There’s no doubt there are a lot of lawyers out there today. However, how many of these lawyers are actually successful in their career? A “Top 40 Under 40” Civil Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association and 10/10 AVVO rated attorney, Christian Denmon of Denmon Pearlman, shares with us his top 10 essentials skills needed to become a successful lawyer.
1) Project Management: While it may be fun to think that a litigator’s job is to just argue in court in front of a judge, the reality is that the vast majority of a lawyer’s work includes lengthy and complex projects. To be a successful lawyer, you need to be organized and know how to manage a project efficiently. This is especially true for projects/cases that can last for months or even years. The same principle applies to transactional lawyers and deal negotiators.
2) Customer Service: Being a lawyer comes with being in the service industry. Whether your client is a bank, a multi million dollar business, or an individual going through a divorce or suffering from a personal injury, that client will contact you throughout the process to understand what is going on with their case. You are responsible for updating your client and answering their questions. As time moves forward some of the old legal responsibilities, like sitting in the basement and drafting pleadings becomes less of a task as technology increases so it is important to remember that customer service skills can make the difference.
3) Stress Management: Nearly all of the work that lawyers do requires problem-solving. Lawyers are solving problems for clients who are in difficult situations and stressed out themselves. As a lawyer, you must be willing to put the client’s stress on your own shoulders and be able to keep your composure. Being able to manage your stress in the workplace is a vital skill to a lasting career as an attorney.
4) Writing & Rhetoric Skills: There is an old joke that lawyers spend two minutes drafting an email response and 13 minutes reviewing and adjusting the answer. This is because specific language will always be important…especially for an attorney. Often, substantial sums of money can hinge on the balance of a single word in a negotiated agreement or contract. Every lawyer has seen agreements that have been rescinded post contract litigation because of a single ambiguous word. It is important to have writing and rhetoric skills both in and out of the courtroom when dealing with clients and contracts/agreements.
5) Being Able to Focus: Focusing at any job is important and while this may seem like an obvious skill, it is one that is extremely important for lawyers to master in order to be successful. The main reason is that lawyers are often stuck multitasking and juggling various tasks. While solving a complex and multifaceted problem, they may also be frequently interrupted by clients and other members of the team. In a world where interruptions continue to increase, a top lawyer has to work on their ability to focus so that they can solve the problems at hand and keep the error rate either low or nonexistent. The smallest detail that goes unnoticed can be detrimental to the result of the case.
6) Tech Skills (Operational): It wasn’t that long ago when older lawyers would insist that they did not need to understand “that new technology stuff”. But those lawyers now are increasingly losing. There are a lot of lawyers in the workforce now and with increased competition comes suppressed prices. That means lawyers need to work and use technology to decrease the cost it takes for them to deliver their output so they can continue to make a decent profit. For example, lawyers need to be able to use text touches dictation for time management (which I am currently using to write this), document ornamentation, and client relations management programs to help increase the efficiency in which they deliver their output.
7) Tech Skills (Communication): The fact of the matter is, clients no longer want to be stuck communicating only via phone or waiting 24 hours to get an answer. Lawyers today need to embrace technology, including but not limited to email communication while on the go. Clients like the option of texting and lawyers need to be able to know how to text their clients in a manner that allows both the client and lawyer to feel comfortable while communicating. However, there needs to be boundaries to keep the lawyer from being overwhelmed on personal time. There are now apps which enable lawyers to text from their phone or from their computer while also being able to separate this from their personal lives when needed.
8) Reputation Management: Lawyers today need to have a presence online or social proof where clients can find them and hopefully review them positively. It is not only consumers but also big businesses now that are looking at a lawyer’s online reputation before making a hiring decision. Boosting your brand image and being visible on platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, and Google, allows clients to feel more at ease when making a hiring decision. It allows past clients to review you and it also helps establishes your credibility. Knowing how to successfully manage your reputation both online and offline can really determine whether you will be successful or not.
9) Marketing: There is a new generation of lawyers that don’t think twice about advertising and marketing in order to win cases and build their brand. The big law firms where lawyers just sit and work on their cases without worrying about building his/her own personal brand are under continued pressure in the marketplace. Firms today want their lawyers to be able to market themselves so everyone from the small firm lawyer to the lawyer in the big firm must be willing to market themselves both using online and offline channels.
10) Rainmaking: Rainmakers are those who know how to bring clients in. While this has probably always been the case, the lawyers who make the most money and are the most successful in business are the ones that are able to bring clients in. These types of lawyers can survive on their own if they wanted to run their own law firm. If these lawyers are more in tune with working for a big firm, then the sky is the limit with who they can work with. It is not uncommon for big firms to have lawyers whose only real responsibility is to make it rain. These lawyers don’t have to do any of the large billable hour requirements that their counterparts have to do. They bring in the business, and get paid accordingly.
So there you have it! The top 10 most essentials skills that lawyers should have in order to be successful and stand out from the rest.