What skills does a solicitor need?

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Pursuing a career as a solicitor is as exciting as it is daunting. You might think it sounds like a job that would interest you, but you’re not sure if you have the skills or knowledge that the job requires. Law is a highly respected but equally demanding sector to get into, which is why you need to be fully committed to developing your expertise.

Most law firms look to hire individuals that have excellent grades and are very driven. It takes real commitment to withstand years of training and examination. You will also have to compete for job roles in a highly competitive field.

However, there are some ways that you can gain an edge over your competition and stand out to future employers. Most firms look for a particular skill set that shows the individual is well-rounded and able to deal with the various challenges that will come their way. This includes both the hard and soft skills that will benefit you in a legal career.

You will need to be able to demonstrate your skills in order to appeal to employers and potential clients. While some skills are considered core traits that all solicitors should have, there are also many skills that you can acquire to help you stand out from the crowd.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what makes a good solicitor and why certain skills and qualifications are important.

The skills that a solicitor needs

Communication skills

Effective verbal and written communication is essential. As a solicitor, you will regularly communicate with clients, colleagues and legal professionals by phone, email and in person. You will need to be friendly, confident, calm and reassuring, keeping clients up to date with the proceedings of their case and breaking down industry jargon to help them understand each stage of the process. 

You will also have to be a good public speaker as you may have to present cases in court (although this is usually done by a barrister), which needs to be done in a clear, coherent, persuasive and well-structured manner. Your interview will be a good indicator to the interview panel as to how you handle yourself. You must further also draft clear and concise legal documents, and negotiate settlements for your clients.

Analytical skills

Solicitors need to analyse complex legal issues, identify relevant information – facts, figures and background information – and draw logical conclusions. This skill is crucial for legal research, case analysis, and crafting legal arguments.

Research skills

Solicitors spend a significant amount of time researching legal precedents, statutes, and regulations to build strong cases. This skill is crucial for staying current with legal developments and providing accurate advice.

Problem-solving skills

Solicitors often deal with complex legal issues and disputes. They need to develop creative solutions for their clients’ legal problems, and advise them on the best course of action.

Negotiation skills

Solicitors negotiate settlements, contracts and agreements on behalf of their clients. Strong negotiation skills are essential to achieve favourable outcomes without resorting to litigation.

Client management skills

Building and maintaining client relationships is crucial. Solicitors need to understand their clients’ needs, communicate effectively, and manage client expectations throughout legal proceedings.

Time management and organisational skills

Solicitors often handle multiple cases simultaneously, each with a lot information to absorb, its own deadlines and requirements. Effective time management, organisational skills and paying close attention to detail all ensure that you keep track of documents, meetings and court dates, which can be the difference between winning a case and losing it. A good organisational method allows you to keep on top of everything. 

Ethical judgment skills

Solicitors must adhere to ethical standards and professional conduct. You need to make ethical decisions in various situations, maintaining the integrity of the legal profession.

Commercial awareness skills

Solicitors need to be aware of business and commercial considerations that may impact legal decisions. This is particularly important when advising clients on transactions, contracts and business-related legal matters.

Advocacy skills 

Solicitors who appear in court need strong advocacy skills. This involves presenting a compelling case, cross-examining witnesses, and responding to opposing arguments effectively.

Adaptability skills

The legal landscape is constantly evolving. Solicitors must adapt to changes in laws, regulations, and legal procedures to provide up-to-date and relevant advice to clients.

Teamwork

Teamwork is also a valuable skill to have, as you will often be working alongside colleagues, as well as clients in each case.

Tech skills

With the rapidly growing market of legal tech, having tech skills will become essential for solicitors. You will need to use team collaboration and communication tools, online dispute resolution (ODF) platforms, legal research tools, document management systems, smart contracts, electronic discovery tools, new AI and automation tools, and legal practice management software, and you will need to be aware of cybersecurity and data privacy compliance best practice. 

By applying these skills, solicitors can effectively navigate the legal system, serve their clients, and contribute to the administration of justice. The specific emphasis on each skill may vary depending on the area of law and the nature of the legal practice.

Continue reading to find out how you can apply these skills to your job as a solicitor and the other personality traits and experience that you should have to create successful applications for solicitor jobs.

How can I demonstrate key skills in my applications for solicitor jobs?

Your CV will be a clear indicator of how well you can communicate. It’s vital that your CV is well-structured, concise and engaging. Employers also like to see that you are confident, passionate and willing to learn.

When applying for a job, you can demonstrate your good communication skills by writing a section in your CV about any other customer-facing roles you’ve had. It’s also helpful if you have previously volunteered in a legal capacity, as you will have experience in talking with various people, such as clients and senior members of the team and producing documents in an efficient format. This experience can be listed under a designated ‘experience’ section on your CV.

In an interview, you will need to present yourself in a confident manner that will clearly show the potential employer why you have enough knowledge and experience for the job.

You could reference examples of good organisational skills in your CV, such as organising fundraisers for a local charity or working a part-time job while you were studying.

Some of the other skills that you should demonstrate are commercial awareness, dedication and an ethical approach. An easy way to demonstrate previous experience with these skills is by talking about your work experience or hobbies. For example, you may have volunteered at a charity and have helped to expand its growth by identifying its current challenges and finding ways to raise more money.

Teamwork is another skill that you should be able to find examples of. This could range from your participation in a sports club to working in a shop alongside colleagues. Solicitors often work with large volumes of people, so it can work in your favour if you are a member of a club or society.

What are the character and suitability requirements of a solicitor?

The SRA requires every solicitor in the country to have certain character and suitability attributes. These requirements will be assessed during the application process. For example, the SRA look into whether you have a criminal history and whether your previous convictions will prove detrimental to your ability to carry out the role.

The SRA will also review your ethical approach and dedication to your education and jobs to see if you are a suitable candidate.

Other suitability factors include your financial history and whether you have been dishonest or have mishandled your finances. The SRA will also look into your employment history to see if you have been subject to serious disciplinary or regulatory findings.

Summary

You will need a whole range of skills to find a job as a solicitor and then to excel in your career. One of the most important skills for a solicitor is communication, as solicitors are required to regularly interact with clients to discuss their cases. It’s essential that clients understand each stage of a case, so you will often need to break down complex legalities in a concise manner.

You will also need to be good at networking, especially if you want to progress your career or take on new roles. There is a lot of room for growth in the legal sector, so you will need to strive for opportunities and demonstrate your capability for the role. This can be done by showcasing your organisational skills and the way that you can juggle your workload effectively.

However, while you can look to further your own career, it’s also crucial that you are a team player. Successful law firms comprise various job roles and levels that need to work together. For example, barristers need to work well with their clerks and senior solicitors must help and support junior members of the team.

When applying for jobs, you should always give examples of how you have applied your skills in past employment, leisure activities or voluntary work. The legal profession is highly competitive, so you need to clearly show ways that you are a suitable candidate.

Interested in becoming a solicitor?

Head over to our special careers and employability centre called HeadStart. Here you can create a free account, access plenty of legal career resources, a CV checker, interview skills training, industry webinars and much more.

If you want to learn more about the SQE route to qualification, visit our What is the SQE? page

If you’re thinking of sitting the SQEs and have specific questions, please reach out to our student advisors by requesting a callback

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