Survey Findings: Business Owners and CEOs are Confident with Company Growth and Legal Talent

As companies grow, so does the need for talented in-house legal professionals with both legal skills and soft skills.

A recent Special Counsel survey of business owners and CEOs revealed that business growth is a top priority in 2015, as 56% of respondents plan to expand product and service offerings to reach new customers.

The survey, which was conducted this summer and polled 500 U.S. business owners and CEOs, also showed that the majority (57%) of business leaders anticipate a need to increase salaries in the coming year to help attract and retain their top talent—including in-house legal professionals.

In addition to analyzing a legal candidate’s acumen, experience, skill set and salary expectations, an equally important aspect of hiring and retaining is to identify their soft skills, in order to ensure they will be a good fit for your organization. Why are soft skills, which focus on employees’ personalities, emotional intelligence and communication skills, so important to consider when adding to your legal team? 89% of hiring failures are a result of poor cultural fit, and replacing an employee costs approximately 20% of their annual salary.

Soft skills are partly intrinsic, but can also be learned. While they are not as tangible or black and white as numbers in a salary, they are perceptible. Soft skills also contribute to a strong component of your company’s culture—engagement. When engaged employees are 20% more productive than disengaged workers, the impact of these skills is amplified. They help foster positive communication and interaction among employees, and this produces high levels of engagement.

The following soft skills may differentiate candidates, from paralegals to senior-level attorneys, with long-term growth potential from those without—even though both may look equally qualified on paper. These are traits that can make or break an employee when confronted with an overwhelming workload, unclear direction or potential colleague conflict.

Here are four soft skills that every legal professional should have:

Independence: A legal professional that demonstrates the ability to independently manage their projects and workload is an enormous asset to your team and the entire company. Take note of resourceful candidates who will take the first step in answering a difficult question, or try to resolve a conflict before it becomes an issue.

Objectivity: As a successful legal professional, it is pivotal to look at situations logically and remain neutral. Conducting an analysis through an objective viewpoint—and leaving out politics, bias and persuasion—is crucial to determine the best possible approach.

Realism: A grounded, levelheaded candidate with the ability to take a step back, consider all factors in the situation, and determine the path to take can be an enormous asset to a strong legal team.

Sensitivity: Members of your team may come from many backgrounds and have different sets of experiences that influence the way they interact with each other, and it’s crucial that everyone is able to communicate respectfully. Make sure your new hire listens with an open mind, even if they do not always relate.

The Special Counsel survey also showed that CEOs and business owners trust their legal departments to steer them clear of trouble, with an overwhelming 87% believing their legal departments adequately inform senior management and executives of legal developments that could potentially affect business decisions.

So how do you maintain your top-notch legal department and continue to trust that they’ll keep you informed of important issues? Soft skills will be just as vital in the future as they are today. Review your existing legal team and determine whether each individual possesses the soft skills necessary to advance at your business. While accomplishments and job performance will remain an important part of employee assessments, soft skills should always be a top consideration as well.

Hungry for more industry insights? Our 2015 Legal Salary Guide goes right to the facts to help you find and hire the best talent in your market. Get a better view of what top legal professionals are looking for in their careers. 

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