University finds a third of students don’t feel comfortable talking in front of a group
BPP University is to school its law students in small talk after finding a third of them don’t feel comfortable talking in front of a group.
The law school is to offer a module, understood to be the first of its kind, on the art of “business small talk” to better prepare trainee lawyers for the world of work. It will also offer modules remotely given that meetings and networking events have all shifted online since the onset of the pandemic.
BPP has called on the services of specialist conversation trainer Georgie Nightingall to run the course. Barrister and Brown Rudnick partner Ravi Nayer will also run a programme to bolster students’ confidence.
The initiative is being introduced after research from the university found that a third (30%) of future lawyers don’t feel comfortable talking in front of a group. Two-fifths (43%) of prospective lawyers also worry that they will be judged by the way they speak.
The research of 369 postgraduate students, i.e. those on a professional course, the PGDL, LPC or BTC, also highlighted the main worries that students have about going to networking events. These include being asked a question that they don’t know how to answer (32%), freezing up and not being able to find the right words (20%), talking too quickly (11%), and being too modest about their own achievements (10%).
“The new courses are part of a series of initiatives that will focus on an important — but often overlooked — executive skill,” said Jonny Hurst, head of outreach and student recruitment at BPP University. “Law is a business of relationships and junior lawyers are expected to start working in a legal environment able to chat easily with strangers before a meeting begins properly, or to ‘work a room’ at firm events. The ability to have good conversations with colleagues and clients marks out the future partners. In most cases, no one has taught them how to do it.”
“There is more to law than the transaction, case or advice you impart. Landing a job and working well with clients once you are in a job require good small talk skills.”
Nightingall shared with us her advice to law students who may struggle to engage in small talk. “Remember that you, your future clients and colleagues are human and to be comfortable in sharing things about yourself that are not just related to the law! That is how you build relationships,” she said.
The news follows research that nearly half (44%) of young people feel more comfortable communicating over digital devices with people they don’t know than speaking face-to-face.