Professional Skills of a Modern Lawyer. Historically, the legal industry was a strong resistor of change. Even the ABA was slow to approve new technology as few were requesting it. However, with the entire world going through a digital transformation, the demands from clients and the skills required of a modern lawyer are changing rapidly.
Of course, many of the fundamentals will remain the same, but, if a career in law is your future, you ought to know what the ideal skill set entails.
1. Time Management
Whether you are enrolling in Pre-Law or passed the bar 20 years ago, time management is crucial. As your profile in the industry grows and you become more successful, you will be challenged with high-stakes clients and cases. Each one will call for your undivided attention and thorough research.
Time management will be the difference between preparing a strong case, hitting billable targets, having a fulfilling personal life, and not achieving those things.
The best lawyers find a way to optimize their time. They plan each day and week, leverage online calendars for appointments, or keep a diary of exactly what is expected for the weeks ahead. Time management is essential to master.
2. Technology-Savvy and Quick Learner
Florida and North Carolina are the first states to mandate technology as part of the continuing legal education credit systems. Without a doubt, many states will follow such as the impact of technology on the legal sector.
Thankfully, new graduates have a familiarity with the latest AI and legal document software. It is critical that you never lose this advantage as it enhances your employability. The quicker you can do a variety of monotonous tasks including research and due diligence, the stronger your hand is at the negotiations table.
Don’t forget that the legal sector has been a tardy adopter of technology and general change. Having the aptitude to evolve with the industry is impressive to the elder statesmen.
3. Updated Commercial Awareness
Commercial awareness is how current your knowledge is on the local, national and international matters that could impact your clients. It is critical. Today’s clients need a lawyer that is formally educated AND lives in the real world.
Business clients are often ruthless when it comes to their need for a commercially aware lawyer. Their firms are exposed to mergers, acquisitions, opportunities, and threats. It is vital that their lawyer understands their markets, spots opportunities and weaknesses and can protect them where required.
To stay aware, keep a watchful eye on the stock markets, client competitor news, market trends and potentially impacting news. The more information you have, the more agile you are for change.
4. Clear Communication
Few things are more important as a lawyer than communication. It is so highly valued by the industry that you are tested during your undergraduate, LSATs, law school and State Bar Level. It is demanded that you are an expert of communication because it is at the core of effective lawyering.
At a minimum, modern lawyers are expected to be fluent in legalese but also in making information accessible to clients who are not. Add to this the need to be both charming and persuasive when facing opposition or at trial.
If you are not yet confident, practice. Join a toastmaster’s club, a debate team or even a choir. Whatever it takes to perfect having your voice heard is necessary.
5. Analytical Problem Solver
Law is unforgiving and impatient. Opposing counsel, clients, and courts do not have the patience to wait for attorneys to figure things out in their own time. The further up the chain you go in the legal profession, the more that is demanded of you.
As you grow, you need to be able to quickly grasp reports, assess options, make decisions and change course without missing a beat.
6. Self Management
In 2014, a study of Yale Law revealed that 70% of graduates suffered mental health problems during their schooling. Unfortunately, even when you go on to forge your career, the struggles persist.
For modern lawyers levied with constant demands and expectations, finding a way to disconnect and recharge is critical. Lawyer burnout is extraordinarily common as are substance abuse issues. Meditate, do yoga, escape into nature, paint or exercise. Find a method of relaxing your body and mind because otherwise you will suffer and your career will eventually show it.
7. Selfless Teamwork
The legal profession may seem full of star players but success is down to collaboration. From receptionists to senior partners, everyone plays a part.
For a new graduate, you might feel as though you survived your education on your own but that is not the truth. You received support from peers, professors, friends and family and your new firm is effectively the same. You will be challenged in intimidating ways but find ways of working with different personalities. Understand how people like to operate and earn their respect.
Modern lawyers face a far more complex legal world than existed 20 years ago. The digitized playing field demands new skills applicable to every deposition and courtroom. It may be daunting but at the same time, exciting because you possess skills generations of lawyers do not.
Leverage your position and remain humble enough to hone new skills and there will be no doubt you too will enjoy a prosperous career.