Trainee blog: Networking and building relationships – the 'non-legal' side of a legal career

Training contract applicants have to demonstrate a range of skills, beyond academic achievements, to be considered as a potential lawyer. One of those is the ability to build relationships or, 'people skills'.

Why are people skills so important?

As a solicitor

'People buy people' when it comes to professional services. This is where a law firm differentiates from many other businesses – a law firm's most valuable 'assets' are its lawyers. The legal landscape is adapting and becoming more competitive, and clients now have endless options when it comes to undertaking their legal work. In order to make these choices, they are therefore relying increasingly on the rapport they have with their advisors.

Michelmores recently undertook a survey which asked its key clients to rank the importance of their solicitors' attributes. It may be surprising to hear that 'personal chemistry' was number one overall, ranking above those such as 'technical legal knowledge'. Solicitors are often facilitating a hugely important aspect of a client's life or business: it is crucial that the client has full trust and comfort in discussing all relevant issues with them.

'People skills' are also immensely important when working with other solicitors. I have found that being someone who other solicitors are happy to work alongside is integral to my development, and it is particularly important in a firm that is proud of their collegiate environment. The better I get along with my colleagues, the happier they are to share their advice.

As a training contract applicant

In addition to the importance of inter-personal skills to the firm, you need to convince a law firm that you will be a reputable ambassador, should they recruit you.

Events such as law fairs, open days, assessment days and vacation schemes also provide indispensable opportunities for applicants to 'pick the brains' of solicitors, recruiters and trainee solicitors. You can find out further information about the firm, obtain advice on training contract applications and make a lasting impression on the recruiters. You want them to remember who you are, if you are discussed in the future.

In a nutshell: be confident (even when you don't feel it), do your research and be personable – and you can't go far wrong.

If you have any other questions on being a trainee please tweet us @MMTrainees.