The legal profession is changing.
Achieving success in a highly competitive and fast-paced job market is no longer based on comprehensive legal knowledge. To truly stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to possess a wide range of skills that are highly sought after by employers.
We know that excellent advocacy skills enable top barristers to present their cases to the highest standards.
We know that solicitors must be able to take instruction from their clients and be able to provide them with the best possible course of legal action.
Beyond these core legal skills, lies deeper professional skills that you will need to succeed in practice. Let’s take a look at them.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from challenges or difficulties, remain calm and positive under pressure, and be able to deal with and, most importantly, learn from setbacks.
Where you’re a barrister or a lawyer, things won’t always go your way. You may have worked for months or even years on a particular transaction or case – how will you react when something goes wrong? If the court judgement goes against your client, or the transaction fails through? How will you keep a positive mindset, learn from the experience, and use that in a positive way?
The ability to convey ideas, advice, and information clearly and effectively through a variety of different media, adapting the tone and content according to the individual recipient and the purpose of your communication.
Excellent communication skills are crucial. You will need to be able to relay legal terminology in a concise manner and set out advice clearly. At times you will need to show sensitivity in communicating difficult messages, whether that be to clients or colleagues. When negotiating with a counterparty or advocating in court, you will need to present your arguments persuasively. However, this is more than about the words you use. You will need to listen acutely and adopt appropriate body language and tone depending on who you are speaking to, and the outcome you need to achieve.
Accuracy and attention to detail
The ability to keep focus, to spot key pieces of information and ensure that there are no errors in the documents that you draft.
Have you heard of the expression “the devil is in the detail”? This is absolutely true for lawyers. You will have to review and draft lengthy or complex sets of documents and missing a piece of crucial detail could impact the case that you are trying to build. A misplaced or incorrect word could change the entire meaning of a clause or contract, which could lead to problems for your client down the line.
Recognising and respecting the contribution of others with different skillsets and expertise, creating a positive team environment, and delegating where appropriate.
Lawyers deal with huge amounts of information, so will often pool their resources together and focus on different aspects of a case. Achieving your client’s objectives and solving complex issues is likely to involve a team of people with different areas of expertise, from different organisations and possibly even different parts of the world. You will need to show respect and empathy, taking on board different views and opinions.
The capacity to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking, to think creatively in order to challenge the norm and find innovative ways of working and solving client problems.
Lawyers must be able to think creatively and flexibility to solve client problems and meet objectives whilst still complying with the law. Fast-paced developments in technology have made it even more important to creatively explore different ways of working. An innovative mindset allows you to challenge and question the norms and find better, more efficient ways of achieving objectives.
The ability to appreciate the client’s business, commercial objectives and the sectors and business environments in which they operate, and an understanding of the law firm as a business.
Whether it is drafting or negotiating contracts or advising on the legal position as it applies to your client, you will need to understand the commercial objectives that your client is looking to achieve. Having an interest in and an understanding of the business context in which your clients operate will help you appreciate the challenges they encounter and allow you to build a stronger relationship with those clients.
To be able to recognise your own emotional reactions and how that can impact on those with whom you interact, self-awareness and the ability to empathise with others.
High levels of self-awareness and an ability to put yourself in the shoes of others will help boost your ability to persuade, influence and lead, all of which are attributes of a great lawyer. Emotional intelligence will help you build stronger relationships and instil trust with your clients and colleagues. It is an essential competency within a collaborative working environment.
The ability to use digital tools and technology to drive efficiencies in the workplace.
You will use a range of digital tools to communicate, collaborate, prepare documents, and compile information for your clients. The rapid development of technology will enable you to be more efficient in how you work and add value for your clients.
Organisation and planning
To be able to organise your own workload and to plan and manage transactions and cases from start to finish.
As a lawyer you will be constantly juggling different tasks and having to manage a varied workload to meet court and client deadlines. You will need to organise your own time, diarise tasks and make decisions about how to prioritise. For more complex projects, you will need to plan and manage phases of work, liaising with others across different disciplines and jurisdictions to ensure that the necessary steps are completed on time.