How legal practitioners can increase their confidence

Self-confidence is a very important trait in successful solicitors. As well as impressing your colleagues and helping you to stand out from your contemporaries, it is also a critical part of the solicitor-client relationship. But how confident are you?

Having confidence in your own abilities and the ability to be assertive when necessary helps to build client trust and encourages them to accept your advice. After all, to effectively sell your services, you have to be convinced yourself that they are worth paying for. However, confidence is not the same thing as egotism and while it’s essential to be confident about your abilities and opinions, it’s also important to place the client’s needs and wishes before your own.

Many solicitors, particularly those at the start of their career, feel that they are lacking in self-confidence. The profession also tends to attract perfectionists who may feel that they are never quite good enough at their jobs. While a legal education will give you the knowledge you need, it doesn’t equip you with all the abilities you’ll require to be successful, so here are our top tips for solicitors wanting to build up their self-confidence.

  1. Take control

The first step in developing self-confidence is to make a conscious decision to do so. It’s natural to feel lacking in confidence when you start out in your career; you’re immediately put in new situations doing new tasks. Confidence comes from building up experience and familiarity, so you need to actively challenge yourself in order to build it up.

  1. Fake it until you make it

Acting in a confident manner, even if you’re feeling insecure, is one of the classic techniques in building self-confidence. Standing up straight, keeping your head up, maintaining eye contact and speaking slowly and clearly are all mannerisms that suggest confidence and acting in this way can convince others of your self-confidence. This then acts as a positive reinforcement loop, as their reaction will then help to give you a real confidence boost.

  1. Do your preparation

If you have a situation coming up in which you fear you will be out of your depth, like a difficult client meeting, putting some hard work in beforehand can really help to make you less nervous. Read all the relevant papers, do your research and make detailed notes – this means you’ll have the facts to hand if you get asked a difficult question. Similarly, if you feel unsure of your skills and knowledge in a certain area, sign up for a training course and plug these gaps. Knowing that you have done all you can to prepare can make you feel much more confident in tricky situations.

  1. Take your dues

When you receive feedback from your clients and colleagues, make sure you concentrate on any positive comments just as much as negative ones. It’s natural to focus on criticisms rather than compliments, as this gives us the information we need to improve, but this can give you a skewed self-image. Making a mental note of complimentary feedback is useful in reminding yourself that you do add value to your firm. And don’t be afraid of sharing positive testimonials, PR and achievements with your colleagues.

  1. Avoid imposter syndrome

The legal profession is full of high achievers and very competitive and it can be tempting to constantly compare yourself negatively to others. ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is the state of being constantly afraid that you will be ‘found out’ and exposed as a fraud, and is very common. Sufferers fall into a harmful way of thinking where all their achievements are purely due to lack, while those of others are proof of their superior abilities.

The truth is that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. Recognising and nurturing your own unique strong points is the key to avoiding imposter syndrome and finding your true self-worth.

  1. Be prepared to fail

Building up experience by taking on new tasks and putting yourself in new situations is how you build up self-confidence, but it’s not possible to do everything flawlessly the first time. Trying to be constantly perfect is holding yourself up to an impossible ideal and can damage your self-confidence. Instead, realise that making mistakes and having self-doubts are important parts of the learning process as they encourage you to continue to improve. Allow yourself to make mistakes and accept that sometimes simply being ‘good’ is good enough.