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October 14 2020

Key Skills Junior Lawyers Need To Succeed

Legal Career Tips

Harry Mellor

Harry Mellor

Key Skills Junior Lawyers Need To Succeed

We were delighted to welcome Sarah Hunt, Neil Campbell and Emma O’Connor as guest speakers at our latest Virtual Lunch in collaboration with LexisNexis and Crafty Counsel. Sarah is Head of People Development at Osborne Clarke, Neil is Managing Legal Counsel at RBS, and Emma is the Talent Development Manager at Dentons. The topic for the call centred around the key skills that junior lawyers need to succeed, with the speakers drawing on their own experiences to offer excellent insights to attendees.


As noted by Sarah, many interviewees try to adapt their answers to fit what they believe the panel wants to hear. Although it is good to relate your experiences to the firm, it is important to remain true to your motivations. There is such a thing as the ‘right’ firm for you, you just need to find it. When discussing things that genuinely interest you, your passion comes across and this paints you in a good light. Your experiences and motivations are individual to you, so use this opportunity to stand out and be yourself!


Given the demanding nature of the legal industry, resilience is key. The ability to quickly adapt to setbacks and elements outside of your control is important to being a successful lawyer. It is also important for managers and team leaders to build a culture that is accepting of mistakes, and encourages active learning from them. In doing so, both development and a transparent culture are encouraged. Understanding why something happened and how to move past it is valuable, and demonstrates a strong sense of self-awareness in junior lawyers.

Emotional Intelligence

Being able to take responsibility and acknowledge failure is critical in improving yourself as a lawyer. Self-awareness allows you to be analytical of your own performance in situations and recognise where your ‘blind spots’ are. Similarly, it is vital to adapt to the client and empathise with them to gain a true understanding of their needs. As Emma mentioned, the greatest difference between businesses that are currently excelling and those that are struggling, is empathy. Actively listening and acknowledging other viewpoints allows for a feeling of mutual understanding, which encourages progress. The most important thing is to be conscious of the situation and respond accordingly. 


Gaining a deeper understanding of the client and their business, and placing them at the centre of the advice you give, is key to delivering the best possible service. Proactively asking questions allows you, as an advisor, to anticipate their future needs. This skill is also key in building your knowledge of the client’s expectations and values. Even basic questions to build a personal rapport with the client are important, as they may be overlooked by senior management also involved in the deal. Always be curious about the client and your role in the matter!

Building Relationships

For Neil, this is a fundamental skill that should be thought about more. To ensure the best service, lawyers must understand their client’s needs. For this, a good relationship must be built. Clients should be viewed as collaborators and partners in the matter, to allow for effective communication. Always put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask yourself: ‘How would I want this advice to be communicated? What would I value?’. This will help to better your understanding of the client and to develop a long-standing relationship.

Cognitive Flexibility

This means our ability to think differently and challenge our internal decision making process. There is no ‘correct’ answer when it comes to which values or ideas should be prioritised at work, as each workplace is culturally different. However, the ability to challenge your own assumptions and biases allows you to place your client’s interests at the forefront of your decision-making process. This is key to delivering excellent service.

Thank you again to Sarah, Neil and Emma for offering some fantastic advice and insights!