What skills do you need to work for a top law firm?
Getting a job in law (and progressing) can be difficult. We all need to stand out from the crowd but how can we do that? We look at ten skills you should have to gain an advantage over your peers.
10. Be organised
A lawyer’s working day is seldom boring. Whether you are researching case law, drafting legal documents and contracts, managing case files, meeting clients or attending court you are always going to be rushed off your feet. The ability to prioritise your time and remain focused among competing priorities is essential.
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to hone your organisational skills at university and throughout your training contract or pupillage. At job interviews, you’ll need to come up with good answers for this so think of examples where you successfully organised an event.
9. Able to work under pressure
Being a lawyer is a stressful job with clients relying on you to bring your ‘A-Game’ to work every day. If you work in conveyancing, you’ll be dealing with big amounts of money; if you’re a family lawyer, you’ll be dealing with child protection; as a criminal lawyer, you may be the difference between somebody going to prison or not.
It’s no exaggeration to say that your work changes people’s lives. It’ll be impossible not to worry now and again – just try and manage things and not take everything to heart.
8. Creative at solving problems
While many think that lawyers are more practical than creative, that’s not technically true. Thanks to the nuances of the English legal system, there is plenty of room for manoeuvre when interpreting case law and statutes.
One famous solicitor in the UK, nicknamed “Mr Loophole” is famous (or notorious) for being able to find areas of the law that can be exploited to help his famous clients. be inspired by him.
7. Language skills
Being fluent in your native language or a second language is a rare skill. The ability to command a room with your speaking abilities is a powerful weapon in your armoury. Similarly, a lawyer who can draft legal documents with fluency remains a tremendous asset to any law firm.
To improve your skills, study and engage with the language. Get a teacher, watch TV lawyers, read great writers. There’s no excuse to not improve your communication skills.
6. Writing ability
A significant proportion of a lawyer’s life will be spent drawing up documents. “Part of being a good commercial lawyer is being able to convey information in succinct ways,” says Caroline Sarson, partner and talent manager at Bird and Bird.
Different writing styles are used when writing to clients rather than judges or fellow lawyers. We notice that many lawyers tend to be far too formal when writing to other lawyers and teach you how to stop this.
Starting your own blog or writing articles for sites such as The Legal English Blog are great ways to hone your writing skills. You can also contact us to proofread your essays to help with grammar and sentence structure.
5. Be a people person
There are many facets to being a “people person” but it all comes down to being happy to engage with another human being and showing curiosity. When you sit down with a client, you’ll need to engage in small talk and within a few minutes, ask some potentially embarassing questions.
“People skills are, in short, the various attributes and competencies that allow someone to play well with others,” explains David Parnell, a legal consultant based in the United States. “While on the surface these may be summed up by notions such as ‘likeability,’ or having a ‘good personality,’ when you start to look at what makes one ‘likable,’ for instance, you’ve opened Pandora ‘s Box.” However, mainly these attributes come in the form of effective, accurate and persuasive communication, he says.
4. Negotiating skills
While non-lawyers engage in small-scale negotiations every other day, lawyers negotiate every day. Criminal lawyers might try to get a lesser sentence for their client while real property lawyers will want to get a great deal for their client.
By honing your negotiation skills, you’ll place yourself in the top tier of lawyers. You’ll know when to be diplomatic, when to be tough and when to make concessions.
3. Research skills
Whether it’s searching law books, Lexis/Nexis or Uncle Google, competent lawyers need superhuman analytical skills in order to find crucial legal points that help their clients.
You will develop your research skills during studies at university but this skill to separate the important from the unimportant is something that you can use in your day-to-day life too. Try reading newspapers from different sides of the political spectrum to gain an understanding of how writers put their own spins on important matters.
While lawyers work a lot on their own, the ability to work in a team is essential to their success. In a team, the ability to show respect and empathy become essential and those who lack the ability to listen will suffer.
If people enjoy working with you, they will be happy to recommend you to others; undoubtedly the best way to progress in your career.
1. Commercial Awareness
While commercial awareness may seem a nebulous concept to a lawyer, most law firms are looking for lawyers who possess some level of commercial awareness, or at least have a concept of it.
In essence, commercial awareness is about recognising that a law firm is a business like any other, and second, that all the trials and tribulations of the business world drive your client’s legal needs and you need to understand and react to them.
Try to keep track of developments across the business world: new mergers and acquisitions, changing international legislation and emerging global markets. Martha Jeacle of Mann Lawyers in Canada says that successful lawyers need “to demonstrate that you understand the wider political and economic implications of a transaction or case”.
For more information on developing your Legal English skills, contact us.
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