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The Oracle

All about skills


Dear Oracle

I'm thinking of changing career direction and pursuing law, but I'm not convinced that I've got what it takes. What skills and attributes do you need to be a good lawyer?

The Oracle replies

A number of core skills are vital to being a good lawyer and, depending on your current employment, you will have picked up some of these in your career so far. Set out below are the core competencies sought by legal recruiters:

  • Intellectual ability - lawyers need to be pretty brainy and academic results are inevitably used as the main indicator of your intellect. For career changers, whose exam results may look a bit ordinary when compared to today's A-garlanded generation, other evidence is always valuable (eg, professional achievements).
  • Motivation - not only do you need full reserves of get-up-and-go, you also need to demonstrate enthusiasm for a career in law. Getting a job in the legal profession is tougher than it used to be and a large dose of drive and ambition to succeed is crucial to success. 
  • Resilience - the legal profession is demanding, all the way from your legal study to the recruitment process, training and beyond. More than ever, given the current recruitment market, you need the ability to persevere when things gets tough.
  • Accuracy/attention to detail - a slipshod lawyer is a bad lawyer. You must be able to work accurately and concisely. Recruiters will be assessing your ability to produce accurate material in your application form, which is why it's crucial that yours is flawless and completely typo-free. Proofreading is absolutely vital!  
  • Teamwork/leadership - offering legal advice is a collaborative business. Lawyers work with each other and with clients - sometimes you will be a leader, at other times you'll be one of the troops. You need to be able to do both and demonstrate this to future employers.
  • Commercial awareness - in everything you do, you should be able to appreciate the bigger picture. You need to understand how businesses operate and why they take the decisions they do. Experience in the working world will come in handy here, as presumably you have worked for a company and experienced how it functions from the inside. Be creative when answering questions on commercial awareness on application forms and try to use examples from your working life. 
  • Communication skills - legal work is all about conveying advice. You need to prove that you can listen to what others say and ask of you, and communicate your thoughts and opinions effectively. After all, there's no point in being a legal whizz-kid if you can't express legal arguments to colleagues and clients. 

So if you think you've got the skills and can prove it to legal recruiters, law could be just the career change you're looking for!

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Recent comments

Agnes Nakirijja | 04/04/2012 02:56 AM

Qualities of a good lawyer

Anonymous | 04/04/2012 10:38 AM

As someone who had a glowing career as a senior manager in the City and then did a career change to get to the Bar, my conclusion is this: the Bar is still very traditional. If you don't have a first from Oxbridge, you will struggle to compete, no matter what your career history or legal work experience. Think very carefully before making the investment.

Claudette Hulsman | 05/04/2012 13:26 PM

Hello Anonymous, that was not the impression that I got at a recent open day at the Temple Inn in London. How come your legal work experience was not taken into account? I am volunteering and am considering to become a barrister.

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