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What law firms look for in lawyers

BY EVE DULLABH
Are you seeking advancement in the legal profession? Bear in mind that your new legal qualifications – as powerful as they are – are part of what’s expected. Law firms look for a rounded mix of specialist knowledge plus essential skills and attitudes, the most commonly cited being as described below.

People skills

Here’s a roll call of those with whom the lawyer may need to interact:

  • Distressed clients
  • Vengeful clients
  • Shy clients
  • Wordy clients
  • Clients who are lost souls
  • Picky clients
  • Shrewd business chiefs
  • Overconfident pensioners
  • Confused youths
  • Other lawyers with laser-like acumen
  • Mean spirited nurses, cuddly natured undertakers, charismatic librarians and anyone who defies stereotypes or, in fact, could be said to fit snugly within them.

  • And that’s just a selection of the astounding range of people lawyers that might encounter.

    Little wonder that forward-thinking law firms want not only lawyers who are technically excellent but who have the emotional range and mental elasticity to be trusted advisers to the widest range of unique and valuable clients.

    Great communication skills

    The ability to communicate succinctly and with empathy is essential as is knowing how to adjust the tone of your written and verbal communication.

    Lawyers can’t communicate enough. Clients need wooing, cajoling, satisfying and drawing into networks. Their instructions need summarising. The other side in disputes need to be kept in the loop – or challenged. Judges, witnesses, business associations, press, public, victim, violator… you may have to communicate with any one of these via email, phone, by old-fashioned letter or face to face. The skilled lawyer can communicate with anyone and everyone and is adept at a variety of styles of communication.

    Commercial sense

    Can you step back to see the big picture among all the detailed scrutiny that’s the heart of any legal case or transaction? Law firms look for candidates who have a demonstrable interest in how commercial decisions are taken within their own organisations and within those of their clients. Have commercial client? Have the following to hand:

  • Its company report
  • News articles on it
  • Financial analysis of the market in which it operates.

  • If you’re a junior lawyer, be entrepreneurial in outlook. Understand the commercial motivations that explain why an instruction has been given.

    Teamwork

    No lawyer – male or female – is an island. What can you do to demonstrate you listen to and support your colleagues but also lead where required? Be delegated to and a delegator. Can you clearly articulate your role (or potential role) within the wider team of lawyers, support staff and clients? How does your contribution fit in with theirs?

    Resilience

    Resilience is the new kid on the block in terms of soft skills legal recruiters claim make a difference to career development. Yet what resilience means in practice is a set of skills, attitudes and aptitudes that have long been recognised as being essential for lawyers. These are energy, tenacity, can-do spirit and an ability to roll with the punches and to learn from adversity.

    Being not a one-trick pony

    Modern lawyers manage risks, manage projects and manage people effectively. They’re not just legal work horses. Law Training Centre recognises this.

    Law Training Centre’s AXELOS accredited courses (MOR, PRINCE2 and RESILIA) deliver globally recognised best practice qualifications used by the multi-skilled legal professionals in their everyday practice to improve efficiency, reduce risk and fend off cyber threats to firm and client data.

    Intellectual ability

    And, of course, practising law is an intellectually challenging activity. Your employer will expect to see your mental fire powering its profits.

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