By Davida Ademuyiwa.
It goes without saying that without advanced communication skills in English, your career prospects as a legal professional in the global legal business arena are limited.
All over the world, there is a known but often unspoken phenomena, that links upward social mobility with your ability to communicate effectively in the English Language; the better you speak it, the higher up in society you go.
Out of 195 countries in the World, 67 of them speak English, is it any surprise why the English language is often a compulsory subject in most national educational curricula?
And according to Lord Denning, English judge and Master of the Rolls. "To succeed in the profession of law, you must seek to cultivate command of language. Words are the lawyer's tools of trade". But which language?
Fluency in the English language means access to more opportunities, better and higher paid jobs, being able to enrol as a member of an exclusive global workforce, working for global companies and the opportunity to do business with most of the world.
The English language is a passport that can get you into many countries, a key that can unlock many doors of opportunities and it has also been the stairway to success for many.
English is the language of social and economic mobilisation and a great way to fulfil your potential as a legal professional and secure the financial security and future for your family too.
When people hear this, they automatically think that they need to learn more English, but does learning English as a language increase upward social mobility by itself?
I’m afraid not.
One needs to move beyond learning English as a language and progress on to learning English as a skill.
What does it mean to learn English as a skill?
Let me use the example of swimmers to illustrate what I mean.
There is a big difference between an amature leisurely swimmer and an Olympic swimmer, wouldn’t you agree? Although they are both swimmers, the Olympic swimmer has developed aptitude and skills that clearly distinguishes them from the amature leisurely swimmer. The amature swimmer may continue to learn how to swim using the normal approach, but it would never make them an Olympic swimmer no matter how long they stick to using it, would it?
Now that’s the mistake most people make.
To successfully compete in the Olympics, they will have to learn how to swim using a different approach, an approach that will help them adopt the right mindset, the right lifestyle and develop the right skills for the game.
It’s this that places them in a different class of swimmers. It is the development of the mindset, aptitude and skills that allows the Olympic swimmer to become a recognised player in the global arena.
Now, think about this for a moment: every native English speaker can speak English, but can every native English speaker chair a meeting, speak publicly, write a report, write a book or negotiate a business deal?
Before they can successfully do any of this, they would have to use a different approach. They will have to develop the mindset, aptitude and communication skills to perform these functions in English, thus the concept, learning English as a skill.
Now, if you’re still trying to learn English as a language but not learning it as a skill, you‘re using the wrong approach and won’t be able to achieve your professional goals. You’ll never gain the mastery or competencies needed to function in the competitive legal business arena.
It’s those who learn English as a skill that excel at what they do. It is this, that will distinguish you.
So, you need to choose the right approach, one that will help you: upskill and make the transition from being an average everyday communicator in English to being world-class, so you can achieve your career goals.
Now, let me share the 3-step approach to help you accelerate your legal career and fulfil your potential as an International legal professional as it relates to developing advanced communication skills in English:
#1. Reposition Yourself to Become An Authority (Build Credibility and Respect)
First, you build a world-class professional profile and positioning as you work on building credibility and respect by becoming an authority in your field. You become a thought leader and influencer so that you can stand out in the international marketplace.
At the same time you also position yourself as the Go-to-expert at work and prepare yourself to navigate the international legal business environment with confidence and greater ease so that you can build rapport and work effectively with your foreign English speaking clients, colleagues and audiences, and achieve your professional or business goals fast.
Your positioning and authority is what will distinguish you from the rest at work in your field, it's your bridge and passport to professional success. Unless you master how to put your best self forward, and not only work hard, but smart, nothing really changes for you.
Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, have fulfilled her potential as a legal professional, if she had not stepped out of her comfort zone and the limitations of a job, and its description, to fight for the things she cared about and be a known as influencer and authority who not only impacted the legal world but the world at large?
Not only that, Ruth was known to have put forth the effort to sharpen her communication skills so that she could be a more persuasive and effective communicator, she also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of effective communication in the legal profession.
#2. Strengthen Your Core Communication Competencies
Second, you work on building your core communication competencies in the following areas:
a) Acquire Deep Cultural Knowledge
You work on acquiring a deep understanding of the professional English business culture, this will give you the skills required to decode the cultural nuances, or undertones, that come natural to native speakers of English, so that you are no longer an outsider and can truly enjoy the benefits of being included in legal business and other English conversations at high levels.
b) Build Strong Language Skills
You work on your language skills and make the shift from vocabulary-poverty to vocabulary-affluence, this helps you to increase your fluency and help you to become more concise in English. You expand and refine your business English vocabulary (words, legal and business idioms, and phrasal verbs) and work on understanding and using expressions that native English speakers use.
c) Build Strong Articulation Skills
Then finally, you work on your pronunciation and intonation so that you can articulate words precisely and express yourself clearly so that you can be easily understood and make a good impression.
#3. Build Effective Legal Business Conversation and Writing Skills
Third, you work on becoming an effective legal business communicator in English.
a) Build Effective Legal Business Conversation Skills
You build a robust repertoire of phrases and skills that will help you increase your versatility and confidence to participate in, and navigate a range of formal and informal legal business scenarios, such as: casual conversations with colleagues , networking with clients, explaining, reporting, giving advice, persuasion, negotiation and presenting in an international environment. Then you hone your verbal skills so that you can continue to put your best self forward as you communicate, fluently, confidently, persuasively and concisely in virtual meetings or face to face.
b) Build Effective Legal Business Writing Skills
You develop your legal business writing skills so that you increase your productivity and optimise your time while writing, and build skills that will increase your confidence to initiate and respond to a range of formal and informal legal business situations, when communicating in writing.
In essence, you build your professional profile and develop skills that will help take your legal business communication to world-class level, in a way that will raise your credibility as an expert in your workplace and build respect in the industry. This will boost your job performance, increase your perceived value at work, accelerate your progress and distinguish you as a world-class legal professional in the global market.
About the Author
Davida Ademuyiwa is the founder of Elitely Speaking. She is a communication expert and profile-building strategist for ambitious lawyers and legal professionals.
She helps them ace their job interviews, improve their job performance, accelerate their careers globally, in the legal business world, and fulfil their potential as international legal professionals through advanced communication skills in business English and profile-building.
Davida has a background in law and is a British politician. She is also the author of “Accelerate Your Legal Career Internationally”.