Blog Post

8 Soft Skills for Legal Professionals and How GCs Can Develop Them

December 11, 2023

Hard skills are like a vehicle’s tires. They carry the weight of a task on their shoulders and move a vehicle forward. A tire’s quality determines how smoothly the car runs. However, while tires are essential to an automobile, they require an engine to push those tires forward.

Soft skills for legal professionals are the engines of your workforce. They’re a professional’s core personality and interpersonal skills.

As a GC, your job is to nurture these traits. This way, a professional’s hard skills can achieve more,  increasing productivity.

Learn eight essential soft skills for legal professionals and ways to invest in those skills.

Key Takeaways:

  • Soft skills are inherent traits in people that GCs must actively develop to align with the team’s needs and enhance performance.
  • Legal soft skills include effective communication, empathy, and leadership.
  • Invest in your team’s work satisfaction, provide training and mentorship, and demonstrate how to use soft skills to develop them in your legal team.

Soft skills are power skills that help legal professionals with personal interactions, problem-solving, and workflow management.

Unlike hard skills, which are technical abilities acquired through education and training, soft skills are often innate. You must practice fostering and honing those skills so they come out.

For example, while legal professionals can learn technical writing from books, communication is an intrinsic ability. The challenge lies in teaching legal professionals to effectively use this ability. This often requires more hands-on learning versus teaching through textbooks.

Essential Soft Skills for Legal Professionals

Here are eight soft skills you should cultivate in your legal team for optimal performance:

  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Decision-making
  • Time management
  • Leadership

8 Ways GCs Can Develop Soft Skills in Legal Team Members

Use these strategies to develop soft skills in your legal team, increasing your legal team’s performance.

1. Promote Effective Communication

Communication is foundational to all other methods you use to develop soft skills. Communication is how you understand your legal team members’ needs and adequately convey training.

A staggering 86% of employees attribute workplace mistakes to poor collaboration and communication.

Benefits of effective communication
Image Source

General Counsels can build an environment that is open and transparent by:

  • Organizing regular team meetings
  • Encouraging feedback
  • Promoting active listening

These practices support essential interpersonal skills for legal professionals, such as articulation, clarity, and empathy, crucial for conveying complex information to clients and colleagues.

2. Provide Continuous Training Opportunities

Soft skills require constant refinement and practice. GCs can support this by providing ongoing training programs, workshops, and seminars on soft skill development.

Topics can include:

  • Interpersonal communication activities
  • Conflict resolution scenarios
  • Emotional intelligence exercises

Investing in these skills enhances task completion abilities, team productivity, and work quality across your legal team.

3. Promote Team Building

Building soft skills shouldn’t just be an individual task. It’s a chance for the entire team to work and grow together.

Regular team-building activities within your legal department can foster camaraderie, trust, and collaboration.

From problem-solving exercises to team lunches, these activities provide a platform for legal professionals to interact outside formal work settings. Such consistent engagement is key to developing essential soft skills like teamwork and adaptability.

4. Encourage a Growth Mindset

The success of soft skill development depends significantly on your team’s mindset. Aim for a team eager to learn and apply new skills.

Encouraging a growth mindset starts with building a supportive work environment where team members feel welcome, supported, and satisfied in the workplace. When you invest in your professionals, they’re more willing to invest in their team and personal growth.

You can support your team further by integrating legal technology into their workflows. It reduces burnout, allowing more time for personal growth and soft skill development.

For example, leaders should emphasize that mistakes are learning opportunities rather than failures. Through this mindset shift, your employees will feel comfortable taking risks and improving their soft skills.

5. Lead by Example

High-performing general counsels lead their teams, setting the tone for the entire department.

Leading by example is demonstrating effective communication, empathy, and proper leadership in the workplace. You are a model others can look to when developing their skills. You also set a standard others follow.

When team members observe their leaders practicing and valuing soft skills, they are more likely to emulate these behaviors.

6. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration

Soft skills extend beyond the legal department.

Encourage collaboration with other departments such as finance, human resources, and marketing. This exposure gives legal professionals a broader perspective and more models of soft skills in the workplace.

It also improves company-wide communication, leading to more consistent workflows and higher-quality data.

Interacting with professionals in different departments with diverse backgrounds encourages adaptability, cultural competence, and conflict resolution.

7. Create Mentorship Opportunities

Pairing less experienced legal professionals with seasoned mentors creates a soft skill development structure.

Mentors can share their experiences, guide through complex situations, and provide valuable insights into using soft skills in the workplace.

Mentorship programs are a priority in leading U.S. companies. A significant 84% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, 96% of U.S. Fortune 100 companies, and 100% of U.S. Fortune 50 companies have mentorship programs.

Surveys show that mentorship increases individual job satisfaction, boosting talent retention. Satisfied employees are likelier to invest in personal growth and soft skill development.

Mentorship increases job satisfaction
Image Source

8. Promote Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance contributes to soft skill development, such as resilience, stress management, and composure under pressure.

Employees with a work-life balance live healthier lives and have a higher job satisfaction rate. This state of well-being enables them to focus more effectively on soft skill development and to embrace learning new soft skills to support their professional team.

Support Your Legal Department’s Continued Growth

Intentionally nurturing soft skills in your legal professional team offers significant rewards. Your team gains enhanced communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills to move your company forward.

While you focus on cultivating these crucial skills, Exigent complements your efforts with innovative legal technology and automation. Our tools and support remove stress and workload, allowing you to focus on irreplaceable soft skills, while we handle the technical details.

Are you looking to start investing in talent development? Start by attending an Exigent event. We provide authority insights on industry-trending topics to keep your team informed and their skills sharp.

Sign up for an event today.

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About the Author:

Exigent is an Alternative Legal Services Provider (ALSP) breaking industry boundaries and raising the bar for data-driven decision-making. With a powerful combination of technology, legal expertise, and business acumen, Exigent creates expert solutions that drive better legal and business outcomes for law firms and corporations.

Exigent delivers scale, expertise, and insights that generate bigger returns for CLM – Contract Lifecycle Management, Legal Spend Management, e-Billing, Due Diligence, Document Review, eDiscovery and Litigation Support, Commercial Services, Regulatory & Compliance, Outsourced Legal Administration, and Legal Tech Design.

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