Legal Career Advice: 4 Ways to Be a Better Communicator


It may seem obvious that lawyers need strong communication skills when it comes to arguing cases and writing memos. But effective speaking and writing are just as essential for conveying important everyday information among clients and colleagues.

According to the Robert Half Legal 2015 Salary Guide, today’s law firms are putting special emphasis on finding candidates with outstanding communication skills. As Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, said, “Strong communication and collaboration skills are integral to building trust, setting direction and executing goals.”

These skills are considered essential for solving problems, simplifying abstract concepts, and forging enduring relationships with clients. If you are a legal professional looking to communicate more effectively, take a few minutes to consider some legal career advice boiled down into four tips:

1. Avoid legal lingo when speaking with clients.

Among lawyers, it's perfectly natural to speak in legal parlance. However, keep in mind that use of unfamiliar terms may be off-putting to some clients (unless they happen to hold a law degree). When you’re communicating with clients, explain your key points in layperson’s terms.

2. Take time to listen.

It’s easy, amid the hustle and bustle of the workday, to forget that listening is integral to good communication. But as a legal professional, whether you’re communicating with clients, co-counsel or a partner at your firm, it’s crucial to take time to listen before you speak. By listening intently, you may hear a colleague or client reveal an overlooked detail. Listening actively before you speak and being receptive to the other person’s questions, ideas and concerns can serve to help earn others’ trust and respect.  

3. Be succinct. 

Few people enjoy conversing with someone who prattles on or talks in circles. Effective communication is clear and concise. Whether you’re interacting in person with clients or writing an email to a coworker, follow this legal career advice: Keep it short and simple. Not only can brevity make your point more powerful and memorable, being concise can remove ambiguity from your message.

4. Observe your body language.

According to research by Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of Silent Messages, people convey 55 percent of their feelings and attitudes through facial expressions, voice quality and intonation, body position and movements. It’s critical to think about your physical approach before you communicate with other legal professionals or clients. If you want to express interest in the conversation, sit upright and lean slightly toward the other person. Avoid crossing your arms, which indicates you’re closing yourself off from the other person. Try to smile and maintain eye contact as much as possible, especially when you’re meeting with clients. According to research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the Toulouse School of Economics, genuine smiles can build trust.

What legal career advice can you offer when it comes to effective communication? Share your comments below.