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BPP Law School to offer module in small talk

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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.

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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.”

Hurst added:

“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.

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27 Comments

Anon

Unsurprising considering the amount of socially inept gimps at our Uni

(28)(3)

Observer

Perhaps they’re avoiding you; I don’t think that’s too much a stretch going by what you’ve said above.

(10)(9)

Anon

I see you go to my Uni. I wish you the best of luck at Clifford Chance.

(4)(3)

Anon

I suspect you wouldn’t even be allowed to clean the toilets at Clifford Chance. That contract essay won’t finish itself, fresher.

(0)(0)

Annoyed

Please can this not lead to more of the weirdly and uncomfortably keen/brown-nosing type of people who think they’re in an episode of Suits I’ve met at many an open day.

(34)(0)

Anon

You’ve clearly not worked in a law firm. Witnessing the brown nosing at qualification time takes a strong stomach.

(0)(0)

The Hitchslap

We’ve reached peak Snowflake folks, the end is nigh.

(14)(1)

Prospective bpp investor

I assume that BPP actually charge 9 thousand pounds a year to attend and learn rubbish like this. When will BPP list on the LSE. They have an excellent ability to capitalise on idiocy. May be in the same legue as Instagram and TikTok.

(9)(1)

Hackaforte

Term 1 (Basic small talk)

– The weather
– Your drive to the venue (inc. roadworks, potholes, speed cameras etc)
– Similar gatherings you have attended before
– Children and pets

Term 2 (Intermediate)

– Renovation work on your house
– Children’s extracurricular activities
– Holidays
– The catering

Term 3 (Advanced)

– News & current affairs
– Witty anecdotes
– Famous people you have met
– Staffing changes

Term 4 (Specialist summer module)

Office gossip

(63)(0)

Anon

I find Brexit, Boris, Donald Trump, religion, BLM and Me Too make excellent opening strategies.

(24)(0)

Christ....

Maybe BPP should stop accepting students who clearly aren’t ready or suited to their courses just to take their money. You know, instead of ripping them off even further with nonsense like this.

(23)(2)

A joke

100%. Literally only the odd one or two people contribute (out of 12) and it just feels like you have to carry the group every time your turn up.

Break out rooms are awful to be in, everybody’s mic is somehow ‘broken’. No one tries. It’s really sad but I miss uni.

Worst is when they don’t read instructions and just ask obvious questions which makes me wonder is that how you are going to behave when you are working, as a lawyer as welll???!!!

(25)(2)

LOL

Sorry you don’t have a TC try again next cycle

(1)(15)

Says it all

The ones who have a TC are usually the ones carrying the class…

(16)(0)

Anon

This is great news and a much needed module for all solicitors, barristers and especially paralegals. They should offer this in schools too. And colleges.

Associate

I know I will be out of place saying this, but this would have been helpful for me. I am not from a typical middle class background and had very little money growing up and was pretty isolated for reasons I could not control. My career has stalled at associate level and it is largely due to social skills sadly. I was not kept on after my TC and the head of grad rec was quite blunt but spot on. She’d never met a better lawyer at my level (her words) but I just needed to be able to get on with people. Sad but true.

(15)(1)

Future Trainee

Just read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. That’s what Warren Buffett did when he said he had a similar problem developing his career. It’s not hard but people aren’t willing to put in the work (not you specifically of course, just generally) and would prefer to sit and ‘learn’ on a Zoom class for an hour rather than put their heads down to read.

(2)(9)

MC associate

Reading a self help book isn’t going to magically help working class students and grads become “polished” in communication.

What middle and upper class students/grads have is inherited privilege and the ability to relate to senior lawyers in a corporate environment because they share the same experiences and background.

A lot of office talk in London city firms is centred around politics, international policies, skiing, horse riding, luxury travel, high fashion, fine dining, golf etc – all of these things which those of a certain background are more familiar with than those of working class low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The fact that you think a book will fill the gap that is privilege, wealth and private education is utterly ridiculous and you’re selling dreams.

(10)(1)

Seriously?

If you think standard office talk in law firms is the things you listed then you really really forget that most lawyers are also working class people (albeit well paid ones).

I didn’t have any of those things growing up and have zero issue maintaining basic small talk with people. Most of my friends who are the best at networking didn’t have any of them either. Have you never been in an office?

(2)(10)

MC Associate

I have been in an office which is why I’m telling you these are the things I have heard whilst at the office.

I qualified a couple years ago in a MC firm, same firm I trained with.

Useful

I absolutely agree with this 100%. It’s all very well for those who had the benefits of a private education: people like that are naturally confident and have a sophistication which state school kids (like me) frankly lack. So yes, being taught important skills which we didn’t learn at home and at school is incredibly useful.

(6)(0)

Stop giving BPP money and validation

I didn’t have a private education but managed to learn basic social skills fairly easily. We have the internet. You can learn all of these things with a youtube video or an easily available e-book. This is just a way for BPP to take more people’s money.

(2)(6)

yeet

Just mumble something about sabre being a more athletic discipline of fencing than it used to be and then something about that argument at the EIC club table last month and you’ll fit right in.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

It is respectful of the effort to help the students, however, if you choose from your own will to study law. Is clear, that involves communication being a barrister or a solicitor. The skills can be trained with friends, debate groups, group study. If this ”Small talk” implies additional cost, it is not necessary. The possibilities to create good public speaking skills using your local gym, debates teams, it is more efficient with a less cost.

(2)(1)

Anon

I’ve always borne in mind that people are like snakes and spiders: they’re more scared of me than I am of them. This liberating thought frees me to witter about whatever shit is passing my synapses in the moment.

(1)(0)

Louise Kulbicki

This is excellent! I do training on practical skills such as networking for lawyers with some practice for small talk and these soft skills really matter. Any lawyer can have legal knowledge but these skills are what makes a lawyer great and able to build excellent relationships with clients and colleagues.

(2)(0)

Ahmad Zia Nabard

Actually these programs are important in practical area so it enhance our legal knowledge and skills in practical stages.
I wish you make an online program for legal discussion about a legal specific title by lawyers until we use their knowledges and as well as from their experiences
Best Regards

(0)(0)

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