What does it take to be a good lawyer? This is a question many law students and young attorneys ask themselves as they embark on their legal careers. While basic skills like critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving are crucial, there are several other critical factors that distinguish excellent lawyers from the rest.
Developing competency in these areas can position lawyers to better serve their clients, achieve career success, and find meaning in their work. This article will explore seven essential traits shared by great attorneys. Read on to learn what it takes to become an outstanding legal practitioner and positively impact society.
1) Mastery of Legal Technology
In today’s digital era, lawyers can no longer afford to overlook legal technology. Lawyers must keep pace with software, databases, AI tools, and other innovations transforming legal practice. Technology mastery makes lawyers exponentially more effective and competitive.
For instance, e-discovery software helps lawyers efficiently search, analyze, and review large volumes of documents in litigation. Deal management platforms facilitate complex transactional work by centralizing documents and workflows. Legal research tools like Westlaw provide quick access to case law, statutes, analytical content, and more.
Lawyers who make learning cutting-edge legal tech an ongoing priority have a major advantage. Earning a legal tech certificate to formally confirm technology proficiency has become an important credential for ambitious lawyers. With in-depth training on the latest tools available, lawyers certified in legal tech can provide exceptional services to clients.
Their tech mastery enables more efficient practice, advanced analysis, and strategic use of data. In the continually evolving legal landscape, technical skills are now mandatory. Lawyers lacking technology competence will struggle to compete.
2) Outstanding Communication Skills
Despite the cerebral nature of legal work, communication skills are equally as important as intellect for attorneys. Lawyers constantly communicate with colleagues, clients, judges, juries, experts, and other parties. To represent clients capably, they must listen attentively, speak persuasively, and write clearly.
Truly talented lawyers are wordsmiths who know how to adapt their communication style to different settings. In negotiations, they are diplomatic, using strategic phrasing to argue their position. In court, they speak powerfully with precision and control to paint a compelling picture before a judge or jury. In written briefs, they use eloquent and taut prose to relay information effectively.
3) Meticulous Organization
Given the enormous amount of information lawyers must handle, being highly organized is a huge asset. Lawyers are constantly referencing case files, research, and notes across multiple complex cases. Without stellar organizational skills, lawyers will struggle to efficiently access the right information when needed. They may overlook important details or make careless mistakes due to being disorganized.
Superior lawyers are disciplined in keeping impeccable notes, maintaining neatly organized case files, and grouping relevant research together. They develop systems for categorizing and labeling materials so valuable information does not get lost in the shuffle. Their orderly approach reduces scrambling when referencing materials and minimizes the chances of misplacing a key document.
4) Tenacity and Perseverance
Practicing law can be an extremely challenging profession. Cases often involve convoluted issues with ambiguous solutions. Moreover, judges and opposing counsel will vigorously test lawyers’ positions. To be an outstanding advocate, lawyers must have an indefatigable will to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity. Rather than getting discouraged when the going gets tough, great lawyers tenaciously adhere to their analysis of what constitutes the right course of action.
Further, outstanding lawyers have the grit and perseverance to withstand the pressures and uncertainties inherent in the legal field. Litigation and deal negotiations often involve unpredictable twists and turns that can fray one’s composure. Top legal practitioners have a levelheaded temperament, allowing them to roll with the punches. They know that achieving optimal outcomes frequently entails overcoming bumps in the road and adjusting strategy accordingly.
5) Strong Analytical Skills
The foundation of quality legal work is the ability to break down complex issues into simpler components. Lawyers are constantly tasked with analyzing intricate facts, interpreting laws and regulations, developing case strategies, composing persuasive arguments, and anticipating counterarguments. To effectively handle such responsibilities, lawyers must have razor-sharp analytical abilities. They need to identify relevant issues, recognize inconsistencies, spot weaknesses in reasoning, weigh pros and cons, and evaluate alternative solutions.
Exceptional lawyers have honed their critical thinking skills and can methodically work through multifaceted problems. They ask probing questions to get the clearest understanding possible of each case. They also examine issues from every angle, considering subtleties that others may overlook. Furthermore, top legal analysts can translate convoluted concepts into easy-to-follow positions. Clients benefit tremendously when their counsel exercises such meticulous and systematic analysis.
6) Unwavering Ethics
Above all else in the legal profession, lawyers must have steadfast integrity and impeccable ethics. Lawyers are trusted advisors who shoulder immense responsibility. Without devotion to ethical standards, lawyers can severely damage their reputation and credibility.
The best lawyers have an unwavering moral compass and dedication to upholding ethical and professional rules. These standards guide everything from client communications to presenting truthful and thorough analyses to avoiding conflicts of interest. Exceptional lawyers even hold themselves to higher standards than what procedural rules dictate to reinforce their trustworthiness. Their profound sense of ethics bolsters their professional stature.
7) Business Acumen
Operating a profitable law practice requires business savvy in addition to legal skills. Lawyers must market their services, manage finances, track billing, oversee personnel, and negotiate contracts. Without sharp business skills, lawyers will flounder in important aspects of running their practice.
Leading lawyers have stellar business acumen that enables them to operate efficiently. They adopt practices that streamline workflows and minimize overhead. They employ technology to track key performance indicators. They have strong financial analysis skills to set competitive yet profitable billing rates. Outstanding rainmakers market their services relentlessly. And they budget carefully while saving for the future. Their business wisdom translates to smoother firm operations and higher profitability.
Becoming an exceptional lawyer requires more than just legal knowledge and problem-solving skills. Also vital are strengths like technical skills, analytical thinking, communication, organization, tenacity, technology competence, unwavering ethics, and business savvy. Developing these critical areas empowers lawyers to deliver top-notch counsel, operate productive practices, and thrive in the complex legal landscape.