A disconnect between the skill set required to be a good solicitor and how solicitors actually work is highlighted in a new bellwether of the profession.
For its latest report, researcher LexisNexis investigated the attributes that solicitors consider to be essential in a rapidly changing legal landscape, and how these fit in with their job.
Nine out of 10 respondents said good business and human skills are increasingly important to be successful.
However, LexisNexis says when pressed, respondents viewed many business skills as less essential or simply 'nice to have'. For instance, 48% of respondents thought the ability to generate business is a vital skill, 35% said entrepreneurial skills are a priority, and few thought service industry skills are important.
'So are solicitors simply paying lip service to the business side of running a successful law firm?' the report asks. 'Our respondents make it clear that solicitors are not unaware of the vital role business skills play in today's marketplace. But then again, as the overwhelming evidence of their optimism shows, the profession is comfortable at the moment. It may be that it's easier to adhere to the status quo - the comfortable mindset of the trusted adviser who solves problems on behalf of their clients.'
The top three perceived skills gaps in the profession were empathy, willingness to listen and speaking plainly. Fourth was being good at identifying the central problem even though it was considered the most important attribute to thrive as a solicitor.
The report concludes that over the many years it has researched the law, 'we keep coming back to the central concern that practitioners can identify the issues, but are often blind to their own individual failings in these core areas of legal provision'.
With changes to the SRA Handbook coming into force in November, opening up the market, the report says 'it is more critical than ever that law firms and individual solicitors take a long, hard look at what really drives success'.