Want to succeed in the legal industry? Beyond legal knowledge, essential lawyer skills such as critical thinking, communication, and time management are crucial. In this article, we’ll discuss the top ten lawyer skills needed to be successful in the field.
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Do you have what it takes to be a lawyer? While having a solid understanding of legal principles is certainly important, it is not the only factor that will determine your success as a lawyer. Aspiring lawyers must also develop a range of legal skills to stand out in a competitive job market. In this article, we discuss the top ten essential skills needed to be a lawyer, including legal skills such as commercial awareness, critical thinking and problem-solving, communication and time management. By honing these skills early on, you will position yourself for success in the legal profession. So whether you are a law student or trainee solicitor, read on to learn about the most important lawyer skills and qualities you’ll need to succeed in your legal career.
By no means exclusive to law, the ability to work in a team is essential to any job. As a lawyer, you will be part of a larger team in some way or another, no matter your specialisation. Empathy, active listening as well as research and analysis skills are required in order to make valuable contributions.
If people enjoy working with you, they will want to do so again and recommend you to others. Remember that networking is a huge element of the field of law, and that often the people you will be working with in a team can become your strongest advocates!
How to develop this skill: Extra-curriculars such as sports, debating and public speaking societies can help you develop this skill while still pursuing your education in school or university. Look out for law firm ambassadorships and student representative opportunities – this way, you will get to know people in the field before even completing your degree!
The more you advance in your career, the more you will be required to take decisive action. Being a team-player is important, but the way you stand out within your team is crucial when it comes to your individual success. The more you progress in your career, the more responsibility you will have. Proposing your own solutions to problems, taking the lead on a presentation or even creating a new project all demonstrate to your team your value as an individual.
Within a team, you have to be able to take initiative – whether that means proposing new projects, suggesting an alternative solution to a problem, or even taking the lead on a presentation. The way to becoming a reliable member of your team is to establish your individual presence. This way, you will stand out as a valuable candidate for future opportunities.
Taking initiative can be daunting at first, but you need to remember that you have been chosen for a reason, and that you have plenty to offer. As a trainee lawyer, you will be given responsibility. Devising your own solutions to problems rather than relying on others reflects back on your value as an individual – and as a contributor to your team. That does not mean that you must struggle alone; taking initiative includes the ability to recognise your shortcomings and know when to ask for help.
How to develop this skill: When it comes to individual work and taking initiative, these are skills that you will have already developed in your formative years, from your GCSEs to your university exams. But how do you highlight them in a recruitment situation? Think about a time when you had to propose your own research topic – for your dissertation, for example – or perhaps of a situation when you had to fix a problem on your own in a team project.
Check out this article on why taking initiative is so important!
The law is abounding with different options, avenues and arguments for the same problem, and part of your job as a lawyer is choosing what would most benefit your client. Everything, from your individual take on a topic to the trajectory and steps you decide to take when working on a case is influenced by your – and your team’s – desired outcome.
Therefore, you need to be able to take the road less travelled at times – you might even need to pave a new road altogether. Having the opportunity to create tailored solutions to problems is part of the beauty of being a lawyer, but it does require practice.
How to develop this skill: Creative problem solving is different from an ability to fix things. The latter is something you inevitably develop in your schooling years. The other element of creativity, however, needs to be trained. One way to develop this skill is to actively put yourself in situations where it is needed. Legal work experience is one example, but other options such as teaching English as a second language during your university years might be more readily available. This kind of work experience would require you to create your own teaching material and present it, and moreover to initiate and maintain the progress of your students.
Written communication goes beyond correct grammar and a sophisticated vocabulary. Being able to effectively get your ideas across in a variety of writing styles and registers is essential for success in the legal field. Drafting a contract is very different from writing a letter to a client, which in turn is very different from emailing your co-workers.
Developing an awareness of different writing styles and document requirements can help to expand upon your own work. Take note of the register and vocabulary used in specialist legal magazines and try reproducing them for a university blog or newspaper. Taking free writing courses through your university is also a great way to develop this skill.
How to develop this skill: The kind of writing you produce in an essay – or even a dissertation – differs massively from a lot of the writing you will be required to do at a professional level. Developing an awareness of different writing styles and document requirements is the first step to expanding upon your own work. Take note of the register and vocabulary used in specialist legal magazines and try reproducing them for a university blog or newspaper. Usually, you can also take writing courses for free through your university.
Check out our guide to writing like a lawyer.
Verbal communication is key in any professional setting, especially in the legal field. Who you are communicating your ideas to, as well as the various situations and environments you might find yourself in, will alter the way you communicate. Communication is always supplemented with a goal, whether it is to simply get your point across to your co-worker, or convince a jury. When it comes to lawyers, having a rock-solid grasp on spoken word is essential.
