Work + Growth

What Lawyers Can Learn from Other Professions


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  • There is a lot that lawyers can learn from other, unrelated professions
  • Copywriters can teach lawyers the art of tailoring a written message to a specific audience, while mimicking salespeople’s ability to make people feel important would help with clients
  • Poker players may have the most to teach lawyers—that’s it’s okay to take risks, how to read nonverbal cues, and how to focus on performing each step in a case properly instead of on winning in the end

Lawyers are a pretty knowledgeable, intelligent bunch.

Given that they literally argue for a living, the stereotype of the know-it-all lawyer is understandable. But even know-it-alls can learn from those in completely unrelated professions—in ways that may be surprising. Read on to learn what those who practice law can learn from those who do not.

Copywriters

Copywriters make their living communicating, just as lawyers must often do. What copywriters do particularly well is tailor the style of the message to their audience. When writing with clients in mind, lawyers often use too much legal jargon, too many unnecessary words, and stilted language. This style may be necessary in a legal brief, but it isn’t helpful to clients. Lawyers would do well to imitate copywriters’ ability to state the most important information simply, concisely, and right away; add explanatory details and other information once it’s clear what the main message is. (Think of the structure of many ads: “Isn’t it a pain when you have this problem? Use this thing to fix the problem. It’s pretty and it doesn’t cost a lot!”)

Now, of course it will be necessary to use certain legal terms and specific phrases when communicating legal information to clients—that’s fine. Just keep in the mind the copywriter’s skill of speaking to their audience in a way they will understand and being as succinct as possible.

Salespeople

Salespeople are good at what they do because they realize that they are not just selling a product, they are selling themselves. How do you relate to the way salespeople work?

A successful salesperson makes customers feel important and project that they are emotionally invested in the sale because they want to make sure the customer has a positive experience. Salespeople can also teach lawyers a thing or two about being confident without appearing arrogant in clients’ eyes—knowing when to stop talking and start listening can go a long way.

Lawyers have long been known to be generally analytical, by-the-book types. They aren’t necessarily skilled at emotionally connecting with clients and making them feel comfortable, let alone at having warm interactions with all the people in various roles that make a firm or a court run. Simple gestures, such as learning the names of clerks/assistants/legal assistants, can go a long way.

Poker Players

Poker is not just a game you play with your buddies twice a month—it’s a real money-maker for professional players, and they may just have the most to teach lawyers. Professional poker players are experts when it comes to understanding odds, and because of that expertise, they know when to take risks. Lawyers are notoriously so risk averse, they usually refuse to take risks even when the odds are in their favor and the potential reward is great.

Professional poker players also tend to be quite well-versed in body language, as they are always looking for their opponents’ “tells.” Nonverbal cues in face-to-face negotiations—such as whether the opposing counsel makes eye contact and for how long, or how quickly and forcefully they respond to an offer—can let you in on their real position more than what they say out loud.

Like lawyers during a case, poker can’t know all the information when they play a game. There are only so many factors they can control; they must be flexible and strategize how to react as things change hand after hand. Instead of focusing on winning at the end, poker experts focus on playing each hand properly, since doing so usually results in victory in the long run. Lawyers would do well to focus less on the win at the end and concentrate on the steps that lead to that win.