What They Didn’t teach you at the Law School
Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.
Whether in the courtroom or in the law office, lawyers must be effective communicators. After all, law is embodied in words, and many of the disputes that give birth to laws begin with language – its meaning, use and interpretation.
Good communication skills for lawyers is essential to influence the outcome of just about everything that takes place during a typical day – whether it is delegation of tasks to co-workers, persuading a judge, working with opposite counsel or understanding a client’s objectives. If you can communicate well with people, they will trust you and like you and that will make it easier for you to like them and enjoy helping them.
Not everything should be communicated on e-mail. Some things are best handled by picking up the phone.
Discussing a problem verbally with a client will help you in maintaining the client’s trust. Negotiations are likely to be more successful when handled verbally.
A confident and competent lawyer is one who handles problems through honest, prompt communication with his clients. So, if you think you won’t be able to complete the matter on time, pick up the phone and talk to your client.
While talking is important, it is equally important not to talk too much. You should always leave room for listening, learning and understanding.
Good listening skills are an absolute necessity for an effective legal communication. Unless the clients are properly listened to and understood, they don’t feel connected with you. Moreover, only a careful hearing will deepen your understanding of the client’s problem.
So, carefully hear your client without feeling the need to interrupt by controlling the conversation or giving an answer before you have fully heard the question.
Understanding the Problem
Always be open to the possibility that you do not have complete knowledge of what your client is going to tell you; of the problem before it has actually been stated.
Try to understand the problem in many different ways. Creatively consider different options, ideas and courses of actions.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions; questions give you an opportunity to really understand what is going on with the person – a crucial factor in delivering a sound legal advice.
Clarity of Message
Be sure, whatever time you have taken to say something, has value to the person with whom you are communicating. Your message should be clear, succinct and properly understood.
In order to be a successful lawyer, you need to be persuasive. Persuasion is important while arguing before the judges, hiring outstanding co-workers as also while responding to a client’s query. And to be persuasive, you need to be inquisitive, calm and open so that you understand your audience’s thoughts and accordingly align your arguments.
The practice of law is highly dependent on good communication skills which enable you to connect with your clients in a more meaningful way and solve their problems more effectively. Even interaction with your co-workers improves.