Eight Paths to Greater Achievement

Published on 3/99

A recent survey of top lawyers revealed some important attitudes and beliefs about success. The lawyers defined success in these terms: Being well regarded by peers, being a rising star within the firm, advancing rapidly on the partnership track, and earning more income than law school classmates.

When asked to describe the reasons for their success, a core group of common denominators emerged from the lawyers' responses. What follows is a list of those contributing elements—the top eight requirements —to achieving success.

  • Find something you love to do. Passionate contented and happy attorneys perform better, deliver higher quality legal services and gets better results for their clients. In general, they feel better about their career and themselves. Attorneys who are not happy need to look elsewhere

  • The client comes first. There is one common truth associated with profitable, growing businesses of all types: The customer is number one. This belief or mindset means that you educate the client about the judicial system and the particulars of his or her matter, develop reasonable expectations in the client and then perform as though this were the only client you were serving. Clients today are not only concerned about "winning;" they are more concerned about the commitment of their attorney to their matter and their relationship with their attorney. Grateful and appreciative clients will always come knocking when this attitude is genuinely felt.

  • Think like an owner. Most attorneys are very hard working professionals. But, increasingly, many think like employees, merely punching their time card on a daily basis. Ask this question:"If I were the owner of this business, what would I do to improve this situation?" As an owner, everything that occurs in the day-to-day operation is your responsibility. Coupled with the attitude that the client comes first, your actions are now 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 to client problems. Too many good attorneys are so busy with immediate concerns that they cannot look forward for ways to solve future problems. Successful attorneys think about the long-term effects of actions taken now and in the future.

  • Never stop learning. Successful attorneys have always continued their education and currently take more than the minimum CLE requirements. It is impossible to know everything in any one field of endeavor, let alone everything that is contained in the vast and growing area of resources made available by books, the Internet, etc. To be successful, you have to continue to learn new information and update old thinking.

  • Develop knowledge of business. When an attorney seeks business clients, it's important to be able to speak their lingo. For example, if a client has a business problem, the attorney should have an intelligent conversation instead of shallow chit-chat about the family or the client's last golf game.

    Conversation and advice from an attorney that helps a client in his or her own business is usually well-received, and it also lets the client know that the attorney can see the entire impact of the current situation on the client's business. This builds trust and confidence in the attorney and creates referrals.

  • Treat partners as clients. Most large firms tend to be a conglomerate of sole practitioners. Unfortunately, the attorneys fail to really integrate their practices with others in the firm.

    An outstanding and too-often underused source of new business is your own partners and the variety of relationships that they have with the outside world.

    If you treat partners clients, they will respond better to help you build your area of expertise. The more people that are committed to your success, the faster will be your rise up its ladder.

  • Make yourself invaluable. Make a real difference in the lives of your clients. Go the extra mile and provide a service that client's feel they have to have. Know your clients' business and anticipate their future problems. When you become truly invaluable to a client, you will always compete successfully for their business.

    A Final Thought

    One bar association after another is developing standards of civility to which attorneys are being asked to subscribe. Perhaps number nine on our list should be that we treat everyone, our client, our adversary and the court, with the same respect and courtesy that we would like to receive.

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