What skills do lawyers need to succeed?

Published: 31 Jan 2018

There’s little doubt that the nature of work is shifting at an unprecedented rate, and as professionals’ responsibilities change, so do the qualities that hiring managers are looking for. The legal profession is no exception. Lawyers can no longer rely on their academic achievements to secure themselves a role at a leading firm. Instead they need to demonstrate they can achieve long term success in a modern workplace. So what skills will lawyers need to secure a job this year?

  • Outstanding interpersonal skills

In an increasingly competitive employment market lawyers need to be able to demonstrate that they have strong communication skills. The ability to cultivate and maintain strong professional relationships with peers and establish a strong sense of rapport with clients is essential. Lawyers can no longer rely on partners to develop effective relationships with current clients. They need to ensure they interact with both peers and clients in a way that engenders confidence.

  • Negotiation and management skills

In house teams continue to strengthen their legal departments. Therefore, private practitioners will increasingly find themselves working with clients who are also legal professionals. There is an expectation that their external counsel will show effective management skills but also a willingness to negotiate on alternative fee arrangements. Management and leadership qualities are vital for in house professionals looking to progress.

  • The ability to work collaboratively

As cases become progressively more complex, lawyers will find themselves working in more interdisciplinary teams and collaborating with a range of external specialists. The ability to work effectively with a diverse team is more crucial than ever and collaboration is a skill rarely taught in legal degrees. 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 also work with others.

  • The ability to be both generalist and specialist

Increasingly, employers are looking for professionals to have both specialist knowledge and a wide generalist skillset. In order to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market place, legal professionals need to adopt this dual role.

Firms are now looking for professionals with both, experience working in incredibly specialist practice areas, and a broad sense of commercial awareness. Law firms are placing a greater value on commercial acumen tests during the recruitment process. Legal professionals need to ensure that they can demonstrate a thorough understanding of the ‘business of law’ combined with a sense of commercial awareness and sound legal reasoning.

Lynn Sedgwick, MD of Clayton Legal

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