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How a legal background equips you for success in any industry

Being a lawyer comes with various transferable skills that can set you up for success in any industry, writes Laila Sayed.

user iconLaila Sayed 25 October 2023 Big Law
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Picture this: You’ve recently graduated with a law degree, expecting it to be your golden ticket to endless opportunities. But today, it seems the allure of the legal profession has taken a backseat to influencers, bloggers, and podcasters.

So, you might wonder, is there still something illustrious about having a legal background? I believe there is, and it turns out we’ve got a lot more in our toolkit than meets the eye.

In this article, I’ll be dissecting four of the most coveted skills in the professional world and revealing how lawyers are perfectly poised for success across a spectrum of industries:


  1. Adaptability
In the business world, just like in legal practice, goals can take sudden detours. The market whispers the customer priorities shift, and you’re left recalibrating your plans on the fly.

Take my own journey as an example. I currently work in a hybrid role encompassing legal operations and law. My daily tasks include managing communications, handling marketing-related assignments like crafting media responses, creating presentations, and even diving into intricate email marketing campaigns. This shift from a purely solicitor role has exposed me to real-time learning, pushing me to identify gaps and swiftly fill them. The steep learning curve I encountered in my legal career has equipped me with the grit and resilience needed to be adaptable and tackle new challenges head-on.

Lawyers have honed the art of adaptation, mastering the ability to react quickly and sensibly to shifting environments and circumstances. It’s the ability to pivot and recalibrate when the terrain changes. In the business realm, adaptability isn’t just a skill; it’s a survival instinct.

  1. Communication
Communication is at the core of the legal profession, encompassing both written and spoken forms. Lawyers excel at tailoring their communication to meet the needs of their audience. It’s more than conveying information; it’s a nuanced craft.

Reflecting on my experiences in law, I have learnt how to turn complex legal issues into purposeful narratives about my clients’ experiences, their challenges, hardships and successes. Most importantly, these narratives convey why my clients deserve the outcomes they seek. The ability to communicate persuasively through written communication is highly advantageous in any industry.

For client-facing solicitors, they need to recognise their client’s needs and personalities and adjust their approach accordingly. For instance, if my client is one of few words, then I will keep my communication brief and to the point; I won’t embellish, and I will create space for their expression. Alternately, when supporting an anxious client in a parenting dispute, I will actively listen and validate their emotions and experiences to ensure that they feel heard, understood and supported.

Whether crafting compelling narratives, adapting communication styles to suit your audience, or conveying empathy, these skills are the threads that weave connections and drive success across various industries.

  1. Project management
Lawyers, especially those who deal with clients directly, are no strangers to the constant juggle of managing a court diary, client-related tasks, file management and encroaching deadlines. Think of each client as a project, where you’re the project manager orchestrating tasks, appointments, and priorities.

Today, I did a little audit of my day – let’s call it a “day in the life” expose: I started the day with a short court appearance that turned into a marathon (three hours, to be exact). I then spoke to three new inquiries, finalised court documents, responded to a barrage of emails, had a powwow with my boss about our marketing strategy, helped a colleague in Queensland with a matter outside of her jurisdiction, put forward an offer to settle, and monitored my client’s inbox while she’s away trekking in the Himalayas (not that I’m jealous).

If you have a legal background, then you’re already a project manager, and while project management may appear differently in other industries, the core skills are fundamentally the same. Whether it’s managing budgets, adapting to change, or effectively allocating resources, lawyers bring a valuable toolkit of project management skills to the entrepreneurial table.

  1. Emotional Intelligence
We’ve all heard the adage that hard skills can be acquired through training, but soft skills, like emotional intelligence, are innate. The legal profession, with its high-stakes conflicts, teaches lawyers the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in building trust and support among clients. This skill isn’t just innate but can be cultivated and refined.

For instance, early in my career, amid a pandemic-induced lockdown, I found myself responsible for clients twice my age who looked to me for emotional support and guidance. It was this high-pressure environment that reinforced the notion that EQ isn’t just a trait; it’s a skill that can be nurtured and polished.

Lawyers, who often lack the luxury of therapists, have to learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, and seek support when needed. The ability to be introspective and have EQ proves invaluable in forming strategic partnerships in the business world, where understanding partners’ nuances and building trust through authentic communication is paramount.

In the world of legal operations, I attribute my success in business development to the emotional intelligence I honed in my early days as a solicitor. Forming strategic partnerships can be daunting, requiring a deep understanding of partners’ nuances and their unique needs and aligning your offerings with their objectives. By infusing partnerships with heart-to-heart communication and authenticity, you move beyond transactions and into the realm of lasting, meaningful relationships.

While we may never have brand endorsements or opportunities to collaborate with airlines for a free flight, we possess a valuable toolkit of skills that not only pave the way for success in various industries but also extend far beyond the courtroom. So there you have it, a testament to the enduring allure of a legal background, positioning individuals for success and impact in an ever-evolving professional landscape.

Laila Sayed is a solicitor at Justice Family Lawyers.