Last week, we considered whether or not lawyers should do an MBA – or Masters in Business Administration. The hard skills these programmes provide, together with an understanding of the business side of how an organisation fits together, are less common attributes within current legal talent pools, which some would argue makes them more desirable.
But one thing it is important not to ignore is just how valuable core soft skills are as well. One which immediately springs to mind is the art of influencing. In fact, a survey of 351 senior in-house lawyers in New Zealand has revealed that 99% see “influencing skills” as an essential ability for general counsel. So, for someone looking to break into this sector, especially from a previous background in firms, it is crucial that you have this under your belt in order to adapt.
But what are these mysterious influencing skills? When working in-house, it is important to retain good working relationships with colleagues in all other areas of your organisation, whether they be in logistics, marketing, operations or any other department. In order to reach the top of your own, you must be more than just excellent at your job technically, but also someone who can be relied on to liaise with people not from your discipline.
So here lies the difficulty for those who have been working in law firms – they probably haven’t needed to have as much understanding of different areas of their organisation, and so this interaction can be as much intimidating as it is new. Thankfully, though, these skills can be taught. And it is our opinion that this – more personable – skillset should be seen as core training for those hoping to qualify as a lawyer, in whatever area. It’s only through nurturing these skills that they will become second nature, and encouragement of this from the start of a candidate’s career is an investment into their future. And obviously, this is something that legal recruitment agencies will keep a lookout for.