Why you need good communication skills to be a successful lawyer

There are plenty of different skills you need to have when it comes to being a successful lawyer, but the number one skill that you need to have if you want to rise above all the others… is a silver tongue. Being able to communicate effectively not only affects nearly every single aspect of a lawyer’s life, but it can also help them get and retain clients and can also help them in other aspects of their life.

If you are a lawyer who can’t communicate, then you are going to run into some serious trouble as you try to build your practice, win cases, and ensure that you can find success in this field. This article is going to talk about the reasons why you need to learn to communicate as a lawyer and some of the best communication skills you need to learn in order to find some serious success.

Communication is integral in every court case

From the moment a client walks through the door all the way to when they walk out with the settlement fee, you are going to be communicating with them and with others. You need to communicate in order to get the most information that you can about the case and what they know. Whether you are working on a car accident case, a personal injury case, or something else entirely, you will need to be able to listen to the client’s side of the story, as well as be able to ask questions based on what you have heard.

While clients are either going to come to you or share with you all of the information and the facts of the case, and you can always request official reports and other data, you still need to be able to ask questions and get more information. The more information you have, the more of a case you can build, and the better prepared you will be if you need to find yourself inside of a courtroom.

Whether the case settles in a civil settlement or you find that you are taking the case to a courtroom, you need to ensure that you can understand and defend a client’s viewpoint and present the facts in a logical and straightforward manner. In serious cases, especially those involving big money and even bigger companies, you need to ensure that you can present the facts — and also argue against the facts that the other lawyer is presenting.

The law and the courtroom are both places where good communication and persuasion are going to be king, and if you can focus on explaining the complex facts of the case effectively, you will be able to win.

Listening is equally important

Many television shows and movies feature lawyers who are little more than emotionless robots, who simply spout off encyclopedic knowledge of the law and fight for their clients while not caring who gets in their way. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and it also heavily devalues the other side of communication for lawyers, which is listening.

Listening for lawyers is just as important, because through listening you will get the information you need to communicate at your best. By listening you will be able to ask questions, get clarification, and even guide your client or a witness on the stand to give you the information that you want.

A little empathy, especially if a client is frustrated, scared, or dealing with a high-stress or extremely emotional case (such as a divorce, bankruptcy, or criminal charges), can go a long way. Simply listening to and reassuring the client that everything is going to be okay is going to help you win the case, and it can also be extremely positive for your practice.

As tempting as it can be to make sure that you are jumping in with the best legal advice whenever you think the client needs it, it can backfire if you share your thoughts too soon. This can lead clients to believe that they aren’t being fully heard, and you deprive yourself of information that could have been helpful.

Communication creates expectations

Many people who find themselves suddenly needing a lawyer can get scared or frustrated because they don’t understand how the process works. Due to their ignorance of the law and the procedures that follow it, they might assume that a big court case will happen when the more reasonable path of action is an out-of-court settlement. Or they might aim too large or too small with the settlement they plan to get and have the wrong expectations.

If you can focus on clear and constant communication and help your clients frame their experience before things get too far, it can save everyone from a lot of headaches down the road. Additionally, don’t be afraid to communicate about your availability as well, because sometimes nervous clients will want to reach out more often. Then you may have to answer questions or console them when you are not at your best. Ensuring that you are setting these expectations so that you communicate with your clients at your best, is going to help out everyone.

All communication is good communication

It isn’t just face-to-face communication that you need to be good at, but also other types of communication. You need to be able to communicate on the phone, through email, and through text messages, and you need to know the best way to use each field of communication. Some communication channels might be more appropriate than others, and you need to understand which ones best fit various situations.

For example, you might be able to deliver quick updates through text messages or even emails, and emails can also be great for non-urgent news as well. However, if you have a massive update in the case and you need to get in touch with your client right away, then that news might be better shared via a phone call.

Finally, you can even automate conversations. Direct clients to your FAQ page or you can even use automated programs to weed out conversations that can very easily be answered. However, you need to make sure that you are not relying on automated conversations for everything, because the vast majority of your communications need to be done by humans.

The difference between verbal and written communication

Learning all the skills needed for both effective verbal and written communication is something that every single lawyer needs to do. Verbal communication is a great way to get all your points across and to have effective negotiations with the people who are working the case with you.

There is also a different but equally important set of skills for written communication as well. Communicating through writing can be difficult for many people, as you lose out on having the advantages of body language and the tone of your voice. However, for lawyers who are constantly signing documents and submitting written requests, being able to communicate effectively in writing is going to be extremely important.

In order for your work to be effectively read and respected by the people who are reading it, you need to ensure that your words are clear, effective, and that all of your work is free from spelling and grammar errors. You also need to be able to organize all of the information about the case (or whatever it is you are writing about) in a clear and consistent manner. Whether you are writing a brief, a pleading, or composing an email to a client, you need to make sure that your words are 100% perfect every single time.

