10 Important Lawyer Skills and How to Develop Them
Working in law naturally requires a certain skill set, especially if you want to be successful. In this blog post, we list core lawyer skills you need, and how exactly you can work on them.
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By no means exclusive to law, the ability to work in a team is essential to any job. In a team, basic skills of respect and empathy become essential and those who lack the ability to listen and take on board the opinions of others will find themselves out of step.
If people enjoy working with you, they will want to do so again and recommend you to others; undoubtedly the best way to progress in your career.
How to develop this skill: Getting involved in teams and societies at school and university are a great way to have fun and make friends and you will gain valuable teamwork skills without even noticing it!
2. Initiative and Independence
While teamwork is fundamental to success, it is also essential that you can be decisive when the situations demands it.
As a trainee lawyer, you will be given responsibility and you must rise to that, devising your own solutions to problems rather than relying only on others. That does not mean that you must struggle alone, taking initiative includes the ability to know when to ask questions or to ask for help.
How to develop this skill: This is a skill that can be developed at any point – think about a time when you’ve had to make a difficult decision on your own, whether it be due to coursework or a conversation with a friend.
3. Creative Problem Solving
People often consider the law a profession void of creativity but the opposite is true. The answer to a client’s problem may not be obvious and your job will be to explore new avenues, arguments and ideas to achieve the desired result.
How to develop this skill: Work experience of any kind will work wonders in developing problem solving skills, it needn’t only be in the legal field. Problems are unavoidable wherever you work and the more experience you have of the issues which arise, the better prepared you will be.
4. Written Communication Skills
A lot of your work as a lawyer will involve writing, it’s unavoidable. You’ll draft documents, write letters to clients, draw up contracts among other things.
Typos and Grammatical errors will undermine your work, while a fluent and articulate writing style will give clients confidence in you.
How to develop this skill: You will naturally develop your own writing style as you write essays for school or university but if you don’t study an essay based subject, then it may help to get some practice writing for a school or uni magazine or even running your own blog! You can also write for The Lawyer Portal, which looks great on the CV.
If you’re hoping to become a barrister then verbal communication is perhaps the most vital element of your job. Your role is to communicate your arguments in such a way as to persuade your judge or jury of the merits of your case.
It’s also not something you can avoid as a solicitor; client meetings, phone calls and presentations will make up your day to day.
How to develop this skill: Speaking in public is something that a lot of people struggle with but there are all sorts of ways to practice and combat fears. Getting involved in theatre or debating will develop skills like projection and pace while techniques such as meditation can help deal with nerves.
Lawyers first and foremost are providing a service to their clients and your practice should be geared towards their needs. This involves listening and taking time to understand their individual concerns.
It is rare that clients will have a detailed knowledge of the law, that is why they come to you, so it is also critical that you’re able to explain matters in terms they understand rather than using overly technical language.
How to develop this skill: The more work experience you can get facing customers and dealing with people in any capacity, the better you’ll be at listening and adapting your communication style to suit everyone.
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9. Attention to Detail
A lawyer will always be faced with large and sometimes unclear documents and the ability to spot key pieces of information is essential. It may be that you’re looking for evidence to support your case or proof reading a contract where missing a detail can derail the whole task.
How to develop this skill: Take your time when reading documents, work on staying focused; these are all skills you can pick up simply from reading books or articles!
10. Research Skills/Preparation
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a lack of preparation and it will always weaken your position. Dedicate time to preparation and use a variety of resources. If you are preparing for an interview, for example, use the firm’s website, but also read news articles and press releases.
Using a range of sources will not only broaden your knowledge but will also ensure you have the full picture, increasingly important in an era of ‘fake news’.
How to develop this skill: Research, like anything, takes practice and the more you do, the more streamlined and efficient your searches will become.
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