Article written by Imaan Fatima, Scots and English LLB Student at The University of Strathclyde.
Law is a challenging profession. To excel in this field, lawyers need to possess a certain skill set. For a successful career in law, I believe all aspiring lawyers should work towards honing the following key skills throughout their time at school and university.
Verbal communication skills are crucial, and without them you won’t be able to effectively carry out your duties. Using clear and succinct language is important when working with clients, as it will allow you to build strong relationships and promote confidence. Being a confident speaker is something many people struggle with, but you can develop your speaking skills by getting involved in debate or public speaking societies at university.
Written communication is equally important. As a lawyer, you’ll need to write clearly and concisely when drafting legal documents, contracts, and letters. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will undermine your work. Writing essays in school or university will allow you to naturally develop your own writing style. Even so, it may help to get some practice at writing fluently by contributing articles to your school paper or university law review. You might even consider becoming a writer for The Student Lawyer!
The ability to work well with others is also fundamental for lawyers. When working on deals, you’ll be expected to collaborate in a team with other lawyers and cooperate with clients. Thus, being a team player is essential for a career in law. The best way to improve your teamworking skills is by becoming involved in societies and teams at university. This will allow you to work alongside a variety of people with different abilities.
Research plays a huge role in a lawyer’s day-to-day job. It’s essential for you to research quickly so that you understand your clients’ needs and can prepare legal strategies. You must be able to effectively conduct methodical research to find the answer to a legal question. Whilst at university, familiarise yourself with online sources, such as Westlaw and Lexis Library. This will undoubtedly help you hone your legal research skills.
There may not always be an obvious answer to your client’s problem. Choosing a career in law means you will frequently need to think outside the box to achieve the best solution. One great way to enhance your creative thinking is by participating in mooting competitions. These simulate court hearings and will require you to analyse a legal problem before presenting your argument in a mock court. This will challenge you to provide stronger and more persuasive arguments. It can also be a fun experience!
The life of a lawyer is by no means an easy one as you will be expected to complete large amounts of work under tight deadlines. Staying focused, being organised, and creating plans will allow you to effectively manage your time and prioritise your most important tasks. There are plenty of opportunities to develop these skills by undertaking part-time work or volunteering and getting involved in extra-curriculars alongside your studying.
Arguably, one of the most valuable skills for aspiring lawyers is possessing knowledge on current developments in local, national, and global business news. In particular, issues that impact law firms and their clients. Lawyers are often described as trusted advisors to their clients, which means you’ll need to understand how your client’s business operates and how certain social, political, and economic issues may affect them. It’s also highly likely that you’ll be expected to demonstrate a broad understanding of the business world when applying for training contracts.
There are many ways to improve your commercial awareness. From reading publications like the Financial Times to participating in commercial awareness competitions or gaining work experience at a commercial organisation. Personally, I enjoy listening to business-related podcasts, such as the ‘FT News Briefing’ and ‘Commercial Awareness with Watson’s Daily business and financial news’. Many law firms, including Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters, also provide regular podcasts on a range of thought-provoking topics. The most important point I’d like to make is that commercial awareness cannot be acquired overnight and should, instead, be an ongoing aspect of your professional development.
It’s no secret that the legal profession is incredibly competitive and becoming a lawyer is no easy task. Don’t be disheartened by the difficulties you face when trying to secure a training contract. Perseverance is an essential quality for those hoping to pursue a legal career. Seek feedback when you receive a job rejection or are unsuccessful in a firm’s recruitment process. Act upon this feedback to enhance your skills further and sell your experiences when re-applying. With hard work and determination, you’ll succeed in your goals!