Why is communication so important to lawyers?

Communication skills are always used in a lawyer’s field of work, and it is because lawyers talk to so many people during the day. They are talking to clients, other lawyers in their firm, lawyers on the opposing side, judges, juries, and more. But all this conversation is designed to build strong relationships, establish trust and credibility, and make sure that the lawyer gets the favorable outcome that they want.

You won’t just need to learn to communicate with people who like you or people who have authority over you, but you will also need to learn to debate the people who are actively working against you. In courtroom settings and in both written and verbal communication, you will be debating others who want to fight for their clients just as fiercely as you are fighting for yours.

So, you need to be able to articulate your points clearly, give as much information as you can, and use persuasive language in order to sway people to your side. And while your mouth is doing all the talking, your ears and brain also need to work on listening to what your opponents are saying so you can poke holes in their arguments — they will be doing the same to you.

This can be very difficult, especially in the cutthroat nature of a courtroom where it seems like every tongue is a barbed one and you are constantly having to fight for the rights of your client. But it doesn’t need to be impossible. Communication skills and the ability to communicate effectively can be learned, and there are plenty of ways to learn the skills you need.

How to improve your communication skills as a lawyer

The first way to improve your communication skills, and arguably the best way to do so, is to try and learn to debate. Debate friends about which sports team is better, debate strangers about all manner of random topics, or join a debate team and debate professionally. No matter how you do it, your debate skills are going to ensure that you are able to both talk and listen at the same time.

Now here is a quick lesson for all the lawyers: a debate is not an argument. If you allow yourself to get flustered and emotional, then you’ve lost no matter what. You should be able to defend your points, accept pushback, and take constructive criticism. Instead of getting angry or upset, you simply need to keep debating and get back to outmaneuvering your opponent. In the courtroom, lawyers need to be as stoic as they can be to effectively present their case and persuade those who need to be persuaded without anything emotional getting in the way.

If you can constantly put yourself in situations where you are debating with people, you will build tolerance for the debate itself, and that will make you a much better lawyer.

Focus on negotiation

It can also be a great tool in your arsenal to learn how to negotiate and compromise. Often as a lawyer (and especially if you view the media about lawyers and the law), the story goes that a lawyer needs to get every single thing they want or they have lost. However, in many real-world cases and in settlement cases, negotiation and compromise are going to be key at the end of the day.

Being able to understand the needs and interests of your clients, being able to understand the needs and interests of the opposing counsel’s clients, and being able to form a compromise where everyone is happy can be a wonderful skill that can keep you out of the courtroom.

Learn to communicate high-level ideas in a succinct manner

As a lawyer, you are going to have a massive amount of knowledge about the law from all the education you have received, and it can be extremely tempting to rattle off a few facts or use big terms and concepts when presenting a case. But many of your clients won’t want to hear the legal jargon or won’t understand it if you do, while many judges will ask you to keep things relevant and succinct in a courtroom scenario.

Being able to take high-level and grandiose concepts and water them down for an audience that doesn’t know as much as you can be hard. Sometimes things get lost in that process, or you simply lose the attention of whoever you are trying to persuade. This style of communication can be extremely difficult to master, but if you are able to learn it, you will find success as a lawyer.

You will also make more progress in individual cases because the more people understand you, the more they will be willing to move forward with what you say.

There are plenty of ways to become a better communicator

Don’t think that becoming a lawyer is impossible for you because you have trouble communicating. People with stutters, people who are shy, and even people with ADHD and dyslexia have become lawyers, and they are able to effectively communicate and argue their cases. You can too, and it will just take practice and some education.

Thankfully, many of the places that will teach you how to be a lawyer will also teach you how to communicate like one. If you take an online JD program from an accredited institution, like the course you can find at Cleveland State University, then you will be taught all of the best ways to communicate as a lawyer.

Don’t stop learning new skills

Finally, don’t ever rest on your laurels with communication. While it might seem that the world is getting more and more automated and people aren’t talking face-to-face as much as they used to, you can’t allow yourself to become complacent. Being a lawyer is something that will never go out of style, and that means that the world is always going to need effective communicators.

Final word

So don’t ever stop putting yourself into situations where you can communicate effectively, and always look back on court cases where you were challenged by an opposing lawyer. Whether you ended up winning or losing, you likely got a chance to learn something at the end of the experience.

Communication is a very easy skill to learn, but a hard skill to master, especially as a lawyer. But it is one of the most important skills that you need to learn because it will impact every single aspect of your career as a lawyer. Additionally, it will also come in handy for the rest of your life.

Pretty soon you will develop that perfect silver tongue, and with enough practice, you can walk into any case with full confidence that you know what you are doing. That alone is going to ensure that you have a massive chance to win for your client.



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