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Why Soft Skill Development Will Be A Success Factor In Your Growth This Year

  • March 8, 2022

Last week, I watched an old comedy re-run and interview featuring Joan Rivers, an iconic U.S. comedian.

During the interview, she shared a quote; “life doesn’t get better; you get better”.

Something to consider for lawyers but in a different context; let me explain.

Studying the law and gaining experience to then practice takes years. The shortest possible time is around seven. Unfortunately, it does not stop there to be truly successful in your legal role.

Enter the ability to develop your soft skills.

Soft Skills For Growth

Functional or hard skills are one skill area to develop. Yet, the skills that make the most difference to accelerating your legal career or growing your law firm are the ‘soft skills’ that will help you manage your mind, communicate well consistently, and influence your team to improve their performance.

Here at Clayton Legal, we help our clients craft role descriptions for candidates who are critical for their firm’s growth.

Alongside this, we assist legal candidates in developing their legal careers where we consistently share the softer skills that need to be developed.

Self-Awareness

One of the key challenges when managing and developing a 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 is worth getting from Amazon by Daniel Goleman.

Who has not come across a colleague in the practice who has zero idea about their impact on others? Only last week, a paralegal candidate approached us looking for a new role because of the behaviour of a new partner in the firm; 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.

Communication Skills

The legal profession includes people with effective communication skills. Summing up a case or communicating options to a client jargon-free are all expected skills. However, talking over team members in a practice 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 seat waiting to interrupt.

I hope I have not just described you.

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 legal colleagues.

Openness to Feedback

This might sound like a different soft skill, yet a lack of openness to feedback often indicates an individual 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 legal 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?

Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset leads on from 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.

Adaptable and Flexible.

No matter your role in your law firm, 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.

In summary, soft skills focus on developing a positive can-do attitude. A well-worn statement, I know, and 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).

How Can We Help?

Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates to join their teams. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please contact one of our team here.

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.

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