Law schools focus on teaching the law and legal theory. Communication skills covered in law schools tend to revolve around the arguments and persuasion necessary in the courtroom. However, communication skills that occur outside of the courtroom are much more plentiful and, sometimes, more critical to a lawyer’s practice. If you are thinking of becoming a lawyer, these four, first-rate communication skills will be an effective tool in your repertoire.
Understand Verbal and Non-Verbal Language
Know what questions to ask your client to get to the heart of the matter. Really listen to the answers. Pay attention not just to the words that a client uses, but also to his voice, tone, and body language.
Be open with your client and explain things thoroughly. Ask more questions to make sure your explanations are understood. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal language to determine understanding. If you think there is doubt, go over it again. Understand that when clients are in an emotional state, it is more difficult for them to understand complex information.
Capable of Building Relationships Easily
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Clients hire lawyers because they have a rapport with them. Be honest and give your client all the knowledge and help that you can. Give her a reason to trust you.
Don’t give her unrealistic expectations. If things don’t turn out the way she had hoped, discuss with her what else, if anything, can be done. End the relationship kindly, making your client understand that she can come back if she ever has need of your services again. Building relationships is how you build a business.
Know Which Role to Play and When
Clients customarily seek out legal advice when something negative is happening in their lives. Therefore, it is important for you to know when to be a traditional lawyer and when to be more empathic.
For someone going through a divorce, for example, neutral legal advice may not be what she needs. She may need someone who can help her to navigate both the emotional and legal processes of a divorce. Cold, legal talk can make you come off as uncaring, which may make her choose another lawyer.
Be Present and Attentive
Your client is paying for your time, so give him all of your attention. Have your receptionist hold your calls. Meet in a place that is quiet enough to talk privately. Make sure you have everything you need with you so you won’t have to leave the meeting room to get additional materials. Allow the client’s time to be a period in which the focus is on him.
Despite most law schools not focusing on the communication skills necessary for a successful law practice, the University of Southern California in Annenberg has an online Master of Communication Management program that can teach you everything you need to know about successful business communication. Whether you are considering a future in law or another business field, a degree in communications can help you be more successful in your chosen career.