People come to attorneys to solve problems and settle disputes that affect all aspects of life, liberty, and property. To be exceptional, the top qualities every good lawyer should have involve excellence in client service, in-depth knowledge of the law, and proficiency in critical and creative thinking.
While many people view the profession as a business designed to profit from other people’s troubles, attorneys understand they are stewards entrusted with safeguarding the rule of law and providing equal access to justice to anyone who needs it. Therefore, while fields of law differ significantly, certain characteristics should be consistent throughout the practice of law. So, here are the top qualities every good lawyer should have regardless of their practice.
Passion for the Law a Top Quality for Every Good Attorney
The responsibility of caring for another person’s family, freedom, health, livelihood, or financial future requires a certain caliber of excellence, care, and agility. To say that a career in law is demanding is an understatement. You not only work late nights, balancing meetings and travel schedules, but the practice of law is mentally and emotionally draining as well.
Without a passion for the law and serving others, sustaining a career as a lawyer is impossible. It’s one of the reasons the International Bar Association reports that approximately 20% of lawyers 40 and younger have considered abandoning the profession within the next five years. They find the work-life balance unsustainable.
Lawyers who do not love what they do will find themselves running at a physical and mental energy deficit that feels insurmounдфtable. Thus, great lawyers are passionate about learning and applying the law, and that passion drives them to achieve results for clients and keep working long after closing time.
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Lawyers Should Have Compassion for the People They Serve
Service is at the heart of practicing law. Unfortunately, attorneys have a rap for being aggressive, cold, and cutthroat—all traits they must exhibit at some point in their careers. However, the callous representation glamorized on TV belies the compassionate nature that attorneys must also possess, particularly in personal injury.
Whether they work as entertainment or real estate lawyers, they must have compassion for their clients’ plights to serve them. This compassion drives them to represent clients they feel need qualified legal assistance. In addition, it pushes them to do everything in their power to resolve the case in their client’s favor. Thus, when you care about your clients, you’ll fight harder for them and genuinely earn their trust.
In-Depth Legal Knowledge a Critical Trait for Good Lawyers
A good lawyer has a deep knowledge base within their practice area. For example, what a car accident lawyer does is vastly different from the job of a tax attorney; therefore, the body of law a car accident lawyer must master is distinct from that of a tax attorney.
Attorneys must have more than just a working knowledge of the law that pertains to their client base. This familiarity includes legislation and case law. Thus, they should constantly study the relevant laws and update their knowledge as legislators modify federal, state, and local laws. A good lawyer can explain how these changes apply to their clients’ unique cases.
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Good Attorneys Are Effective Communicators
The role of an attorney as a steward of justice and representative of someone else’s interests necessitates becoming an expert communicator. As an intermediary, they must constantly communicate with clients, opposing parties, judges, juries, business partners, and third parties.
In addition, each stakeholder requires a different communication style. For example, personal injury lawyer must be humble and respectful speaking to judges but confident and personable when conducting an initial consultation. Thus, attorneys need a certain level of agility to get ideas across various platforms:
- Drafting legal documents
- Sending out informal emails
- Carrying on phone conversations
- Sitting down for in-person meetings
An attorney’s ability to construct a case and deliver persuasive arguments in negotiations or before a judge and jury hinges on their communication skills.
Attentive Listening Part of an Attorney’s Communication Skills
Of course, effective communication rests on an attorney’s ability to listen and understand what someone presents to them. Therefore, premium client service and effective representation begin with listening to a client’s needs and concerns. Then, you should provide solutions that address client concerns and communicate in a way that makes them feel heard.
Beyond that, lawyers should be adept at discerning weaknesses in opposing arguments and shifts in tone, word choice, or other nonverbal cues that indicate an opportunity for leverage or require on-the-fly adjustments.
Good Lawyers Find Creative Solutions
Attorneys are problem solvers. Thus, to provide solutions effectively, you must think outside the box. Creative thinking allows you to anticipate attacks from the opposing party before they occur. Then, you leverage information the other side doesn’t find relevant and craft a workaround to seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As a result, you can outmaneuver your opponents and successfully resolve your clients’ issues by thinking creatively.
Good Attorneys Must Be Master Organizers
With all the moving parts involved in a single case or a single day’s work, a good lawyer must be organized. Managing multiple caseloads, meetings, court appearances, files, schedules, and communications demands a high level of organization.
Unfortunately, losing track of any of these critical aspects can damage your reputation and affect your client’s case. In addition, being an effective attorney also requires knowing when to delegate tasks to staff or utilize productivity software.
