Blog > Careers

Top soft skills lawyers need to develop

Top soft skills lawyers need to develop

Training to become a lawyer is a tough process that not everyone is cut out for. But legal expertise isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd anymore. That’s where soft skills come in…

Soft skills might be at the back of your mind when completing your degree, exams, vacation schemes and training contracts. But soft skills give you a full skill set and help you to connect with your clients.

By embracing your “human” qualities, which is what soft skills can be referred to, you can perform to your best ability as a lawyer. From communication skills to leadership and empathy, we cover the top soft skills lawyers should develop to stay ahead of the game.

1. Commercial Awareness

 As a lawyer, you need to be aware of any developments in local, national and world business. Particularly, any issues that could have an impact on your industry or law firms. This could help you to market your services to potential clients and will give you something to discuss on your social media platforms if there is something specific to your services.

Additionally, if you are representing a commercial business, it is essential that you understand the sector your client is operating in to make pragmatic and business-minded legal decisions on their behalf.

To develop your commercial awareness, follow law blogs, sign up to newsletters and stay up to date with news channels daily.

Commercial awareness essentially means having a broad understanding of current affairs and news that could help you perform better for your clients so it’s an important soft skill to have.

2. Attention to Detail

Good attention to detail is integral to any successful legal career. A word out of place can have a detrimental effect and could even change the legalities of a clause or contract. Misspelt words or grammatical errors also look unprofessional, and a client is likely to go elsewhere.

If you are a law student applying for jobs or training contracts, employers will want to see correct spelling, punctuation and no grammatical errors throughout your application.

There are ways you can develop and improve your attention to detail, such as volunteering to proofread other documents, so you know where common mistakes are made and how to pick out errors.

 As a lawyer, being detailed-orientated is an essential soft skill to have and will play a role in the success of your law career.

3. Verbal and Written Communication 

Strong verbal and written communication skills are crucial and without them you will struggle to carry out your duties as a lawyer.

You need to be confident when arguing a case in court, negotiating settlements for your clients, and presenting your evidence. It is important to be persuasive and clear when putting your points across.

Written ability is equally important when drafting letters, emails and legal documents and follows on from having good attention to detail as a soft skill.

There are ways to develop your written and verbal communication skills by volunteering to take minutes during meetings, running a presentation in the office and holding practice legal proceedings with your colleagues.

Communication skills are essential soft skills for succeeding in a legal career.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork is essential for any job. But when working on cases, teamwork will be integral to getting things done and winning cases. You need to know how to interact and liaise with members of your law firm in all different levels. Having close working relationships with colleagues will enable you to work productively, effectively and come out with the best advice and outcomes for your clients.

The best way to develop teamwork and personable skills as a law graduate is to join another team outside of work that is new to you. This could be a sport, cooking class or volunteering group. If you are new to a law firm, attending work events and meetings will help you to get to know the rest of your team and develop collaboration skills.

Teamwork is an essential soft skill to possess to help get the best outcome for your clients.

5. Analytical Skills

As a law student, trainee lawyer or an experienced legal professional you will be required to read lots of information and absorb facts and figures, so you are well-prepared. Therefore, a keen eye for analytical detail is an important soft skill.

You will need to be able to identify key information and explain this clearly to your clients, so one way to develop analytical skills is by reading large documents or long news articles and making lists of the important information. 

Analytical skills are essential for many parts of your career in the legal sector, so it is a good idea to keep practicing this.

6. Organisation

Organisation is key when it comes to putting your clients’ needs first.

You need to research points of law, draft legal documents, manage casefiles and possibly attend court so it is essential that you have organisational and time-management soft skills. It is important to be able to prioritise your workload. 

Writing to-do-lists or investing in a planner is a good way to develop your organisation skills.

Organisation skills are beneficial for your personal and professional life, so it is an essential soft skill to develop.

7. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is integral for your role in the legal sector. You’ll need to employ your problem-solving skills on a regular basis to outmanoeuvre the opposing parties to your client and secure the best result for your client. The solution to a problem may not always be the obvious one, so thinking outside the box is key to achieve the desired result.

There are lots of ways to improve your problem-solving skills.

Problem-solving will help you to achieve the best outcome for your client, so it is a great soft skill to develop.

 8. Resilience and Confidence

Resilience and confidence are some of the most important soft skills a legal professional can have. You will regularly be in situations where there are roadblocks to getting your client what you want so it is important that you are resilient enough to not let these knock you back. 

Confidence will also help your client to feel at ease in your presence and give them more trust in you which will help lead to loyal clients.

You can develop your resilience and confidence by working on your public speaking and presentation skills.

These are crucial soft skills to develop to ensure your clients receive the best service from you and your law firm.

9. Initiative

Teamwork is essential, but there will be instances where you must show initiative and independence in your law firm.

As a trainee lawyer or law student, you will be given responsibility and you must rise to the challenge which might mean devising your own solutions to problems rather than relying only on colleagues.

That does not mean that you must struggle alone, taking initiative includes the ability to know when to ask questions or to ask for help.

This is an indispensable soft skill to develop early on in your legal career.

10. Conflict Management 

Conflict management is an essential soft skill for lawyers to possess. You need to be able to manage difficult and tense situations.

As a legal professional, there are way to manage conflict from not letting your client’s emotions get the better of them, finding common ground between parties and strong negotiation.

11. Working Under Pressure

A legal career isn’t easy and there will be lots of times that you will be working to deadlines, so it is important to develop the soft skills, so you are able to work under pressure. You need to be able to focus, even in difficult circumstances.

Ways you can develop this soft skill include setting personal deadlines that are easy to achieve and working your way up. Identify other factors that affect your ability to complete things to a deadline and find out ways that work for you to manage this.

Knowing how to manage your time effectively is also a skill that can help you to work better under pressure. But both soft skills are crucial to ensuring you are getting the best result for your client.

12. Humility, Sensitivity and Empathy

These are great soft skills as it means you can understand things from your client’s perspective and understand the outcome you would want from the situation. This makes you better at resolving conflicts and disputes and maintaining loyal clients.

13. Understanding People

It is important that, as a lawyer, you understand your clients’ needs. You need to be able to portray information to them in a way that they can understand so they can make the right decision for them.

This is a skill that will be developed over time in your legal career from seeing how people react to certain things and knowing what tone to use when. But there’s no harm in starting to think about this early on in your career so you can improve each time!

14. Discipline, Dependability and Loyalty

The best lawyers possess discipline, dependability, and loyalty soft skills and this means they are getting the best for their clients. It is therefore essential that you work on these skills.

All of the above skills will help you to be the best lawyer you can be, and this will help you create long-lasting relationships with clients.

Ready to develop your soft skills?

Understanding what soft skills are, the importance of developing them and how they can assist your career is a good start. But without taking some specific advice or training to develop the key areas for you, it’s pointless.

Your next steps should be to find some good quality resources or a training provider that can help you to acquire these skills. Once you have undertaken some training, it is essential to keep developing and using your soft skills. There are many great ways you can develop your soft skills in your law firm. For example, by taking leadership on a case in the firm or training new law graduates, you will improve your leadership and communication skills.

The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone and use these skills, the better you will become at them!

Hopefully these resources are helpful and give you a place to start with developing your soft skills. 

If you’re looking for your next job in law, head to our vacancies page.