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In the current climate, changes in the legal market have encouraged both lawyers and law firms to focus more acutely on the concept of talent management.
In an intensely competitive environment where customers can choose from the best service providers available, having well-rounded, experienced staff, who have the multitude of skills and characteristics of a good lawyer that are needed to impress the client, has become a key differentiator in this market. Truly successful lawyers are diverse and have a mix of skills, as well as those traditionally associated with competent and good lawyers of the profession.
In 2015, The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) identified four key areas to be used in determining a standard for a solicitor’s skillset in their statement of solicitor competence. These were:
- ethics, professionalism and judgement
- technical legal practice
- working with other people and,
- managing themselves and their own work
What is clear is that the role of a lawyer has become far broader than it once was. As technology has advanced, so have client expectations, and therefore the demand on the legal sector regarding service levels and client experience has similarly intensified.
In recent primary research by LexisNexis in publishing the industry research report, ‘The Good Solicitor’s Skill Set’, 4 of the top 10 key skills and characteristics for lawyers today were very similar to those highlighted by the SRA:
- entrepreneurial skills
- a good understanding of commerce
- a service industry mentality and,
- generating business
While the solicitors surveyed stated that business and people skills were lacking, 9 out of 10 respondents surveyed said they felt that good commercial acumen and strong human characteristics – in addition to first rate legal skills – were of increasing importance in the make-up of a successful lawyer.
The general consensus concluded that, in order to truly thrive as a lawyer, the ‘top priorities for success’ were resoundingly human characteristics, including; common sense, inspiring trust, a willingness to listen, and use of normal language rather than legal jargon.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top attribute needed to be a successful lawyer was their ability to understand the client's issue, thereby creating long-lasting and trustworthy relationships with the client.
Equally, legal characteristics, such as efficient case management and proactive communication featured highly among the top 10 attributes.
Developing and retaining clients was the only business skill ranking in the top 10 attributes of a successful lawyer, which is understandable considering that business acquisition and waning client loyalty were considered the top challenges facing the legal industry today.
What is fair to say, is that the lawyers surveyed felt that much of the success of good lawyers around client experience was related to the success of the individual lawyers of the firm.
With several demands placed on lawyers in firms, and a shortage of perceived business management skills within the profession, firms or in-house teams who nurture their talent pool, as well as helping them to develop the desired skills for becoming successful lawyers, are certain to win against their competition.
 The Bellwether Report Series 2019: The Good Solicitor's Skill Set – an independent study conducted by LexisNexis UK, consisting of eight in-depth interviews with lawyers in small firms and small offices of larger firms, as well as online surveys completed by 176 solicitors in England and Wales. Respondents represented a wide variety of positions in the firm and areas of expertise. The research was conducted in November and December 2018.
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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