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5 Essential Business Skills that You Need to Learn to Succeed as a Modern Lawyer

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It is no longer enough to have excellent legal qualifications and experience working on a range of matters in a particular area of law for new work to come through the door.

Traditional lawyers relied on their reputation for being able to do the legal work to bring new clients to their practices. Other lawyers would applaud them and send new clients to them with the reassurance that they were the best in the business.

So the path to success as a traditional lawyer was clear. Obtain excellent legal qualifications, work hard and network as often as possible.

Now, employers look for a range of soft skills to help them trust that you can use your legal qualifications and experience in a way that benefits their practice.

You need to show that you have excellent time management, communication, problem-solving and listening skills. You also need to be able to think creatively, be innovative and be a leader.

These are excellent skills that will help you land a great job. You’ll look great among your colleagues, but how will these soft skills help you attract new clients in your practice?

You need to transform your legal qualifications and experience and range of soft skills into modern business skills to build your reputation among potential clients.

Article Summary Points:

To succeed as a modern lawyer, you need to be able to show potential clients that you can:

1. Offer your services in a way that is easy to understand.

It doesn’t mean you should break out your client agreement and add a few more pages. Be honest, do you think that most clients read it in detail?

You need to be able to present your offer so that it is clear what services you will provide to solve your potential clients’ problem. Presenting your offer is where your ability to scope and package your services well comes in. If you will have three meetings, provide two legal documents and help your client get the documents signed, say that. If there is work that will be outside of the scope that the client can engage you to do for an additional price, say that too.

You also need to set a clear price. You don’t have to have a fixed fee, although it would be ideal to commit to a fixed fee once you are clear on the services that you will provide in your offer. You do at least need to provide an accurate estimate of the price.

Being able to offer your services in a way that is easy to understand takes away the mystery of what lawyers do for potential clients. It means that they can make a more informed decision before they take up your offer, which is a positive step toward building a trusting relationship.

Being able to plan your services also means that you can design how you and your team will deliver those services. You don’t need to worry about losing control over each lawyer’s time because you’ll have a reasonably good estimate of how much time you and your team will spend on each matter.

When you’re clear on the services that you will provide to each client, you can regain control over your calendar. Take client appointments during the times when you want to be available. Block out times in your calendar when you need to focus on specific work. Finish your day with time to spare for your life outside of work.  ^

2. Design a legal solution to solve your clients’ problems efficiently and effectively.

As an experienced lawyer, you would be very good at doing this. But, can you show your potential clients that you can solve their problems?

You need to be able to transform your traditional legal services into legal solutions. It means taking your thoughts about how you do what you currently do and designing a step by step process that solves a specific problem for your clients.

Designing a legal solution doesn’t mean that you will guarantee a particular outcome for your client. However, you can clearly show them the process you will go through when you work with them. That process will be the same for all of your clients with the same problem, whereas the specific details of the outcome will change according to the particular circumstances of each client’s problem.

Going through the process of designing a legal solution allows you to review how you and your team complete tasks and refine them for a better balance of efficiency and effectiveness.

Being able to solve your clients’ problems efficiently and effectively means that you can apply your knowledge and skills in a way which is meaningful to your clients. It means that clients will learn to trust that what you do for them will provide a solution to their problem.

Being able to design legal solutions for your practice also means that you and your team will be able to work in a much more coordinated way. You can reduce bottlenecks, share the workload and tap into the hidden tech talents of your team.

When you start delivering efficient and effective legal solutions rather than traditional legal services, it shows that you can be creative and innovative to provide your services in a client-centric way.  ^

3. Be more appealing to work with than any other lawyer or team who can achieve a similar outcome.

Don’t be just some lawyer who does the same work as everyone else.

If you can’t differentiate your services from those of your competitors, then your potential clients won’t be able to either. That leads them to focus on a factor that can be easily substantiated, price.

In a market where the clients are calling the shots, competing with other lawyers on price is not a place you should be. It leads to a downward spiral of doing work at an unsustainable rate for minimal benefit. It doesn’t make much business sense, and ethically, it can be dangerous.

You need to highlight the value of your work to your potential clients, so they appreciate the value of your offers. It means communicating your value in a way which is meaningful to your potential clients.

Your potential clients don’t care about the specifics of your qualifications or experience. They want to know if you are the best lawyer to solve their problem. So tell them what you can do for them and let the testimonials from your other clients act as social proof.

Being able to clearly show a potential client that you can solve their problem, how you’ll do it and the price you’ll do it for makes you more appealing than other lawyers who leave these factors as a mystery. It shows that you can effectively communicate your value and that you’re ready to start establishing a trusting relationship with your client even before you meet.

Being able to communicate the value of your services effectively also means that your team is clear about what you include for clients in your offer. They no longer have to spend time wondering whether the work they do is meaningful to the team or worrying whether the successes of others are a sign of their failure or underperformance.

When you become more appealing to work with than any other lawyer or team, you gain natural confidence that helps you to attract more people who want to work with you. That will also give you the confidence to set prices for your services which genuinely reflect your value.  ^

4. Balance your life, so you’re not always busy and stressed.

Always being busy and stressed is not a badge of honour.

“I’m so busy” used to be the go-to answer whenever anyone asked about how you were. That was back when people blindly believed that ‘having it all’ was the ultimate goal in life because it upheld the mistaken belief that somehow have achieved something that us mere mortals could never achieve.

We all know that’s not true. We also know that relentlessly pursuing the goal to ‘have it all’ is a recipe for poor health.

You need to take control when it comes to balancing your life so you can be happy and confident at work. Your happiness and confidence show your clients that you can handle whatever life throws your way. That gives your potential clients trust that you can also manage their legal problem.

When you can balance your life, others see you as a leader at work. Leaders don’t brag that their picture of a balanced life will also work for everyone else. Good leaders provide guidance and a team environment which has opportunities for all members to achieve a version of work-life balance which works for them.

Balancing your life, so you’re not always busy and stressed means that you have more space to focus on meeting your longer-term goals. It means that you will stop concentrating on just getting through the daily grind, and confidently do what you need to do to achieve your long terms goals.  ^

5. Engage with them online.

You can’t decide that engaging with your potential clients online is not for you simply because you don’t want to. That doesn’t make much business sense in an increasingly connected world.

Your potential clients are online every day, asking questions and looking for answers. So you need nurture an online presence that presents your solution.

Where you focus your online presence depends on where your potential clients are. If they are active on social media, be active on social media too. If they are engaged in industry discussion groups, be there also. If they regularly attend webinars, be the one to present to them.

The key here is to engage with your potential clients. You should not build an online reputation that is all about you.

Use your listening skills to hear what your potential clients’ need and want. Learn to understand their problems, so you can refine your solutions to solve them. Watch discussions and commentary about what your potential clients’ want and try to deliver that.

Having an engaging online presence allows your team to show your potential clients what you can do for them. It encourages your team to be creative but also gets into the habit of listening to their audience and refining what they do.

When you have an online presence, you’re also able to reach potential clients no matter their geographical location. This ability means that you can meet more of your target clients and have more in-depth and meaningful discussions with them. Let your value shine through as you show that you’re not just another lawyer doing the same old legal work.  ^

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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practising lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Legally Yours Pty Ltd accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.