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Lawyer Talk: The Most Important People Skills

July 27, 2022 0 Comments

Having great people skills is what often sets the best lawyers apart from the rest.

If you ask recruiters what skills they’re looking for when filling lawyer jobs, there are a set of core skills and attributes that sit high on the list.

Five key attributes our legal recruiters look for are:

  • Perseverance
  • Self confidence
  • Perfectionism
  • Self discipline
  • A strong moral code

And when it comes to skills, which can be a mix of innate ability and learned practices, some of the other important skills are:

  • Attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Logical reasoning
  • Research and writing
  • Strong judgement
  • Creative approach to solutions

But maybe most important of all and straddling both the attributes and skills? How good you are with people.

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What are people skills?

Having great people skills will help in just about any profession, but there are some industries or professions, such as the legal profession, where they are paramount.

While people skills are often categorised by terms such as ‘likeability’ or ‘warmth’ or as ‘having a great personality’, more generally, good people skills come down to an individual’s ability to listen, communicate and relate to others, both clients and colleagues.

But good people skills can also be expanded to concepts such as empathy, the ability to problem solve, conflict resolution and the capacity to work as part of a team towards a common goal.

While a full list of people skills is expansive, here are the five people skills that take a lawyer from being good to being great.

Gorilla Jobs Blog Most Important Lawyer People Skills Man In Suit Wearing Safety Helmet Sitting At Desk Behind Laptop
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The 5 key people skills that make lawyers great

1. Communication

Communication lies at the heart of most people’s skills, so it deserves top billing as the number one people skill a lawyer should have.

From talking to a client in an initial briefing to presenting in the courtroom, lawyers constantly find themselves in situations where communication is key. For all the research and hard work that goes into helping a client resolve their situation, being able to communicate clearly, confidently and effectively when arguing their case will ultimately make a big difference.

And given writing can be such a huge part of a lawyer’s day, honing written communication skills sits alongside oral skills in importance.

2. Empathy

Empathy is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, but knowing how and when to show it can make a huge difference.

In terms of lawyers, showing empathy can be done while still maintaining the clear headed logic and reasoning a lawyer must use to navigate a legal situation before them.

Showing a client (or colleague) some understanding of what it’s like to be in their shoes can strengthen relationships, assist with gaining insight into motives and maybe even predict to some degree how they will respond to certain situations.

3. Being an active listener

Lawyers do a LOT of talking, but just as crucial to success both in the courtroom and out of it is learning to be an active listener.

The key is not just ‘hearing’ someone – active listening involves focussing on what the other person is saying and letting them finish, then carefully considering a response before offering advice or opinion.

Given that gathering information underpins building a strong case, refining and strengthening active listening skills could help reveal more useful and insightful information that might not otherwise come to light. It may also help a lawyer construct more relevant questions because they’ve taken the time to listen rather than interject before the client has opened up.

4. Body language

This may seem a little left field, but improving awareness of body language can reveal gems of information that might otherwise be missed.

Watching for body language signs is probably more a subconscious than conscious action as clearly sitting studiously observing someone’s actions might look odd!

But being mindful of gestures, expressions, tone of voice and even appearance of clients during discussions and, importantly, when cross examining in the courtroom, will give an edge that could unearth vital information mere words cannot.

5. Keeping an open mind

The facts in a case may seem cut and dry, and strong judgement to help draw logical and reasonable conclusions lies at the heart of good practice, but keeping an open mind is invaluable.

This helps create trust and respect with any parties involved in a case, be it clients or colleagues, because they feel their point of view is being honestly considered.

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