Soft Skills in a Hard World

September 23, 2019

Soft Skills in a Hard World

September Grand Valley State Alumni Spotlight by Emma Schrider

It’s easy to imagine being an attorney is just like what we see on Netflix, a daily experience of courtroom drama, successes achieved only with the perfect winning strategy. This pop culture image is powerful but after speaking with Josh Havens, attorney at law and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Traverse City alumnus, I’m no longer convinced of its absolute truth.

Havens spends his days helping healthcare providers and insurance policy holders navigate the difficult landscape of personal injury claims, adding a degree of much needed humanity to what can be a very trying experience for clients. Ultimately completing law school at Michigan State University, Havens values the focus and lessons learned from his undergraduate experience at GVSU. He finds that choosing the Integrative Studies program (previously known as Liberal Studies program), including courses addressing the immigrant experience and other sociological elements, helped with being culturally prepared for his work. 

“It’s not pro bono, but you do deal with all kinds of people and it helps to have an open mind.”

In addition to keeping an open mind, Havens places value in the quality of objectivity in an attorney. The idea that objectivity has a large part to play when two counselors oppose one another was a bit unexpected, but Havens explains that proper advocacy for his clients requires objectively evaluating everyone's interests at once. Legal situations can be very emotional for clients, and seeing the whole picture may not be something they are able to do.

“They need someone who can be that person,” he says. Havens views objectivity as a mental strength that GVSU helped him develop. Through his socially conscious coursework, he developed a sensitivity to a broader range of what people from different walks of life experience than he may otherwise have had, and asserts that his time at GVSU was a good precursor to law, and to life.

"The GVSU liberal studies program fostered my objectivity, open-mindedness, and willingness to step away from my own point of view. These skills, I believe, have been a great asset in my legal career."

 An undergraduate program with a sociology focus is not mandatory to enter the legal profession as an attorney, though the benefits of choosing Integrative Studies are far reaching in Havens career. He remarks that the culture of GVSU offered ample opportunity for open minded debate, creating experiences and values that he carried with him into his graduate law program.

“Now more than ever when people have a really hard time getting along, it’s important for people to disagree but still at the end of the day learn something from the process.”

Havens commitment to advocacy and his resistance to the idea that all legal matters have to be a battle are admirable, as is his choice to prepare himself for a demanding profession by learning soft skills.


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Page last modified September 23, 2019