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Article written by Imaan Siddiqui, University of Bradford, Third year LLB with Business and Management Student.
During a law degree, students are required to develop communication amongst many other skills, in order to enhance themselves for the betterment of their career as a lawyer. Regardless of the path the student aims to pursue, communication will always remain significant. Communication can be further divided into two areas: verbal and written.
At university, students can have a range of different experiences to showcase on their C.V including their willingness to learn and develop certain skillset. This is also true for communication.
Here is a list of ways in which students can develop both oral and written communication to succeed in their chosen law pathway.
Lawyers, especially barristers, need to understand ways of communicating points and case law to support their arguments. This skill can be particularly developed by mooting, which is a 15 to 20 minutes advocacy exercise that entails researching and creating bundles that have all the resources needed to advocate for or against a client in a civil or criminal capacity. Students can also take part in national competitions such as National Speed Mooting competition or international competitions such as Vis Moot. Competitions may require teams; therefore, it is advised that students check the criteria closely. Universities might also send their students to represent their university nationally. Through such competitions, students can enhance both research, persuasive techniques, and communication.
Another opportunity in which students can excel in to display their communication skills is debating. This requires students to research on a given topic, which could be law or non-law related. Within this area, one can also develop commercial awareness, research, and ways of structuring arguments and persuasiveness to win the debate. All these skills are important in becoming a successful lawyer. Like mooting competitions, students can ask their Law Society to either arrange such competitions or can take part in elections within the Student Union to create such competitions. Through debating, students can develop their communication through structuring and arguing points in front of an audience.
Note: Both mooting and debating helps in gaining confidence and overcoming the fear of public speaking in general. Oral communication also allows students to develop the appropriate body language.
Similar to orally arguing points in court or in front of a client to get a point across, written communication is also essential. Lawyers are required to write advice letters and emails; therefore, it is essential that points are communicated clearly and precisely to get the same message across as intended. This is especially important in writing, as readers can easily have a distorted view when reading a specific message. Words can have different meanings for different people.
Students can have access to many resources online to develop their literacy skills. One of them being essay competitions, which are held by many law firms, chambers and even some other sites aimed at law students. Essay competitions help students in competing against other students around the country and even abroad. Research skills and expertise within an area of law that might be of interest are also developed. Students can use this information during interviews and even during the application process.
Students have many opportunities to write blogs, articles, and other subject-related pieces to improve their writing skills. These can be found online and can include, but are not limited to, Student Lawyer Magazine, Legal Cheek, and University Blog sites etc. Commercial awareness is one of the areas that has been a particular interest of recruiters. Publications help massively to display in-depth awareness around the subject in the business context. Law has a very direct and close link to business; solicitors, barristers and any other type of lawyers need to understand how the business they are part of is affected financially through external factors such as Brexit and recession.
During university, students are normally required to undertake group work assessments, especially within modules such as Legal Skills. These allow students to work in randomly allocated groups, encouraging themto talk and share ideas. Presentations, similar to mooting and debating involve research and persuasiveness techniques. These are essential skills to develop to succeed as a lawyer.
As mentioned in the debating section, students can take part in elections within the Student Union to hold a position of responsibility. This can involve arranging debating competitions and mooting competitions. Students have a wide range of positions to choose from in which both oral and written communication can be developed such as choosing to become a university blog writer. Holding a position of responsibility involves making your presence known within the university and with other organisations to organise events. This requires dedication and excellent communication skills. Students should ideally talk to their Student Union to become aware of the vacancies available.
Students can have an opportunity to volunteer for an Advice Centre or take optional modules during their final year involving direct client contact such as a Law Clinic module. This involves communication and client management skills, which are especially important for a law student to develop. Pro Bono involves volunteering which can be particularly impressive as it shows commitment and passion for the law. This role can entail writing letters for clients after research in a particular area. After this, students can then be required to communicate this information to the client to clear any misconceptions. Again, both oral and written skills can be developed.
Students usually work part time to keep up with their daily expenses and to save up during their studies. Part time work for students is in areas such as retail and hospitality, which are hugely driven by customer service. Through such work, students can develop many skills such as working under pressure, communication, and time-management. Students, especially in retail, are likely to come across many difficult customers, which require great temperament and the ability to communicate effectively; skills that are hugely significant for students to develop.
A law student has many opportunities to take, including the ones listed above. Students are usually advised to be open-minded and keen to learn and get out of their comfort zone. Therefore, it is vital that students take initiative and take on board as many opportunities as they can to develop many skills, especially communication. It is also advised that students only take on board opportunities that one can manage along their university studies, as grades are equally important.