It’s hard to think of many professions where outstanding presentation and interpersonal communication skills are more useful and necessary than law.
They can have a dramatic impact on relationships with clients, both existing and potential, and indeed on the reputations of both individual practitioners and law firms. Reputation is a notoriously volatile commodity – perhaps in law more than anywhere else; and the best communicators tend to have the best reputations.
So much is at stake when it comes to how lawyers engage: the clarity and empathy with which they present often complex information and, crucially, how this is received by their audience. Hard legal facts are essential; but if they are presented as such, clients will very often go elsewhere. And who could blame them?!
So great law firms need great communicators.
However, the reality is that these skills very often come a poor second to what lawyers know and how well they know it. This is where so much time and energy are necessarily spent. But the ability to communicate this knowledge is rarely given anywhere near the attention that it needs.
Clients, judges, the media, the public: all need to be informed and enlightened in a language that they understand; that is persuasive and memorable. The world takes note when people speak with authority and gravitas, but also with authenticity and humanity.
The benefits of great communication for legal professionals are clear; so too are the consequences of poor communication. Perhaps the best way to think of it is bridging a gap: the gap between what you know and how consistently well you can communicate that. A realignment of ‘best practice’ habits.
‘Best practice’ communication involves:
- paying attention to one’s own non-verbal communication and that of others. This is vital to ensure consistency between what is being said and how it is being said;
- accessing the right levels of energy in high-stakes communication. It is often the first thing to go when the pressure mounts; but without energy and intent, the impact is severely weakened;
- shaping content in a way that makes it easy to receive. Without structure and clarity, messages of great import get missed and are replaced by confusion and anxiety; and
- harnessing nervous energy in way that helps you be at your best.
Legal professionals at all levels need to hone these skills. In today’s fiercely competitive market, they will often be what separate you from the rest.