Mainstream media and popular culture often portray lawyers as ruthless money-making machines, motivated primarily by financial gain and the prospect of “making partner.” But the truth is, most legal professionals start out with a genuine desire to help others, make a difference in their communities, and speak out against social injustice. Their work paves the way for a more equitable legal system, and ultimately urges other citizens to re-evaluate outdated ideologies that unfairly preference some groups over others.
Legal careers attract optimists. And people who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Sound familiar, Shimerians?
It’s no surprise that students who graduate from liberal arts programs often make law school their next academic step. Anyone who’s spent time at an alternative liberal arts college understands the intuitive link between humanistic studies and the pursuit of a more just society! But the legal profession isn’t for everyone. Aside from the more obvious analytical skills lawyers need to thrive, here are a few of the key abilities anyone considering a career in law should have (or seek to develop):
Excellent Communication Skills
This really can’t be overstated. Whether interviewing a client, writing a brief, or reporting to a superior - everything an effective lawyer does draws on her ability to write, speak, and otherwise communicate with above average attention to detail. It’s not just dramatic courtroom litigators who rely on strong communication skills. Legal professionals are continually called upon to analyze and draft documents, defend their opinions, confer with colleagues, negotiate with opponents, and collaborate with team members. Not so different from what goes on in most liberal arts courses. Which leads us to our next point...
Willingness to Collaborate
Some might perceive law as a solitary profession, envisioning lawyers spending hours alone preparing briefs, pouring over trial prep, and compiling research. But any successful practice, big or small, relies on effective teamwork. Those who can’t share credit, refuse to hear constructive criticism, or think of themselves as a “one-person-show” need not apply. Again, while pop culture tends to glorify the stand-alone rainmaker, most legal successes come about as a result of dedicated collaboration. The best legal professionals understand how to encourage others while setting aside their own egos. It takes the work of many to broker a deal, win a trial, or raise awareness about an important cause.
This one may seem out of place here, but as our society shifts its conversations and relationships online, lawyers must also learn to stay abreast of tech trends and be comfortable using new tools. Whether connecting with clients, conducting research, marketing firm services, or operating information management systems - technological affinity is increasingly seen a core competency for lawyers. Like any other business, legal professionals must establish an effective presence online and adapt to new expectations of availability and response time. Today’s lawyer is expected to develop expertise in their area of practice AND enhance that expertise through technological channels.
What do you consider the hallmarks of an excellent lawyer?