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The Top Four Skills for Lawyers

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 7 Feb 2024

Lawyer skills

  • With professionals’ responsibilities and priorities shifting with the dynamical nature of work, it’s important to address the desirable qualities sought by hiring managers, and how you can secure yourself a role at a leading firm.

    The key to success? Demonstrating your ability to achieve long term prosperity through continuous learning and adaptation to changes in laws and legal practices, advancing a commitment to ongoing professional development, and mastering a well-rounded skill set.

    As noted in our lawyer job description, each specialisation requires dedicated technical expertise, yet whether you work in Commercial Litigation, Dispute Resolution, or Private Client, you must possess a combination of legal knowledge, practical skills, and personal qualities to thrive as a successful lawyer.

  • Strong interpersonal skills

    The ability to cultivate and maintain strong professional relationships with peers and establish a strong sense of rapport with clients is essential. For junior lawyers in particular, establishing a communication style that engenders confidence with both partners and clients alike, is crucial for building your foundation as a reliable source and confidant. As noted in our’ Networking for Junior Lawyers: the Importance of Business Development’ article', ‘attracting the right clientele, and presenting yourself as the go-to expert, who can provide valuable insights and advice, as a trusted professional’, paves the way for future endeavours.

    Clear and persuasive communication not only contributes to successful collaboration within legal teams and fosters positive relationships with clients, yet also enhances a lawyer's ability to advocate for their clients. For litigators, strong oral advocacy skills and the ability to articulate complex legal theories and evidence in a compelling and convincing manner, are vital for presenting persuasive arguments in court.

    The development of persuasive communication leans into the power of negotiation - with lawyers often negotiating on behalf of their clients, whether it's settling a dispute, reaching a contractual agreement, or resolving other legal enquiries - effective communication and interpersonal skills are vital to the success of overarching legal matters.

  • Negotiation and mediation skills

    Negotiation and mediation skills not only contribute to effective conflict resolution yet also showcase a lawyer's ability to navigate complex situations diplomatically. These skills are valuable in a wide range of legal scenarios, from settling commercial disputes to family law matters, underscoring a lawyer's capacity to find constructive solutions in the best interests of their clients.

    Successful negotiation involves strategic positioning, understanding the interests of all parties, and crafting proposals that address mutual concerns. Lawyers, whether specialising in-house or practice, need to be adept at assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their position and the opposing side.

    Mastering negotiation and mediation skills play into:

    • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): negotiation is a key component of ADR methods, such as mediation and arbitration. Lawyers skilled in negotiation can effectively represent their clients in these processes, seeking resolution without the need for a protracted court battle.
    • Conflict management: lawyers upskilled in negotiation play a pivotal role in managing conflicts, finding common ground, and facilitating compromise among parties.
    • Neutral facilitation: with lawyers acting as mediators or representing clients in mediation sessions, the ability to neutrally facilitate discussions, guide parties toward mutually agreeable solutions, and manage emotions is paramount.
    • Legal creativity: lawyers with a creative mindset can identify innovative approaches to resolving disputes that go beyond traditional legal remedies.
    • Integrity: ethical considerations are crucial in negotiation and mediation. Lawyers must ensure that the process is fair, transparent, and conducted with integrity, maintaining the trust of all parties involved.

  • The ability to work collaboratively

    While the ability to work autonomously and act as a sole advisor is still incredibly important, candidates need to be able to show that they can collaborate with others. A coactive legal team can leverage diverse perspectives and skills to provide clients with well-rounded and innovative solutions to their legal challenges. Effective collaboration enhances a lawyer's ability to provide comprehensive legal services and contributes to the overall success of legal initiatives.

    For lawyers working in multidisciplinary teams, especially in large law firms or legal departments, understanding team dynamics, contributing positively, and fostering a collaborative environment is essential.

  • Analytical and problem solving

    It goes without saying that analytical and problem-solving skills are integral to every stage of the legal process, from identifying legal issues to developing strategies, presenting arguments, and ultimately achieving favourable outcomes for clients. Lawyers who excel in these skills contribute significantly to the success and effectiveness of legal practice.

    As a breakdown, analytical skills are required throughout:

    Legal analysis:

    • Case review and interpretation: analysing legal cases and regulations, through reading and interpreting complex legal texts to extract relevant information and precedent.
    • Precedent examination: assessing legal precedents to understand how prior cases and decisions might impact the current situation.

    Strategic thinking:

    • Long-term planning: as a lawyer, it’s necessary to think strategically about the overall objectives of a case or legal strategy. This involves anticipating potential challenges, considering multiple courses of action, and developing a plan that aligns with the client's goals.
    • Risk assessment: evaluating the risks associated with various legal decisions and providing clients with informed advice on the potential outcomes and consequences of different courses of action.

    Problem-solving orientation:

    • Identifying legal issues: defining legal issues within a given set of facts or circumstances, involves extracting relevant legal principles and applying them to the specific situation.
    • Creative Solutions: effective problem-solving often requires thinking outside traditional legal norms. Lawyers may need to devise creative and innovative solutions to address unique or complex legal challenges.

    Research proficiency:

    • Legal research skills: showing proficiency in conducting thorough legal research using various resources such as case law, statutes, legal journals, and online databases is a crucial skill for gathering the necessary information to support legal arguments.

    Client-centric analysis:

    • Understanding client goals: a client-centric approach ensures that legal strategies align with the client's broader interests and priorities.
    • Communication of complex concepts: effectively communicating complex legal concepts and analyses to clients in a way that is understandable and aligned with their business or personal objectives.