You might think that verbal communication is more important in the role of a barrister, but even as a solicitor you would find verbal communication to be central to your job. From pitching your ideas to presenting in front of your team or having a phone call with your supervisor, having a rock-solid grasp on spoken word is a must.
How to develop this skill: Public speaking is something a lot of people struggle with. Humans are social creatures, so communication comes naturally to us. With a bit of practice in the right places, verbal communication is something any of us can master!
Developing this skill can be done through extra-curricular activities like debating or public speaking societies. Joining a drama society, or doing outreach work for charities or your university can also help you to hone your verbal communication skills.
As a lawyer, you will be required to overcome obstacles and think on the spot on the daily. Therefore, being high-functioning whilst under internal or external pressure is essential for lawyers. Whether you are working overnight to meet a deadline or talking to a difficult client, working in a people-focused career will undoubtedly bring pressure along.
The pressures you might need to overcome are not strictly tied to deadlines. If you become a barrister, you will be arguing against a party who is constantly trying to disprove your points, and even intimidate you. Keeping your composure and carrying on in spite of this is no easy feat – and this kind of confidence comes with practice.
How to develop this skill: When it comes to deadlines and time-keeping, you might need some trial and error. This is perfectly normal, but you need to assess your shortcomings if you ever miss a deadline and improve your performance the next time around. Organisation is a skill that you can develop during your formative years – just make sure you prioritise it!
Aspiring lawyers need to develop their commercial awareness in order to stay up-to-date with current affairs, business and politics. This requires an individual interest in these fields, and the ability to discuss them and form your own opinion.
By developing your commercial awareness, you will be able to stay abreast of changes in the legal sector and demonstrate to employers and clients that you have the necessary knowledge and law skills. This will help you stand out in the competitive job market and position yourself for success in the legal profession.
How to develop this skill: To make sure that you are well-versed in the topics that matter to the legal profession, here are a few tips:
How to develop this skill: Sign up to our weekly commercial awareness newsletter:Get Regular Commercial Awareness Updates
Empathy is a skill that you will develop naturally as you mature. Being an empathetic, active listener is essential in forming a trusting relationship with your clients. Signing up for customer-facing work experience and people-focused roles can give you an insight into the kind of skills you’ll need as a lawyer.
How to develop this skill: Look for customer-facing work experience and people-focused roles to get an idea of the work you might be doing as you advance in your career.
Check out this article on the importance of empathising with your clients.
Want to know if you’d make a good lawyer? Take our quick quiz!
Attention to detail is an essential skill for any aspiring lawyer. In order to be successful in the field, you must be able to read and interpret complex legal documents, accurately recall facts and information, and spot inconsistencies between documents. Attention to detail is also important when it comes to researching and interpreting laws, as well as understanding case law and precedents.
This skill is particularly important when it comes to assessing documents and sources. An ability to spot key pieces of information is highly important, whether you are looking for evidence to support your case or proofreading a contract where missing a detail could derail the whole task.
This skill also comes in handy when working with others – being able to read people, notice their choice of words and body language can take your work as a lawyer to the next level.
How to develop this skill: Developing your attention to detail requires practice, so try to spend time reading legal documents and looking for inconsistencies between them. Reading legal documents can also help you to improve your legal vocabulary and understand the nuances of legal language. Paying attention to the small details in documents such as dates, names, and numbers will help you to become more familiar with the legal process. Additionally, try to practice close reading techniques to identify important facts, arguments, and rulings in legal documents.
Research is an important skill for any lawyer, as it allows you to find up-to-date information about legal topics and cases. As a lawyer, you must be able to find and analyze relevant statutes, case law, regulations, and other legal documents. You must be able to identify relevant information and consider how it might apply to a specific case or situation.
This skill provides you with a solid basis for preparing cases in your future career as a lawyer, as well as for creating documents around a topic or issue – something you might get asked to do during your traineeship.
How to develop this skill: Developing your legal research skills requires practice. Try to spend some time researching legal topics and reading up on relevant cases. This will help you to become more familiar with the legal process and the types of information that are available. Additionally, take advantage of online research databases and search tools, such as LexisNexis, to help you quickly find relevant documents. Additionally, attend legal research workshops at your school or local library to learn more about legal research techniques. Finally, try to build connections with librarians and other legal professionals who can provide guidance and support with your research.
Being a successful lawyer requires far more than just knowledge of the law. It is essential to hone the key lawyer skills of critical thinking, communication and time management in order to stand out in a competitive job market. Teamwork, initiative and independence, creative problem-solving, written and verbal communication, working well under pressure, and a strong commercial awareness are all essential skills for lawyers. With practice and the right attitude, you will develop the law skills needed to take on any challenge and be successful in the legal profession.
By Ariana Serafinceanu
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