The legal profession is regarded as one of the most prestigious careers in the world. The expectation from the rest of society is, therefore, enormous as society expects every lawyer to be successful.
While some lawyers are super successful, the reality is that many lawyers struggle to build a successful legal career.
Learning to build a successful legal career is an art that must be grasped by any lawyer who wants to flourish and break-even in the business. Unfortunately, law schools do not teach the guidelines to attain that success. They are learned through experience and by concise observation and study of the ways of successful lawyers.
The following are some tips for attaining the required success expected of every lawyer.
These days, so many young lawyers coming out fresh from law school are so much in a hurry to open their own law office. The question is. ‘What does a greenhorn fresh from Law School know about law practice’?
Except for those who’ve had the privilege of working in a law firm or the court as clerks and registrars, and are familiar with everyday law practice, a new lawyer just called to the Bar knows little to nothing about law practice.
So instead of groping in the dark to find your way, you can develop your legal career by understudying an experienced senior lawyer in record time. According to William Somerset Maugham:
“You learn more quickly under the guidance of experienced teachers. You waste a lot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one to guide you”,
Reputation is highly valued in the law profession. Once a lawyer ruins his reputation, it will be difficult to recover the same. Lawyers who start their legal career by opening their private law offices immediately after law school learn slowly on their own. It was Anthony Froud who observed that:
“Experience teaches slowly and at the cost of mistakes.”
Lawyers who do not go through pupillage under an experienced lawyer are bound to make a lot of mistakes in their practice. These mistakes come at a very high cost to the clients.
Once you start your legal career with costly avoidable mistakes, your clientele with gradually disappear like mist in the morning sun as none of them will want to give you a second chance.
In many jurisdictions, lawyers are not allowed to advertise. So without advertisement, how will people know what you have to offer? The best way to promote yourself without infringing on the rules of professional conduct is to socialize.
Now a legal career can be a very lonely vocation. Apart from the psychological satisfaction that comes from socializing with other members of society, it is also the right way for people to get to know you.
The most successful lawyers are also members of elite sporting and social clubs, where they meet other elites in society. So when those elites have a legal problem, who do you think they will call? Your guess is as good as mine.
So join social, religious, and sporting clubs and introduce yourself as a lawyer. You will be their first consideration when the time comes.
Most, if not all, successful lawyers have extensive networks. To be successful, you need to spread your net. Networking with other people in the profession brings you up to speed with the latest trends in the business.
There are so many professional legal organizations out there. Join as many as you can, and gain valuable knowledge and information.
Lawyers can handle virtually any kind of legal matter. As long as the fees are reasonable, most lawyers will take the job. Very few lawyers specialize in a particular field. Most lawyers see specialization as a way to limit their source of income.
But the truth is that law, like every other profession, is undergoing a radical transformation.
More and more lawyers are opting to focus their attention on a particular area of law. One of the advantages of specialization is that you become an authority and expert.
As an authority in a particular area of law, you learn to deliver on time, and your margin of error will be minimal. You will stand out and be the first port of call for those who have legal issues in that area.
A successful lawyer can build a legal career by focusing on one or a few areas of law, and when a big client comes into town with an issue in those areas, that lawyer is likely to come highly recommended.
Acquire The Necessary Tools.
There is no successful lawyer who does not have adequate tools and technology for his trade. The following are the essential tools for a lawyer.
Well Equipped Library: A well-equipped library is one excellent asset that sets successful lawyers apart from struggling ones. An investment in law books and materials will keep you ahead of the rest.
Today we are lucky to have electronic libraries, which make research much more accessible.
Basic Office Equipment: Having some necessary office equipment will help you deliver on time. Apart from quick delivery, those who lack essential office equipment, and depend on outside business centers expose their works and jeopardize their documents to security breaches.
It is unthinkable that some lawyers at this time and age do not have a personal laptop where they create and store relevant documents.
Closely related to having essential tools is the way you dress. Without mincing words, FIRST IMPRESSION, and subsequent impressions matter.
If you know the number of lawyers who have lost important clients and briefs by not creating an excellent first impression, you will then understand the importance of putting up a good appearance.
No client will give you brief worth millions when you adorn yourself with torn apparels. Most clients will think twice to part with their money when your office looks shabby and unkempt.
A Car is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Get one if you can, it will pay you in the long run. Having and moving around in a car makes you appear as a successful lawyer. Experience has shown that clients prefer a lawyer with a successful legal career to those who appear to be struggling.
