When you buy a car, four tyres and a steering wheel aren’t a selling point – they’re an expectation.
In much the same way, technical skills and knowledge are now simply expected of lawyers. Yes, they’re absolutely a requirement – but they don’t make you stand out to your prospective or current clients.
With such a high standard to meet, what are the factors that take you from ‘just another lawyer’ to legal rockstar?
1. Your clients feel important and valued
It takes surprisingly little effort to make a client feel like their needs come first, but the payoff can be huge.
Once you’ve developed a business relationship, keeping it strong might simply be a matter of emailing clients relevant articles, updating clients or important industry changes, or even remembering their birthday or a significant anniversary.
These small things can help position you as a trusted adviser rather than just another professional waiting to get paid.
2. You have the EQ factor
No amount of legal knowledge can compensate for a lack of emotional intelligence. We’ve all worked with people who don’t have it. And I’m sure you can point to someone who shows immense EQ and whose business thrives as a result.
This ability to relate to your clients and your colleagues – to put yourself in their shoes – is crucial if you want to build your client’s trust.
3. You’re ready with creative solutions
Being able to come up with a unique solution to a problem gives you a true advantage over lawyers who are simply painting by numbers.
If you don’t think of yourself as naturally creative, don’t worry – creativity is truly something that can be learned. Start with the classic guides to creativity, from Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, or even Marty Neumeier’s The 46 Rules of Genius (which he assures us can be read over a lunch break).
4. You’re one step ahead of your clients
You should already be staying up to date with the legal world through CPD. However, there are other areas where a little bit of research on your part will really put you ahead of the pack.
Do you stay on top of financial issues that affect your clients? What about the latest tech news? (Or will your clients be met with a blank stare if they mention an issue that started via Snapchat?)
This doesn’t have to be a huge research project. Just checking couple of news sources a day will get you out of Dennis deNuto territory. A quick and easy way is to go to australianlegal.community which curates content for busy lawyers.
5. You’re seen as a leader
This may seem like a cliché, but it is a vital skill to master if you want to play in the upper echelons of any company, law firm or government department. And, while some are born with great leadership abilities, every great leader has spent time developing and refining their skills.
To keep up with the latest thinking on leadership, nothing beats the Harvard Business Review. You should also be across the best management training books (try David Meister, Daniel Pink and Seth Godin for starters).
If you really want to refine your leadership skills, you could always commit to an MBA, LLM or a short course via the Australian Institute of Management or Governance Institute. If you’re time poor, check out the great short courses at Bulletpoints.
6. You offer something unique
Following on from leadership, think about the skills you have outside your legal training that make you a “value-added” adviser.
Maybe it’s something concrete, like being able to speak another language or having in-depth knowledge of a specialist area, such as medical devices or start up technologies. It could even be something you’ve always had an interest in but never quite managed to pursue.
While it might seem like a diversion or even an indulgence, developing your skills outside what’s expected can make all the difference in the long run.
7. Care to share?
How do you stand out from the crowd? The things that make you unique are obviously not going to be listed in an article – this is just a starting point. If you feel brave, let us know what you do in the comments.
Jason Elias is co-founder of Bulletpoints – a one-stop shop that simplifies CPD for lawyers. He also runs Elias Recruitment, a boutique legal recruitment consultancy that specialises in finding lawyers for law firms, NFPs and corporate in house teams. Get in touch at email@example.com