As we know, hard skills are skills that are usually specific to particular work, developed through training, and more easily defined and measurable, while soft skills apply to a range of work and are difficult to define and measure. Communication is a soft skill because it is an interpersonal skill that involves cooperating and collaborating with others.
Communication is key to clients being informed and, therefore, being able to consent. It also enables lawyers to have a cooperative and collaborative relationship with their clients in whatever dispute resolution process they are involved in. This is very important because certain dispute resolution processes such as negotiation and mediation provide clients more control and involve a significantly higher level of soft skills than does litigation. So, the more savvy that lawyers are on soft skills, the more their clients can benefit from facilitation and positive reinforcement from their lawyers along with their neutrals.
Soft skills are at the heart of alternative dispute resolution, especially negotiation and mediation, so the more efficiently, effectively, and ethically lawyers and others involved in the process cooperate, collaborate, and communicate, the more successful the outcome is likely to be. That is why I decided to share my view below on how to choose tools to improve remote communication.
Understand the Range of Technology Platforms and Tools
For better communication within the lawyer’s team and with clients, I believe that lawyers would benefit from doing what other dispute resolution practitioners should do, which is to understand the range of both the technology platforms available to their dispute resolution process, namely litigation, and the tools available to their practice as lawyers.
Because most technology is not designed for dispute resolution as a process, but rather any one or more of the primary functions of a practitioner, practitioners often find themselves having to integrate various third-party platforms and tools to automate or manage their process remotely and/or in person. This is least true of lawyers, as practice management platforms and other technology and tools have existed for quite some time. This has recently rapidly changed for other areas of dispute resolution, however.
I believe that lawyers should have basic mediation skills because lawyers have an important role in mediation by protecting their clie...
So, for lawyers, there is already a highly developed foundation of technology and tools available to better communicate with their team and clients. Some of these technologies and tools can also be applied by alternative dispute resolution practitioners with varying degrees of satisfaction, and there are already quite comprehensive platforms designed for such practitioners.
An important aspect of understanding the range of both the technology platforms and tools available for better communication is to think of the litigation or other dispute resolution process in terms of its primary functions common to such practitioners. Then, one can intelligently apply technology and tools to each function of the process.
Decide on Tools Based on Needs
How this looks can vary beyond the primary functions depending on the practitioners, whose processes can and do vary considerably. That variation goes far beyond whether the practitioner is working solely remotely or as a hybrid of both remote and in person.
Another consideration pertains to lawyers managing remote communication within their teams. To do so effectively, lawyers should understand how their team members prefer to communicate, since some may prefer messaging, such as email, others may prefer audio, such as phone, and still others may prefer video, such as Zoom.
As addressed in my Lawrina Blog articles, How to Communicate Effectively with Your Clients Remotely and Why Tomorrow’s Best Lawyers Should Have Basic Mediation Skills, communication, disclosure, technical support, agreement, flexibility, and alternatives are all important to and impact communication, so the lawyer who includes these considerations in their process will have better communication within their team and with clients.
Susan Andrews is Founder and Principal of Andrews Dispute Resolution. Susan is an Active Member of the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) and both a Member and Officer (Vice Chair) of its Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, a Life Fellow of the Kentucky Bar Foundation (KBF), an International Mediation Institute (IMI) Qualified Mediator, a Volunteer Mediator of the Fayette County District Court Small Claims Mediation Program, a Member of the American Bar Association (ABA), its Dispute Resolution Section, and its Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Task Force Working Group III, Guidance with Respect to Special Issues Relating to Private ODR, a Certified Dispute Resolution Analyst of NextLevel Mediation, an Associate Member of the International Council for Online Dispute Resolution (ICODR), an Individual Panel Member of ADR ODR International, and a Fellow of the World Mediation Organization.