Essential soft skills for lawyers

Posted on: January 6, 2020


See the Essential soft skills for lawyers launch press release with a summary of some key findings (6th July 2020)

See a 9 minute video on “What are soft skills and why are they important?

About Essential Soft Skills for Lawyers

Between September 2019 and March 2020 I researched and wrote a new book for Globe Law and Business on Essential Soft Skills for Lawyers. It will be published in summer 2020.

The purpose of the book is:

  • To explore the importance of soft skills for modern lawyers
  • To examine the views of leading lawyers and learning and development professionals on critical soft skills for lawyers
  • To understand how best to develop essential soft skills for lawyers and the range of learning and development techniques available
  • To provide an overview of five essential soft skills for lawyers

The book draws on over 20 years’ experience of training and coaching lawyers and other professionals in a range of soft skills. It also includes comments and case studies from over 20 lawyers and learning & development professionals at large and small law firms including:

  • Cleary Gottlieb
  • Davitt Jones Bould
  • Law South
  • LexLeyton
  • Mundays
  • Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Osbornes Law
  • rhw Solicitors
  • Ropes & Gray
  • Roythornes

as well as other specialists in psychology, training and technology (e.g. Lexis Nexis, Performance Leader).

The importance of soft skills

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people” Theodore Roosevelt (1900)

“The care economy will favour those people with good interpersonal skills” Ian Pearson, Futurizon (2013)

Just some of the statistics about the importance of soft skills:

  • Stanford Research Institute reported that 75% of long term job success depends upon soft skills mastery and only 25% on technical skills
  • Tested alongside 33 other important skills emotional intelligence (EQ) subsumes the majority of them including time management, decision-making and communication
  • EQ accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs and is the single biggest predictor in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) uses continuing competence to make sure solicitors can do their jobs to the standard expected of them. The SRA lists four core competencies to focus on of which three relate to soft skills:

  • Ethics, professionalism and judgement
  • Technical legal practice
  • Working with other people
  • Managing yourself and your own work

An article in Solicitors Journal in March 2019 stated “The belief that soft skills training is a new phenomenon in legal services is not entirely accurate. It started more than 20 years ago when the LPC course offered training in negotiation, interview techniques and communication”.

Sonica Mouton, an industrial psychologist said “According to the respected legal futurist, Richard Susskind, it’s no longer just enough to teach the old basic skills of lawyering in the new, AI-driven, automated economy. A new type of lawyer is needed who is not only trained in the use of coding and legal technology, but also in skills that AI will not be capable of automating. These include the very “human” capabilities of creativity, empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. More and more if you want to practise law you need to become a trusted adviser to your client, you need the ability to listen, to communicate and relate to others to help solve their legal problems”

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Work report 2018, which interviewed global companies employing 15 million people (of which 1.3 million were in professional services) stated: “Amongst the trending skills in demand are: analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, creativity, technology design and programming, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem-solving, leadership and social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning and systems analysis”.

Outline and indicative contents of Essential Soft Skills for Lawyers

  1. Introduction
  1. What do we mean by soft skills?
  1. The importance of soft skills for lawyers
    • The Future of Work
    • The Solicitors Regulations Authority
    • Law firm distinction
    • Legal Futurists
    • The Trusted Advisor
    • T-shaped lawyers
    • O-shaped lawyers
  1. Emotional intelligence for lawyers
    • What is emotional intelligence?
      • Self-awareness and personality assessments
      • Self-management
      • Social awareness and empathy
      • Relationship management
    • Client views on emotional intelligence in lawyers
    • The link between confidence and perfectionism
    • Stress, resilience and well-being
    • The high performance environment
  1. Methods of developing lawyer soft skills
    • Approaches to training and development
    • Dedicated L&D function
    • Training academies
    • External training suppliers
    • Self-managed learning
    • Best practice
    • On-the-job training
    • Digital training
    • Role models
    • Feedback
    • Law Society research
    • How to promote learning and different learning styles
      • Fixed and growth mind set
      • Adaptive third
      • Change management
      • Learning process
      • Learning styles
      • Reflection
      • Motivation to learn
    • Coaching and mentoring
    • The views of HR and L&D professionals in law firms
  1. The range of soft skills required be lawyers
    • Essential soft skills for lawyers
    • Qualities and attributes for lawyers
  1. Five essential soft skill categories for lawyers
    • Personal skills – Goals and self-management
      • Goal-setting
      • Making an impact, personal brand and messaging
      • Creativity
    • Communication skills
      • Non-Verbal Communication
      • Active listening
      • Storytelling
    • Relationship skills
      • A model of business relationships
      • Creating rapport and trust
      • Navigating difference and conflict
    • Managing a team skills
      • Delegation
      • Coaching
      • Feedback
    • Business development skills – marketing, selling and referrer management
      • Researching
      • Networking
      • Selling and Pitching
  1. Soft skills in other professions
    • Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
    • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
    • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  1. Concluding comments and the way forward
    • Signposts to other learning resources
    • About the author
    • List of contributors
  1. Appendices:
    • Illustrative competency framework
    • Example competency breakdown

Further details of the book and pre-order information is here:

Some of the soft skills I address are covered in my recent book “Better Business Relationships” which was published by Bloomsbury in September 2019. 


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