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How to outshine the competition - and stand out as a lawyer

BY EVE DULLABH
Which tips, tricks and tactics could propel your professional effectiveness to the next level?

Ask the right questions

Ask crystal-clear questions of your clients, grasp the facts for their benefit – and then present them with a crystal-clear solution. Always bear in mind that your clients may not know what is relevant, so your ability to glean facts is essential.

Critical thinking

Practise taking a 360-degree view of each legal issue: sound analysis leads to sound legal advice.

Write persuasively

The keyboard is mighty – and all those documents and pleadings pack more punch when written using persuasive techniques.

The basics of a written argument are:

  • Clarifying the facts.
  • Identifying the legal issues.
  • Determining which laws or regulations apply – and applying them.
  • Drawing conclusions.

  • The means of upping the quality of your writing can vary from the simple – creating “pace” by varying sentence length – to intermediary level (unleashing the power of vocabulary) to using advanced elements of storytelling.

    Speak persuasively – and listen well

    Audit your abilities. Do you speak persuasively – and actively listen – in the following situations?

  • Questioning clients – or witnesses
  • Convincing clients from all walks of life that you are the right person to represent
  • Presenting a client’s position
  • Communicating with colleagues and fellow professionals – whether you’re managing up, down or across the hierarchy.

  • All those scenarios require subtly different forms of verbal communication. This might involve using words to paint a picture of your client’s life in such a way that a third party truly “gets” what’s happening. It might involve repeating what the client has said so they know you’ve understood them. It could mean using brief, polite, impactful phrases to bring a busy colleague on board. Voice coaching can help. Even straightforward vocal techniques such as deepening your tone at the end of sentences can give you more authority.

    Choose a wise mentor – and enjoy good arguments with them

    You’re never too experienced or old not to find a trusted other with whom to discuss cases and spend time bouncing around ideas and practising arguments. Ask yourself, “Who can teach me new things and better things”?

    Study people

    It’s an investment of time with a good return.

    Always be polite and ethical

    Exude civility. If you respect your profession, it’s likely to respect you – and to favour you. Exhibit grace and diplomacy when encountering a client who has erred or become frustrated. But be frank in your appraisal of the issues. You need to be a trusted adviser.

    Innovate – and be yourself

    Your personal brand – your reputation – depends upon some level of distinctiveness.

  • Define and prioritise your passions and values
  • Define your key personal characteristics
  • Determine your audience
  • Develop your personal image
  • Build a presence online and offline.

  • Find a niche within a speciality and mine it in your way. Be willing to change and think like a business owner. It’s not always easy to create a distinctive service – but you’ll probably never do it if you fail to question how others do it. Ask questions of yourself, ask questions when you research the market. Asking the right questions is one of the roots of innovation.

    Give before you get

    How can you best help others? Answer this as clearly and thoroughly as you can before building business networks

    Be great at something else

    Be a great…

  • Friend
  • Parent
  • Volunteer
  • Sports person
  • Walker
  • Traveller

  • The habits you develop to make those things great can rub off on your professional life. Those outside pursuits can also balance your life.

    Attitude will help

    Approach your career with enthusiasm, patience and perseverance. Always have plans B and C for when things don’t go as expected.

    Make your own learning a priority

    Go beyond CPD requirements as today’s lawyer is multifaceted. Coat those essential legal skills in a honey of 21st century competencies: risk assessment, service ethos, project management and emotional intelligence. Skills that clients trust.