“We never listen when we are eager to speak” (Francois de La Rochefoucauld); “Many can argue – not many converse” (A. Bronson Alcott); “Communication skills are the lifeblood of a successful life….if you plan on spending any time there” (Doug Firebaugh)
Amidst all the discussion of the ‘Legal Big Bang’ and the implications of both this, and other market pressures, for lawyers, one challenge is constantly referred to; the need for lawyers to set themselves apart.
Knowledge of the law will be a given for qualified solicitors (as opposed to the large numbers of paralegals and law graduates who may well flood the market to a greater extent in ‘legal roles’). So although focusing on legal knowledge may set qualified solicitors apart from non-qualified legal workers, it won’t work in the main as a focus for setting themselves apart from other solicitors (though I appreciate that Quality Solicitors might have something to say about this contention). What about commercial awareness? Again, I think that this is pretty much a given. Much as lawyers like to talk about this as if it’s a new concept, an understanding of your client’s business has been important since time immemorial.
I think it’s important to go back to basics and this is especially relevant when grappling with issues (as many firms are now) such as where does a solicitor add value. Ultimately solicitors provide a personal service to their clients. What counts is their ability to interact, communicate and build relationships with their clients. An ability to communicate well, interact well, and have effective and profitable relationships with clients and potential clients will help to set individual lawyers apart from other lawyers less adept at these skills. Mastering these softer skills has always been important but will, I am convinced, become even more vital as lawyers attempt to differentiate themselves and strive to be ahead of the pack.