Articles From the Team
What is the most important soft skill to succeed in an in-house legal career?
“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once!”
An immortal line from probably one of the worst sitcoms I`ve ever seen, but then I am a back-end Generation X member. At a mere 10 years old, when Allo Allo was finally put out its misery, I`m afraid I was too young at the time to take any interest in the life lessons being taught by Rene and the gang. My dear old mother loved it though and so it was compulsory viewing from an early age.
The ability to listen carefully when people only have the time, patience or enthusiasm to say things once is critical in life. The great creator in the sky (God or stardust – your call) gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason. Having spoken to many Heads of Legal, one attribute that was consistently needed was the ability to listen. This has become a very important aspect of the day to day business of a legal professional, whether that is listening to external clients or internal stakeholders.
You must understand all of your stakeholder needs, motivations and pressures in order to build up the best possible commercial picture and get to the right end result.
So how do I know as the recruiter if you are a good listener or not and likely to be a successful in-house lawyer? It’s all about the questions you ask and what things I say that you pick up on and run with. They usually tell me a lot about your personality and drivers without you ever having to say something directly.
Also over the course of multiple conversations it is usually telling what information has been retained and what information has been changed into something less recognisable from how it was originally presented.
Recently I was talking to a lawyer who was very money driven and despite me continually saying that “the absolute maximum for this role is £100k, are you content to proceed on this basis?” they kept twisting that into “the base-level is £100k and you can get more if you move through the process and perform well at interview.” This just wasn’t the case and I found myself in a position where I had to reset their expectations at every phone call, eventually I just had to withdraw them from the process because there is nothing more embarrassing then getting an offered turned down flat.
The main worrying aspect of course was that it showed they were incapable of listening and ultimately not suited to an in-house environment.