What Skills Are Essential For Being a Successful Lawyer?

What Skills Are Essential For Being a Successful Lawyer?

Are you considering a career in the legal sector?

Whether you’ve decided to pursue a role as a lawyer, barrister, or even a legal aid, understanding the skills and know-how that is critical to succeed in a legal position is a handy thing to have. Whether you’re just commencing a master of laws in Australia, or refreshing your existing knowledge, let’s explore some of the skills that you need as a legal professional, to stay at the top of your game.

In recent years, there have been a wide number of TV characterizations of lawyers, often framing them in a negative light. Being a legal professional is much more than a TV dramatisation – it takes skill and grit not readily apparent on the silver screen. Soft skills such as having attention to detail, being able to empathise, solve problems, and resolve conflict can be incredibly powerful, no matter where you’re showcasing your legal qualifications, whether it be in a consulting suite or a courtroom.

Lawyers Are More Than Their TV Characteristics

In recent years, the rise of legal portrayals on television has become relatively well-known. From the likes of Dick Wolf’s Law and Order and Chicago franchises to the ethically questionable activities of Saul Goodman from AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad, the legal world is often scrutinised for the way that lawyers and legal professionals are portrayed. 

Let’s be realistic, while there are likely some bad eggs in every industry, the vast majority of lawyers and legal professionals do not act like Saul Goodman. However, what they may have in common is a willingness to represent their clients. Beyond that, however, the application of law is more than just standing and arguing in a courtroom, the legal sector is much more diverse and complex.

Vastly different from television characterizations, legal professionals are not comic book villains. They’re hardworking individuals that are looking to make a difference in the lives of their clients, whether it be through civil or criminal activities. Before we go any further, if you’re looking to pursue a career because of the way you see it presented on television – you may just be in the wrong career.

Understanding The Nuances – An Appetite for Detail

You may wonder what it takes for legal professionals to succeed in the sector. Regardless of the type of law that you work in, there’s a distinct set of soft skills that you need to master to truly succeed in the legal sector. Even if you’ve decided to take a role as a legal aide in a professional environment, understanding what skills you should try to master can be very powerful.

One of the most critical skills that a legal professional can have is the ability to pay attention to detail, no matter how complex it is. Often cited as the most critical skill for a lawyer to have, legal professionals need to be able to work through large swathes of documentation as necessary and understand as much of it as possible. This may be significant in the case of contract law, where you may be working with thousands of pages of documentation and precedent.

Consider the sentence that you are reading at the moment. Can you identify the error in the sentence structure? If not, that’s OK. To be successful as a legal professional, though, you’ll need to be able to identify errors and issues, inconsistencies in statements and testimonies, and contract documentation. At the end of the day, paying attention to detail can go a long way to being a successful legal professional.

Information Complexity – The Power of Problem Solving

One of the complexities of the legal sector is the sheer volume of information that you have to deal with. As data mining techniques evolved in recent years, the amount of information that a legal professional may have to sift through at any given time has grown drastically. An important, yet often overlooked skill for legal professionals is the ability to understand the data on hand, as well as being able to string together complex, nuanced information to be able to build a story that can then be presented via either a contract or a legal argument such as a deposition.

One of the most incredible transferable skills that a legal professional can have is the ability to propose solutions and solve complex problems. By being able to access complex data from a variety of sources, and understanding the complexities of the legal system, well-trained legal professionals can make it seem like this skill is far less important than it is. By breaking down complex arguments into their constituent components, you can help make stakeholders understand an argument with ease – so don’t underestimate the power of problem-solving, as it can make a difference in your professional career.

The Complexity of Emotion – Empathy and the Law

Understanding the law can be a complex business – after all, that is why legal professionals are in the business they’re in. To understand and employ knowledge within the legal sector is one thing, but another is being able to communicate that knowledge to those that may not necessarily be as knowledgeable about the legal profession as you. Legal cases can often be a troubling and stressful time, so being able to use empathy when appropriate can be a great way to connect with clients and to reassure them that you’re human, and here to help. Empathy is an important skill, but one that is not easily mastered. Being able to use your emotion to empathise with the needs of your clients, but also to be able to communicate with them the issues that they are facing simply and concisely can make a world of difference to your clients.

Resolving Conflict and The Law

One such area that is often overlooked in the legal system is the prevalence of conflict resolution and just how critical skill it is. Individuals that are looking to pursue a career in the legal sector often have to deal with the competing interests of conflicting parties, whether that’s through a courtroom or a boardroom.

A skill that is sometimes overlooked but should be essential in any legal professional’s toolkit is the ability to resolve conflict and diffuse potential situations that could escalate negatively. By being able to allay issues at hand and address concerns, you can reduce the amount of stress that legal proceedings may have on customers and yourself. 

Conflict resolution is incredibly powerful, and mastering this skill does not mean that you’re limited to applying your skills in other industries. The legal profession is just one area where having a clear and well-founded understanding of conflict resolution is important. If you look to make the jump to another role in the legal sector in the future, having these sorts of soft skills can be an incredibly powerful pitch to future employers.

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