“Soft Skills” are attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. They include traits like diplomacy, patience, empathy, problem solving, conflict resolution, adaptability, collaboration, and communication. Cultivating “soft skills” can improve your chances of getting a job or retaining clients:
A firm that respects client service will stay open. A firm that makes client service a priority will remain successful. How do we accomplish this? It should be innate, and yet, as mentioned, communication is still the number one complaint. Given that so many people have access to and contact with clients in a law firm on a daily basis, we must stop taking “soft skills” for granted, and start placing a higher value on teaching and attaining those skills. Marni Becker-Avin, Developing Lawyers’ “Soft Skills” – a Challenge for the New Era in Legal Services.
How Can You Cultivate Soft Skills
Soft skills can be improved through learning and by example:
- Online/self-help learning is available through resources like MindTools, SkillSoft, or Alison.
- Prefer books? I totally understand. A quick search on Amazon reveals many titles to choose from.
- If you do better in a brick and mortar setting, look for leadership, communication, and conflict resolution classes at your local university or community college. [Don’t forget to check adult education course listings.]
- Keep an eye out for pertinent continuing legal education (CLEs). The PLF has an oldie, but goodie: Building a Successful Practice through Improved Client Communication. From the landing page, select CLE > Past CLE.
- Find a mentor. If you are a newer lawyer in Oregon, you are required to participate in the mentoring program as a condition of admission. However, your mandatory mentor may or may not be the best model for “soft skills.” Don’t hesitate to seek out a secondary mentor if needed. If your mentor sits in on client interviews, seek his or her feedback on your technique and style. [Be mindful of confidentiality issues and conflict screening.]
- Use client satisfaction surveys. Tough love, yes indeed! But there is no quicker way to find out if you have a “soft skills” gap.
[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]