One thing which can be said for the legal profession, pretty much without contradiction, is that the last few decades have seen a move away from lawyers being generalists, towards greater and greater specialisation. In fact, young solicitors are pretty much ‘set’ from the moment they qualify; most recruiters will tell you that jumping from one discipline to another is pretty much impossible after qualification, certainly after a year’s experience; law firms simply won’t buy it.
Many lawyers I speak to bemoan this move away from the traditional view of the lawyer as an ‘homme d’affaires’ able to turn his or her hand to the great variety of subjects, something which still exists to some degree in US lawyers (who have a more generalist training and don’t tend to specialise so narrowly so quickly).
In this vein, I was heartened to read a snippet in the wonderful US management publication ‘Inc.’ suggesting that only generalists can weave the increasing torrent of relevant information from diverse sources in “the broad fabric of understanding”.
As I’m currently engaged on plumbing the highly-complex and diverse area of risk management for one particular client, I can certainly see the merit in this approach.
And – having been variously a journalist, editor, managing director, recruiter and DJ – being something of a generalist myself, I can only hope they’re right 😉