A lot goes into being a good lawyer, and a good leader. While these are two separate roles, being a good leader can help make your job as a lawyer a little easier. There are some skills that are important to both and being strong in those skills can help make a difference in winning your cases.
When seeking employment in the law industry, many employers will list “leadership skills” among the desired skills of an applicant. This can be an ambiguous requirement since everyone has a different idea of what skills go into being a leader, so here are five leadership skills that mastering will help you succeed as a lawyer.
Having strong communication skills is vital to being an effective leader and an effective lawyer. You need strength in verbal and written communication, as well as non-verbal communication and listening. Part of your verbal communication skills also requires you to speak confidently in public, because you need to be able to construct arguments clearly and succinctly.
As a lawyer, you need to be able to explain complex information to your clients, make arguments in court, and negotiate settlements; all of these things require good communication skills. One good way to help hone these skills while you are in school is to get involved in the debate team or be the spokesperson of a student organisation.
Written communication is just as important as verbal communication. You will need to be able to write letters and legal documents about your cases, and it is necessary to know the legal and technical language and to be able to write it out clearly. Many schools have a law society and joining that could help you with your written skills. Getting involved in another student organisation that requires good written skills is good too, whether or not you are able to join the law society; the more diversity you have in your writing skills, the better.
Law schools often drill into students’ heads that a good lawyer needs to completely detach themselves emotionally from their cases in order to best help their clients. While showing cool control may be good when in the courtroom or negotiating a deal, it is something that is better left to those things. Clients do not want someone who is completely emotionally detached from their case, they want someone who cares; they want empathy. You will build a much better relationship with your clients if you allow yourself to care and feel for their situation.
A good leader is a leader who cares, and it is the same with being a good lawyer. Are you passionate about your work? Show it! Your clients will be more comfortable with you if it seems like you genuinely love what you are doing. When given the option of an emotionally detached lawyer or one who lets themselves feel, clients will more often than not, choose the lawyer who does not quash their emotions.
Technology is constantly changing, and it has become an important part of life, including in legal practices. To be an effective lawyer and leader, you need to stay on top of these changes as much as you can.
- Master a variety of word processing, presentation, time and billing, and practice-related software applications.
- Master communications technology including e-mail, voice messaging systems, video conferencing, and related technology.
- Become familiar with electronic discovery, computerized litigation support, and document management software.
- Become proficient with legal research software and Internet research.
- Develop the tech know-how to make wise technology decisions.”
Collaboration and Teamwork
When you start working on larger cases, you will end up in teams while working on cases. Even a solo legal practitioner does not work completely on their own. They still rely on their support staff and will sometimes work with a co-counsel or an expert. Being able to collaborate with others and be a team player is important to your cases and your career. While these skills do factor into having good communication skills, that is only part of working in a team.
When you find yourself working in a team, be sure to contribute to the discussions. Help brainstorm different approaches to take to work on the case and help determine who should be given what tasks. Do not be afraid to voice any challenges that arise in your part of the case and take any advice you are given to heart; when others voice their own challenges in the project, try to help them overcome their own obstacles. You can get much more done for much faster if you work with your team instead of trying to break off and do your own thing without collaborating with your team.
Resilience and Tenacity
A career in law is competitive by nature, so you need to show self-confidence and resilience, it will help you stand out in the crowd. This can help you get a job in a legal firm, it can help you get clients, and it can help you win cases.
Gemma Baker, the head of employability at Aspiring Solicitors, explained some of the tenacity and resilience that lawyers need in to be successful in their careers: “Law, like other careers, can be tough. The days can be long and sometimes people can be difficult. You will need to be motivated to ensure that work is done to the highest standard, within deadlines. Recruiters look for candidates with that drive.”
Baker says that a person with the right drive and determination can be identified through their employment history and work experience, as well as through their extracurricular activities. “I have to emphasise that evidence of being strongly driven does not have to be law-related; I have spoken to partners who have been impressed by candidates who have undertaken a paper [route] for three hours every morning before school, or those who have worked in retail environments, increasing their responsibilities along the way,” Baker said. “However, it is vital to ensure that your time commitment, responsibilities, and successes are all clearly conveyed in the work experience section of each application. More often than not, it is not clear how often candidates have worked and what they achieved during their employment.”
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