For Law Students


Join Now

Beyond the Law: The Skills Future Lawyers Need

Share:
Typing? Yes, you’ll need to know how to type well, along with a few more skills probably not on your current to-do list.
Typing? Yes, you’ll need to know how to type well, along with a few more skills probably not on your current to-do list.

The rise of artificial intelligence-assisted legal services, “lawfluencers” on social media, and reforms to the LSAT testing system are all changing the legal landscape for prospective law school applicants, current law students, and new lawyers.

And those are just the beginning in terms of shifts underway in the legal profession. How can you be ready?

Always keep an eye out for the skills forward thinkers say you’ll need. Start with these areas of focus legal experts say will place you ahead of your competition as your career unfolds.

You can also find 8 more skills to focus on in this article.

Begin digital branding today

“One of the biggest digital branding challenges one of our legal clients faced was when the needs of the people landing on their website didn’t match the services our client provided,” reported Jess Percival, a digital marketer at Exposure Ninja in Nottingham, England. “The client specializes in personal injury, but the people landing on their website were there for other research queries.

“Our client was also targeting people in the wrong geographic area, which resulted in them not getting the types of clients they wanted,” she added. “A person would show up, see that our client specializes in personal injury when they needed family law, and then leave the website. That didn’t help either party.”

The upshot for you? You’ll need to consider how digital marketing will fit into your practice, advised Percival. “If you’re interested in starting your own practice or expect to be at a firm, you need to
think about digital branding,” she stated. “Even if you’re part of a larger firm, the way you speak to potential clients needs to be consistent with what’s on your firm’s website.

“You should also understand the ads that are going out on the firm’s behalf and the kind of content being posted on social media,” added Percival. “If your client references something that was in your firm’s blog or on the social media account and you have no idea what they’re talking about, it can be a bad look.”

If you’re planning to start your own firm, Percival said personal branding is a must. “There’s an element of ‘I’m the person you’ll be speaking to. I’m the person who will be handling your case. This is my law firm,’” she explains. “It’s a lot more visual, and your digital presence will be essential in recruiting clients.”

Percival also described how going off the beaten path of LinkedIn could be a helpful way to expose your company to more clients. She suggested checking out lawyers like Erica Kullberg, @ericankullberg on Instagram, founder of a legal tech startup, and Devin J. Stone, creator of @LegalEagle on YouTube, as examples of lawyers who have leveraged social media to reach an audience that wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to the legal field.

Set healthy boundaries

Suzi Hixon has been practicing trademark law for almost 20 years and launched a lawyer consulting business in 2020.

According to this London, Ky.-based attorney, soft skills related to boundary setting and mental health will be critical to your success.

“One soft skill I want to emphasize is being able to set boundaries,” she stated. “This is a way to protect your mental health. As a young lawyer, this would have been very helpful for me. I didn’t really start learning about boundary setting until later in my career.

“Setting boundaries is like setting up an invisible fence around what you will and won’t accept from other people,” said Hixon. “You may need to think about: ‘How do I say no?’

“New lawyers tend to take on more than they should because they’re so afraid of saying no,” she noted. “Setting boundaries exemplifies that you have respect for yourself, and it teaches others to respect you.”

Boundaries can also apply when you’re going to check email. “As a young leader, I thought it was a badge of honor to respond to emails at 9 a.m. Sunday,” said Hixon. “I look back and realize that didn’t align with my values. It’s harder to do if you’re at a big firm working for other lawyers, but if you start your own practice or work for a small firm, it’s important to manage expectations with clients early on in the relationship.

“One way to set boundaries is to include them in an engagement agreement at the outset,” advised Hixon. “This may not work for all firms, but if you’re creating your practice, you can create it how you want.

“In terms of email boundaries, I have an auto-response that lets clients know I may not respond very quickly,” she stated. “I end messages with, ‘Here’s to living outside of our inbox.’ I don’t want us all to be glued to our emails all the time.”

Richard Omoniyi-Shoyoola Richard Omoniyi-Shoyoola is a 2L at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a recipient of the Olin-Chancellor’s Fellowship and has a passion for criminal justice, civic engagement, and creative writing. He is a member of the Student Lawyer editorial board.