lawyer skills

This article is written by Mohona Thakur from Team iPleaders.

Have you ever worked with a law firm? Ever heard the associates mention how miserable their lives were? Wondered what they were complaining about? Was it no social life? Or long working hours? Or a terrifying boss that gave them zero scope to make any error?

Ever been told that you need to stop being so ‘technical’ while texting? Been asked to stop pointing out the right and wrong of ‘A’ particular situation because you were thinking of it legally?

Ever wondered how every other person thinks that Google equips them at lawyering? That they know the laws as much as a lawyer does, if not better than a lawyer! How do you handle such situations? Does it re-assure you of half-a-decade of education that you gained from university to become a lawyer?

All the questions posed above lead to three different skill sets that we as lawyers have, that other working professionals would die to have. This also, in a way, makes us marketable across various other professions, if we do ever want to leave the law.

Here is a comprehensive list of 3 skill-sets that we lawyers possess that are extremely valuable:

  • Burning The Midnight Candle – Working Long Hours

Lawyers generally work into the night throughout the work week, and more often than not on weekends too. Ever asked a Supreme Court lawyer how they spent their Sunday? The most common response would be, “I was briefing a Senior Counsel in a matter listed on Monday for admission.”

Lawyers work long weekdays, throughout the weekend and then on public holidays. No kidding.

Let me give you an example. I was handed over the task of drafting an opinion for a sugar mill giant (among various other tasks) which was due in the week after the Dussehra holidays. Naturally, when we have a public holiday in the week, and have tonnes of work to finish, we prioritise. Since the clients weren’t getting back to us until the next Friday, I scheduled the draft opinion to be given to my Partner by that Monday. However, to my surprise, I was called to office on Dusshera to submit the opinion by the end of the day. Ten days before the client meeting.

In our profession, there is no scope of complaining. We deliver when we are required to. It doesn’t matter whether we are working on a transaction overnight on Friday, or drafting a petition on Saturday on an urgent basis, or briefing a number of senior counsels on Sunday.

Is it exhausting? Is it stressful? Yes. It is the primary cause of my dark circles and premature greying. How do we keep up? Naturally since we work long hours, and most part of our job is purely intellectual, we need to ensure that we function at our best always. This requires us to train ourselves.

How do we ensure that we are a hundred-percent ready for the job?

Generally, freshers come into the profession rather unprepared and with overwhelming expectations. This is only until they realise that they are not ‘where’ they think they are and need to take a step back. Five years of law school doesn’t necessarily equip you with the skill sets that this industry demands. In order to constantly deliver, no matter what time of the day it is, freshers need to know what is required of them.

A fresher working in the legal team of an IT company shall have to have basic understanding of GDPR compliance, something that is not taught in law schools. An in house counsel with a print media company needs to know the laws that govern surrogate advertising in India. Online courses on media and entertainment laws very broadly cover print media and regulations.

As for experienced lawyers, going the extra mile or another extra mile after that are expected day to day as a lawyer.

  • Naturally Spotting The Issue

Have you ever come across daily Hindi TV serials? I’m sure some of you may yet not have been influenced by the culture of Prime Video or Netflix. If you ever do happen to have a few minutes in a day, do watch these no-brainers to test your lawyer-instincts. You’d be surprised at what you actually notice.

Ever noticed married couples on TV getting divorced on a 100 Rupee stamp paper? In fact they wanted to get it absolutely right which is why they decided to use green legal size paper! I mean, sure. Sign on a two-page 100 Rupee stamp paper (instead of a 50 page divorce petition) and voila, you’re divorced!

This is a very basic example of spotting issues. Where did we learn it? Remember the ‘I’ in the IRAC? It is an integral part of our jobs. Whether we are reviewing a commercial contract or working on a trademark litigation, we are always looking for issues and solving them. We are essentially the troubleshooters.

Over the years, as we strain ourselves working day and night, we also work our skills of issue-spotting. With every new contract we draft or review, every other matter that comes on our desk. We grow.

  • Clear Communication Skills

Lawyers write. A lot.

Over the five years at law school, thanks to various writing assignments, moots, and the likes, we lawyers have been trained to write. And write well. We can draft a comprehensive legal opinion, various agreements, draft a full-fledged write petition, craft explanatory emails. Our profession requires us to write, every day and be damn good at it.

This is a skill set that not many are gifted with, and fewer acquire over the years. Therefore, adequate training for not only writing, but writing what’s relevant is required. In a live webcast on YouTube, Ms. Shruti Priya, Senior Counsel, TrueCaller India, emphasised on the need for lawyers to not only know how to spot issues, but also effectively communicate them to their clients. She drew attention to the fact that while the drafting skills of lawyers are supremely good, what we need to focus on is simplifying the issues for the clients. Most clients do not have the time to go through a ten page document to understand what they can do and cannot do. It needs to be broken down for them. You can see her speaking about spotting the right issues and communicating in the right manner here.

Writing is an integral skill we lawyers possess that we often underestimate. It needs to be honed over time through regular practice. If you are yet to be a lawyer and still wish to be able to write effectively, start practising today. Pick up a recent development that you may have noticed in any particular field of law, begin research and start writing. You can only become better with time. And if you belong to the category of students who wishes to be guided through the process of effective writing, there are online courses that offer you the guidance.

So keep in mind, what we lawyers do on a daily basis may seem like a professional hazard; long working hours, spotting issues, assertive communication. But, if you look at these from a third person’s perspective, you may only see positives. Look at these professional hazards as your strengths; then aim to build them, and don’t stop.

Who wouldn’t want an employee who is ready to work holidays and delivers constant results? Who wouldn’t want a trouble shooter as a quality in their employee? Who wouldn’t want a person who can clearly and effectively communicate?

Employers would shell out a truck load of cash for just a troubleshooter. Imagine what happens if they find a lawyer!

 

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