The Top 7 Skills for Lawyers

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While law school helps you develop the legal knowledge to practice law, it doesn’t always help you with many of the “soft skills” that are equally essential top skills for lawyers. Having the right soft skills, in addition to a strong knowledge of the law, is crucial for building a successful legal career—and for running a successful practice, if you decide to go that route. These top skills include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Research and analysis
  • Persuasion
  • Business sense
  • Communication
  • Creative problem solving
  • Organization

So, how do you master these soft skills? We’ll discuss each of them below and provide some helpful tips for developing top skills for lawyers. 

1. Attention to detail 

Attention to detail is a critical skill for any lawyer, regardless of their practice area. Unfortunately, when juggling files and competing demands, it can be challenging to devote the appropriate level of attention to your overall work—to say nothing of actually developing and improving your attention to detail. 

When you need to focus, try minimizing distractions:

  • Create a welcoming office environment (whether you’re in-office or working from home). 
  • Consider using “focus time” systems like the Pomodoro technique.
  • Organize your schedule so you can focus your attention on the task at hand. 

2. Research and analysis

Research and analysis skills make up the backbone of any successful lawyer’s career. It is simply critical to understand the law and how it applies to your clients’ cases. Take the time to understand the research and analysis tools at your disposal to ensure you conduct your research efficiently and accurately. 

3. Persuasion

Knowing how to get buy-in is essential, whether you’re courting a prospective client or arguing a case in front of a judge. 

Persuasion is a multi-faceted skill for any lawyer—it’s not enough to be “good at arguing.” Developing your persuasive writing skills, building solid arguments based on facts and logic, and tailoring your presentation to your audience all go a long way when convincing another person to see things from your perspective. 

Our talk with Robert Cialdini—one of our keynote speakers from the 2022 Clio Cloud Conference—provides amazing insights on how lawyers can become better persuaders. 

4. Business sense

Most lawyers eventually make business decisions in addition to the decisions they make as part of their legal work. However, our research shows that business skills don’t come naturally to nearly half of lawyers. 

According to the 2021 Legal Trends Report, while most partners and solo attorneys reported involvement in their firm’s finances, only 51% of solo attorneys and managing partners surveyed reported high confidence in their knowledge of year-over-year revenue trends. 

Developing your business skills—including knowledge of finances, marketing, and strategy—will not only serve you well in your legal career: it can provide you with a competitive advantage, helping you retain more clients and better manage the costs of running your firm. Our guide to creating a law firm business plan is an excellent primer for lawyers interested in building their business sense. 

5. Communication

Lawyers are known for having the gift of gab, but effective lawyer communication skills go far beyond speaking confidently. 

Effective communication—whether with clients, opposing counsel, or the courts—can include knowing when and how to communicate with stakeholders, understanding stakeholder needs, and, perhaps surprisingly, having excellent listening skills! For more information, start with our free webinar on How To Bridge The Communications Gap With Your Clients

6. Creative problem solving

“Creative” might not be the first word the public thinks of when describing lawyers. However, a large part of legal work involves creative problem solving. For example, when parties are deadlocked in a negotiation, offering an innovative solution or compromise can spell the difference between success and stalemate. 

Being client-centered is critical to creative problem solving—after all, understanding your client’s needs is essential for uncovering what “success” means to them. Take the time to truly understand your clients: not only what their “best case scenario” might be, but also who they are, what they value, and how their case has affected them. You might be surprised what you glean from these conversations and where they lead you when you’re in problem-solving mode. 

7. Organization

Managing a busy caseload while balancing competing obligations requires lawyers to stay organized. While foundational organization skills are critical for any lawyer balancing their many demands, using cloud-based practice management software like Clio helps lawyers stay focused, automate routine tasks, and provide their clients with the highest level of service. 

For example, with Clio’s legal task management functionality, you get instant access to the progress of your file. You can see your upcoming and overdue tasks, and even create custom task categories to standardize your law firm’s processes. 

Bonus: tips for honing top skills for lawyers

Honing your soft skills can be a lifelong process. That’s why, regardless of your years of practice or experience, it’s essential to focus on getting better every day. Below, we’ve provided three tips for honing the top skills for lawyers. 

Put in the time 

Getting better every day takes consistent effort. Whether you’re developing your writing skills or learning more about finance, pursue opportunities that allow you to work your soft skill muscles or set aside time whenever possible to learn more. 

Lean on your colleagues

Colleagues play an important role in skills development. Whether through a formal mentorship arrangement or simply by asking for a second set of eyes on a draft, reach out to the people around you to help you develop your soft skills. 

Use tech to streamline your work

While developing your soft skills is vital for lawyers, using tech to streamline your work can help ensure that you’re able to make the biggest impact with your skills. Clio is the leading option for lawyers to standardize client intake, automate routine tasks, and much more. Take, for example, our customer Tatevik Gasparyan, who cut administrative time by 90% while increasing leads by 70% with Clio! 

Final thoughts on top skills for lawyers

Being a great lawyer involves so much more than an encyclopedic knowledge of the law. To succeed in the legal industry, don’t ignore your soft skills. Consider how you can build your skills in the areas above and implement appropriate tech at your law firm so you can streamline tasks and focus more time and energy on putting your legal skills to use.Ready to streamline your tasks while taking your skills to the next level? Take in our free webinar to Watch How Law Firms Use Clio.

What is the most important skill for a lawyer?

The most important skills for a lawyer include the following soft skills: 

  • Attention to detail
  • Research and analysis
  • Persuasion
  • Business sense
  • Communication
  • Creative problem solving
  • Organization

These skills are critical for lawyer development.

What skills do law firms look for?

Law firms look for lawyers who have both hard skills (legal knowledge and experience) and soft skills (communication, writing, attention to detail, and organization). Demonstrated ability in both areas will serve you well when applying for law firm positions.

What are the 3 most important skills that you think a lawyer needs?

The three most important skills that any lawyer needs are legal knowledge, attention to detail, and research skills. These foundational skills are required for anyone practicing law.

What are the hard skills of a lawyer?

The hard skills of a lawyer come primarily from law school. Developing knowledge in the following areas is critical for lawyer hard skills: 

  • Criminal law
  • Civil procedure
  • Constitutional law
  • Professional responsibility
  • Contracts
  • Evidence
  • Torts
  • Business law
  • Property law
  • Wills and estates law

Categorized in: Business

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