The evolving role of the PSL: past, present and future

Ailish Hogan Professional Support Lawyer, Career Advice, Private Practice...

How has the role of the PSL evolved?

Previously, PSLs would work reactively to fee-earners’ enquiries and their needs for training. Increasingly, the role of the PSL requires a much more proactive approach. Rather than just preparing and delivering internal training, PSLs will work as part of a wider KM function to identify and efficiently develop the training strategy of the firm. Larger projects and strategic initiatives relating to the KM function will be part of their remit, whilst continuing to deal with day-to-day enquiries.

A key part of the PSL role is now to encourage fee-earners to re-think their approach to KM, and to ensure that processes around knowledge sharing are in place and observed. The PSL will frequently now form an essential part of a well-structured knowledge management team, saving the fee-earners time and increasing productivity by enabling them to focus on billing. There is also an increasing degree of interaction for a PSL with other teams in the business (e.g. marketing, business development, IT), and what was predominantly an internal facing role is becoming more client-focused. A strong and highly responsive KM team – of which the PSL frequently forms an integral part – ensures knowledge is consistent, shared, and constantly evolving with the business to meet clients’ needs and demands.

More than ever, PSLs are able to develop and shape their own role; partners and group heads are now encouraging PSLs to carve out their ideal job and are always interested in new areas of expertise and innovative concepts.  As the scope of the PSL role has expanded, some of the larger PSL teams now have their own support team in place – knowledge paralegals and knowledge and information officers, for example, are becoming more common.

The last couple of years have seen a noticeable increase in newly created positions. Titles vary, but the premise is the same: to ensure that teams across the firm collaborate and have a shared commitment to the PSL function. There has been a genuine shift from the PSL as purely a support role to existing as a vital part of a law firm’s infrastructure.

The range of roles now on offer, from entry-level PSL to global head of knowledge, makes this area a genuinely attractive alternative to fee-earning.

This extract is published in full as a chapter in The Evolving Role of the Professional Support Lawyer (2018), published by the Ark Group, which can be ordered here: https://www.ark-group.com/product/evolving-role-professional-support-lawyer