People are not in your head to assess your knowledge of the law. The first thing they see and consider is your appearance.
One thing with successful lawyers is their tendency to continually update their knowledge of the law by enrolling and applying for courses, lectures, seminars, and workshops on new trends in the profession.
Unfortunately, many lawyers view these continuous courses and lectures as a total waste of money. But how wrong they are. What Edward Gibbon said about human beings is also true when it comes to the law profession. According to him:
“All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.”
It is, therefore, not uncommon to see lawyers who are still stuck on medieval laws and practices. So, do not be left behind. Regularly update your knowledge and skills.
There are so many ways in which a lawyer can do this. More and more doors are opening for lawyers, and only those with the necessary skills can take advantage of them.
There is no doubt that the get-rich-quick syndrome has gradually entered the law profession. There is a temptation to cut corners to be considered successful.
Sadly, many lawyers have in the process of making it big, found themselves in hot waters, and have lost it all by having their names struck off the list of lawyers.
It doesn’t matter if you are a junior or a senior lawyer, a compromise in the standards of the profession will one day catch up with you.
Having A Passion Is Better Than Having A Good Degree.
Your class of degree does not matter. If you lack the passion for legal practice, then forget it. A law practice can be tedious, especially at the early stages. So when things get tough, it is only your passion that will keep you going.
Some people have argued that to fasten your success journey, a good degree from a reputable school is a sine qua non. Now, apart from the advantage of working in a respectable law firm, a good law degree has little or nothing to do in determining your success in law practice.
Look around you, cases abound of very successful lawyers who did not go to the so-called prestigious schools, nor came out with good law degrees, but who’ve made a name for themselves in the profession.
While going to prestigious schools and having good law degrees are good, having a passion for excelling in the profession is paramount.
Learn To Collect Your Fees.
Learning to collect your professional fees is one of the essential tips for being a successful lawyer. Except you are doing pro bono cases, a lawyer must learn how to charge proper fees, and also know how to collect them for your services.
This tip is crucial because if you follow all the other tips and do not charge correct fees or know how to collect them, then you are going to be one miserable lawyer.
Look around you, there are many lawyers grounded in the principles and practice of law, but who find it challenging to live decently.
Like many successful lawyers will say, knowing the law is one thing, but knowing how to charge and collect your fees is quite another. Therefore knowing how to get your fees is an art that every lawyer who wants to be successful must possess.
A successful lawyer does much more than representing clients in court and preparing legal documents. Therefore do not restrict yourself to these two areas.
Try your hands on other areas that interest you. For example, you can learn how to make money from legal writing; you can start a blog and sell legal e-books.
Most successful lawyers do not have one source of income. In some jurisdictions, lawyers do not practice law and do other businesses at the same time.
But successful lawyers have a way around this. They take advantage of different financial investments like stocks, Treasury bills, and other types of money market investments.
The stock market is a great investment platform for lawyers because expert financial investors trade with your money while you reap the dividends.
Don’t Neglect Your Health.
Your health is undoubtedly the most valuable resource you have. We have seen so many brilliant lawyers who’ve been cut down in their prime because they neglected their health.
According to the BBC, a recent poll of junior lawyers suggested that about 93% of participants experienced distress in the last month, and 19% had felt unable to cope.
Do not allow any matter, no matter the stake, to make you compromise your health. It is not worth it. The day a lawyer falls sick or dies, the owner(s) of the case will immediately take the file to another lawyer, and the matter will go on without you.
Some lawyers decline briefs, not because they are not fat briefs, but because they know some cases will stress them and take away their peace of mind.
Law practice is very stressful. Lawyers practically carry other people’s problems on their heads. When you allow these stresses to accumulate, it will have negative consequences on your health. So find time to relax and detox.
Below are some ways to relax.
Exercise – Law practice is a sedentary profession. Lawyers sit for long hours in court. And when they are not in court, they spend long hours researching and writing briefs in the office.
Many lawyers who do not find time to exercise have fallen sick due to this prolonged inactive lifestyle.
Watch an excellent legal movie – Movies are great ways to relax. The experience is even better when it is a law movie. There are many good law movies out there that will entertain as well as educate you at the same time.
Read other books – Drop your law books sometimes and enjoy novels, articles, and magazines. A successful lawyer should have a vast knowledge of different spheres of life.
In conclusion, be patient. Success does not come overnight. It is the product of a conscious and deliberate hard work.