Read legal job postings today, and you’ll notice key attributes that law firms and legal departments tend to highlight when describing their ideal job candidate. Whether you’re a recent law school graduate or a seasoned paralegal looking for a new position, having one or more of these can help you stand out among the competition. Here are the top 10:
- Communication. Even if you never have to argue a case, the ability to speak well is essential for legal career success. You also need a clear and concise writing style, coupled with excellent grammar and spelling. This skill is important not only when you’re drafting legal documents, but also when composing emails to coworkers, management and clients.
- Analysis. Legal specialists must be able to read, process and dissect large quantities of information. While AI (artificial intelligence) software has automated some tasks, such as detecting trends and patterns in past cases, legal professionals still need to know what questions to ask and how to best make use of the findings.
- Research. There’s so much data out there! From simple Google lookups to advanced search commands and connectors in databases like LexisNexis, savvy legal professionals know how to mine resources and make sense of the information. Speed and efficiency are also key. The faster you can find the data and results you seek, the more valuable you are to employers.
- Technical proficiency. The successful legal professional is someone who’s comfortable with not only Microsoft Office, but also the latest software for electronic filing, eDiscovery, practice management, document automation, electronic billing and client communications.
- Legal knowledge. The best legal professionals don’t depend on knowledge they gained through a degree. Stay on top of the latest in court decisions, regulatory compliance and ethical issues by subscribing to legal newsletters and not falling behind on continuing legal education (CLE).
- Collaboration. The key traits for teamwork are patience, active listening, honesty, participation and a willingness to do your share. In your cover letter and resume, cast yourself as a team player. Bring up collaboration again during the interview round. Let prospective employers know you work well in a group setting and can get along with a variety of personalities.
- Organization. Both attorneys and support staff need to be conscientious about preparing documents, filing, meeting deadlines and staying on top of other aspects of their job. Law firm and corporate legal departments appreciate multitasking employees who can manage a hefty workload without compromising quality.
- Motivation. Employers are eager to hire hardworking professionals who are passionate about their field and exude a positive attitude. These attributes bode well for success in a busy practice, where new hires must hit the ground running and take the initiative to learn the things they don’t know.
- Business acumen. Knowing how corporations work is helpful not just in the general counsel’s office but also in law firms. Business acumen includes a thorough understanding of a typical company’s operations, accounting and finance, human resources, marketing, IT, research and development, production, social media, and sales.
- Customer service. Clients have choices, and they will choose — and stay with — law firms that understand their needs in terms of quality, responsiveness and affordability. Candidates for almost all legal jobs need to understand the importance of excellent client relations and customer satisfaction.
Greater computing power may have revolutionized the way legal professionals do their job today, but the essentials remain the same. Hone these 10 key skills, and your career will be off and running.
Robert Half Legal is a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.