What are the skills you’ll need to excel in a legal career?

After committing yourself to a degree in law, you will become part of a select group of around 1.3 million US lawyers. You’ll be in high demand throughout your career, as openings in this profession are set to increase by 10% over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

This a very exciting period, when your hard work has finally paid off and you are on the cusp of reaching your career goals. For many people, the transition to working in law practice is smooth and the organization they are part of gives them a chance to excel in their area of specialization. However, this does not mean that the process is effortless.

Gaining the competencies of a professional lawyer 

As a graduate, you will have asked the question, what can you do with a law degree? However, when the time comes to take the next step as a qualified lawyer, you need a plan. At Cleveland State University, the online Juris Doctor degree prepares students for a professional role in three years and three months. You’ll learn the competencies required to excel in legal practice and your personal development will be nurtured. When it comes to establishing yourself post-graduation, the skills and qualities you refine at university will be invaluable.

Moving from the study of law to practicing it

In the early days, you will go from being a student who is only responsible for their own work to in-depth involvement with complex legal matters. Even as a junior in a legal firm, you will have your own files to manage. Therefore, you’ll need a specific set of proficiencies and the ability to demonstrate these on your CV, in an interview or as a trainee.

Processing large amounts of information quickly

Your academic experience will be of benefit when it comes to reading through huge volumes of information. You should do this while considering the problems that have been put to you, either by a client or your employers and finding potential solutions. Your legal knowledge can also help because you will need to understand what the relevant jurisdiction is in each case. If you are unsure of whether the case deals with a state law or a federal law, for example, your legal project is likely to become lengthier, as you might cast your net too wide. 

Excellent written and spoken communication

Once you’ve gone through the case file, your key role is being an advisor to your client. You should be able to speak in terms that a layperson can understand so that they are clear about the various courses of action open to them. Furthermore, you must help them to choose the best option for their needs. When it comes to business litigation, there are likely to be multiple stakeholders involved in each case. Therefore, you need to feel confident enough in your spoken communication to persuade and advise many different people. If this is done well, they will trust you to achieve their aims.

When you need advice or you are working on a large case, you are likely to be part of a legal team. You will need to share information effectively with your colleagues and keep the case moving. The ability to forge and maintain strong working relationships with professional teams, as well as clients, is crucial.

Working as a team and leading when necessary

Although you will spend lots of time alone researching the facts of a case and preparing admissions, you will also need to be a team player. Aided by your excellent communication skills, you will be a useful and reliable part of any assembled group. 

There will be times when you struggle to cooperate with a fellow legal practitioner or a client. This should not impact your ability to behave in a professional way, or to pull with them in the same direction. During collaborative work, there will be times when you can take the initiative. Although good teamwork is more important in the early stages of your career, showing that you can lead when necessary will certainly go in your favor.

An awareness of commercial concerns

Understanding how US law can be used to help your clients is key to becoming a successful lawyer. This means identifying the problem and offering a solution while also knowing what problems could occur and how these might be navigated. If your work involves business clients, you will need a deep understanding of how their sector operates. 

Furthermore, commercial awareness allows a lawyer to appreciate the workings of their own firm. In any industry, the bottom line is key, so the company may try to strengthen its position in a particular area of law, open a new office or merge with another firm. You will be relied upon to support the company in its endeavors and show a keen understanding of why its actions are necessary to win more work.

Paying attention to the smallest detail

For your firm and your clients, the stakes are incredibly high. Each case, from those that involve the smallest disagreements to those with complicated litigation, must be handled competently. Your partners, work colleagues and clients are relying on your contribution to be precise, free from confused phrasing and delivered within the set deadline. This means that your attention to detail must be meticulous and thorough. Grammatical and numerical errors must be weeded out to ensure that the document is entirely accurate. 

The drive to succeed

The legal profession is a competitive place and therefore motivation is an essential quality for all aspiring lawyers. Your firm and clients will need you to tackle the difficulties and challenges of legal work while remaining highly motivated. Even when faced with criticism, you should stay focused and committed to improving your work. Moreover, if a project becomes more demanding than you first thought, you should keep on track with implementing it while also maintaining a positive attitude.


If you are thinking about pursuing a legal career, look into enrolling on a course such as an online Juris Doctor degree today.