Tips For Attorney Career Development: Strengthen Both Hard and Soft Skills
Successful trial attorneys often share this commonality: their ability to demonstrate competence in various hard and soft skills. Naturally, attorneys must have the legal knowledge required for their profession, a hard skill. Still, they must also possess various soft skills such as communication, organization, and professionalism. However, with the trial rate in the United States at less than three percent, many young attorneys do not have the same opportunities to develop these skills as those who came before them. With this in mind, it is increasingly important for attorneys to commit to spending extra time outside of work learning and developing various hard and soft skills.
What are important soft skills to strengthen for attorney career development?
The soft skills essential for attorney career development include communication, professionalism, critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, negotiation, and time management, among others.
The Development of Soft Skills is Foundational for a Successful Career
Soft skills include communicating effectively, time management, finding mentors, teamwork, and accepting feedback. These traits, and others, are the skills that attorneys need to navigate complex communication situations, develop successful client relationships, and productively interact with others in the legal field.
Communication: Attorneys not only need to be able to communicate with colleagues and clients effectively, but they often also need to communicate with other attorneys, judges, juries, and various other outside vendors. These conversations may vary in their communication styles and tones, and attorneys need to be able to manage these different environments. Attorneys can work to improve their communication skills by listening actively and attentively, focusing on being clear and concise, and remaining mindful of non-verbal communication.
Teamwork: Collaborating with others can allow attorneys to share knowledge and expertise, helping each individual to deliver their best performance. Attorneys typically work as part of a team, making teamwork an essential soft skill for connecting with others. Developing relationships and networking with mentors, peers, and colleagues can create an environment where attorneys can bounce ideas off one another and garner trusted feedback.
Time management: Good time management is key for helping attorneys prioritize their work, ensuring that the highest priority tasks can be completed in time. Attorneys are constantly restrained by time, with court deadlines often representing a significant time management challenge. One key in particular for successful time management is limiting distractions. Making lists, time blocking, and using a calendar can all help attorneys successfully manage their time, potentially improving both profitability and client satisfaction.
Demonstrating Credibility and Professionalism
It may be obvious that the facts in a case matter, but how a trial attorney presents him or herself also matters and may matter more than expected. Anecdotally, a trial attorney shared that following a case, a juror emailed to express their appreciation that the defense attorney had obtained a haircut before their trial. This led to the juror finding them to be more professional and credible. Conversely, this juror conveyed how the appearance of the plaintiff’s lawyer, whom they believed had not gotten a haircut, caused the juror to perceive them as sloppy and, therefore, unbelievable.
Unfortunately, some attorneys still don't put much emphasis on their appearance, not understanding the impact it can have on how jurors will perceive them. While trial attorneys may hope that the facts of the case will carry the day and that how they’re dressed or interact with witnesses doesn’t matter, it does matter. How an attorney presents themselves can significantly affect a case's overall outcome. For young attorneys, learning how to present themselves can be as important as learning how to present the law and the facts of a case.
Learning How to Seize Any Opportunity
Anything done infrequently will never be a skill in which an individual will excel. To see significant career development, attorneys must continually practice and hone their skills. There are vast differences when comparing the plaintiff bar versus the defense bar, particularly regarding training programs for new attorneys. While the plaintiff's bar seems more willing to invest in intensive and expensive training programs, the defense bar seems more hesitant to invest in similar programs. It then becomes incumbent upon young attorneys to put themselves out there and look for opportunities to develop their skills.
The desire to acquire new knowledge through work and professional development opportunities is often immensely beneficial to those seeking attorney career development.
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● It often becomes incumbent upon young attorneys to seek opportunities to develop their soft skills.
● The soft skills that are important for attorney career development include communication, teamwork, and time management, among others.
● For young attorneys, learning how to present themselves can be as important as learning how to present the law and the facts of a case.
● To further their career development, it can be important for attorneys to spend extra time outside of work learning and developing various hard and soft skills.
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