Crafty Fest 2023 & Training Opportunities for the Future

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Author: Tom Armstrong, Business Development Manager at BARBRI

The BARBRI team and I had the pleasure of attending the Crafty Counsel’s annual legal conference, Crafty Fest, 2 weeks ago. As I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Glastonbury, I can say for certain it was the best ‘fest’ of the year so far. 

It has been specifically designed with community in mind, bringing together representatives from a diverse range of in-house legal teams, ranging from high growth startups to representatives from the FTSE 250. One of my key inferred takeaways was legal teams, no matter what size or sector they sit in, face similar challenges and restrictions along their own journeys. With themes including building legal teams, nurturing your own talent, and supporting your employees with families, the day was equally insightful, fun and extremely warm!

Building legal teams: 

A lot of themes that have been consistent with building legal teams from last year’s event still remain. As per MLA, 2023 is bringing back market normalcy with a refocus on efficiency, need/skill match, and cultural fit after the overenthusiasm and frenzy in 2021 and 2022. Despite this ‘market normalcy’, in-house teams have still seen significant cuts to budget and team size due to the economic downturn. 

Leading industry professionals also continue to voice their concerns about a shrinking talent pool. BARBRI’s MD Lucie Allen recently addressed this as part of a panel at the event, where she and her fellow panel members discussed new ways of thinking and transformative workforce strategies that focus on unlocking talent from within thanks to the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), and the interest in solicitor apprenticeships.  

What are some of the benefits of developing talent in-house? 

Cost-effectiveness: 

There are banks of legal talent who are interested in qualifying through the SQE route already existing within in-house teams, and the most exciting draw for these teams is they can utilise the SQE to not only attract new talent but retain their current talent and ensure past qualification they are committed to working within their organisation. This presents the opportunity for corporates to therefore attract new, diverse talent for much less (average paralegal salary in the UK is £23,601) than attracting a full qualified city lawyer (average NQ salary in the UK is £74,410). With the increasing demand for solicitor apprenticeships, there are financial benefits for the employer, as training costs come out of the apprenticeship levy that they have to pay anyway. 

Talent attraction & retention: 

Following the ‘great resignation’, attracting top talent and retaining them is of course of massive concern to the entire legal industry. From numerous conversations I have had corporates are now looking at how they can implement policy to show clear career development within the company, as well as putting in place policies to make sure they retain their top talent. Utilising the SQE/apprenticeship’s is an easy way of bundling attraction and retention into one policy, as many are looking to upskill their current talent pool, whilst only offering it after a minimum years of service, or a guarantee of reclaiming the funds if years of service post qualification are not met. With 70% of corporate lawyers saying they are very to somewhat likely to leave their current position in the next year and only 36% of lawyers in legal departments thinking their organization is very prepared to recruit/retain, I think it is key to think of new innovative schemes to ensure there isn’t a revolving door of talent. 

Utilising talent that understands the business: 

The bank of existing talent within in-house teams already understands the needs of the business, and how to effectively manage workload. They already understand the challenges your company are facing and can help to alleviate these challenges by upskilling them and allowing them to take on more responsibilities. Therefore, you can alleviate extra costs by mitigating the need for onboarding and organisational training. 

As it was my first time at Crafty Fest, I didn’t know what to expect from the day, but I was truly happy to see Crafty Counsel created a space for open communication amongst all the attendees, and a relaxed environment that perfectly set the tone for a space to share experiences, current challenges, and hopes for the future. It fostered an event that was truly there for individuals to help and advise each other, and hopefully action positive change within the industry for years to come. 

If you would like to discuss anything I have mentioned above, feel free to get in touch with me via email (tom.armstrong@barbri.com) and if you would like to see more about BARBRI’s legal training you can find details on that here

Bring on Crafty Fest 2024!

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