Do You Need To Upskill To Supercharge Your Profile As A Legal Jobseeker?
- October 29, 2023
The job market is evolving more rapidly than ever. The recent surge in the development and use of AI and digital technology has ushered in a highly competitive period that has seen a spike in demand for its incorporation in hiring practices and also to combat skills shortages gathering pace in certain sectors. Throw in a tumultuous economic background and it is clear that legal candidates today still find themselves having to navigate uncertain waters, in order to stay visible and attractive as a prospect to hirers.
Nothing epitomises this more than the well-documented skills shortage widely seen across the legal industry today. A recent article in Fortune focused on this particular challenge being experienced across many sectors and is likely (according to the Future Of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum) to get worse before it gets better – referring to a ‘skills gap is so big that nearly half of workers will need to retrain this decade’.
And whilst employers are already feeling the impact and squeeze on their hiring and business objectives, employees too are well aware of the need to keep pace with the changing landscape and ensure their employability in the long-term. Upskilling and reskilling have become the talk of the town amongst legal professionals, but one thing that most commentators agree on the likelihood of a skills-based revolution, where certain soft skills are quickly rising in importance.
While functional or hard skills are an ever-crucial skill area for legal professionals to develop, they are often given the lion share of attention, sometimes at the expense of some core soft skills that have proven to be crucial for career success. Regardless of whether you’re a fresh graduate or a seasoned professional, these are skills that will make the most difference in accelerating your career, as they equip you with the necessary qualities to help you manage your mind, communicate well consistently, and influence your team to improve their performance.
This is particularly pertinent when discussing the future of work for legal professionals in the industry, as the role of AI and digital technology in streamlining processes, commoditising work and automating less complicated aspects of the job, is only set to increase going forward. In such a scenario what will be left for aspiring candidates to shield themselves from the resulting job slash is the chance to prove their worth in the high-value, complex, or newest areas of law, among which is the human-to-human interaction necessary for effective client and relationship management.
Considering this increasingly becoming the general consensus around the impact of digital technology, it’s clear to see where the demand is going skill-wise.
Soft Skills For Growth
A highly desirable aspect of a legal professional’s skillset is the ability to manage themselves and their relationships with others through profound self-awareness, effective communication, willingness to listen and capacity take on feedback. And it isn’t just required to excel in your role, it is indispensable for personal and professional growth.
Here at Clayton Legal, we assist candidates in developing their careers where we consistently share the softer skills that need to be developed. Below are the ones most important to build:
One of the key challenges when managing and developing a legal team is a lack of self-awareness from the employee.
You will hear the term emotional intelligence shared in many circles. The term was defined as a person’s ability to manage their feelings and to express those feelings appropriately and effectively.
(The original book on this topic by Daniel Goleman, is definitely worth a read).
Who has not come across a colleague in the business who has zero idea about their impact on others? A candidate once approached us looking for a new role because of the behaviour of a new manager in the business; yes, managers can lack self-awareness too.
It appears that every morning the manager in question would appear with a sore head, grumbling and snapping at people. The individual had no idea how his behaviour affected the team.
Self-awareness also covers motivation, empathy, self-regulation, and appropriate social skills.
All professions include varied people with effective communication skills and some that don’t hold the ability to have a conversation. Summing up a procedure to employees with jargon-free lingo are all expected skills for someone to hold. However, talking over a team member in a meeting does not demonstrate communication excellence.
A large part of being a great communicator is the ability to listen. We can all tell the difference when someone hears the words you are saying or when they are actively listening.
As an experiment, notice how often people have their phones open during conversations or look over your shoulder at other people and what’s going on when speaking with you; worse, they sit on the edge of their seats waiting to interrupt.
Active listeners, meanwhile, pay close attention to meeting presenters, offer up clarifying questions or responses, and refer back to notes in future discussions. They do not need things repeated to them because they heard them the first time, making active listeners respectful colleagues.
Openness to Feedback
This might sound like a different soft skill, yet a lack of openness to feedback often indicates an individual is stuck in a pattern and unwilling to learn.
The ability to accept developmental feedback is critical for all of us; otherwise, how will we improve? Think about it; constructive feedback will help you do the best job possible when it comes to your role, and yet often, people take it personally and react defensively; when this happens, feedback is not heard.
No one is ever perfect, no matter how long they have been in a role. Reflecting on this, when did you last ‘overreact’ to feedback?
Having a growth mindset leads to the ability to accept feedback. Individuals with a growth mindset see feedback as the gift that it is.
