Necessary Soft Skills In The Legal Industry
Soft skill sets aren’t the main topic of conversation in a job interview, but they make up a large part of any position in the legal industry (and account for a large part of a hiring decision). If you are looking to shift your career or advance within your organization, focus on the following soft skills major companies have noted are crucial for current and considered employees.
Communication Of Any Form
Although this one might seem obvious, the fact of the matter is: no one thinks they are a poor communicator and yet large corporations spend millions of dollars each year on “communication issues”. In addition to knowing how to speak with people in person, you’ll have to be adept at email and phone skills to ensure your success at a company, especially if the company allows or encourages remote work. It doesn’t hurt to know your way around social media as well, as those platforms have certainly become a larger part of the legal landscape in the past decade. In general, being polite, even-tempered, and professional in all of your communications is key.
Working well in a group setting is imperative to any one person’s individual success (let alone a whole company’s!). Successful companies are run with teams who work together and support each other. Just like communication, no one wants to think they aren’t a team player, so it’s especially important to understand your own strengths and weaknesses here and be prepared to talk about them in an interview. Lawyers are often perceived as the “no” department: in the context of a job interview, come prepared with some examples that highlight how you helped a client or employer get the job done.
Feedback is vital to growth. It allows employees and managers to have an open line of communication about goals and output between each other. In order to make sure this process runs smoothly you need to be the type of person who welcomes and delivers feedback (negative or positive) at any time. This involves a lot of empathy (deliver and receive feedback in a way that does not blame, accuse, or assume malicious intent), curiosity (ask questions to understand the details of feedback) and recognition for the ultimate goals at hand. If you or someone you work with is taking the time to voice their opinions and concerns about yours or a fellow co-workers’ work, then they are showing they care about both you and the company. Research by Google shows that this kind of psychological safety is key to the success of teams.
Any company’s main concern is productivity. When you’re offered a full-time position, your agreement is based around the idea that you’ll yield results and that your time during work hours is spent wisely. Imagine you’re running late to your best friends’ wedding and you’re the best man/maid of honor. Chances are, if you “rewind” the preceding days, you might find a “should I be doing this?” moment or two. Do yourself (and those who depend on you) a service and put the situation first. The same goes for a company. The first time you display these skills is in the job interview so make sure to highlight this skill as one of your strengths.
Akin to time management, self-motivation can make or break your day, week, month and even year at a company. Company’s care about their employees’ mindset, and it matters why you show up each day. An employee who can work efficiently, and wants to do well for their sake is someone to support and direct. During the interview, make sure to let the hiring manager know when you went way beyond the call of duty at a position or activity simply because you felt compelled to do so.
Because the legal industry is drastically upgrading itself to a modern, tech-centric mindset, it’s important that a company’s employees can adapt easily to change and act quickly. Before your interview, think about when you were able to deliver on a project or event that changed a lot during your time working on it. What did you learn from this experience and what tools did you use to help you and your team members succeed?
Very similar to time management, organizational skills allow a professional to be at their most efficient. Although the level of organizational skills you’ll need will depend on the position you’re applying for, it’s crucial to understand the importance of this skill set in terms of your success and the success of those around you. Especially in the legal field, where missing a comma can spell trouble, this is a key quality to highlight.
This skill set is difficult to measure and a bit vague, but also at the core of what legal professionals are expected to excel at. It could involve anything from settling two co-workers' differences to help progress a project to becoming an instant expert in an area of law. Much like being action oriented, your stellar problem-solving skills will shine through in their most-needed moments. Think of ways to demonstrate this with your professional experience during an interview.
Although often looked over, creativity is an in-demand skill set for any new hire. Your ability to create different circumstances or outcomes based on the things you’ve been given (environment, tools, and even laws) is a huge asset to your success. As the shift from strict hierarchies moves more towards “all together” mindsets, this is also helpful in discovering solutions on your own. You may see this displayed in a job post as “out-of-the-box thinking”.
With constant deadlines, companies need employees who can both keep productive while paying attention to important dates and milestones. A lot of this process deals with decision-making skills. Think of a time when you had to weigh the situation, assess potential outcomes and came out on top.