As lawyers, there are certain skills we need to enable us to do our job; a law degree, technical training, foreign languages, financial knowledge, and so on. These are the ‘hard skills’ that the majority of lawyers have.
However, we rarely consider the ‘soft skills’ that create unique lawyers with individual talents.
How can these soft skills help us to achieve our ambitions?
Soft skills offer the chance for lawyers to develop not only their career, but also to improve their personal growth. Within the legal profession, soft skills can make the difference between getting that perfect job, or not, and can aid insight and understanding of clients and their needs.
Your work ethic, management qualities, communication skills and personal attributes are the soft skills that make you a better leader, the enhanced job prospect and a successful lawyer.
If you still aren’t convinced of the value of soft skills, the following information should help change your mind, showing you how success can be just a few skills away.
• Soft Skills – and Why Lawyers Need Them
Soft skills are not easily defined. It is easier to state what they are not; hard skills can be explained as a specific skill set which is required for a certain role. For example, to become a lawyer you must have a law degree.
Soft skills are the elements that enable you to perform your role of lawyer to the best of your ability. Examples of this would be leadership talents, empathy, or communication abilities – they are skills which characterise your relationships with others.
The value of soft skills should not be undervalued in today’s highly qualified workplace, as recent reports suggest that their value to the UK economy is an estimated £88billion.
Undertaking soft skills training alongside any CPD or work-based training will improve your professionalism, ethics and judgement, enabling you to better manage yourself and others.
Soft skills add a vital element to any lawyers’ repertoire of talents and add genuine value to clients and law firms. Firms offer a service to clients in which the employees (lawyers) are the raw material. These raw materials must be supported, directed and guided to enable a first class service for all clients and customers.
Developing skills that make you a more ’rounded’ individual should not be limited to lawyers in the lower ranks of a law firm but should be encouraged (by setting a good example) all the way up to senior partners and management. Excellent relationship skills should apply to everyone.
• Developing your Soft Skills
Understanding what soft skills are, and how they can assist in your career development, is pointless if you don’t take action towards gaining some specific training in some of the key areas.
While hard skills are generally knowledge based and can be learned, developed and fine-tuned, soft skills are more centred on the purely practical elements and require consistent practical application in order to become highly competent at them.
The first step in achieving soft skills is to source a quality training provider that offers the skills you would like to acquire. It does not matter which method of training you use; face-to-face, e-learning, and so on, but do choose one that suits your learning style.
Once you have found a training provider that offers the soft skills training you need and you have completed the course, it is vital you continue to pursue the skills you’ve learnt whenever possible. Make it a point to practice each day at least some of the elements you have learnt. For instance, if you have completed a communication course, you might consider using your new found skills to talk to quieter colleagues, or you might sign up to deliver a paper at a conference.
Remember, the more you use your skills, the better at them you will become.
To succeed in today’s world as a lawyer, knowledge is only the first step. Soft skills training will offer you the opportunity to improve your professional manner, increase your integrity, and advance your career. It’s never too late to learn a new skill.