The legal profession is constantly evolving - and so are the demands on lawyers. This raises the question, what will be required from lawyers in the future? Read on to learn what skills you can develop today to power your professional growth and make sure you stay ahead in the future.
Technology has changed the legal landscape forever. An increasing number of firms are implementing technology which automates tasks such as contract review, due diligence, and document review. These firms are also reaping the benefits - lawyers can do their jobs more effectively and do a better job for their clients in the process.
To remain competitive, lawyers need to make technological competence a key part of their professional growth strategy. This will help you to be more at ease with new technologies, equipped to leverage this to improve your efficiency, and better placed to keep pace with future developments.
Gone are the days when clients only want you to draft a contract. Tomorrow's clients will be looking for lawyers who can act as business advisors with a legal lens. This means you'll be required to understand your client's business and the different factors impacting it.
Do you know how to read financial statements? Do you understand cash flow management? What are the economic or political factors that might impact your firm or your client?
Lawyers of the future not only need to know the law, they also need to be business savvy. This may sound overwhelming but you can start small, by keeping up to date with business news or learning how to interpret financial statements.
Client management includes how you interact with your clients, manage their expectations, and balance the needs of different clients - all of which is vital to a successful law practice. Client management is a skill that all lawyers must master as part of their professional growth strategy.
As a lawyer, it is your responsibility to build trust with your client, so that they feel secure and confident in your capabilities. You are the face of the law practice or firm, so it’s important that you give a good overall impression.
In turn, providing excellent service means you are more likely to have happy clients with the possibility of repeat business and positive referrals.
Sales and Marketing
Today, lawyers and law firms can easily do their own marketing. Thanks to social media they can build their brand, manage their reputation, and create relationships with prospective clients and referrers - all without the help of a dedicated sales or marketing department. Social media has become another avenue to bring new clients to the business - blurring the lines between marketing and sales.
Developing your knowledge in social media and marketing can have long term value and will help you to set yourself apart from the rest of your peers. You can start by educating yourself on how law firms are using social media to market themselves and build their brand - but it is also important for your professional growth to learn about risk management issues and the ethical pitfalls of social media and how you can avoid these.
Australia is a diverse country, filled with people from many different cultural backgrounds, languages, and religions. The law can be an especially challenging area when it comes to overcoming cultural differences. How do you best explain complex legislation and court processes to a person that doesn't speak English as their first language?
Failure to recognise and adapt to cultural differences can have serious consequences for the lawyer-client relationship. It can give rise to misunderstandings, conflicts, and distrust. In the worst case, your client will not get the help and advice they need.
For a lawyer to be able to work effectively in a cross-cultural setting, they must be self-aware and have strategies and tools in place to be able to recognise and respond to cultural differences.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to engage with your own and other's emotions - an invaluable skill for any practicing lawyer. But until recently, EI has been a long overlooked skill in the legal profession.
Fortunately, an increasing number of firms and law practices are realising the benefits of employing lawyers with high EI. A lawyer with high EI is more likely to get along with their colleagues and have the right tools to help them survive a stressful job. It can also be very useful for lawyers who are dealing with distressed clients.
You can develop your EI by learning how to cultivate empathy, deal with difficult people, and manage clients with high conflict personalities. The tools and strategies you develop will stand you in good stead for dealing intelligently with clients, colleagues and other lawyers throughout your professional life.
Mental Health and Resilience
It's no secret that the legal profession has a big problem with mental health. When compared to other professions, lawyers experienced the highest incidence of depressive symptoms - with young lawyers being among those most at risk of suffering from mental health-related issues. These statistics shine a light on another skill that has long been overlooked in the profession - resilience.
Resilience is about a person’s capacity for stress-related growth. It involves thinking flexibly about challenges, and how to frame difficulties we encounter. Interestingly, research reveals that lawyers as a population tend to be quite low in this trait. Ask yourself: How do I cope with unexpected changes or challenges in my life? What coping strategies do I have at my disposal?
By improving your resilience, you are more likely to not only survive in the legal profession but to thrive in your role. Consider learning more about cultivating your sense of purpose in the profession, as well as practical tips for maintaining and improving your wellbeing.
What’s Your Next Move?
Which of these skills will you make part of your professional growth strategy this year? If you are looking for inspiration on where to start, you can browse our extensive range of premium online CPD courses.
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