It’s expected that a person trained in a particular job will have developed skills that allow them to perform and excel at that job. Those skills are often specific to the position, acquired through schooling and experience, and useful only in that area. A “transferable skill” is a skill that can be transferred from one employment situation to another.
Examples of such skills include critical thinking or computer skills — skills which are developed and discovered not only while working, but also in school and through doing extra-curricular activities. Most people will make numerous career changes throughout their lives, so identifying one’s transferable skills is crucial to being able to best land a job. It’s a little reassurance that a current, perhaps not ideal, job is not the end of the line.
Despite the extra, specialized schooling that lawyers go through, the same holds true for the practice of law. The practice of law is unique in that, although lawyers are trained for a specific career, their training is broad enough in scope that it can also help develop other important skills, making lawyers smart bets for a variety of positions. Through the practice of law, a lawyer constantly has the opportunity to, and in many cases is forced to, develop key skills. These skills are learned in the class room and honed in the court room.
Fortunately, many of these skills can be easily transferred to another area of practice or another career altogether should a lawyer decide that they want to make a career switch. Because lawyers possess many transferable skills, this heightens their employability. The following are some of those skills described in detail.
Attention To Detail
Lawyers must pay attention to details – limitation and prescription periods, submission of evidence, even details in the stories that their clients tell them. They analyze the subtle nuances of legal provisions in order to appropriate it to their specific case. Because the practice of law often boils down to procedure, they are experts in minutiae. The mastery of this skill can be highly valuable in other situations.
Public Speaking And Oral Communication Skills
Because many lawyers have to plead in court (or “litigate”), lawyers tend to have well-developed public speaking skills. They know how to use oral persuasion to achieve their ends. Being able to speak effectively has huge benefits in leadership settings, whether it’s during a meeting, while giving a talk at a conference, or becoming a professional public speaker.
Lawyers are organized. The process of law entails a lot of paper-work. Lawyers (and their legal staff) must be experts at file management, which means being very good at keeping track of forms and memos. They must also be very good at organizing their time and keeping track of important dates, such as appearances in court and filing deadlines. All employers value organized workers.
Networking And Interpersonal Skills
A good lawyer will know how to network. Many legal events have a key networking component because it is understood that lawyers do not work in a vacuum. They often must work collaboratively with other lawyers in their department or in another firm. The practice of law thrives on association. Knowing how to work well with others is often a key factor in promotion and retention in all forms of employment.
People come to lawyers with their problems – they are being sued, or they want to avoid legal liability, or they want a divorce… The myriad of problems on which lawyers give counsel are endless. Oftentimes, the clients are distressed. A good lawyer knows how to listen attentively and professionally, keep calm under pressure, and not become emotionally drawn into the personal affairs of their clients. Listening skills are valuable not only in other careers, but also in interpersonal relationships.
Research forms a large part of the practice of law. When a client comes to a lawyer with a problem, chances are the lawyer will not fire off a solution “off the bat.” A good lawyer will take note of the problem and research it further, whether by looking through legislation, or doctrine, or even consulting another legal colleague. Thus, lawyers must be resourceful. The practice of law is not so much about knowing the answer, but rather knowing where to find it. Good researchers are more self-reliant and are a value-add to any future employer.
Judges will tell you that one cannot underestimate or understate the importance of a well written factum or trial brief. Written advocacy forms a significant part of the work of a lawyer. In fact, lawyers spend most of their time researching, reading and writing. Moreover, lawyers learn how to write in a succinct, methodical and linear fashion. Such strong writing skills developed as a lawyer serve as an asset in all kinds of careers.
Thinking And Analyzing
Lawyers know how to think and analyze a problem, and to break a problem into its constituent parts. They can easily distill and process large amounts of information. The study of law allows one to master clarity of thought and teaches the future lawyer how to respond critically and intelligently to any given conundrum, taking note of and responding to differing opinions and possible risks. It is for this reason that lawyers are instrumental to corporations, clients, governments and other institutions. The ability to analyze and think critically cannot be understated.
Learning And Processing Information
No matter what a student studied before, learning the law is like learning another language. Legal studies involve learning a different style of writing, reasoning, and thinking. As such, law students are usually those who like to learn and know how to learn quickly. The same holds true once the student transitions into legal practice. Sometimes a subject, about which you know very little, may land on your desk. An immigration lawyer not only needs to know about the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, but they may need to brief themselves on private international law, the enforceability of foreign ordinances, and the practice of family law in another jurisdiction.
Even if a lawyer specializes in a certain area of law, they still have to be generalists and continue to pursue continuing education classes to keep their skills up-to-date. In other words, they must have a general knowledge of a variety of areas of law; however, sometimes they will be required to study another area of law in more depth in order to tackle a specific problem.
Discipline And Time Management
Many lawyers use a system called “billable hours.” These are hours that can be billed to a client while working on that client’s file. For instance, in a ten hour day starting at 9 am and ending at 7 pm, only eight of those hours may be billable, since the other hours were spent at the water cooler, drinking coffee, eating lunch, or conversing with colleagues.
Often, a lawyer may have a trial brief to prepare, or an appearance at court, or have to conduct discoveries and attend a meeting, all in the same day. Thus, lawyers are required to be disciplined and have excellent time management skills – skills that are beneficial in many other activities.