What skills will the lawyers of the future need?
Changes in technology and society are having a profound impact on the makeup of the legal profession. In the next ten years, we are likely to see much greater flexibility and mobility within the industry, with a new mix of skills required for lawyers. Law firms will need to reform their workforce structure to attract a new breed of lawyer and be more open to sourcing people from other industries with non-traditional skills and training.
The skill set for legal professionals used to be pretty standard: logic, judgement, persuasiveness and attention to detail. These skills will no longer be sufficient – these are the hard and soft skills we think the lawyers of the future will require:
Technological knowledge & ability
The legal profession has been notoriously slow to adopt changes in IT; lawyers even seem to pride themselves on their technological incompetency. Not any more. Technological advances are affecting every aspect of our lives, and having an understanding of these will become essential to every practice area.
Technology is also having an effect on the way lawyers work. We’ve spoken before about the impact of AI on the legal sector, and clients will increasingly expect to be able to communicate with their lawyers in many different ways. Those firms that can grasp the possibilities created by technological innovation, and how they can be used to shape the legal profession, will ultimately be the most successful.
Interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence
Strong communication skills have always been required in the legal profession, but in an increasingly competitive market, lawyers need to be able to maintain strong relationships with their clients and peers. It’s no longer possible to rely on partners to develop these client relationships, so every lawyer needs to be able to deal with clients in a way that instils confidence.
Clients no longer value gravitas and detachment in the way they used to and the belief that lawyers must remain emotionally distant is becoming increasingly outdated. Clients want empathy and understanding; someone to listen to them, rather than simply advise them. Put simply, lawyers who can connect with their clients and peers will be valued more than those who cannot.
The ability to work collaboratively
Increasingly collaborative working is becoming the norm across most sectors, and the legal profession is no exception. Lawyers are more likely to find themselves working together with external specialists and in multi-disciplinary teams, so those who can bring out the best in others and suppress their egos when necessary to reach the best possible outcome are going to be most successful. While lawyers will always need to be able to work autonomously, the ‘lone wolf’ model simply won’t work anymore.
Increasingly business like thinking
There are a variety of skills more traditionally required in the business world that lawyers will increasingly be expected to demonstrate, such as:
Lawyers will be more likely to work with external legal service providers, so negotiating arrangements with these suppliers will become a key skill. Equally, clients are tending to invest more in in-house legal departments, which means lawyers will have to handle pressure from them to reduce fees.
Budget and project management are standard in the corporate world and lawyers are increasingly being expected to do the same. Financial literacy will be a core requirement, as lawyers will be expected to estimate and stick to time and budgets, without constantly falling back on ‘it depends’.
It seems to be the mark of a successful lawyer that they always have too much work on. While the legal profession will always be a demanding one, successful lawyers will be those who can prioritise their work, delegate tasks and manage their time effectively.
If you’re looking to future-proof your workforce, these are the skills we think you should be looking to hire for in the future. If you’d like more advice on how best to achieve this, why not get in touch on 0333 370 46 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.