The start of a new year traditionally heralds in an element of change or challenge. Many people committed to Dry January - and will be celebrating its coming to a close! - while others will be challenging themselves to keep up with their resolutions to lose weight, keep fit, write a book, or all the above!
As JFK so eloquently put it, change is the law of life. It therefore seems only right that a firm of lawyers should embrace change. We have started 2018 by going back to school - well, university to be precise. What better environment to find debate and challenge than a hall with 150 students? That is where our Chief Executive, Chris Harte, and I found ourselves last week. Universities are making changes to the way in which law students are trained. Gone are the days when, as a student, you had to choose between "Public Sector Admin" and "Company and Commercial Law". Chris and I went back to the education floor, as it were, to participate in a Client Awareness day at the University of Edinburgh. We were joined by in-house lawyers from Heineken, Scotrail and Shelter to share with the students how we challenge ourselves to deliver better client service.
There was also an opportunity for the students to hear about career paths in the law which, too, are changing. When I started out, you generally became a public sector lawyer, and worked in-house, or went to work in private practice. These days, lawyers who trained and qualified with public sector organisations, who some years ago would have spent their entire career in the public sector, are now finding that they are sought after by private practice firms. Likewise, local authorities, government and others are seeing the benefits of private sector perspective. As well as hiring from the private sector, they are also seeking secondees and training opportunities. We regularly swap trainees and qualified lawyers with our clients, a mutually beneficial arrangement. Many public sector clients, who for so long spoke of being in the public sector bubble, are now using their relationship with the private sector to bring a different perspective to the way they work. The private sector, in turn, is learning lessons from the public sector, for example, by embracing competitive tendering. We're aiming to help with all of this by starting at grass-roots level, at university.
Another initiative on which we are working with the University of Edinburgh is refreshing the teaching of public sector law. We're sharing teaching duty with some of our public sector clients, with the aim of providing insight into managing an outsourced legal service from the client's, as well as the law firm's, perspective, including what to do when things go wrong. It's unusual for a lawyer and his or her client, also a lawyer, to share experiences with students in this way. What we're talking about is a different sort of public-private partnership - giving the students some context to the daily challenges of being a supplier, and a consumer, of legal services today. We hugely appreciate the opportunity to engage with the lawyers of tomorrow and to be challenged by them - it helps us to ensure, as JFK put it, that we don't miss the future. It seems fitting to finish with another JFK quote: "Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource."