After years of rigorous studies and countless exams, law students graduate to become lawyers. And most lawyers who start their practice have one thing in common: the desire to be successful.
One might quickly realize that knowing the law like the back of your hand is only a job half done, as legal knowledge is not enough for professional success. Curious to know what is the key to becoming a successful lawyer? International studies show that professional success is only 15 percent based on professional competence – the other 85 percent depends on so-called soft skills.
The importance of soft skills has recently been reflected in the legal curriculum as negotiation management, conversation skills, rhetoric, dispute settlement, mediation, interrogation, and communication skills have become a part of the law examinations.
What are Soft Skills?
The characteristics of a person that helps them communicate effectively with others is known as soft skills. Some common examples include public oration and amicable conflict resolution. While it is evident that these attributes are the stepping stone to succeed in one’s career, soft skills are even more crucial for lawyers to navigate through the complexities of this demanding profession. Contrary to the popular perception in the media, a lawyer needs more tricks up his/her sleeve than just conjuring water-tight arguments in courtrooms.
Every lawyer should know how to communicate with peers, how to handle clients, and how to deal with conflicts while displaying quality of empathy for everyone involved. Attributes such as reliability, commitment, and willingness to learn are also required for becoming a successful lawyer.
How to Determine Soft Skills Critical for Lawyers
Once you realize you need more than just law books and theoretical knowledge to become a reputed lawyer, the next step involves figuring out which soft skills to focus on. Just like how one shoe doesn’t fit all, you need different sets of soft skills based on the nature of your profession.
If you are a practicing lawyer or a law student, you need to focus on following three steps to identify the soft skills that you require in your career.
- Self Analyze: What makes a lawyer successful? What qualities do you look for in a lawyer? Are mediation skills less important than combative counter-arguments? Answering questions like these is the first step towards knowing what soft skills you need as a lawyer. Your opinion on what’s important and what’s not will guide you to prioritize the soft skills you must possess to succeed.
- Know your Goals: Rather than working towards a singular aim of becoming successful, you must diversify your professional goals. Based on the branch of law that you wish to focus on and also the type of clients and cases that you wish to handle, you can decide the soft skills that align with your professional goals.
- Identify Examples from Case Studies: Lastly, you must scrutinize legal case studies through the lens of effective communication. Almost every famous court judgment has examples of lawyers displaying an array of desirable soft skills.
Once you have created a list of soft skills that are important to you as a lawyer, you can conduct a SWOT analysis to identify the soft skills that you are good at and the ones that need improvement.
However, there are certain soft skills that every lawyer needs to ace for a bright and prosperous career.
7 Essential Soft Skills That Every Lawyer Needs
When it comes to legal contracts – be it corporate, employment, or property contracts – the main task of a lawyer is to get all the parties involved to agree to specified terms and conditions.
For example, if two companies are entering into a B2B contract and have agreed on the price and delivery time, then the corporate lawyer needs to think over which arbitration to choose in case of a dispute, what’s the penalty if the contract is breached, what clauses to include in the contract that would give their client an advantage over the other party, etc.
A lawyer must know how to negotiate contracts, especially if the lawyer of the other party raises objections or demands changes in the terms and conditions of the contract. One must be prepared for several rounds of contract negotiations before finalizing the final draft that is a win-win for both parties involved.
Judge’s Point of View
As a lawyer, it is not enough to prepare for a case based on facts, evidence, and legal clauses. If you are gearing up for a courtroom battle, you must know how a judge would look at a case, and how their thought process can shape the outcome of a case.
When you look at things from a judge’s point of view, you not only analyze all your arguments from an impartial position to help identify solid statements from conjecture, it also helps you prepare strategies to convince the judge and jury to deliver a verdict in your client’s favor.
Presentation and Public Speaking
The skill of public speaking is essential for lawyers who often have to appear in courts, meet with government officials and media partners, speak at conferences and seminars, or simply present a company’s stand to their clients on legal matters.
To be a good public speaker, a lawyer must be a master storyteller who can turn a string of words written on paper into a rousing speech that evokes emotions among the audience.
Every lawyer who wants to start their independent practice or wants to hire other lawyers in their firm needs to be a living example of effective leadership.
Leadership is not just organizing work schedules and delegating tasks to subordinates, but also a lesson on decision making, time management, self-discipline, and mutual respect. Under inspired leadership, the team feels empowered and motivated to deliver improved performances and improved results.
Emotional Intelligence: Managing Stress and Emotions
The ability to recognize and manage emotions of your own as well as those of others is an important skill in both life and work. This skill is especially crucial for a lawyer who constantly interacts with people (colleagues, subordinates, clients, judges, media).
Developing emotional intelligence will help you manage your emotions, understand the true emotions and actions of those around you, increase your level of stress tolerance, improve teamwork and motivate others to achieve goals.
Professional lawyers are full-fledged anthropologists. They know people well; recognize different types of people based on behavioral characteristics. There are several good books and articles available about human psychology that could be of real good use to a lawyer. A professional lawyer knows these sciences not theoretically but empirically, making him/her the best judge of human character.
Resilience is the epitome of putting up a fight in the face of an adversary. It means having the strength to endure critical and unusual situations and to come out stronger than before. This is a key skill a professional lawyer must possess, as it helps them strategize and fight back when chips are down and the case seems to be slipping away like sand slipping out of hands.
Apart from the aforementioned seven skills, there are plenty of other soft skills that can benefit a lawyer irrespective of their stature. Make time to identify the soft skills that would aid you in the journey to be a successful lawyer. Dedicate time to practice these soft skills across every aspect of life.
Dhruv Mehta is a Digital Marketing Professional who works as a brand consultant and provides solutions in the digital era. In his free time, he loves to write about marketing, finance & tech. Reach out to him on Digital Dhruv or connect with him on LinkedIn.