A Lawyer's Many Paths to Success

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Successful lawyers tend to work long hours and are focused and passionate about what they do. But the billable hour is only a method of accounting; it is not the reason for burning the midnight oil.

Our success as lawyers comes from loving what we do, from wanting to help people and from needing to take care of our families and ourselves. But in the effort to excel, made more intense by the pressure of economics, trying too hard to succeed can cause problems for attorneys who cannot see that their striving for success has become counterproductive.

In this context, how can lawyers become more successful in their practices? The answer may lie not in earning more money or racking up more billable hours, but in moving one's professional life down as many of these paths as possible:

  • Do what you love. Passionate, satisfied attorneys perform better, deliver higher quality legal services and get better results for their clients. They feel better about their career and themselves. Attorneys who are not happy need to re-focus.

  • Put the client first. In any successful business, the customer is No. 1. For lawyers, that means treating every client like their only client. Clients are primarily concerned about the commitment of their attorney to their matter and the corresponding relationship. Grateful and appreciative clients will always be there when that attitude is genuine.

  • Think like an owner. With this mindset, everything that occurs in the firm's day-to-day operation is your responsibility. Your actions should be based on keeping clients and increasing the firm's revenues and profits, a sure recipe for personal success.
  • Be a problem-solver. Instead of just reacting, look ahead for solutions. Too many good attorneys are so busy with immediate concerns that they are unable to look for ways to anticipate problems.

  • Never stop learning. Successful lawyers always continue their education and take more than the minimum CLE requirements. It is impossible to know everything in any one field, but you must continue to update old thinking and learn new trends.

  • Develop business competency. It's important to speak the language of business clients, not only offer shallow chit-chat about the family or golf. Advice from a lawyer who knows the client's business and industry builds trust and confidence.

  • Treat colleagues as clients and integrate your practice with others in the firm. An outstanding and underused source of new business is your own colleagues and the variety of relationships that they have with the outside world. The more people have a stake in your success, the greater it will be.

  • Make yourself invaluable by going the extra mile and providing a service that clients feel they must have. Suggest articles or webinars on new business trends and don't charge for it. When you become truly invaluable to a client, you will always compete successfully for their business.

  • Treat everyone with civility and respect. This applies to clients, colleagues and contacts, alike. The truly successful person never has to worry about the comments made by others when out of earshot.

In the past the Wisconsin Journal articles haven't been the same as the Coach's Corner Articles. In the future, I'll try to get the Coach's Corner articles before I send the Wisconsin Journal Articles to you.

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