Being a great attorney isn’t just about passing the bar. It takes a variety of skills to be a successful lawyer. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a lawyer or trying to improve your legal advocacy, identifying what it takes to succeed can help put you on the right track. Here are eight skills that you need to be a successful lawyer.
First, a lawyer must be a competent writer. Courts speak through their written orders. Parties ask the courts for orders through written motions and case briefs. Whether you’re a judge or an attorney appearing before the court, you need to be able to write clearly. Don’t worry about your therefores, where to fores and herebys. Legal writing is more conversational than ever before. What you need is a firm grasp of language and the ability to present ideas clearly in writing.
Second to exceptional writing skills, a lawyer must be a strong speaker. Whether you’re speaking to a jury, arguing a motion or meeting with a prospective client, you need good oral communication skills. Thinking on your feet is an essential part of effective oral advocacy. Attorneys are often asked to formulate objections and arguments on the spot in live court hearings. Speaking skills are critical to making your clients heard.
3. Interpersonal Skills and Intuition
A lawyer must always be able to read the room. An innate ability to know what someone is thinking or feeling can help you get the upper hand. Being able to decipher what motivates someone and understanding their goals is also crucial to being a strong legal advocate.
Interpersonal skills give you the ability to modify your questioning and arguments to be effective in the moment. These skills allow you to adjust in real-time to the responses you receive and react to the tone of those around you. With interpersonal skills, you put your book learning to work to strategize effectively for your clients.
4. A Willingness for Continuing Education
The law constantly changes. New rules and court opinions appear seemingly daily. The practice of law is truly that – a practice. It’s not something that you ever fully accomplish or master, like reaching a finish line. Instead, you must be willing to continually hone your skills, learn new things and stay up to date.
Changes take place in the law over time. Plus, there can be changes in practice management, too. Emerging technology is just one thing you need to be prepared for during your legal career. Having a willingness to continue your legal education is a must for every attorney.
5. Business Savvy
Practicing law is a business. Attorneys who run their own law firms are truly business people, as well as practicing lawyers. Business registrations, regulations, taxes, human resources, office supplies and accounting are just some of the things that attorneys need to know how to handle. An attorney may be a great legal practitioner, but being able to channel that ability into a thriving business is a skill that every attorney should have to be successful.
6. Logical Reasoning
There’s a reason that logic puzzles are such a crucial part of the Law School Admissions Test. Judges must make rulings based on reason rather than passion. Lawyers need to be able to think through the arguments and use logic in various scenarios. They need to be able to think logically about how factual scenarios apply to a body of law. With logical reasoning skills, an attorney can think through their case, organize facts and arguments and successfully advocate for their clients.
When you’re a personal injury lawyer, you make judgment calls every day. You decide what motions to file, how to respond to them, how to build evidence and what questions to ask a witness. You decide what cases to take and what counts or defenses to assert in pleadings.
A lawyer needs to be decisive, and they need to have the confidence that they’re making the right decisions. Knowing the law is only the beginning. Being a great lawyer means having the self-assurance to make tough calls when it matters.
Lawyers win and lose. Oftentimes, losing a hearing doesn’t mean losing a case. Sometimes, building evidence can be tedious. A lawyer needs to be able to persevere when the going gets tough. The ability to keep going in the face of a setback is critical to advocating for clients and working towards long-term career goals.
Do You Need to Be a Perfectionist to Be a Good Lawyer?
Lawyers often like to brag that they’re perfectionists. They see it as a badge of honor. However, not all attorneys agree that you need to be a perfectionist to be a successful lawyer. In fact, that’s a trait that can actually work against you. A lawyer needs to be able to see the big picture. In the end, they want their clients to reach the best possible results in their cases. Getting distracted by minutiae that ultimately isn’t determinative of the case can work against you.
That’s not to say that attention to detail isn’t essential. It’s very important. However, rather than perfectionism, knowing what to focus on and where to spend your energy is critical to working effectively as an attorney.
Attorney Adam S. Kutner has spent more than 29 years fighting for fair compensation for victims of personal injury in Nevada. With more than 40,000 settlement cases behind him, Mr. Kutner knows his way around the court system. As a former insurance defense attorney he knows how to get clients the maximum settlement promptly and trouble-free. Adam S. Kutner, Injury Attorneys has also been recognized by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to be Las Vegas’ Best Accident Lawyer of 2020.