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The following is an excerpt from the Career Development Handbook.

As you can probably already tell, law school is not only set up to teach you about the law, but to equip you with skills required to practice effectively. Having excelled as an undergraduate student, been offered admission to UNC Law, and successfully continued your academic journey here implies that you possess a number of skills and talents that have helped you succeed thus far.

You may find that some skills are easier for you to pick up or sharpen than others, and when asked “What are your greatest strengths?” some of these skills may come to mind. However, things you are good at are not always the things you enjoy. For example, you may be an engaging public speaker, but don’t actually like being up in front of a crowd – perhaps no one can tell or would believe you, but this talent is not one you look forward to showing off. On the flip side, there may be some activities that you could spend tons of time or energy working on and not realize hours have passed, feeling completely energized afterwards. When thinking about the skills you have or want, it may be wise to reframe “strengths” as actions that make you feel strong, happy, invigorated, and “weaknesses” as tasks that make you feel weak, drained, or unenthusiastic. The former are often called your “motivated skills,” and are the ones you should focus on when reading job descriptions, learning about potential positions, and planning career moves.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of skills for you to rank according to your current prowess and your motivation to use them. One will be the highest and four will be the lowest. First, rank each skill based on your interest and enjoyment when utilizing it. Then, to acknowledge your current strengths and where you want to improve, rank those motivated skills by your ability. Notice which skills rank highly in both categories and which ones you are willing to spend time building upon. Focus on using or growing your top-rated skills as you move forward with your legal education and professional life.

Public Speaking
Interpersonal Communication
Client Service
Analysis and Logical Reasoning
Time Management
Supervision/Personnel Management
Reading and Synthesizing Information
Active Listening
Quantitative Reasoning
Problem Solving
Using Technology
Processing Data
Making Decisions
Attention to Detail
Business Acumen
Financial Literacy/Management
Project Management
Seeking and Identifying Resources
Motivating Others

My top 5 Motivated Skills are:

Looking back over the list above, you may notice that none of these skills are purely legal in nature. The skills you learn in law school and need in order to be an effective lawyer are applicable in many other settings, professional and personal. We often refer to these as “transferable skills.” They will and should be highlighted in your future resumes, cover letters, and interviews. You may also notice them popping up as you explore professional opportunities. In fact, when you look at a job or internship description, beyond requiring or preferring a particular degree or level of experience, most every other quality sought will be a transferable skill. Use this to your advantage by picking out a few words and phrases that resonate with you (aka: motivated skills) in each job description’s “qualifications” or “responsibilities” section, and speak to those directly in your documents. Also prepare to talk about them in an interview, using tangible examples.

Some of the skills mentioned above may come so easily to you that they feel more like aspects of your personality than true “skills.” However, you would be surprised how some of the motivated skills you possess may seem quite out of reach for others. Though perhaps surprising, the following are all transferable skills that can be improved or capitalized upon in your professional life. Think about which ones you have, which you don’t, and which you want to become more skilled in:

  • Responding appropriately to and/or providing feedback
  • Perceiving nonverbal messages
  • Anticipating problems before they occur
  • Setting clear goals and objectives
  • Formulating questions
  • Developing rapport
  • Approaching new situations and challenges with confidence
  • Empathizing
  • Being patient
  • Managing conflict
  • Conducting meetings
  • Identifying people who can contribute to solutions of problems or tasks
  • Being punctual
  • Working effectively under pressure
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Giving praise and credit to others for a job well done
  • Developing and sticking to a budget

Reflect upon which skills you are already confident in, which you plan to work on during your time as a law student, and which you could and would want to talk about effectively in writing and via interviews when pursuing employment opportunities. You can absolutely be intentional about honing your skills and seeking out opportunities to do so through classes, extracurricular activities, volunteer and internship positions, and independent pursuits.

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