Soft skills critical for career success, study says

Legal knowledge won’t get you everywhere.

To land a job and establish a successful career, new associates need strong interpersonal skills, according to a new survey by Robert Half Legal.

More than one-quarter of lawyers ranked interpersonal skills as the top skill needed for success. Client relationship management, time management, technical proficiency and business acumen were also cited as top skills.     

“School is important, but another key focus area, for all areas, is interpersonal skills,” said Charles Volkert, executive director. “Can the lawyer deal with clients on the front line?” 

But many law firms also offer training to develop necessary skills.

More than 60 percent of lawyers said their firms offer training in ethics or professionalism to first-year associates, and 58 percent said there was training in software and/or technology. Additional trainings include client services, communications and law firm economics. 

An associate with four to seven years experience, with strong interpersonal and business development skills is highly marketable.

“That’s what we’re seeing our clients request,” Volkert said. “They want someone that did well in school but can they hit the ground running?”

It’s possible those skills can translate into a slight pay boost, but more importantly, they can be deciding factors in a candidate being hired.