“Law provides a unique combination of commerciality and intellectual diversity, combined with client-facing responsibility and the intellectual rigour required to produce commercially sound advice.”

James McConkey.

Today’s #LawyerOfLinkedIn is aspiring commercial solicitor and University of York graduate James McConkey. He has just achieved a Distinction in his combined LPC and Masters degree in Law & Business at the University of Law in London. I spoke with James about his motivations to join the profession, thoughts on the future disruption of technology within the sector and his experiences so far throughout the Training Contract application process.

So, what made you want to be a lawyer?

JM: “My initial interest in law was first sparked whilst completing my Extended Learning Project in Sixth Form, where I studied the commercial effects that the legalisation of Euthanasia would have in the UK. Following this, I actively pursued opportunities to begin my exposure to the world of law during my River Tour job, researching the employment contracts and attending licensing meetings with the local council.

During my time at university, I then began to complete more formal legal work experiences with Reed Smith, DAC Beachcroft and at the York Law Clinic. Working with Reed Smith, I understood that to formulate commercial advice for clients, one must understand the micro and macro aspects of their industry. During my IP work experience with DAC Beachcroft, we were advising on an international trademark dispute on one day and patent applications the next. I was struck by the way in which the profession is evolving, having to respond to progress in technology with new ways of thinking and advising. It is an exciting time to be a lawyer!

These experiences ultimately consolidated my passion to join the legal sector. Law provides a unique combination of commerciality and intellectual diversity, combined with client-facing responsibility and the intellectual rigour required to produce commercially sound advice.”

What’s surprised you the most so far about the training contract application process?

“During an interview for a law firm, the interviewer asked me “how would your friends describe you?”, followed by “what would they say behind your back?”. I thought it was quite a tough question to answer! It’s different to the traditional and more-expected “what are your biggest weaknesses” question. I had to do a bit of self-reflection and quick thinking to put together my answer.”

Speaking of law firms, what do you think is the biggest difficulty they will face in the future?

“I think for many law firms, one of the biggest difficulties they will face over the next few years will come in the form of technological disruptors, like AI or Blockchain technology. Many of the multi-million pound firms are attempting to maintain their current course with a gradual integration of this technology – but one could ask if there is any reason they should consider serious investment in retraining their staff or developing new technologies?

The answer may come with the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (“ABS”), under the Legal Services Act 2007.  Accountancy firms, especially the Big Four, can now start to offer legal services in conjunction with their expertise financial advice. If this integration is continuous and successful, then this new emerging force within the legal sector could fundamentally and irreversibly change the market across the entirety of the profession.”

So how do you think the role of a trainee solicitor will change as this technology develops?

“It is undeniable that in years to come, AI will become more commonplace in legal practice. It does not necessarily mean, however, that trainees and lawyers alike will therefore become obsolete. Instead, in what some already deem to be the fourth industrial Revolution, soft skills will become even more important. As automation increases, trainees will be left surplus to requirements in relation to many traditional legal tasks, therefore requiring them to spend more time, say, with clients, rather than tasks like rule-based thinking and fact-finding research. High emotional intelligence will become increasingly desirable in order to satisfy these altered needs. Similarly, trainees and lawyers will need to be adaptable, curious and willing to use their initiative in order to deal with any consequences which they face due to these technological developments.”

I’d like to extend a big thank-you to James for agreeing to be my first contributor to my new #LawyersOfLinkedIn series. If you’d like to get in touch with James, or learn more about him, you can do so below.

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