Key Future Insights from the Top Performing Talent Articles from 2019

Topics: Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Diversity, Efficiency, Law Firms, Leadership, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Practice Engineering, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters


Our Top 5 most read content involving Talent Development from 2019 tells an interesting story about new, holistic approaches to the development of legal industry talent:

  1. New White Paper: Delta Competency Model Sees Entrepreneurial Mindset & Adaptability as Top Lawyer Skills
  2. AALL Annual Meeting: How the Changing Legal Market Is Reshaping NextGen Library Professionals
  3. New Podcast: Up-Skilling the Legal Profession — Addressing Today’s Legal Talent Gaps
  4. Dentons’ NextTalent Strategy: A Radical Investment in its Next Gen Talent
  5. Delta Model Update: The Most Important Area of Lawyer Competency — Personal Effectiveness Skills

Talent Approaches: Moving Beyond Lawyers

Insights from the top two articles — the Delta Model white paper and our coverage from a panel session focused on  next generation skills development for information professionals in the legal industry — suggest legal industry leaders are seeing greater value in allied professionals. Indeed, legal leaders are seeing that the increasing efforts of these professionals and discussions on their skills contribute to the overall effectiveness of legal institutions.

The Dynamic Delta — The Delta model white paper (articles #1 and #5) discussed how this innovative model can be adapted to allied professionals. For example, as technology and innovation transforms the delivery of legal services, new jobs and positions are being created to harness this development. Now, large law firms are hiring for positions such as a legal solutions architect, requiring someone with the sufficient depth of skill on the Business & Operations side that would be deeper than that of a traditional attorney.


Likewise, the Delta Model can be adapted for information professions. The 2018 State of the Profession research completed by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and spotlighted in this panel discussion (article #2), revealed several skills gaps across all three sides of the Delta Model. These “skill gaps” included teaching and instruction, emotional intelligence, verbal communication and presentation skills, legal research, and data management and analytics. Based on these gaps, the Delta Model might be adapted based on these skill needs with the mid-point of the delta moving downward to demonstrate how the Personal Effectiveness and Business & Operations are increasingly more important for talent investment (in addition to having expertise in The Law).


New Models for Next Gen Talent for Attorneys

Our most popular content further discussed the future skills needs for lawyers — the Delta model, up-skilling the legal profession (article #3), and the law firm Dentons’ NextTalent Strategy (article #4) — underscored two important themes.

First, the skills related to the business side of the legal practice (including the application of technology) and emotional intelligence, entrepreneurial mindset, and communication are key competencies for effective lawyering in the 21st century. Second, legal education needs to move beyond providing just a base training in legal doctrine and focus more on giving law school students effective ways to learn to be adaptive, build effective relationships, and develop excellent communication skills, especially when it comes to collaboration.

Delta Model for Lawyers — The research-based Delta Model created a specific lawyer competency framework to include foundation-level skills in practicing The Law and Business & Operations expertise and spotlighted Personal Effectiveness skills as of equal importance for success of the next generation of lawyers. In fact, half of the top 10 competencies named by our interviewees were classified in the area of Personal Effectiveness skills:

  • 92% named “Relationship Management” as a top 10 competency;
  • 83% named “Communication” as a top 10 competency, particularly knowing your audience;
  • 75% named “Emotional Intelligence” as a top 10 competency; and
  • 66% named “entrepreneurial mindset” as a top 10 competency. (An in-house lawyer described this as the willingness of a person to put “their hand up and say, ‘I see a problem and I have an idea of how to solve it’ or ‘I heard of this really great tool.’”)

The findings in the specific areas of data and technology were more surprising, however. Indeed, the discussion around technology was not so much about having expertise in technology but rather “understanding technology tools and knowing when to use them.”

Dentons’ NextTalent Strategy (article #4) described how one firm took a multidisciplinary, crowd-sourced approach for its talent development programs for lawyers. Using this strategy, the firm employed “behavioral science and behavioral economics — the data-driven science coming from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, connecting the mechanical world and the data and digital world to the biological world — were the foundation of the initiative.” The firm also identified enhanced interpersonal skills as key for the future.

Moreover, the biggest paradigm shift in strategy was around leadership and engagement. Current firm leadership is not assuming that it has all the answers and is instead actively engaging its early career lawyers and others to tell them what is needed. For example, early observations showed that the development of lawyer talent will be far-more tailored than what has been used in the past. For example, Jay Connolly, Denton’s chief talent officer discussed how learning outcomes from a coding pilot in Asia were greatly influenced by Gen Y and Gen Z lawyers there.

Dentons is investing heavily in this initiative to ensure its own sustainability for decades to come and to retain the best talent in order to provide the best service. “It is odd that we’re all spending tens of millions of dollars on new tools and new technology for the legal talent we have, but we’re not spending even more on finding ways for these lawyers and professional staff to find more fulfillment in their jobs,” Joe Andrew, Dentons’ Global Chair noted.

You can read what we learned from our Top 5 most read articles involving Women’s Leadership in Legal here.