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Why soft skills cannot be forgotten

As the legal marketplace continues to evolve, and with it client expectations, soft skills will become increasingly important for legal professionals wishing to succeed, argues a HR professional.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 09 July 2018 Big Law
meeting, discussion, workplace
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MinterEllison chief talent officer Mary Lyras said the most valued soft skills in the future appear obvious, but they are rarely noted in job advertisements.

“We talk here about business acumen, the ability to connect with clients and the ability to collaborate with others to bring diversity of thought to client solutions,” she told Lawyers Weekly.

“These are underpinned by qualities such as curiosity, openness to learning, comfort with ambiguity and empathy for others.”


The need for such soft skills cannot be understated, she said, as the legal profession continues to grow and adapt to new methods of service delivery.

“In an increasingly-changing business world, the ability to really understand the environment clients are operating in, whether from a regulatory, competitive or market perspective and where disruption is likely to come from and be able to provide insightful solutions that resonate for clients, is one of the differentiators for successful lawyers,” she said.

“Being able to connect with the client and their world, source the right skill sets (be they legal, tech or process) and apply raw intellectual talent to possibilities to co-develop solutions is what I’ve seen some of the most successful lawyers do.”

Ms Lyras warned that those who do not bother learning or training in this realm will simply be overtaken by those who do.

“Knowledge simply is not enough,” she posited.

“Insight into the commercial challenges and the myriad stakeholders [that] clients need to juggle everyday — be they regulators, their customers, the community, their shareholders is what sets successful lawyers apart.”

Tertiary institutions have a responsibility to ensure that such skills are being taught, alongside the prioritisation of content and acquisition of knowledge, in anticipation of entering the workforce.

“Firms that accelerate the development of these skills be that through experiences offered, mentoring or training — will attract the best talent in the market,” she surmised.

“Having a workplace where people are engaged and growing personally and professionally is a critical precursor for any leading organisation because that energy and commitment is then applied to their work with clients.”

And this will all be applicable to all lawyers coming through, whether they are employed by BigLaw or NewLaw.

“At the end of the day, this is a people business made up of people working with clients and each other to solve complex issues,” she concluded.

“People are the common denominator.”

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