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Language is the lifeblood of legal work. As lawyers, we communicate with clients, the court, employers, other lawyers, office staff and many others. Strong oral and written communication skills are a must. Along with this, a major component of our work is to identify, analyze and research issues. Without skills in these areas, we are unable to effectively meet the needs of our clients.
This competency requires a lawyer to possess strong oral and written communication skills to effectively represent clients and communicate professionally and effectively. It also requires a lawyer to effectively identify issues and analyze problems on behalf of clients, as well as properly research those issues and problems to effectively advise clients and advocate on their behalf.
There are many ways to develop these skills. A number of courses are available to improve writing and grammar skills, as well as interpersonal interactions and public speaking. A number of programs focus specifically on business communication skills, to enhance communication with clients and others in your office environment. Others continuing legal education courses focus on writing skills, in particular skills in writing memos, briefs and factums, as well as advocacy skills.
Writing and presenting can be included in your CPD program, as long as they are not done in the course of or as part of your day-to-day work. CPD activities are additions to your regular practice, not part of it. Teaching others is a great way to hone your own skills while assisting others to improve theirs.
Courses to develop legal research skills are available. Many legal database providers have training specific to using their programs, while other courses are more general or focus on specific types of research, such as a search for historic legislation or international case law. Learning how best to select key words for research or a refresher in proper citation for various forms of writing can improve your research skills. Understanding how to request court documents for research purposes could also be helpful in a number of practice areas. A self-assessment of current research skills and identification of areas for improvement will assist in the development of your CPD plan.
While CPD activities focused on oral and written communication, analytical and research skills may sound less than engaging, the value they can provide to your practice is immeasurable. These skills are the very foundation of legal work and should be enhanced over the course of a legal career in any practice setting.
Written by: Jennifer Freund, Policy Counsel