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The top 10 skills for a successful career in law

Want to study law and hope to become a successful lawyer? Here, we take a look at the top 10 legal skills you need to succeed.

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Do you have dreams of becoming a solicitor or a barrister? You’ll need to rely on more than just your knowledge of the law. To be successful in this field, there are  a number of essential soft skills that’ll not only help make you a leading candidate for employers, but also accelerate your career.

In this article, we’ll explore the skills that all aspiring lawyers should have. From communication, teamwork and empathy to problem-solving and organisation, discover the skills needed to help you take the legal world by storm.

1. Communication skills

Good written and verbal communication skills are absolutely essential. Whether you’re negotiating settlements, liaising with clients, or drafting contracts, being able to get your ideas across using different writing styles and registers is key.

Knowing the right technical and legal language is one thing, but being able to convey this information in a digestible and concise way is a different skill entirely. If your law communication skills fall short, then why not work on your public speaking to improve your delivery and confidence? Alternatively, for written communication, you could consider enrolling on a writing course.

Not only is it important to speak and write well, but you’ll also have to be a good listener. This is key when getting important details correct and ensuring you build a great relationship with your clients.

2. Teamwork

One of the more underrated legal skills you’ll need to harness is your ability to work well in a team. Regardless of whether you become a solicitor, barrister or paralegal, you’ll need to be able to work alongside colleagues and clients productively. After all, winning cases is a team effort.

If people enjoy working with you and you’re able to achieve good results, then you’re more likely to be recommended. Networking and establishing good connections is a big part of the legal profession, so you’ll want to ensure that you treat people well, listen to others and work positively with them.

This is an important part of creating an open, honest and diverse working environment where collaboration and communication are second nature.

3. Attention to detail

Put simply, excellent attention to detail is one of the most important skills in law. An eye for detail means that you’re able to complete your legal research and writing responsibilities, error-free. 

In law, a misplaced word or wrong fact could be catastrophic, resulting in losing a client and costing your firm money. No one wants that. Here are just a few examples of when being accurate is important:

  • Reading and interpreting legal documents
  • Spotting inaccuracies and mistakes in contracts
  • Looking for evidence to support your case
  • Recalling facts
  • Reading people and their behaviour
  • Understanding case law and precedents.

4. Commercial awareness

Being knowledgeable about changes in the legal profession and how this impacts your law firm and clients is one of the key skills for law. This includes staying up-to-date with current affairs, business, politics, and local developments. 

Having good commercial awareness allows you to demonstrate to employers and clients that you have a positive approach to your work and possess all the right skills. It’s a good way of showcasing your passion for your role and that you take your responsibility as a lawyer seriously.

Plus, it also means you’ll be able to contribute to important discussions on how your firm can improve its practices. A good example of when commercial awareness becomes important is when major foreign policy disputes hit the headlines. 

5. Empathy

In order to sustain a relationship with a client that’s built on trust, you’ll need to be empathetic. This involves being a good listener and taking an interest in any concerns or questions they may have. 

Skills like empathy are often something you develop over time when working in the profession, as you become more experienced in dealing with clients. A lot of cases will need to be treated sensitively, which makes emotional intelligence all the more vital. 

6. Organisation

Good organisation skills are integral to a successful career in law. The legal profession can be incredibly demanding and fast-paced, so being able to remain focused and prioritise key parts of your role is essential.

Some day-to-day tasks that require good organisation skills include:

  • Drafting legal documents
  • Writing and editing contracts
  • Legal research 
  • Meeting and liaising with clients
  • Attending court
  • Working collaboratively with colleagues

If you choose to study law, then good organisation skills are often something you’ll develop as part of your degree or course. This skill is particularly valuable when it comes to prioritising your learning and getting assignments completed on time.

7. Working well under pressure

Building a successful career in law isn’t easy. Life as a solicitor or barrister can often be stressful, as you’ll be required to work in high-pressure situations, manage heavy workloads and meet strict deadlines. 

Whether you’re expected to work late nights to hit a deadline or take on a particularly complex and demanding case, it’s fair to assume that your resilience will be tested regularly. 

While nobody will expect you to deal with pressure perfectly at the start of your career, your ability to handle difficult situations and remain calm and composed will come with experience and confidence. 

8. Problem-solving

In law, quite often the best course of action isn’t the most obvious, and achieving a desired outcome can be complex. This means that you’ll be expected to show good problem-solving skills on a daily basis, so you’re able to secure a positive result. 

In most cases, there will be different routes you can take and plenty of different arguments to consider, so it’s a vital skill in law to be able to work out the best choice for your client. Practice makes perfect when it comes to problem-solving – as does being confident in your approach and not being afraid to think outside of the box.

9. Using your own initiative

Due to the fast-paced nature of law, being able to use your own initiative and work independently is also an important legal skill. You’ll often not have the time to discuss an important decision with colleagues so trusting your instincts and making the call yourself is key.

As in any sector, the more senior your role in a company, the more key decisions you’ll have to make. However, being able to demonstrate this early on will help you to progress and set your career on the right path.

Here are a few ways you can impress by showing your own initiative:

  • Complete tasks to a high standard without a prompt
  • Solve problems that have gone unnoticed by others
  • Do extra research and analysis to get the right outcome
  • Ask questions and be inquisitive 
  • Continue to develop your own personal learning.

10. Creative thinking

Before reading this article, you probably wouldn’t have expected creative thinking to appear on a list of essential skills for law. That said, the ability to think creatively is an essential skill for law. Applying alternative thinking and coming up with new approaches comes in handy when tackling complex or unconventional cases. 

Logic, critical thinking and creativity all make for a successful dream team – and if you’re able to use all three then you’re on track to a long and successful career in law.

Boost your skills with FutureLearn: Online law courses

If you feel like you need to improve your skills for a career in law, then take a look at some of the law courses we offer at FutureLearn. With our help, you’ll be able to effectively use your time to expand your lawyer skill set and reach career milestones. No matter the field of law you want to specialise in, we’ve got you covered.

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