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Key skills for lawyers

updated on 29 February 2024

To secure a training contract or pupillage, you must demonstrate evidence of several key skills and attributes that are essential throughout your legal career.

Use the list below as a checklist. Make sure you cover all of these sections in your applications.

Academic excellence

Law is an intellectually demanding profession, so your academic results are important.  Most law firms will expect good A levels and at least a 2.1 degree or equivalent. That said, new ways of recruiting (eg, contextual recruitment) mean that law firms are able to contextualise your academic achievements, helping firms understand any external factors that may have influenced results and identify candidates who are outperforming in their peer group.

Meanwhile, an excellent academic record is arguably even more important for a career as a barrister.

But academic excellence alone won't be enough to make your application successful; you’ll also need to demonstrate other skills throughout the selection process and beyond when your career has taken off.

Communication and networking skills

Successful solicitors and barristers must build and maintain relationships with clients, which are often based on rapport between individual people even when the client’s a large organisation. This requires excellent interpersonal skills, which you’ll also need when meeting potential employers and colleagues at an interview or on a vacation scheme.

The ability to network, an activity that all but the most confident can find awkward, is also important when seeking a training contract or pupillage, as well as when winning work and building client relationships. So, before you enter a room full of strangers, all standing in closed circles, and feel the urge to find a corner, gulp down a drink and leave, be sure to pick up a few tips on how to get the best out of these potentially tricky – yet opportune – situations.

Listen to this episode of The LawCareers.Net Podcast, which is all about networking, and read these networking tips.

Interview techniques

To do well in an interview, you’ll need good interpersonal and verbal communication skills. There’s more to it than that, though – preparation is key.

There’s a wealth of help on LCN, starting with this LCN Says on 10 tips for training contract interviews, and our Feature providing a 26-step guide to training contract applications.

Video interviews are also an increasingly common part of the application process, so read this guide to video interviews, too.  

Aspiring barristers should read this feature on preparing for a pupillage interview.


Being a lawyer involves a lot of email and letter writing, and plenty of paperwork. So, good spelling and grammar, and the ability to express yourself clearly, are essential. You must also be aware of your audience and be able to write in a formal tone.

Remember, the slightest spelling mistake could ruin your application. Recruiters want to read clear, concise answers to the questions on the application form – not waffle.

Before applying for a training contract or pupillage, read LCN's guide to writing cover letters, CVs and applications.

To learn more about application techniques, read our application masterclass and our guide to online application forms.

Commercial awareness

Modern lawyers need to think like businesspeople and tailor their legal advice so that it helps clients to achieve their goals and avoid pitfalls. This involves understanding the sectors in which your firm and clients operate. You can start developing this commercial acumen as a student by keeping up with business stories in the media.

Get started with our Commercial awareness hub page, which explains more about what commercial awareness means, offers advice on developing this important skill and examples of using the PESTLE technique to analyse topical issues in our Wrestle with PESTLE series.

You should also read our Commercial Question section to hear from lawyers at leading firms as they explore a different commercial law issue each week.

Soft skills

Your general attitude – and how it comes across in your actions, words and presentation – will be a crucial factor in whether you secure a training contract or pupillage, as well as in your later career.

For insights into how practising lawyers rely on these skills on a daily basis, read the profiles of practising lawyers in our Meet the Lawyer section. 

If you want more information on how to demonstrate these key skills in law applications, read this Feature.