To be a successful lawyer, it takes more than just staying ahead of the technical curve for your speciality. At the time of writing, the SRA states there is a total of 214,032 solicitors on the roll with 60,192 classed as non-practising (including yours truly). Then you have to add in the number of Barristers, Legal Executives, Paralegals, Licensed Conveyancers, Will Writers etc, so the number keeps growing. That is a lot of competition – even discounting the professionals who aren’t in your particular field of expertise.
So, what enables you to stand out from the crowd?
Recently I came across Udemy’s 2022 Workplace Learning Trends Report, which explored the kind of skills that give people power at work
You will probably have heard of these skills described as ‘soft’ skills such as:
- Networking (see these two blogs for tips – How to Gain Credibility in your 60 second Introduction , Three Simple Words to Create Interesting Small Talk)
- Time management.
And that’s just to name a few. I could probably write a book on important non-technical skills and how to boost yours!
But what I loved about the Udemy’s report is that they characterised these skills, not as soft skills, but as power skills – a term which conveys both their importance, and the empowering effect they can have a person’s career or business.
This started me thinking what are the five power skills that are critical for successful lawyers and legal business owners following the pandemic:
1. Power to communicate effectively
There are many components to communicating effectively, and some of the key ones are covered below.
Active listening is key to understanding and building rapport. By active listening I mean giving your full and undivided attention to the speaker not formulating your response as they talk. When people speak, they want to be heard and understood. If you Lead on active listening then it is more likely others will listen to you.
Another vital part of communication is empathic conversation which involves connecting to the emotional content of the conversation you are participating in. Checking the impact of your responses, will provide you with insight as to whether you are on the right track.
A major component of communication power skills is negotiating skills. Good negotiations – which deliver quality solutions in a productive way – contribute significantly to business success and obtaining the best result for your clients.
2. Power to collaborate
Given the last two years and the growth of remote working, you can see why this particular skill is key, both in and out of the office environment. Without collaboration, a ‘team’ will exist in name only.
Team meetings offer key opportunities to foster greater collaboration. I have written a series of blog posts to enable you to make your team meetings efficient whilst fostering connections and team spirit. This series covers everything from ‘What is the point of team meetings?’ to the practicalities of the meeting: namely How to prepare for them, How to execute the meeting and follow up, and How to manage difficult behaviours.
Whilst communication and collaboration powers are absolutely vital, these have to be underpinned by assertiveness and the ability to hold the difficult conversations both within the firm and also with clients.
The more rounded your communication power skills are then the stronger your self-confidence will be and this in turn increases your effectiveness.
3. Power to balance work and non-work activities
In this power skill, resilience is critical for the fast-paced legal landscape and I have several blogs containing practical tips plus a highly regarded workshop. I recently delivered this workshop in-person to the team at Virtuoso. This team included Liz Ward (MD), all the lawyers and support staff, with everyone engaged. This is an effective way to build collaboration and empower your staff while boosting a vital skill.
With power comes responsibility for your own productivity and time management whether you are a legal business owner or a team member. So, knowing your limits is key here. A recent LawCare survey found that younger lawyers (26-35) were most at risk and therefore being able to convey these in the appropriate way to your boss to avoid burn out is vital.
So where do you start – see my blog How to be self-confident in setting boundaries. Then to boost your power skills in your own time you can download and use to my free Documenting your Brilliance ® Toolkit
Using your powers of communication and collaboration you (with your manager) can create well-being/self-care plans to thrive with pressurised workloads and constantly changing situations.
4. Power to lead
The pandemic certainly brought that home that leadership skills are key and there is much more of an appetite within the profession to increase their skills. It is a continuous learning curve. This is something I have written about previously, in my blog on the five steps for leaders struggling through uncertainty.
For partners and business owners looking to greatly augment their leadership skills, I offer a number of mentoring and business coaching programmes
I feel passionately about leadership power skills, particularly teaching young lawyers to lead even in situations when they are not in charge. My blog “How do you lead when you are not in charge?” provides this insight direct to lawyers who are at the start of their legal career about the three areas below.
Where you have young lawyers working for you, investing in their development in this way will increase their engagement in your business. Doing so, needs to be supported by continual learning experiences and training programmes. For those lawyers that you want to train to lead teams then I deliver one-to-one customised training.
Clearly in order to grow your team, there has to be a vision and a will to focus on retaining the talent that you have and attracting the talent you need to grow.
There are three areas in which you can encourage your lawyers to lead:
- Their knowledge and expertise.
- How they connect with people both inside and outside your organisation – powers to communicate and collaborate.
- Their values and qualities which align with your business and culture. I have written about the importance of the personal factor in leadership here.
These are three key foundational aspects of leading and managing.
5. Last but not least Business power!
Business Skills are a range of skills that help you and your team understand and apply that promote the success of the business and the people in it.
These skills include commercial acumen, networking, sales and marketing (including social media), business intelligence about your own (and your client’s business where appropriate), financial literacy, risk and compliance knowledge to name a few.
I felt so strongly about business acumen being a vital power skill that I wrote a book about it: Business Skills? Don’t be daft I am a lawyer! This has practical tips and techniques as well as the success stories of 29 legal business owners.
All of these power skills are essential to enable lawyers, legal business owners and their organisations to thrive. This is why it no longer makes sense to call them ‘soft’ skills, as if they represent a less important set of skills in the workplace. These skills aren’t just nice to have.
So goodbye, soft skills. Welcome power skills.
If you and/or you team want to boost your power skills contact Ann@yorkshirecoursesforlawyers.co.uk. Or ring me on 07921540039 for a complimentary chat of how best to achieve that. In fact, the first five I chat to will receive a complimentary copy of my book.
Ann Page, Business Author, Trainer and Coach for the legal profession.
A Top 100 lawyer of the year (2003) has had a successful in-house 28-year career, working mainly in the financial sector. She switched from being a business lawyer in industry to a non-practising solicitor who teaches and coaches on business subjects in 2003. Since then, Ann has trained 7000+ lawyers on business skills including leadership, management and interpersonal skills. Ann has always been active in various professional committees and currently she is Treasurer of the Yorkshire Sole Practitioner’s Group, a member of the Professional Speaking Association, Professional Speaking Academy and Leeds Law Society.