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What are the traits of a good attorney?

11th grade student looking into becoming a lawyer one day. #attorney #lawyers

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John’s Answer


A good lawyer will possess an inquisitive nature L O. Curiosity drives a person to probe and ask revealing questions. The inquisitive attorney will peel back the layers of a case, going deeper, asking for more information. This skill is important because it's often the small, unnoticed details that can make or break a case. A good lawyer asks questions because they aren't satisfied with accepting surface information. They know there may be more facts underneath the evidence presented. Their inquisitive nature will push them to uncover that information.

STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS – Lawyers must have strong oral communication skills and written communication skills to accurately relay critical legal information. As well, a significant portion of a lawyer’s job is to create strong and convincing arguments which are presented in the courtroom. Judges and juries all have their own opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds so a lawyer’s ability must be able to reach out to all of them and convince accordingly. In addition, good listening skills are found in a successful lawyer. Every client has their own version of their situation. Lawyers must listen carefully to the details and analyze what their clients need and how to take action.

PEOPLE SKILLS – Lawyers are in constant contact with people with is why people skills are required. The entire system of law has engagement with people. Judges, clerks, senior partners, barristers, and other legal workers are just some of the people lawyers will encounter on a daily basis. Being able to be relatable, polite, respectful and interesting some skills to consider. If this is a skill lacking in a lawyer, it can lead to some very nasty situations with clients seeking retribution for their perceived mistreatment. Regardless of how good a lawyer may be at formulating arguments and winning cases, maintaining good relationship develops a deeper sense of professionalism.

WRITING SKILLS – Having the ability to write well lays a solid foundation for all the documents a lawyer must write such as arguments, contracts, and legal letters. Written communication is a primary way that information is distributed and recorded. Clear, concise writing removes ambiguity, making intentions known. The legal system requires most communication to be in writing and has very strict guidelines for accuracy. If an attorney is unable to communicate well in writing, it may result in misunderstandings at the least, and damage to the client at the worst.

TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS – The legal system in the United States has grown more complex in the last century. A commercial land purchase, for instance that at one time may have been completed on a handshake, now may contain hundreds of pages of documents distributed over time; each one representing stages in the purchase process. Keeping track of all the paperwork demands good organizational skills. The attorney will also need to possess good time management skills. They will need to stay aware of deadlines, meeting schedules, court dates, and travel itinerary. Even simple cases will require some level of calendared items. Most attorneys will have to balance several of cases at once. This requires a high level of time management and organizational skills.

RESEARCH SKILLS – Lawyers will spend a lot of time digging around in archives and reading up on old cases. Research skills include the ability to read large amounts of information in short time, understanding facts, figures, and charts, and analyzing matter in a way that can be used later are vital features of a lawyer. Research skills should be honed early in a lawyer’s career. To do so, make a habit of summarizing a few important points from large documents and articles. This is extremely advantageous when caseloads increase which require more background details, legal document drafting, and prepare advice for clients.

DETAIL ORIENTATED – All lawyers have to have an eye for details. Accuracy and precision is needed to become a successful lawyer. If a lawyer makes a mistake on a single word it can change the entire meaning of a contract or a clause. Lawyers must ensure all their communications, such as email, letters, lawyer websites and legal documents, are always perfect for giving them to a client. Small mistakes can lead to a bad impression on a client and a bad experience for a lawyer. The worst case scenario would be a lawyer getting sued for malpractice for mistakes that could have been avoided.

CREATIVITY – The fundamental part of a lawyer’s job is to win cases for their clients or protect their client’s interests. Being creative is a skill needed by successful lawyers because it allows for flexibility and a wide range of possible solutions when working on a case. Lawyers have to be both logical and analytical. However, they should not ignore their creativity. Having that creative edge allows for a lawyer to outmaneuver any situation, in and out of the courtroom. Although creativity is important, a lawyer also requires strong judgment at the core of their practice. Lawyers need the ability to logically and reasonably draw conclusions based on the limited amount of information they receive. Throughout a court hearing, lawyers must be aware of the arguments their opponents are making which finding weaknesses and flaws in logic through the hearings.

