If considering a career in New Zealand law you would do well to research skills and competencies required by prospective employers to see if you believe you have them or could develop further. There are a set of core skills common across all law careers.
You may then find that certain roles or companies require a specific set of additional skills. As well as role specific criteria, most employers tend to recruit candidates who have a ‘life’ outside of the job. Interests outside of the career can help with relieving the stresses of a role and law certainly comes with stress as standard!
What skills do law firms seek?
1. technical legal ability
2. commercial instinct
3. analytical ability
Essential other skills:
– team working (team player and/or leader)
– intellectual ability
– common sense
– good communication skills
– attention to detail
Communication Skills & Team working Skills
Good communication skills are essential for all roles in law. Written and oral skills both need to be good. Reports, accounts and legal documents all need to be of a very high language standard. Lawyers need to able to communicate well with the clients and their colleagues. Depending on the role taken on, public speaking and presentations could be a daily occurrence, so confidence in front of an audience will be essential.
Lawyers receive instructions from a variety of people so effective listening skills are essential to their success in their role. An equally key skill is an ability to interpret and also summarise large amounts of information. Details are important to be able to communicate well on paper with colleagues and clients. Any errors in documents and emails can lead to a negative impression. Additionally an excellent eye for detail is important, even seemingly minor mistakes could ultimately alter the meaning of contracts and clauses.
All lawyers need to be able to work as a team player but will also need the ability to step up as a leader when in charge of a case. Lawyers need good communication and team working skills. A law firm is a service environment involving daily contact with clients, colleagues and other professionals. Team work within a work place is always important because the type of work tends to be on a big scale and complex so it is unlikely you would be working on a project by yourself.
Motivation & Commitment
Why do you want to be a lawyer? Is it because you are a keen viewer of Law & Order or is it because you want to work in the family firm. Whatever your motivation you need to be aware of the time and commitment involved and demonstrate that commitment. Through part-time work you can demonstrate commitment to a role and if that work can be in a law-firm during study then even better.
A lawyer is a demanding role intellectually so excellent grades and academic achievement are essential to success and proving to prospective employers that you have technical skills and expertise required. A Bachelor of Laws Degree is required in New Zealand to be a lawyer and takes 4 years of full-time study at university.
Stamina and Resilience
At times long hours will be necessary to meet deadlines, it’s the nature of the job for many lawyers. Puttying in the extra effort to achieve results will certainly be a key aspect to a successful law career. Remembering to find a balance with your health, relaxation and stress relief will certainly aid this success.
Commercial awareness (commercial sense) and Adaptability
When looking to work for a law firm the partners will be interested in how you think you can help their business grow. Are you able to identify areas for growth and potential increase in profits? Being aware of current events can demonstrate that you are consistently aware of changes in the world. Despite the best laid plans cases do not always go as planned. Being adaptable and having the ability to change plans and think on your feet are good skills to be able to demonstrate.
High street firms may well have a slightly different list of essential skills as compared with larger law firms. The differences come down to the type of work and clients. For example smaller, local firms often have a strong family law and personal injury or crime focus to their business. Small firms therefore tend to recruit trainees with good people skills.
Lawyers who specialise in criminal law will need to get used to being available out of hours. Out of hours overtime can sometimes make maintaining a work/life balance challenging. Your phone could ring anytime requesting your attendance at the police station for a client interview. While some days might not be very busy, on others you might be preparing trials at the office into the evening.
To succeed in a job application you will need to be familiar with the key skills and competencies that law recruiters require and make sure they are addressed in your applications for positions. As well as key skills and qualifications prospective employers will want to see that you have interests outside of a job for a work-life balance. Do something outside law: volunteer, join a club, participate in a team or sport – show that you have the motivation to do more than just study and work.
Some people can be interested in law but not actually decide to train and practice as a lawyer. A lawyer is highly trained and a specialist in matters relating to the law so they can best advise clients on the best course of action. Lawyers work professionally and often independently to look after the interests of others. Lawyers trained in New Zealand are qualified to practise as both barrister and solicitor in Wellington.
Legal graduates work in a wide range of areas: private practice, parliamentary drafting, the public service, public companies, university teaching, the judiciary, research, law reform, local government, private companies and state-owned enterprises. Options other than being a lawyer include: legal executive, court reporter, court registrar or legal secretary.
Becker & Co are lawyers based in Wellington with over 25 years of experience in many areas. For lawyers Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Wellington based who can help with: litigation, immigration, mediation, employment, property, trusts and wills, business and IT law then visit www.becker.co.nz for more information and contact details. For experienced and reliable legal advice in Wellington and surrounding region you can trust the team at Becker & Co.
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