Their mind is focused on what is possible rather than what is not. No matter what role, you will encounter roadblocks, disappointments, and other situations that might frustrate you. A soft skill critical to your ability to persevere is having a growth mindset.
Dr Carol Dweck conducted the original work on this several years ago. Her book is well worth reading to identify if you have a growth or fixed mindset.
For instance, someone with a growth mindset who did not achieve their billable target would look at this as an opportunity to double down and focus on what they could do differently in the next quarter.
Whereas someone with a fixed mindset would see this differently, complaining that the target was too high, the clients they were working with were demanding, and the list of complaints goes on.
Adaptability and Flexibility
The last few years have been a challenge for many, yet certain employees have stood out above others; Two words describe them.
No matter your role in your business, the ability to adapt to change and a positive, flexible attitude about what is happening never go unnoticed.
Many people have no idea how negative they can be when something does not go their way. Worse still, they become a classic mood hoover.
Fact: Our business landscape is changing, and no matter what role you hold in an organisation, you have to be willing to adapt and change.
Analytical & Creative Thinking
Analytical and creative thinking are reported to be the two most important skills for employees in 2023 according to the Future of Jobs Report, with over 70% of businesses surveyed as part of the research, citing these as the most valued core skills. A purposeful increase in both of these cognitive skills clearly reflect the increasing importance of complex problem-solving in the workplace.
Analytical thinking is the ability to approach complex problems or situations in a systematic and logical way, breaking them down into smaller components, analysing the data, identifying patterns and relationships, and using that information to draw conclusions and make informed decisions.
It is of particular value in roles that require problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills such as data analysts, business analysts, financial analysts, engineers, scientists, strategists, and management consultants, among others.
Employees who display these skills are deemed to make sound judgments and decisions, and solve problems effectively. Analytical thinking is also useful for identifying trends, opportunities, and potential risks in a business, which can help organisations to innovate and stay competitive.
As a jobseeker, there are several ways you can highlight these skills during the process – starting with your CV; using relevant that demonstrate your skills here such as:
- “data analysis”
- “critical thinking”
- “strategic planning”
- “quantitative analysis”
Simply put, if you can provide concrete examples of when you have applied analytical or creative thinking, all the better.
In your interview, be prepared to demonstrate your skills and discuss specific examples of how you have used analytical thinking to solve problems or make decisions. You could even prepare a case study or work sample that showcases your analytical thinking skills.
Technological literacy is also deemed to be one soft skill that is growing in prominence and importance across a variety of sectors and roles. However, it is not just about using technology for everyday tasks like sending emails or using social media. It also involves having a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts and principles of technology, as well as its societal, ethical, and environmental implications.
In today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving technological landscape, technological literacy has become increasingly important in many industries and professions. Jobs in fields such as engineering, software development, digital marketing, and healthcare require a high level of technological literacy, as employees need to understand and use various types of software, hardware, and digital tools.
Moreover, technological literacy is essential for individuals to participate fully in a rapidly changing society and workplace.
Demonstrating technological literacy is relatively easy to do on your CV and during the interview process – although it is important to list those that are relevant for the job in question. It is a good idea to include specifics here such as level of qualification so a hiring manager can assess your exact competencies from the get go. Additionally, be prepared to talk about examples where you have used your skills to solve problems or improve processes. This is arguably where you will stand out as a candidate… focusing on the impact these skills have had in your previous roles.
Amongst the many developments we have seen emerge in the past few years, such as the gradual shift towards greater flexibility in the work life of legal professionals, the incorporation of AI technology into legal and hiring practices and the transition of the industry away from established traditional norms comes a particularly pertinent point of discussion – and contention – one that has (and will continue to) influenced how law firms will operate in years to come: The well-documented skills shortage experienced by law firms across the market.
Having an awareness of what these skills ‘are’ exactly is important – particularly if you are to be successful in your hunt for a new legal opportunity (and know the areas where you yourself may need to upskill).
Upskilling is more than just a buzz word doing the rounds – it is very much centred on the wider issues of skills shortages and ever-changing working conditions and environments that are affecting jobseekers and employers alike.And it seems like the focus on the importance of soft skills in giving you a competitive advantage (again, in your capacity as a jobseeker or employer) is not going away.
Simply put ,soft skills focus on developing a positive can-do attitude. A well-worn statement perhaps – yet developing abilities like this will help you navigate most things that are thrown your way while making you stand out as a potential new hire for a firm (as well as being areas to focus on if you are indeed in the hiring seat, and looking for a standout candidate to bring on board).
About Clayton Legal
Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.