BUSINESS SKILLS – Every lawyer, whether working at a firm or solo practitioner, must be aware of the business side of their practice. Law is a billable service that receives the majority of their income by the hours they can bill. If lawyers lack the necessary business skills to bill their clients accordingly, it could lead to significant losses for the firm or personal practice. Being able to explain your hourly rates, additional charges, and contracting with clients is critical for a lawyer to continue to practice law. However, billing is just one aspect that has to be learned. Marketing, networking, and accounting for lawyers are equally important.

Thank You Erika. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Helen Keller John Frick

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Lucy’s Answer

The best attorneys I have worked with have been great listeners. They know how to listen to an opposing argument to better argue their own positions. Attorneys also have to be able to think creatively when making arguments. A good attorney can listen to the opposing argument, and create a strong counter. Finally, attorneys should be good writers. Much of the legal practice involves drafting documents--correspondence, motions, briefs, etc.

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Mansi’s Answer

Below are ten traits that are common to the best lawyers.

1. Passion for the Job.
2. Compassion for Clients.
3. Great Communication Skills.
4. Willingness to Listen.
5. Knowledge of the Law.
6. Strong Writing Ability.
7. Creativity.
8. Good Judgment.

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Charles’s Answer

Hi L.O. I see that you are just up the road from me in Orange County, CA. I live in North Tustin and work in Santa Ana.

In my opinion, here are some traits that attorneys should have:

1. Intelligence - there is no doubt that it takes a good deal of intelligence to get good enough grades to achieve a high enough GPA to be accepted to college and then to a good law school; complete the demanding course work in law school; and then study for and pass the California Bar Exam. Then of course you have merely arrived at the beginning of your legal career.

2. Dedication - Hard work and dedication are essential traits of a good lawyer. They also are necessary to complete all educational and testing hurdles (SAT and/or ACT for college; LSAT for law school) required to enroll in law school. When you are studying law using the Socratic method (questions asked by the professor and answered by students), you must diligently study the cases assigned in class, and be prepared to be called on by the law professor, who will typically ask about a case, and then expand by varying the facts of the case (hypothetical questions) in order to have you think about whether or not the decision would have remained the same with different facts. As you study for exams and the Bar Exam, no one makes you take this time out to prepare. So it is essential to be a "self-starter".

3. Curiosity - Curious people want to know more about a subject, and want to ask the right questions of clients to help define the precise legal question or questions that you need to answer.

4. Creativity - Those who enjoy and are able to "think outside the box", will be greatly rewarded by the practice of law. With this mindset, the profession is never dull or repetitive (even though certain tasks are by nature repetitive).

5. Communication - The ability to communicate effectively in writing and orally with other lawyers, in court with judges and juries, and in the use of "non-legalese" with clients, goes a long way toward making one a successful lawyer.

6. Love of Writing and Debating - If you love to write and use logic to create persuasive arguments, you should enjoy and be successful in the practice of law (at least in the field of litigation). (Note that this trait is similar to, but not identical to number 5. Many attorneys are excellent communicators - however, those who are extremely effective love to write and orally persuade Judges and opposing counsel of the merit of their legal arguments.)

7. Desire to Make the World a Better Place - Whether you practice law with a public agency, pro bono group (provision of free legal services), private firm, or in-house at a business (like I do), you have an opportunity as an attorney to help clients, and thereby improve the world just a bit. Although I have practiced law for an insurance company for 31 years, the most satisfaction that I ever received was trying a workers' compensation case for a homeowner couple who fought a spurious claim brought by their mother's care giver. Despite (or perhaps because of) the inability to call the mother as a witness, due to her Alzheimer's Disease, I truly enjoyed the challenge of helping them win their case after the care giver gave two versions of the accident at Trial, and was found to be not credible by the Judge.

I could go on, but I think that is sufficient for now.

Best of luck to you L.O., as you strive to determine if the field of law is the right path for you to take.

All the best.