Comment: People are still the most important asset

The IT sector offers some of the best starting salaries. Picture: TSPL
The IT sector offers some of the best starting salaries. Picture: TSPL
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INVESTING in staff is so important, writes Colin MacNeill

“Artificial Intelligence is the future of the legal profession”. Whether you agree or disagree with that statement, the obvious truth is that technology is a fundament part of our everyday lives, and it also plays a crucial role in the work of a lawyer.

In my 25 years as a lawyer, I have seen huge technological advances in how we provide a service to clients. Throughout that time, however, it’s always been people that we’ve dealt with, people who invite us into their world, and people who share with us their aspirations and plans. At the risk of over-generalising, when it comes to corporate transactions (whether it’s the one-off life-changing sale of a family business, or the next in a series of acquisitions for seasoned investors) experience tells me that, for now at least, people like dealing with people.

Dickson Minto W.S. was established in 1985 with the strategy of focussing solely on providing legal advice for corporate transactions. The firm has grown considerably since then, but the focus on corporate transactions remains core. Importantly, what also remains unchanged is the ethos of striving to provide the highest possible standard of service to our clients.

That approach doesn’t go very far, however, if the firm doesn’t make sure its own people are well-equipped to provide the very best client service. That’s why we spend a lot of time training and developing our lawyers.

Scotland has a number of universities from which a large number of highly able lawyers graduate. Learning and development does not stop on graduation, no matter how bright the graduate, and it is a law firm’s role to give its trainees and qualified lawyers the tools, support, time, investment and platform to become the commercially astute adviser that all clients seek, while also having a firm grasp on the underlying complexities of a particular legal problem.

At Dickson Minto, our training takes several forms, but there is a common feature throughout, which is that most of it is delivered by our own fee-earning lawyers, who are best placed to share their knowledge and expertise. When they first arrive, trainees take part in our bespoke training programme comprising weekly sessions throughout the year to teach them the full basics of company law. They also take part in weekly bulletin meetings. Then there’s team-specific training which tends to be more practical and allows in-depth analysis of transactions. Finally we have firm-wide training where we all get together to discuss a variety of issues.

Of Dickson Minto’s 22 partners, 17 of them either founded the firm or started as trainees with us. Such a high level of long-term retention reflects the long-term value that the firm puts on people and the importance of training and formal development in helping those individuals become the very best lawyers they can be.

Technology has revolutionised the way that we and our clients communicate and do business. It has dramatically expanded the markets in which we operate and how we provide our services to clients and we fully expect that technology will continue to provide such benefits to professional service providers. However, it is our people not our IT systems that are at the heart of the advice and service our clients come to us for – and only through the development of those people can any firm continue to improve and flourish.

• Colin MacNeill is the Training and Know How Partner at Dickson Minto WS