Good Attorneys Have the Willingness to Persevere
Few cases are straightforward. Even fewer are open and shut. So, settling a case or finding a solution for your client won’t always be easy. Thus, your resolve to persevere will often carry you to the successful completion of a case when circumstances indicate it was a lost cause. You must display the tenacity and grit that will lead you to hidden evidence, favorable case law, and alternative approaches to complex problems.
You may have to face stubborn insurance adjusters, uncooperative clients, a judge’s bad rulings, or a late meeting that throws the rest of your day off-kilter. However, perseverance will see you through all of it. It will push you to go the extra mile for your client long after you thought you would have run out of steam.
Honesty and Transparency Are the Top Qualities of Good Lawyers
Lawyers have a stereotype as dishonest and untrustworthy. So naturally, you don’t want to prove it right. Instead, as stewards of the law, willingly taking on the responsibility for other people’s lives, honesty is not a matter of character. It’s a matter of duty. Moreover, a reputation for shooting straight carries weight with your legal colleagues, judges, and insurance companies.
The American Bar Association (ABA) explains how attorneys must be honest, upfront, and open with the clients who put their trust in you. Remember, you often deal with people unfamiliar with the law and have never been in this situation before. Thus, they might take everything you say at face value or view everything you tell them with an air of skepticism.
A client doesn’t need you to sugarcoat things. Instead, they need to know the following information to make an informed decision that could affect their present-day lives and future:
- The case law for their situation
- Their case’s merits and chances of success
- The progression of their case
- Your background in this field of law
Good Judgment Is a Critical Trait for Lawyers
Displaying sound judgment as a lawyer is an extension of your trustworthiness. Again, your clients likely have no prior knowledge or experience with the law. Thus, their ability to make a wise choice usually hinges on the information you provide and the advice that you give.
Clients will often defer to your judgment and expertise on the topic. Therefore, an attorney must analyze, weigh, and leverage key data to arrive at what is hopefully the best conclusion for their clients. You’ll develop good judgment through trial and error, which will also hone your instincts.
Good Attorneys Now Require Tech Savvy
In the modern age, attorneys must adapt and become tech-savvy to maintain a competitive edge and improve client service. For example, law firms must utilize these products to meet their clients’ needs more efficiently and increase productivity on the back end:
- Client management software
- File sorting and retrieval applications
- Legal document creation programs
- Teleconferencing programs
- Digital payment processing
- Online client portals
The ABA explains that without embracing this technology and learning how to use it, lawyers will find it difficult to survive in a society where global events can shut down normal operations.
How to Achieve the Qualities of a Good Lawyer
If you feel like you lack the traits presented in this list, rest easy. The qualities of a good attorney are not necessarily inherent, but you can develop them.
Discover Your Passion
As the old saying goes, if you don’t love what you do, you’re probably in the wrong profession. As an attorney, if you feel constantly fatigued by the thought of carrying on the work that you do, it might be that you don’t have a passion for being an attorney.
However, it could be a matter of not finding the correct practice area. Many attorneys get stuck in a particular practice area out of a sense of obligation or comfort. Instead, it may be time to reevaluate your career trajectory and determine the problems that you’re passionate about solving.
Find Your Compassion
Compassion often relies on your ability to understand what your clients experience. However, the only way to relate to them is by taking the time to get to know them, hear their stories, and foster a relationship. If your firm typically delegates this task to someone else, consider dedicating a little time to get up to speed on your clients’ circumstances.
Professional training, conferences, and participation in legal associations can hone your communication skills, legal know-how, creative problem-solving, and organization skills. In addition, the ABA and local bar associations offer groups providing professional development tailored to attorneys’ practice areas and interests.
Evaluate Your Priorities and Stay Connected
Perseverance, honesty, and sound judgment all come with the desire to do what’s best for your clients. So, if you struggle in any of these departments, you might want to do a gut check to evaluate your priorities and commitment to a case. But, when it comes to being upfront and honest with yourself, it might require you to override your inclinations to hold back, sugarcoat, or mitigate potential negative feelings from others.
Perseverance sometimes needs encouragement. Thus, checking in with the client, your staff, coworkers, and even family and friends can help keep things in perspective and give you the energy to push through a difficult case.
Finally, it’s also important to recognize when you can’t win a case—or at least not achieve the result you had hoped. Persevering through a losing battle or one you no longer feel equipped to handle is a disservice to your clients.
Put in the Work to Acquire the Top Qualities of a Good Lawyer
You can always elevate your skillset and acquire the top qualities that every good lawyer should have. However, you must be willing to put in the work to get there.
The team at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers has put in the necessary work to develop these traits. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and see for yourself how we put these qualities to work for you.