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3 Critical Social Skills You Will Need as a Lawyer

— September 15, 2022

You have to be adept at understanding people well and making yourself understood.

Lawyers need a diverse skill set in order to serve their clients effectively and excel in their field. In particular, the practice of law requires advanced communication skills. Your ability to navigate personal interactions and manage relationships can have a huge impact on your professional success. Likewise, these qualities can be a big factor in how much you enjoy your work. Here are some of the most critical social skills that lawyers need to have.

1. Empathy

Compensation is a determinative issue for a lot of people in choosing to practice law. People generally don’t want to put in the time and expense to get a Juris Doctor and pass a state bar examination unless they reasonably expect high compensation. However, the best attorneys are not all about earning high hourly fees. Instead, they find it gratifying to help people protect their legal rights and overcome challenges.

Because the best attorneys are motivated by wanting to help people, they tend to be naturally empathetic. This quality also happens to be an essential attribute of a great legal mind. In order to analyze legal issues, it’s important to be able to see things from more than just one perspective. You need to be able to assume the opposing party’s point of view in order to advocate well on a client’s behalf.

2. Active Listening Skills

People usually seek out legal counsel when they need help with an issue that’s extremely important to them. To win people’s confidence during intake, you need to exercise active listening skills. In tandem with a pronounced capacity for empathy, this ability enables you to identify people’s priorities and motivations.

You’ll need to be a good listener to cultivate positive relationships with your clients. Hearing key details about factual circumstances and picking up on what matters most to your clients equips you to shape mutual understandings, reasonable expectations, and successful representations.

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Negotiation training courses emphasize the importance of active listening skills in reaching agreements. When you are working on a client’s behalf to settle a legal matter, negotiating with opposing counsel can help you get your client the best possible outcome.

Bear in mind that advocacy isn’t always about using evidence and arguments to show that the law is on your client’s side. You also need to be able to work constructively with a party whose interests are in conflict with your client’s in a way that manages to serve both parties interests. In settlement negotiations, you’ll use the information you learn while practicing active listening skills to advance your objectives and reach compromises.

3. Assertiveness

When you’re in law school, you may find yourself in class with people who are eager to seize every opportunity to show off their intellect and assert their opinions. However, this isn’t for the sake of impressing law professors. For the most part, your grades in law school are determined entirely by final exams rather than classwork or homework. Grading is done anonymously so professors don’t know who’s final exam they’re reviewing.

In reality, always wanting to be heard is exemplative of a character trait that is common in the legal profession. In fact, having an assertive personality type can help people succeed in law. After school, you’ll be sure to encounter many more individuals with this personality type if you pursue a career in litigation.

You don’t need to be the loudest voice in a classroom or a courtroom to have the makings of being a good advocate, but you need to be comfortable asserting yourself. Not all of your interactions are going to be pleasant, and individuals who shy away from conflict or consider themselves to be people pleasers may dislike this adversarial aspect of certain practice areas.

Doing well in the legal field takes a unique intellect and social intelligence. Lawyers aren’t all super social and outgoing individuals who can easily get people to like them. However, you have to be adept at understanding people well and making yourself understood.

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