While legal positions vary greatly in scope and responsibility, there are several core legal skills that are required in most legal functions. If you are considering a career in the law, it is wise to polish these top ten legal skills to excel in today’s competitive legal market.
1. Oral Communication
Language is one of the most fundamental tools of the legal professional. Legal professionals must:
- Convey information in a clear, concise, and logical manner.
- Communicate persuasively.
- Advocate a position or a cause.
- Master legal terminology.
- Develop keen listening skills.
2. Written Communication
From writing simple correspondence to drafting complex legal documents, writing is an integral function of nearly every legal position. Legal professionals must:
- Master the stylistic and mechanical aspects of writing.
- Master the fundamentals of English grammar.
- Learn how to write organized, concise and persuasive prose.
- Draft effective legal documents such as motions, briefs, memorandums, resolutions and legal agreements.
3. Client Service
In the client-focused legal industry, serving the client honestly, capably and responsibly is crucial to success. Legal professionals must master:
- Rainmaking and client development skills.
- Customer service skills.
- Client communication skills.
4. Analytical and Logical Reasoning
Legal professionals must learn to review and assimilate large volumes of complex information in an efficient and effective manner. Legal analytical and logical reasoning skills include:
- Reviewing complex written documents, drawing inferences and making connections among legal authorities.
- Developing logical thinking, organization and problem-solving abilities.
- Structuring and evaluating arguments.
- Using inductive and deductive reasoning to draw inferences and reach conclusions.
5. Legal Research
Researching legal concepts, case law, judicial opinions, statutes, regulations and other information is an important legal skill. Legal professionals must:
- Master legal research techniques.
- Learn how to locate and analyze legal authority.
- Master the art of statutory interpretation.
- Learn proper legal citation.
- Master legal research software applications and Internet research.
Technology is changing the legal landscape and is an integral part of every legal function. To remain effective in their jobs, legal professionals must:
- Master a variety of word processing, presentation, time and billing, and practice-related software applications.
- Master communications technology including e-mails, voice messaging systems, videoconferencing and related technology.
- Become familiar with electronic discovery, computerized litigation support and document management software.
- Become proficient with legal research software and Internet research.
- Develop the tech know-how to make wise technology decisions.
7. Knowledge of Substantive Law and Legal Procedure
All legal professionals, even those at the bottom of the legal career chain, must have a basic knowledge of substantive law and legal procedure. Legal professionals must have a general knowledge of:
- Local, state and federal court systems.
- Relevant filing deadlines.
- Fundamental principles of law in the practice areas in which they work.
- Relevant legal terminology.
8. Time Management
In a profession based on a business model (billable hours) that ties productivity to financial gain, legal professionals are under constant pressure to bill time and manage large workloads. Therefore, legal professionals must develop:
- Superior multi-tasking skills.
- A strong work ethic.
- The ability to juggle competing priorities.
- The ability to meet tight deadlines.
- Calendar management skills.
In order to manage large volumes of data and documents, legal professionals must develop top-notch organizational skills, including:
- The ability to sort, order and manage large volumes of exhibits, documents, files, evidence, data and other information.
- The ability to identify objectives, catalogue data and create an effective organization structure from massive amounts of unrelated information.
- The ability to use technology applications that assist in managing case-related data.
Legal professionals do not work in a vacuum. Even solo practitioners must rely on secretaries and support staff and team up with co-counsel, experts and vendors to deliver legal services. Moreover, since the needs of the client may transcend the skills of one attorney, one paralegal or one practice group, teamwork is essential to individual and organizational success. Teamwork skills include:
- Collaborating with others to reach a common goal.
- Coordinating and sharing information and knowledge.
- Cultivating relationships with colleagues, staff, clients, experts, vendors and others.
- Attending and participating in team events, meetings and conferences.