Personal Development: Essential to Lawyers

Team work, ethical reasoning and good time management skills are few of the many skills required by lawyers to be successful professionals. This article talks about various qualities that make a good lawyer.

Cambridge Dictionary defines Personal Development as “the process of improving your skills and increasing the amount of experience that you have in your job”[1] This involves increasing your understanding of yourself and attempting to apply this increased knowledge to your personal and professional lives. The question that most of us have is, why does this matter to me, as a law student, or even as a Lawyer?

Personal Development involves us working on improving ourselves. This pushes us beyond our comfort zone, boosting our confidence, and strengthening our fortes. It helps us take a deep, long look at our self, and forces us to acknowledge the areas where we need to improve ourselves. As you develop yourself, you slowly understand what are the values and principles that form your core personality. This allows one to build and fortify our personality and our surroundings to suit our personality. Personal Development is not restricted to just anyone’s sphere or domain of your life. All-round development is essential for it to be beneficial to you. So that means, a complete improvement of your spiritual, mental, emotional, physical selves. The development of all these aspects is tantamount to Personal Development.

Personal Development and a proper understanding of one’s Self is paramount to achieving success, especially for a Lawyer. Why you ask, because the profession requires deep interpersonal interactions and for the same, a sound grasp over your own strengths and weaknesses is of paramount importance. Some basic competences which are widely recognized as a requirement for lawyers include:

  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Time-Management
  • Ethics and Values
  • Understanding of the technicalities of Law
  • Strong Interpersonal Skills
  • Soft Skills: Communication, Relationship Building, Service Orientation

In the evolving world of Law, these crucial values are essential for any lawyer to succeed in this sphere. However, irrespective of the fact that these skills are the most important tools in the hands of a lawyer, they are not taught in Law School. Forget being taught, Law Schools largely ignore anything beyond the understanding of Law. This handicaps the Law students the moment they step into the professional sphere. There is an immediate need for change in the Legal curriculum, bringing changes to allow students to understand the importance of Personal Development for any early stages. In this competitive world, many, if not all, people believe that Professional Development is essential. But how do you achieve professional success, if you don’t have the skill to adapt to the changing world?

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Imagine this, you are a relatively successful lawyer, working at what was your “Dream Firm” while you were in Law School. You are happy. You are content. You know that the time will come when you will be promoted to Partner of the firm. This makes you laid-back. You are confident of your success and take it for granted. You delegate all your work to your juniors. But your nonchalance leads to the firm losing a client. Why you ask, because you did not make the effort to interact with them, to understand what needed in the case/transaction etc. After some time, you are passed over for a promotion, and a person junior to you, is made Partner. Your colleagues do not agree to work on projects with you, and your performance falls. The fundamental reason for this is because you did not work on your own self. Interaction with your colleagues, strong relationships with clients and effective teamwork are all built on communication. There was once a time a Lawyer could get away with having a poor relationship with the client, by merely saying that the job of the lawyer does not involve hand-holding or comforting the client. But that attitude will not hold today’s world. Client satisfaction is the main objective of most law firms, as it should be. So, without strong communication skills, a lawyer will fail miserably in achieving the best outcome for the client and himself, or the firm.

Personal Development is a life-long process. It does not end when you reach your goals. Because it is the human tendency to set a new goal the moment a previous one is achieved. And unless, you work on your strengths, how do you expect to reach your target? Personal Development gives you chance to evaluate your strengths and weakness, and work on them accordingly. In the above situation, had you worked on your interpersonal skills, the client would not have left the firm, nor would your colleagues disagree to work with you. Also, if you had improved on your strengths, expanded your skills and maintained relationships, you probably would not have been passed over for the promotion. Your indifferent attitude is detrimental to your own success.

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So, what do we do? It’s simple!

  • Identify your goal.
  • Determine what skills or strengths you need so that you achieve the goal.
  • Analyze and critique your weaknesses.
  • Assign a time-frame within which the goal must be attained (This should include short term goals and/or milestone achievements)
  • Communicate and share your goal, and the plan to achieve it, with other. This will allow you to get a new set of eyes or a fresh perspective. The insights given by these close friends or family members may be essential modifications to your plans and may also help keep you on track.
  • If you want, you can also approach a Personal Development coach.

These steps are not fool proof. They are subjective and may need to be altered or modified as per necessity. But one thing that these steps make clear is that you can never STOP Personal Development, just as you can never have no goal or aim in life. Even if your only aim in life is to keep your body and soul together, it’s a goal, and you need to have a plan to achieve it. So, all that’s left is to set your goal, make your plan and put in every possible effort to achieve it!

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[1]Personal Development, Cambridge Dictionary (Online), Available At-