The innovation of the partnership between Nova SBE Executive Education and Morais Leitão was recognized early on, highlighted by the Finacial Times. The project was conceived with the current changes in the sector in mind and to reflect on what it means to be a lawyer today, focusing on the development of new skills and the mastery of other realities beyond the law.
Diana Ettner, a consultant at Morais Leitão, told us about her experience as a participant of the first edition of the Business Academy for Lawyers.
How would you rate your experience at the first edition of the Business Academy for Lawyers?
My experience at the first edition of the Business Academy for Lawyers was very positive and enriching. For several reasons. First of all, it was undoubtedly a great opportunity and even a privilege to be a "guinea pig" and to be part of the first edition of a course like this, which was specifically designed for Morais Leitão lawyers, in partnership with Nova SBE. It was very gratifying to attend such an innovative and tailor-made course, recognising all the work and effort of those who created and designed it.
Then, this course presented a structured and systematised programme, with an extended duration and always with the same group of participants. This allowed and enhanced a very relevant learning and interaction dynamic, not only because of the structured succession of classes, but also because of the continuity of the sessions and the discussions that took place within the group. And this naturally contributed to a good teaching and learning experience.
Finally, a very important and very positive aspect of the experience lived in the course had to do with the very coexistence between all those who participated in it. We are colleagues in our profession and office, we work in the same structure (although in different cities, in some cases) but the truth is that the hurried daily life we live in often leads us not to share experiences and impressions about our own activity. And this sharing and exchange of impressions is very important. Having full-day sessions, outside the office, and in a place like Nova SBE, allowed this exchange of experiences and a dynamic dialogue between everyone, which was a very positive aspect of the course.
Do you consider that the knowledge acquired will be useful for your career and future opportunities?
No doubt about it. Although this course deals with non-legal subjects, the truth is that it addresses issues that, nowadays, are essential to the good performance of our profession and that should increasingly become part of the lawyer's training.
During the course we talked about and addressed issues we don't normally talk about. We were challenged, with some provocation, to think differently about our time management and our role as lawyers, both in the relationship with other colleagues and with clients. We carried out a group dynamic that allowed us to understand the importance of team work and the effective sharing of information and responsibilities to achieve a good result. We approached and tested, with practical exercises and in a structured way, negotiation strategies and leadership techniques, which are so important for our daily lives. We also talked about financial management, accounting , marketing, legal tech, and many other topics that, without any doubt, are nowadays essential for a lawyer and that are becoming more and more structural throughout the evolution of a career.
From the point of view of the knowledge acquired, the contribution made by departments from the office itself in some sessions of the programme was also very positive, enabling us to apply concepts and ideas discussed with the trainers to our internal reality. And although these concepts and ideas are somehow already known or with which we had already been in contact, the truth is that they gain another meaning with the framework given by the course sessions, allowing us to use them in a more advantageous way in our day-to-day work. This happens both with concepts of financial management itself and with the knowledge about technological tools that exist internally and are available to us.
How does this Postgraduate Degree contribute to responding to the current challenges of the sector?
Project management is undoubtedly an essential component of today's advocacy.
Today, lawyers are expected not only (or not so much) to provide the most correct legal solutions for a given problem, but in many cases to accompany a project as a whole, to identify risks and present the best ways to mitigate them and even, many times, to integrate and even coordinate multidisciplinary teams. Lawyers are expected to know the client's "business", to have an integrated and comprehensive approach to their activity and to work alongside the client to best achieve each project in which they are called upon to collaborate. Naturally, this requires lawyers to have the skills and openness to deal with the problems that the management of projects, often large and complex, may pose.
By addressing these issues and devoting specific, structured, organised and systematised training to them, this Postgraduate Course undoubtedly contributes to helping us respond to these challenges and these dimensions of our work, which are increasingly present today.
Do you consider that investing in management skills is an asset for legal professionals? Why do you think so?
Naturally, yes. When we talk about management skills, we are talking about various levels of issues and very different aspects that lawyers have to deal with - cost control, definition of pricing, team management, scheduling of tasks, monitoring deadlines, communication with the client, managing the expectations of internal teams and the end client, flexibility to accommodate unforeseen events and additional requests, among many others. In essence, a variety of dimensions that are now part of the profession and are not merely secondary or lateral aspects.
Investing in these skills, spending time learning and discussing them, testing different techniques and models and finding the most appropriate solutions for each project and each client, can undoubtedly be a competitive and differentiating advantage for lawyers.