3 Communication Areas for Lawyers to Develop

Communication skills are vital for attorneys. When we talk about communication  skills, we can find it difficult to pinpoint unless we categorize the information. So for the sake of organization, let’s narrow the areas lawyers do well to develop into 3 key categories:

  1. Interpersonal communication skills
  2. Intra-personal communication skills
  3. Public speaking skills

For most of the non-podium public, the first area of communication skills that comes to mind is the set that focuses externally on relationships around us – interpersonal communication skills. These skills assist with ease in conversation, attraction, trust-building as well as competence.

One would think lawyers come by these skills easily.

However, 64% of lawyers are introverts – an attribute of their desire to research, to analyze, to write and to weigh the pros and cons. While these gifts are useful for crafting their argument and understanding the law, many areas of a lawyer’s practice remains under-developed when they avoid developing their interpersonal skills.

Studies show that law has potential as an agent of positive interpersonal and individual change, and that while lawyers  understand the dynamics of interpersonal skills, they fail to recognize the skills in themselves, let alone the impact on others their skills leave. For this reason lawyers struggle with inner office relationships – holding the practice group members to account, seeking or sharing expectations, clarifying messages, and even effectively training.

They also struggle with client relationships, business partner relationships, networking effectiveness. These barriers limit their visibility, impact their credibility and drive a deep wedge into their profitability.

I have heard it said that early in our career we should develop professionally, then later in our career we should focus development on the business end. Either way, the more effectively lawyers develop their interpersonal skills, both areas will improve. Our interpersonal communication skills give us the ability to lead and influence. 

Interpersonal communication skills are worth developing. These skills can be gained from trial and error throughout life and professional circumstances, by self-study and focus on effective feedback from trusting sources, or from a communication coach.

The second area of communication for lawyers to develop is  intra-personal skills. These skills govern, among other things, our ability to decide, take action and follow through on commitments made.

For the introvert, undeveloped intra-personal skills can create huge barriers. They impair communication, create avoidence behaviors and generate many self-sabotage results. Once again, visibility, credibility, let alone profitability are greatly at stake for the lawyer who stops themselves from speaking up in meetings, from asking for the sale, from learning negotiation or conflict management. What’s left is a series of excuses that keeps this attorney from becoming who they are capable of and stepping up to the plate on behalf of others.
I once heard “shyness” referred to as a selfishness for not doing or being valuable to others. Whether that is an extreme definition or not, intrapersonal skills left underdeveloped means many lawyers go through many days, unfulfilled. Our intra-personal communication skills give us the ability to manage ourselves. Once we have reached awareness of how to manage ourselves, we are much more effective in leading and influencing others. These skills can be learned from a communication coach.
The third communication area for lawyers to develop is public speaking. By nature of their profession, lawyers must develop the confidence to stand up on behalf of others. The earlier-described areas of self esteem and influence are foundations that lead to the action of public speaking. Obviously lawyers who argue their cases in court experience a more “public” audience. For them, here are a few tips to review: communication techniques for defense attorneys.
Additionally, many attorneys understand public speaking is an efficient and profitable method of generating business.
The usual course of marketing for most attorneys is from behind a desk while writing articles posted to websites – an inactive, passive approach. This is the marketing of those with limited self-esteem, or those who need no more business. Yet for the lawyer who is still open to serving more clients, public speaking is the route to get in front of the most people in the shortest amount of time. Time being scarce to lawyers, public speaking is by far the most effective marketing approach.
All it takes to present effectively is a working understanding of how to shift from written to spoken content, how to deliver the message that most people pay attention to and decide from (what they experience vs. the words used), and what to practice so the speaker comes across well. Public speaking skills can be learned from trial and error while seeking trustworthy feedback or from a speaking coach.
Choosing to develop each of these areas, even if one at a time, will serve lawyers, their clients and the legal system well. So the question is, which area will you focus on this quarter as you build your law practice?
Individual communication coaching for both interpersonal and intrapersonal support

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On June 21st, 2011, posted in: communication skills, introverts, lawyers by