These skills listed in The Skills Future Lawyers Will Need are just the beginning. Lawyers and others in the legal world say these superpowers should also be part of your toolkit:
Learn to type!
This may seem silly, but many attorneys never learned to type efficiently. Learn to type well and you’ll be a much more efficient attorney than many of your competitors.
—Chris Collins, Cofounder, Yugo Collins, Roanoke, VA
Dig into bigdata.
The legal industry now has the potential to harvest crucial data across a range of cases, which is why it’s vital you learn how to read and decipher this data. In-depth investigations have hidden details that could mean the difference between winning or losing a case, making it imperative for legal teams to be able to find the needles that matter from a data haystack. These techniques will not only help you investigate data thoroughly but also quickly highlight discrepancies or abnormalities that may help your case.
—Riley Beam, Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam Pa, Melbourne, FL
Don’t dismiss old-fashioned communication skills.
I think a back-to-basics approach is important. Lawyers have always needed to be good communicators, but this might be more important than ever. First, there’s the demand for more communication in general. Clients want to be kept in the loop, and they feel that frequent updates, sometimes even via text message after hours, are no longer a luxury but a given.
Be aware of the changing dynamics in the way people communicate with one another. There are some basic things, like learning new terminology and the slew of acronyms that seem to become ubiquitous overnight. There are also more advanced things you can do. Increased migration and further globalization mean you should learn new languages. Discovering the communication norms of any subset of the population you might encounter. And even keep up with online slang to better contextualize your clients’ words and actions.
The best way to do these things is to go beyond the mandatory Public Speaking 101 class and consider more advanced classes in oral and written communication; communication theory; and even public relations, media relations, and crisis communications.
—John Capo, Professor of Communication, Lycoming College, Williamsport, PA
Build your tech fluency.
Be knowledgeable in coding. Admittedly, it’s a technical skill, but it’s achievable. Being adept in programming is a big advantage, especially in this era of fast-changing tech. It’s a career path that’s not usually preferred in the legal profession, but it offers countless opportunities.
Also, financial literacy is one of the most important parts of our profession. Since we always deal with numbers, we usually rely on our accounting partners to do that for us.
However, if cases involve financial issues, it’s better for us to be able to determine the possible avenues to take and the specific financial issues that require legal remedies.
—Juan J. Dominguez, CEO/Managing Partner, The Dominguez Firm, Los Angeles, CA
Develop interpersonal skills for the digital era.
You’re going to have to perfect remote consulting with clients using video, and it’s more than just gaining skills in the tech involved. It also means finding a way to effectively translate interpersonal skills in a digital environment.
Video conferencing has the potential to disrupt the legal industry by giving more legal access to underserved communities and individuals. You can tap into these market segments by making video consulting a viable alternative to traditional in-office consulting.
—Daniel Cook, Head of Business Development, Mullen and Mullen, Dallas, TX
Be business-development savvy.
Today there’s a tremendous focus by law firms to obtain new clients. That requires a business-development mindset, which, unfortunately, very few law schools spend time helping freshly minted attorneys create.
The good news is that it’s a learnable skill. With a little effort, you can engage in the right activities and behaviors to develop a following and attract new clients to your practice. Clients are the lifeblood of any organization.
The unfortunate truth is that a great legal mind may now be insufficient, in itself, to achieve partner status.
—Vince Burruano, President, Vince Burruano Consulting Services, Mount Pleasant, SC
Return to the classics.
In my opinion, the most essential skills lawyers can learn are contained in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s nearly 100 years old for a reason. New lawyers aren’t expected to save the day on day one.
Instead, you can and should be prepared to listen, learn, and develop a sense of ownership and pride in your work product.
Carnegie’s business classic can help you prepare for that by helping you build rapport at work, develop relationships for new business, and refine your personal image in a way that will lead to a successful practice.
—W. Scott Kimberly, Criminal Defense Attorney, Murfreesboro, TN
Develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
To compete with ever-slimmer margins and an increasing need for access to legal services, you’ll need to be innovative and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. This will mean understanding and adopting new technology. However, it doesn’t mean you should be learning Python in your spare time—although you could.
Instead, you’ll need a decent understanding of things like blockchain and how digital technology can greatly increase your productivity and the affordability of legal services.
You’ll also need to be a lifelong learner, not just in terms of legal knowledge and skill but also on business and entrepreneurship, topics you simply won’t learn in any depth in law school.
It’s not just about developing your own business acumen. It’s about thinking like an entrepreneur, even if you’re happily employed at a firm.
—Daniel G. Leone, Personal Injury Lawyer, NJ Law Results, Roseland, NJ
One last tip.
Perhaps most of all, Ty Gibson, founder of Gibson Hill in Houston, says you’ll need resilience. “As times
progress, laws change, and years of learning can be rendered outdated,” he said. “You’ll have to develop a thick skin and the ability to quickly adapt and learn on the go.”