Whether you’re looking to become an attorney or are just interested in understanding more about the practice of law, there are several qualities that good lawyers share. Because these qualities may not be explicitly taught at law school, it can be difficult to pinpoint them when searching for a new lawyer to represent you. With that in mind, here are some of the qualities that set great lawyers apart from their peers, so you can make an informed decision about which attorney best fits your needs.
They put in extra effort
What really sets great lawyers apart from those who are merely good is their commitment to putting in the extra effort. A desire to get it right means that they’ll take on tasks and do research even when it’s not required of them, and will take on as much responsibility as they can without compromising their own health or family life. The best lawyers never stop learning: good lawyers know what they don’t know, and want to improve; great lawyers aren’t satisfied until they are an expert.
They are meticulous
The practice of law often relies on details. The best lawyers know that details matter and make their arguments based on them. They are usually good at what they do because they care about their work, and make sure every aspect is handled properly. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a lawyer argue poorly because they forgot to dot an I or cross at in some paperwork somewhere. If you want to be great, it pays to be meticulous – don’t leave anything up to chance.
They are honest
Honesty is one of those things that tends to be taken for granted, but great lawyers must have an unblemished reputation in order to earn clients. This means they’ll never violate attorney-client privilege, and they’ll never make promises they can’t keep. Honesty is more than just being nice; it actually earns them money and pays off in their relationships with colleagues.
They are self-disciplined
A lawyer who can’t manage time, priorities, and tasks won’t be able to compete effectively in their practice. You don’t have to be on top of things all day every day, but you do need to be on top of things at least most of the time. The self-discipline required for that makes you stand out from other lawyers who aren’t as thorough.
They constantly learn new things
The legal world is changing all of the time, and to stay on top of things, lawyers must be diligent about learning. Since technology constantly changes how law firms operate, making sure you’re at least somewhat conversant in areas like data security and networking is essential. More traditional types of learning—whether it’s participating in continuing education courses or reading books by industry leaders—can also help set you apart from your peers.
Their communication skills are top-notch
Lawyers need to communicate effectively and professionally with clients, opposing counsel, judges, and all sorts of people who have no interest in anything but their own side of a case. And that requires more than mere practice—they need to be exceptional communicators. People are going to remember them (for better or worse) based on how they speak. If you want your clients to love you and your opponents to hate you, great communication skills are essential.
They know how to develop trust with their clients
A good lawyer will not only know all of your legal rights and how to protect them, but they’ll also know how to make you feel secure in their abilities, even in difficult situations. By helping you feel confident in their abilities and trust in them, they can gain your confidence as well and make your experience easier overall.
They know how to deal with every client type and situation
You might think that as long as you pass your bar exam, you’re qualified to do any type of law. But, in reality, different types of clients require different skills—and experience with one area doesn’t make you an expert on everything. For example, family law cases are more time-sensitive than contract disputes and will often involve children. As such, good lawyers need to be able to think quickly and apply their knowledge in new situations.