Posted by Billie J. Watkins on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - 00:00
Whether you're a recent law school graduate looking for your first position or an employed professional considering a change in your legal career, you naturally recognize the importance of the practice experience required for particular legal job openings. But are you aware of other capabilities that employers value in the legal field, including the soft skills that aren't always indicated on legal job postings?
According to research published earlier this year by Neil W. Hamilton, director and professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, legal employers and clients consider strong communications, critical thinking and project management capabilities to be among the most essential attributes that legal professionals can possess.
Determine if you are "workplace ready" by rating yourself on these seven competencies that can help you successfully meet the challenges and opportunities you'll face in the legal workplace.
Seven Critical Legal "Workplace Readiness" Competencies
1. Communications: Effective written and verbal communications skills include being able to succinctly answer questions, summarize key points, convey your point of view in a persuasive manner, successfully advocate your position, as well as explain complex concepts in a clear and concise manner.
2. Analytical skills: While research skills are important in many facets of the legal field, the ability to analyze information is also essential. Can you apply logic to information gathered to develop effective legal strategies and solutions? Can you ask the right questions to obtain the critical knowledge that's required? Are you able to synthesize facts and implications and apply legal reasoning in problem-solving scenarios? Can you evaluate data to design a cohesive and comprehensive approach? Are you able to anticipate obstacles to potential actions and evaluate associated risks and consequences? Knowing how to translate and evaluate information is a fundamental skill for legal employees.
3. Project management: Are you able to work in an organized and productive manner? Can you effectively manage your time, ignore distractions and perform your work within time constraints? Are you resourceful and able to leverage office technologies to your advantage? Do you recognize when to ask questions or for assistance? Can you manage multiple projects effectively and efficiently? Project management is a skill employers seek so they can be confident in team members' abilities to be independent, thorough and resourceful while understanding the objectives of each project.
4. Relationship building: Teamwork and project collaboration are fundamental prerequisites within the legal workplace. Law professionals should possess the aptitude to work cooperatively with colleagues and more importantly, with clients. Beyond the interpersonal skills to communicate professionally and respectfully, teamwork embraces the ability to cultivate, develop and maintain relationships with others and to work responsively to achieve shared objectives.
5. Tech-savvy: Technological innovations continue to significantly impact the practice of law -- influencing how work is performed, organizations are managed and collaboration is facilitated, how legal services are delivered, data is collected, shared and analyzed, and more. To be "workplace ready" in today's hiring environment, job seekers must be technically proficient in a broad range of law office technologies.
6. Business knowledge: While legal job candidates' soft skills and capabilities are increasingly valued, having the right skills, knowledge and experience in a particular legal discipline or practice area remains a key priority as well. Specializations are becoming increasingly marketable for legal professionals.
7. Confidence in your abilities: Beyond possessing the competencies that make you workplace ready, be prepared to demonstrate your strengths. Does your resume effectively reflect your readiness? Have you developed your personal brand and done other necessary prep work to make yourself marketable to employers? Have you researched the individuals with whom you will meet during job interviews? Have you taken steps to clearly differentiate yourself in the legal job market? Being able to speak to your strengths and offer specific examples will aid in setting you apart when looking for a job.
Additional guidance may be beneficial. For example, you may choose to enroll in free CLE courses, professional seminars, local bar association programs, or take advantage of other educational resources to sharpen your skill set.
Be sure to do all you can to distinguish yourself as a candidate in today's highly competitive legal hiring market.