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What makes a good lawyer? The 8 top skills you need to make it in law

by Dominic Chandler
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What’s the difference between a good lawyer and an average lawyer? Will where you studied have a large impact? Or will the Inn of court you join or the firm you land a job at have any influence?

What makes a good lawyer runs deeper than that, it’s about the type of person you are, the skills you possess and the attributes you develop throughout your career in the law. 

To help prospective lawyers, we’ve put together a round-up of personality traits and skills that make a good legal professional. So, whether you’re considering a career in law, currently studying for your legal qualifications or are a qualified lawyer looking for reassurance you’re on the right track, our guide to what makes a good lawyer can help. 

Personality traits that make a good lawyer

Academic acumen is obviously important when studying to become a lawyer. But, ultimately, a career in the law requires you to empathise with, relate to and connect with a wide range of people; from clients and clerks to judges and jurors. So, having these personality traits and attributes will help you to become a great lawyer no matter what area of the law you end up working in.

lawyer speaking to client

1. Great people skills

An ability to relate to and engage with a wide range of people is maybe one of the most important skills that, if mastered, makes a good lawyer. 

Sure, thriving in your studies is important. But, no matter how well you prepare for your exams and how strong your essay writing is, when it comes to working as a lawyer, if your people skills are lacking you’re going to struggle. 

From legal aids to clients, witnesses to administrators and jurors to judges, you need to be comfortable talking to a wide variety of people. Your role is to advocate for your client, argue their interests and reach resolutions with the other party where relevant. 

To do this well you need to have strong people skills, if you’re shy and retiring or, conversely, overbearing and standoffish, it’s going to be much harder to engage with the people you work with to achieve the best outcome for your client. 

And your people skills can’t just be one way, you need people to engage with you and see your way of thinking, but you also need to be able to read other people and relate to their points of view. 

Stong people skills help lawyers to be persuasive, personable and read others, this is essential when in court and dealing with clients and other people involved in the case. Strengthening this personality trait will help you to be a better lawyer and will benefit you when working in the law and trying to achieve the optimum result for your clients. 

Court house

2. Determination and perseverance

Studying for a career in the law is a long, challenging journey, from exams and essays to pupillages and work experience. You need to be determined and committed to your end goal of becoming a lawyer to succeed throughout your studies. 

And, the hard work doesn’t end there; working as a lawyer takes perseverance. It’s not all dramatic arguments and triumphant struts out of courtrooms as the flashy legal dramas would have you believe. 

Life as a lawyer is a lot of long nights, early mornings and heaps upon heaps of paperwork. But, the great thing about a career as a lawyer is that, when you persevere through the mountains of research and paperwork that feels neverending, you can be rewarded with a successful outcome for your client. 

So, one of the most important things that makes a good lawyer is having the determination and perseverance to put the work in at all stages of your career, from your first-year exams and sitting the Bar to late nights putting together a strategy for your latest case. 

3. A creative mind

The most successful lawyers are creative. Now, we’re not talking about creativity in the artistic sense, although picking up a pad and pencil can be a good way to unwind after a long day in court. We mean creative thinking. 

To succeed as a lawyer you need to be fantastic at problem-solving, and being a creative thinker makes you a whole lot better at finding alternative solutions. Whether it’s finding a new approach to an ongoing case or a creative line of questioning for a witness on the stand, thinking outside of the box and finding an unusual solution can be just what you need to outmanoeuvre your opposition. 

Lawyer speaking in court

4. Confident in your abilities 

As a lawyer, one of the key aspects of your job is to persuade people to agree with your way of thinking. If you’re not confident in yourself, no one else is going to be. You can’t be stood in front of a courtroom quietly squeaking out your opening statement. 

A good lawyer is confident in their abilities, their argument and themself. Whether you’re meeting a client, talking to the partners of your firm or addressing a judge in the courtroom, you need to act with confidence.

As Rebecca Bowley, a paralegal in Lincolnshire says; 

“You can’t really be shy when you’re a solicitor, especially when meeting clients, the university legal clinic was great practice for that, because it helped me develop interviewing skills, and I have built on that in my LPC.”

Skills you need to be a lawyer

lawyer researching

5. Analytical skills

Throughout your legal studies through to your career practising law, you need to learn and retain huge quantities of information and be able to utilise that information and translate it into arguments and strategies to win your cases.

Developing strong analytical skills will help you to successfully absorb and recall everything you need to remember as a lawyer. Prioritising information, structuring arguments and documents and applying your relevant legal knowledge to the problem at hand requires you to be incredibly analytical and logical. 

6. Research skills

Just as having strong analytical skills is important, it’s also essential to have great research skills to be a good lawyer. From your legal studies and beyond into your career practising law, you’ll be required to quickly and efficiently conduct research. 

When you prepare a legal strategy you’ll have to research your clients, their case, historic cases and legal precedent, the opposition and much more. Being able to handle all this research in a systematic and efficient way is vital to being a good lawyer.

7. Well organised

This one should be pretty obvious but we thought we’d remind you; good lawyers need to be organised. From remembering the time and date of a hearing to gathering together all the required documentation for a discovery, impeccable organisation skills are a must for any lawyer. Turning up late, missing appointments or forgetting key pieces of information is a surefire route to failure as a lawyer. 

gavel

8. Sound judgement 

All of the research you spend time conducting is of no use if you can’t draw any useful conclusions from it. Therefore, good judgement is needed to succeed in a career in the law. 

You need to be able to absorb information and then draw reasonable and logical conclusions and assumptions from it. Being able to critically analyse your findings and legal strategies with a level judgement is important when putting together an argument. 

Searching your work for weaknesses and being able to look at it from the perspective of your opposition allows you to create a stronger argument that’s watertight. And, when you hone your judgement in this way, you’re also able to quickly spot weaknesses in your opposition’s argument and efficiently exploit them to your advantage.

Strengthening your judgement skills will allow you to make swifter and stronger decisions and will ultimately lead to you becoming a better lawyer; in this job sitting on the fence is not an option. 

As Rennard Strickland and Franks T. Read wrote in The Lawyer Myth;

“At the most pragmatic level, lawyers are society’s professional problem solvers. Lawyers are called upon to make distinctions, to explain how and why cases or experiences are alike or different. Lawyers are expected to restore equilibrium, to be balancers. Every discipline, every profession, every job, and every calling has a cutting edge. At that cutting edge, lines are drawn. Lawyers and judges are society’s ultimate line drawers. On one side of the line, the conduct, action, or inaction is proper; on the other side of the line, it is not.”

lawyer in Tailor De Jure robes

Helping you become a good lawyer

The skills and personality traits listed need to be consistently developed throughout both your training and when in the role as well. By doing this, and putting the proper time into preparation for every case, you will be more likely to provide quality representation to your clients in court and build your reputation as a good lawyer. 

Wherever you are in your legal career, improving and developing these skills will be incredibly useful and will help you to become a better lawyer. A good lawyer needs to look the part, which is where we come in, Tailor De Jure takes care of your legal attire so you can concentrate on fighting the good fight. From legal gowns and barrister’s wigs to formal wear and frames for your hard-earned legal certificates, Tailor De Jure has got you covered.

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