How to Be a Great Civil Lawyer: 8 Tips for Career Success
There are more than 1.3 million active attorneys in the United States.
Many of these attorneys practice civil law. The competition for civil cases such as personal injury and worker’s compensation is fierce. You need to develop a reputation and your expertise as a top civil lawyer in your area.
Read on to discover the qualities that you have to have to be an effective lawyer and develop your practice.
1. Have Outstanding Communications Skills
Communication skills are why the top civil lawyers get paid so much. You have to communicate clearly with your clients. You also have to communicate clearly to other lawyers, judges, and juries.
Great attorneys know their audience and seek to communicate in a way that is relatable. You want to study the top lawyers and how they communicate. You can develop your own skills and communication style by practicing.
2. Create a Professional Network
You need to build a great network of people to build your legal practice. You want to have referral partnerships with other professionals in your area.
You can work with other attorneys who have a specialty that doesn’t conflict with yours. You can also have other professionals in your network that are necessary.
For instance, if you handle a lot of divorce and family law cases, you may need to have a financial planner and real estate agent in your network. It’s common for couples to sell their home and split the assets. Both professionals would be able to assist your clients.
3. Build Negotiation Skills
Most civil cases don’t go to trial because it’s much easier and less costly to reach a settlement on the case.
What does settlement mean in law? It means that you don’t go to trial, but you and the other attorney agree on a settlement on behalf of your client.
For example, you represent someone who is suing a business because they suffered a severe injury and the business was negligent. Both you and the defense attorney know that it will take a long time for a case to go to trial.
It’s much better to negotiate a settlement so your client can get their funds as fast as possible. You have to go to bat for your client to make sure they get the settlement that they deserve. Your law practice and your client depend on your strong negotiation skills to make that happen.
That doesn’t mean that you need to play hardball with the other attorney. You’ll probably wind up on another case together, which is why you want to be hard, but not too hard. Use the evidence and facts at hand to negotiate a settlement.
4. Deep Legal Knowledge and Litigation Skills
You have to have deep legal knowledge to be able to negotiate a settlement and represent your client in court. You have to know what negligence means and how to prove negligence in many civil cases. If you specialize in workman’s comp cases, you’ll also need to know the law in your state.
Your civil litigation skills have to be sharp should one of your cases end up in front of a judge or jury. You need to be able to take the evidence at hand and turn it into a compelling story that is convincing.
5. Show Empathy and Compassion
About a third of Americans have had a civil legal issue in 2018 from housing, financial, or family issues.
Your clients are coming to you at a time when they are nervous and scared. They don’t know the law, and they’re depending on you to help them in a difficult time.
You have to be able to show empathy and compassion for your clients. A good dose of confidence will help put your clients at ease, too.
Empathy and compassion will make a huge difference to your clients. They’ll felt heard and understood. They’ll also feel like you care about more than just money.
6. Always Act with Integrity
An attorney that acts with integrity and shows empathy will go far as a civil lawyer. Acting with integrity is simple. You just have to do what you say you’re going to do.
You do this with your clients and they’ll recommend you. Do this with others in the legal community, and they’ll respect you.
7. Set Clear Expectations
Acting with integrity goes hand in hand with managing expectations. You always want to be upfront with clients as to what they can expect during the settlement process.
For example, they may come to you for guidance and they’re in financial trouble. You have to explain to them that getting a quick settlement check is unlikely and it’s against their best interest.
When you work with a client, always be clear about the fee structure of your firm. In many civil cases, the attorney puts up the costs for expert witnesses and all paperwork.
The attorney will take a percentage of the settlement. When clients don’t understand this, they think they’ll get the entire settlement check and spend it in their heads before the check is cut. They will wind up surprised and angry when the check is much less.
8. Manage Business Finances
Your legal practice is a business and you have to manage it as such. You have to manage the finances of your business, especially as a civil attorney.
You will be fronting the costs for your clients and expecting a big payout later. That can make it hard to run a business because one small settlement can send your business into a financial tailspin.
You always want to track the profit and loss of the practice and have a monthly budget that you stick to.
Become the Best Civil Lawyer
Civil law is complicated, and most people don’t fully understand how it works. You can help your clients and grow your legal practice by developing a few essential skills.
You need to have compassion and great communication skills to be a good civil lawyer. You also have to have negotiation skills and develop your trial litigation skills in case you do have to go to trial.
Do you want to grow your practice? Register your practice in our free directory for lawyers today.