With many businesses and practices downsizing their learning and development provision for staff, it has become increasingly important for individuals to take matters into their own hands. Whilst technical knowhow may get you a certain job in the first place, it’s those soft skills that you’ve built up over the years that help maintain your position and provide value added extra to both your company, clients and colleagues.

Solicitors soft skills include those skills such as leadership, team building and negotiation and are the value added traits that can mark you out as exceptional in an increasingly competitive and crowded employment marketplace. Being an expert in conveyancing or corporate law may well make you indispensable to some practices but possessing the transferable skills which take you that step further are what many organisations are now looking for.

Taking Responsibility for Your Own Learning

By developing your business skills alongside your other expertise, you become a greater asset to both your clients and customers. If the worse does come to the worse, and your practice begins downsizing, or you think it is time to move on, having a strong portfolio of transferrable skills will make you more appealing and give you a wider range of options.

In cash strapped times where many companies are slashing learning and development for staff the onus is on the individual to make sure they grow and nurture the skills that many organisations are looking for today. Whilst the public sector may well have been hit harder than any other, private practices and companies have had to tighten their belts in recent years too, not simply following the financial crash but because customers are more happy to shop around to find the best deal, creating reduced profits as everyone tries to compete on the prices.

That means individuals are more responsible for their own CPD rather than relying on their current employer to provide it as and when they demand. Whilst practices may be more open to providing development in areas that matter, such as legal expertise and updates to regulatory skill sets, they are more reluctant to provide comprehensive soft skill training that is outside their current remit.

Looking for Opportunities

Developing the right skills that enhance your current and future job prospects is therefore important, more now than ever. The number of skilled professionals out there has risen dramatically over the last ten to fifteen years with many professionally and university educated. That means there is a lot of competition and companies are starting to look beyond simple professional skills to those that provide extended benefits.

You should be looking for opportunities to develop those soft skills that matter, including:

  • Communication skills: You don’t have to be able to stand on a podium and give a heart-warming speech about the state of the nation but you do need to be able to express yourself clearly and persuade people to your point of view. This becomes increasingly important the more you climb the corporate ladder and forms the foundation of all other soft skills.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: This doesn’t mean you have to be a great leader either but you do have to be able to work well with others to meet common goals. That means sometimes taking the lead but also following and being able to monitor progress.
  • Continue to Adapt: As we get older many of us get set in our ways. You need to be able to adapt, learn and develop whether you are just out of university or getting ready to celebrate your 50th. One of the core soft skills that many people forget is this enduring ability to change and adapt and learn. Without it, in a fast and complex marketplace, you could find yourself lagging behind.
  • Problem Solving: How do you get from A to B and achieve C? Most workplaces now have a need for competent problem solving skills and companies value the people who can spot an issue, understand it, and demonstrate how to tackle it with a meaningful resolution.
  • Conflict Resolution: Backed up by negotiating and great communication skills, resolving conflicts and creating beneficial relationships lie at the heart of many a successful business. If you are the employee who can provide this then you are a highly valued asset.

Soft skills are learnt in a variety of ways. They are not simply gleaned from the internet or the pages of a book. Yes, you can take courses that give you a starting point and a road map of where to go. Soft skills need to be practiced before an individual becomes effective in their use and implementation. That means you not only have to keep your eyes open for the right opportunities and grab them but you also need to have the mentors on board who you can learn from.

The Changing Legal Market Place

One of the major changes to the legal market place is the process of deregulation that began a few years ago. This has led to many practices developing alternative business strategies that are designed to work with high volume low value cases including personal injury. It’s a route other industries including private equity and accountancy have gone down as well.

The world is changing for solicitors and barristers as the lines become blurred between what each offers. Add into the mix the changing face of the online world, making it easier for customers to access the information and, often cheaper, advice when they need it, and you can see how soft skills begin to become more important for practices and the individuals who want to get on in them.

Maintaining CPD for the Future

The market place is more competitive than ever and a much deeper, better demonstrated, soft skill set is needed compared to even ten years ago. Soft skill development not only benefits a company or practice but also provides a safety net for those who become competent practitioners. They are vital components for getting on in the workplace because without them, and a continuing commitment to lifelong learning, you risk being left behind, your position challenged by those who have seen the opportunity, and your standing in your industry diminished.