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Dig Deeper: Soft Skills You Need to Succeed in Legal

Sam Bock

Succeeding in the legal marketplace requires a complicated formula of expertise, perseverance, networking, and patience. Whether you’re a lawyer in the courtroom, a litigation support manager overseeing e-discovery projects behind the scenes, or anyone in between, knowing your stuff is key—but that knowledge doesn’t cut it on its own.

There’s a little bit extra in every stand-out professional in this field. Often, it’s the softer skills that help them take center stage in one way or another.

In a world of CLEs and rapidly evolving technology, it can be easy to let the more personal skillsets fall behind on your personal development schedule. But don’t ignore them completely, because they help you make memorable impressions on your peers and have a greater impact on those in your professional circle.

Here’s a look at three underappreciated talents that can support an aggressive career trajectory.

#1: Leveraging Nonverbal Communication

A good command of language is key for many in the legal sphere—especially lawyers writing up contracts, conducting depositions, and advocating for their clients. Law students spend a good chunk of time on this subject in school, and for good reason: every definition and nuance counts.

But when it comes to delivery, nonverbal communication can help drive home your position and exert the kind of influence you want to have on your peers. Plenty of research indicates that body language alone can have a significant impact on judges and juries, as well as opposing counsel, in the courtroom.

And outside the courtroom? Advocating for yourself on the partner track looks a lot different if you appear relaxed but self-assured, as opposed to tense and aggressive.

For those not in the courtroom or the boardroom, this lesson is just as true. Even in everyday conversations with colleagues, signaling confidence and approachability is an important way to ensure you’re taken seriously—and a lot of those signals have nothing to do with the words that come out of your mouth.

Take a Deeper Dive at Relativity Fest: Attend “Using Body Language for Powerful Persuasion and Prediction in the Courtroom”—a session that will teach you how to better present yourself, and how to interpret others’ cues to your advantage.

#2: How to Speak (and Argue, and Present) On the Fly

Preparedness is critical to a successful career in any industry or vertical. You need to have good habits in place for organization, time management, presentation skills, delegation, and other workplace survival skills.

But sometimes, all the preparation in the world isn’t enough. Sometimes things just come at you without warning, and you need to know how to manage them on the spot—and that means managing the sometimes-unpleasant impact on the people, process, and technology involved in your work.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a smoking gun from opposing counsel, or a changed expectation from a colleague, or an uncovered lie from your own client. What matters is that you handle it promptly and effectively to avoid the worst possible outcomes from overtaking your case.

You can learn to master some strategic tactics that will help you avoid taking the wrong approach to an unexpected situation (or letting it throw you off your game) because you’ve been caught off guard. You can also build in some regular habits to help you expect the unexpected—and tackle it without veering off course on your other responsibilities.

Take a Deeper Dive at Relativity Fest: In “From the Stage to the Boardroom: Lessons Learned from Improv,” presenters will teach you how to master on-the-fly conversations and ensure the outcomes you need.

#3: Understanding the Whole Person

By now, it should be a universal understanding that diversity in the workplace is critical not just to show respect to your colleagues and improve employee retention, but to maximize your team’s effectiveness and empower creativity and innovation.

It takes a lot more than just talking the talk, though, to create an inclusive work environment. Effective conversations and trainings at the organizational level are a necessary step, but most employees agree: an inclusive workplace is one that builds an authentic sense of community. Setting company policies may help hold employees and leaders accountable, but policies aren’t enough on their own. It’s the everyday interactions between team members that inspire a sense of belonging and truly set the stage for inclusiveness and diversity.

If having a personal impact on your colleagues—going beyond professional influence to treat them as a whole person—is important to you, invest in learning how to respond to whatever needs and perspective they may have. It’s a critical way to develop into an effective leader and make a memorable connection with your peers.

Take a Deeper Dive at Relativity Fest: “Invisible to Visible – Breaking Through Barriers at the Workplace” will help prepare you for diverse perspectives on mental health, work/life balance, wellness, and more, so you can have a healthier, happier career and work environment.

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Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.