Soft skills for lawyers – research and book in development

Between now and March 2020 I will be researching and writing a new book for Globe Law and Business on Soft Skills for Lawyers. I will be drawing on my expertise as a psychologist, trainer and professional coach with decades of experience in helping lawyers develop soft skills to provide a guide that will be valuable to lawyers and the human resource professionals that support them.

I am keen to hear from lawyers as well as human resource and learning and development professionals about:

  • The soft skills needed by lawyers – especially competency frameworks
  • The most effective ways to develop soft skills for lawyers
  • Measuring soft skills training effectiveness

I have already started interviewing people in UK law firms for case studies. Please let me know if you are interested in contributing material or participating in the research. Case studies – where contributors will have the opportunity to approve content before publication – are particularly welcome. Please contact me to arrange an interview

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 major on 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”.

Proposed outline and indicative contents of Soft Skills for Lawyers

The importance of soft skills for lawyers

  • Technical legal skills vs “soft skills”
  • Client feedback on lawyers’ soft skills
  • Research on importance of soft skills for the future for all workers

Emotional intelligence for lawyers

  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy and its relevance in the legal profession

Law firm approaches to developing soft skills

  • Understanding learning processes and styles
  • Different methods of learning and soft skills training and development
    • Face-to-face courses
    • Webinars, online learning and mobile apps
    • Work and practitioner based
    • Cutting-edge and future learning technologies
  • Interviews with HR and L&D people
  • Assessing learning effectiveness

The soft skills required by lawyers

  • Categories of soft skills for lawyers
  • Law firm “academies” and competency frameworks
  • A framework of soft skills for lawyers

Five core soft skill sets for lawyers

  • Personal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Client service and experience management
  • Team management and leadership skills
  • Business development skills

Other professions and soft skills

  • How other professions tackle soft skills training and CPD

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

Further details of the new book are available here