Research: Analysing new law and practice, researching points of law or directing fee-earners to appropriate sources.
- IT: Working on intranet and extranet.
- Training: Internally, this means keeping the department regularly updated on new legislation, case law or important news. Externally, this may mean providing clients with such information or speaking at seminars on a topic. PSLs are expected to provide assistance, display initiative and act as liaison when necessary.
- Marketing: Producing newsletters for clients, assisting on beauty parades and arranging client seminars or events.
- Fee-earner enquiries: Answering queries about the maintained information as well as new and complex areas of law.
An increasing number of top-tier City firms offer partnership or directorship prospects to PSLs. Just as a new managing associate/counsel role has emerged for fee-earners, so an equivalent career structure is being offered for PSLs. While a PSL career structure may not appeal to some, others will see it as rightful recognition of their contribution.
In general, firms are either looking for someone with existing PSL experience or a lawyer with a minimum of two years’ experience. In some of the larger City practices, where a department may have a range of PSLs, more junior options exist.
We find that many PSLs are attracted to the role by the prospect of working much shorter hours (or certainly set hours) than they did when they were fee-earners. While few, if any, PSLs regularly leave the office at 5.30pm, they do enjoy much more structure and autonomy to their working day and have no need to worry about timesheets or demanding clients. In addition, many PSL roles can be part-time (although not usually less than three days) and offer more flexible working options, such as regular working from home.
Salaries vary from firm to firm and, more importantly, from person to person. There is, moreover, less salary structure and certainty than in traditional fee-earning roles.
In general terms, PSLs can expect a discount of between 10-15% from an equivalent fee-earner’s salary. This is not set in stone, however, as some PSLs will be offered close to a fee-earner’s salary if they bring the right skills and experience to the role. In addition, many firms pay bonuses.
Aside from salaries and bonuses, the rest of a PSL’s benefits package will be commensurate with that of a fee-earner. For part-time PSLs, all benefits will be pro-rated.
—Associate, Leading US Firm - February 2012