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How To Be A Successful In-house Lawyer: Soft Skills

How to be a successful in-house lawyer: soft skills

There is much expected from in-house legal and especially GCs. The role is constantly evolving and involves much more complexity than what is necessarily taught in law school. The role of an in-house lawyer is not only to offer legal and technical support but to be part of a team, a moving part of the company and thus must have several ‘softer’ skills in order to be successful. 

What are ‘soft’ skills?

‘Soft’ skills is a term used to refer to all the skills an in-house lawyer needs that are not specifically related to their legal or technical abilities. Whilst the name may convey they are less important or easier, that is certainly not the case. These ‘softer’ skills are what set candidates apart when applying for a competitive role and so they must not be neglected.

What are the soft skills required to be a successful in-house lawyer?

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, EQ, or by whichever name we call it, covers areas such as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, all of which are core factors during negotiation, client-customer relations and interpretation of complex situations. As a lawyer, you’re trained to see both sides of a legal argument so you should be able to see someone else’s perspective. It covers a huge range of personal skills and attributes which we are unaware of possessing and plays into all aspects of soft skills that will be covered below.

 As AI is on the rise, everyone is understanding the value and importance of EI more and more.(Read our article on Emotional Vs Artificial Intelligence). It is this human side of lawyering that is gaining more and more traction as the world turns to machines.

Leadership

A GC is a leader within their company and within their in-house legal team. A good leader can be developed and requires active effort to become one. Great leaders provide appreciation and support, creating psychological safety so their employees are able to collaborate, innovate, and raise issues as appropriate. This includes celebrating achieving the small steps on the way to reaching big goals and enhancing people’s well-being through better human connections. These conditions have been shown to allow for a team’s best performance.

However, with hybrid / remote working now being more common place many lawyers are missing out developing  these vital skills via osmosis and therefore need to take control and look to supplement their learning / development.

For further detail see our article all about leadership in law

Strong Communication

As an in-house lawyer and especially as a GC the importance of communicating clearly is very important. Strong communication is essential in being an effective leader. Furthermore, itis your job to manage risk within your company and have those honest and sometimes hard conversations with the managing team. The in-house department has been called ‘the department of no’ in the past and recently many GCs are speaking up on the difficulty of saying no and the compromising situations that they sometimes find themselves in. (Read the SRA’s study and its backlash) Strong communication is not only a desired soft skill in in-house but essential to the risk management of the company.

Business Acumen

As GC, the role is not solely legal but you are part of the company’s senior team. As part of an in-house legal team, the GC can get to know the company’s structure, finances, aims and culture incredibly well. This knowledge will enable you to build strong relationships with key stakeholders across the business enabling you to become a strategic business partner. Adding value with key commercial decisions, revenue generation and driving change.

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