From communication, negotiation, to networking, attitude and behaviour – we as lawyers need all of these skills to complement our hard-earned legal expertise and analytical intelligence. The so-called ‘soft skills’ are unfortunately often overlooked by professionals in favor of the ‘harder’ skills and knowledge areas when it comes to professional development. But what we as lawyers don’t realize most of the times is that today, organizations and law firms hire people for their hard skills, but they end up firing people for their lack of soft skills.
In the legal profession the ability to deal with people effectively and politely can determine the professional success of a lawyer, the soft skills may be more important over the long term than occupational skills. As a result, raw legal competence and hard skills are not enough to make us good lawyers, and great professionals because most of the times our career as professionals depends on our ability to build good relationships with clients, colleagues, and entities. That means that we must include programs, training’s and other kinds of helpful tools to assist young professionals with personal development to go along with professional development.
Soft skills are no longer a set of luxurious services but thanks to the globalization, changes in the job market and a different perception of what the legal profession is today – have turned more into a set of survival skills. The truth is that employers look for lawyers that are just as good in interpersonal skills and personal development as professional skills and practice. So ‘people’ skills are as crucial to establishing a legal career and raw legal competence alone is not enough to become a successful lawyer. Of course, there is no doubt that cultivating and maintaining superior legal skills is a core aspect of the professional development of lawyers, thus, it is important that lawyers possess a high level of proficiency in legal skills such as legal drafting, advocacy, client interviewing and so on.
However, beyond these legal skills, there is a need to place significant emphasis on the need for lawyers to develop qualities that characterize a lawyer’s personal effectiveness, professionalism and relationship with others such as colleagues, clients, court clerks, registrars, and judges. Evidence suggests that in recent times law firms are no longer seeking to employ lawyers with just good academic qualifications but are increasingly seeking lawyers who are passionate, ingenious high-fliers, and who can work independently and within a team. In other words, law firms are looking for lawyers who exhibit a high level of soft-skills proficiency in addition to a good academic and professional qualification. Consequently, soft-skills should be viewed as complementary to hard skills throughout all levels of practicing law in our countries.
Moreover, soft skills are important for lawyers not only for the purpose of being declared professionally competent, but also because they add genuine value for those who are looking to develop a successful legal career. Therefore, understanding the value of soft skills for our career is important, but ultimately pointless if we don’t take the steps to develop them. Unlike technical skills, soft skills are less knowledge based and are largely honed through practical experience. Nevertheless, there is an educational element to improving these skills and as a first step, it is worth seeking out some form of training that will help us identify how to improve our soft skills in practice. Once we have invested the time in learning some tips for soft skills best practice, it is crucial to try to implement real-life changes. It is only through such practice that we will ultimately be able to develop these skills, and may also find it helpful to review our professional progress. Because after all, ‘soft skills’ are what make good lawyers great.
European Legal 04 October 2016