Uroš Popović recently gave an interview for South East Legal Alliance (SELA) about key skills that are required to be a successful lawyer.
Here’s the entire interview.
1. What are some of the key skills that young lawyers need in order to thrive in the current legal market?
The one single key skill that I would place above all else is dedication to work. In the past 10 years I have seen many young lawyers come and go and the single common denominator for those who did not start off their career in the optimal manner is the lack of dedication. Simply put, at the very dawn of one’s legal career, there is nothing else that may take priority. This is because your education only prepares you for so much, whereas real-life situations and legal work is something that you become proficient in only by dedicating time and energy needed to gain the relevant experience. Without that dedication the chances of a successful law career are rather low. In short, don’t worry too much about the work-life balance equation at the beginning of your law career – if you set the foundations right this will come on its own at a later stage.
2. So how does an associate avoid being left behind when it comes to skills development? Would you recommend any trainings to take or is the work at the law firm enough?
Always be proactive. Never allow yourself to wait for the partners/senior associates to come to you with additional work if you have no pending tasks that you are working on. Ask questions and ask for additional work as much as you can. If you notice that you are getting less work than your fellow trainees that’s usually not a good sign and do everything in your power to become more reliable so that the senior colleagues call on you more often. With regards to training and courses if English is not your native language certainly try to take as much training as you can in that regard (not only legal English but also business/commercial English).
3. You mentioned dedication as being one of the key ones. How does an associate that’s just out of college work on developing that particular skill?
This is more of a state of mind than a skill. Basically, it is directly related to one’s discipline and personal habits. If you have been able to maintain general discipline throughout law school and are willing to commit 100% to your new job you should not have any problems with your career taking off.
4. What skills are required for a legal professional now that may not have been as necessary ten years ago?
I would say that flexibility is required now more than ever. What I mean by that is the following – the new reality which we live in currently as a result of the global pandemic has made it extremely difficult for people to maintain their usual routines. A major case in point is the fact that a significant number of lawyers are now working from home or otherwise remotely rather than coming to their office every day. This means that you have to be able to focus and concentrate often times in far from optimum environments and conditions and this is proving to be hard for those of us set in our comfort zones.
5. What do you think will be the key skill in the legal profession in the next few years/in the future?
Besides flexibility it will be necessary more than ever for young lawyers to be able to adapt to new technologies and learn about them at an extremely fast rate. This is especially true in the area of fintech where development has been taking place at incredible speeds, which is a trend likely to continue in the future. It will not be enough for lawyers to simply know the law (such as it is today or may develop in the future) with regards to e.g. cryptocurrencies but it will increasingly become necessary to understand the underlying technical processes which few lawyers do today. This is why I foresee a rise in dual degree programs combining engineering and law in the future and any young lawyer willing to invest time and energy in this manner is much more likely to succeed.