Stop Calling Them "Soft" Skills

How to perform legal research? *check*

How to write like a lawyer? *absolutely*

How to build a kick-ass personal brand, create a vision for your career, and effectively manage your time and stress?

*not so much*

Many junior lawyers are not taught these skills until later in their careers (if at all!) because they are considered "soft" skills. But don't let 'em fool you folks: These skills are not "soft"--they're actually HARD to learn and even harder to apply. You need to learn them sooner rather than later. These supposedly soft skills are often the biggest differentiator between successful and non-successful attorneys. Name a rock star law firm partner, general counsel or solo practitioner with a weak personal brand or business network.  You can't right? I'd argue you CAN'T be successful without these non-legal skills.  Why are they called "soft" skills then, if it's hard, if not impossible, to be successful without them? 

Why are they called “soft” skills if it’s hard, if not impossible, to be successful without them?

Personal branding is just the tip of the iceberg:  Here are 7 of these skills that all junior lawyers need.

Let's stop calling them soft skills, and you should make sure you're learning them as a part of your early development as a lawyer.  If you're a professional development person, make sure your junior lawyers are being trained on them early on.  As lawyers, we're overly biased towards our technical competencies.  The term "soft" skills wrongly diminishes the importance of the non-legal skills that are also key to success.  So let's stop calling them soft skills so that people will know they're important, and so they'll understand why you'll ask to be trained on them early in your career. 

The term “soft” skills wrongly diminishes the importance of the non-legal skills that are also key to your success.

So what should we call them?

I propose we call them "Wrap-Around Skills." I like "Wrap-Around Skills" because the phrase "wrap-around" reminds everyone that there are core skills you must have to be a successful lawyer, but that there are other necessary skills as well. It also illustrates that these skills support and compliment your core technical and legal competencies, rather than replace them.

Here's a previous blog post where I list and quickly discuss The Seven Wrap-Around Skills All Junior Lawyers Need.


Do you agree that we should stop calling them soft skills?

What do you think we should call them? Does "Wrap-Around Skills" work for you?

Let us know what you think in the comments! And please forward this to your colleagues and friends!

-- Calvin