How To Fill The Legal Skills Gap
Though it may feel like it, law school is not solely about reading, writing, analyzing, interpreting, and explaining law. To be employable in the field, today's lawyers need solid foundations in everything from business, to mindfulness, to project management. Let's take a closer look.
- Student Tips
Though it may feel like it, law school is not solely about reading, writing, analyzing, interpreting, and explaining law. To be employable in the field, today's lawyers need solid foundations in everything from business, to mindfulness, to project management.
Let's take a closer look at the other skills you'll need to fill the legal skills gap.
Knowledge of the law alone isn't enough. You need to understand the business of delivering legal services. Law firms now expect lawyers to take an active role in marketing their firms to clients and developing positive business partnerships.
On the flip side, business clients expect their lawyers to understand how businesses run. They need to be able to offer advice on business plans, strategy, mission, and vision. They also need to understand the legal ramifications of marketing -- traditionally and online -- particularly in today's post-GDPR world.
How can you top up your business skills in law school? Take a business law class, join a club or society with a business focus, attend business forums, and read business journals like Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Economist.
It pays to keep tabs on the legal world of business!
Lawyers persuade. It's part of their professional mojo.
What do you need to be persuasive? Stellar communication skills.
What does this mean? Writing, speaking, and listening skills need to be first-rate. You need to be able to write, speak, and listen across a variety of technology too. Communication skills in email, social media, blog posts, and briefs need to be on an equal footing. How do you do that? Practice.
In addition to courses in legal writing and communication, take one on writing for social media and blogging, too. For more practice, volunteer to be the newsletter coordinator of any student groups you run, in addition to sending out emails.
The more practice you have communicating across a variety of platforms, the more effective you'll be.
3. Technical and Technological Skills
Using new technology is hard and can come with steep learning curves for the uninitiated.
How do you prepare yourself to use different technology as a lawyer? Practice.
Not all new law grads have the technical proficiency required for the job. While many digital natives are well-versed in the social media side of technology, they don't apply those same skills to the technical side of law. That's a mistake.
New law graduates need to have a working, professional knowledge of basic workplace applications, the Microsoft Office and Google Suite, in addition to being open to learning productivity apps that many law firms now use, like Slack and Asana.
Some larger law firms also have proprietary tech systems that require a level of expertise to use.
What does a new lawyer need? Patience and the willingness to learn.
It's hard to be zen when you are busy all the time, but many law firms have innovative working practices.
Mindfulness helps you focus, and distill all those busy thoughts. Instead of buzzing around with a million things to do, you can feel relaxed and stable.
By practicing mindfulness, you will have more patience, be nicer to others, and think more clearly. You will also sleep better.
How do you get started? Practice a little each day -- even if it is only for a few minutes. You can even use your phone and download some mindfulness apps to get started.
5. Project Management
The digital world brings changes to the legal landscape, and with that comes a new way to manage projects.
Lawyers need to be adept at project management in the digital world and need the skills to go with it.
From legal project management vendors to other commercial vendors, you will need the technical expertise and wherewithal to manage projects in this new frontier.
6. Product Design
Sounds strange, right? What products are you really designing? Technically, you aren't. But if you look at bundling legal services and selling them to prospective clients, you are -- and some of those services may be technical ones.
The new work environment for lawyers requires scalable solutions that you can embed into your workflow -- and that you can help clients embed into theirs.
7. Time Management
This one's a must in any field, but especially law. Why? Your workflow is challenging and you have deadlines. This means you need to prioritize your time into manageable chunks.
How do you practice? Make to-do lists and keep calendars. Prioritize tasks for work and home -- and make sure you work in time to relax, even if you have to schedule it.
Learn more about law school.