The key business skills that a modern lawyer needs

This blog post was also featured as a column in the December 2015 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.

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Let’s take a moment to analyse the phrase ‘the modern lawyer’. What image does it conjure up in your mind? Is it the technology they use, their skills or their attitude? Hopefully it’s a mixture of all three.

To some extent the modern lawyer is a reflection of the modern law firm: dynamic, prepared for change and ready to adapt. Over the next few editions of LPM I want to take a closer look at some of the key business skills that a modern lawyer needs.

Skilling up

Let’s start with the obvious question: “What are those business skills?” Law firms are no different to any other business – they have to be multifaceted and they have to rely on employees being multi-skilled and hold multiple roles (even if the role is not held in an official capacity). They have to address all aspects of business, including marketing, service delivery, business development and more.

This is key simply because clients are not onedimensional. They don’t just consume legal services in a flat manner. Their decision to use or reuse a law firm will be down to the range of experiences they have during the process, and that touches much more than just price.

A prospect or client will conclude their opinion on a law firm based on diverse aspects as positive communication (did they feel the firm was proactively communicating or did they have to chase for updates?), emotional connection (did the client feel empathy from the member of staff when they spoke to them?), customer service (did they always get an answer when they called?) and most definitely first impressions (in an office or online).

How to get ahead

To achieve this the modern lawyer (and law firm) has to be able to embrace new thinking, new approaches to business, new ideas and be clientfocused. Sticking to the old ways or the tried and tested route may be dependable, but it won’t help the firm get ahead while the competition is trying to be innovative.

Yet being multi-skilled is not to say the lawyer has to become a jack of all trades – far from it. Their legal knowledge and experience is what the client really wants, but critically (and thanks to other industry verticals such as banking) the client expects the experience of consuming legal services to be much more rounded than that.

The modern lawyer has to be mindful of business skills like project management, financial control, business development and account management – and to be a strong advocate for customer service to ensure they can operate effectively.

The modern lawyer is as much a business person as they are an advocate of the law. 

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