BSG Bites 8: What Can Lawyers Learn From Sport?

Whether you love it, hate it or are indifferent to it – sport is all around us.

The Euros, Wimbledon, Olympics and the Commonwealth Games (just around the corner in Birmingham) have a lot we can learn from as legal professionals. I played competitive rugby throughout my studies and often utilise skills which I picked up through the sport, in many aspects of my career.

Teamwork – it goes without saying, teamwork really does make the dream work. On the football pitch or in the office we need a strong team around us to do well. On the technical elements we need people we can learn from and develop. A good team allows us to have a sense of belonging and support. Whether you experience highs or lows in your professional career, the way you bounce back is often determined by the people around you. We have all been in good teams and bad teams. The pandemic has really magnified the importance of teamwork, having positive influences around you can really determine whether you have a good working life. This can be from having a good conversation with a colleague where you can share ideas, to supporting one another during busy periods and when people are on annual leave. On the pitch you need players that will lift your spirits when you are behind on the scoreboard, will say the right things at the right time and create a real sense of togetherness.

Leadership – probably one of the most complicated dynamics is that of the leader or sub-leaders. Throughout sport we have seen so many examples of different leadership styles and techniques. This includes an expressive leader to the quieter and more reserved leader, and a more hands-on leader who is more involved compared to one which prefers to lead from a distance. The workplace can be complex as leaders are dealing with so many personalities and trying to maintain consistency in approach. The added element of home working has made things more challenging as communication for leaders can often become fragmented. Looking at sport, the leaders that excel are those that take responsibility, lead by example and communicate effectively.

Organisation – if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. Many sports over this period have had to plan and re-plan because of the unprecedented issues that we have had to face. Not only the logistics of hosting events, but the training of athletes, changing schedules, and the domino effect this has had on other elements. The ability to plan ahead and mitigate any risks is so important for any organisation. From the small-scale things of planning meetings, events, workloads to larger elements of recruitment, marketing and budgeting. Organisation is underrated and often can lead to big change when the small things are done right.

Training – in sport, training is an absolute fundamental for anyone to reach their full potential. The top sports stars are known for their  technical ability but what is not seen behind the limelight is the hours and hours of training and practice. I think for lawyers, at the junior end this has enough attention and focus during the years before qualification. Post qualification it feels this is somewhat not as structured and focused as it is before qualification. Training not just in the black letter law but guidance notes, case law and legislation are all extremely important. Just like the sports stars putting in the time to really perfect their craft – lawyers need to do the same to be able to advise to the best of their ability. Aside from the core knowledge of each practice area, soft skills are also very important for any lawyer wanting to develop and progress through the ranks. Communication, teamwork, negotiation, presenting skills and more, are all things that need to be nurtured and crafted alongside the technical legal knowledge. It’s often the soft skills that create new opportunities – winning new clients, networking, delivering a successful presentation, building rapport, and more.

We often just focus on the end product in sport but very easily forget the hard work, dedication and time taken to perfect the skill and ability we see on our screens or in the stands. Lawyers are no different and can learn a lot from some of the historic sporting events around us.

By Baljinder Singh Atwal, Chair of Birmingham Solicitors’ Group