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Tips For Building A Successful Legal Career



Law as a profession is regarded as one of the most prestigious careers in the world. The expectation from the rest of society is therefore enormous as every lawyer is expected to lead a successful lifestyle.

While some lawyers are super successful, the reality is that many lawyers struggle to make ends meet.

Learning to be successful in the legal profession is an art that must be learned by any lawyer who wants to flourish and break-even in the profession. Unfortunately, the guidelines to attaining that success are not taught in law school. 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.

Pupillage.

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 with a lawyer, or those who have worked in the court as clerks and registrars, and are familiar with everyday law practice, a new lawyer who was just called to the Bar knows little to nothing about law practice.

So instead of groping in the dark to find your way, it is easier to acquire the required skills under 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 one thing that is highly valued in the law profession. Once it is ruined, you will find it difficult to recover the same. Lawyers who start their own 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 practice 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.

Socialize.

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 advertise yourself without infringing on the rules of professional conduct is to socialize.

Now the law profession can be a very lonely vocation. Apart from the psychological satisfaction that comes from socializing with other members of society, it is also a good 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.

Network.

Most if not all successful lawyers have very large 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.

Specialize

Lawyers are trained to handle virtually any kind of legal matter. As long as the fees are good, most lawyers will take the job. Very few lawyers specialize in a particular field. This is so because 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 is drastically reduced. This will certainly get you noticed and make you the first port of call for those who have legal issues in that area.

Most of the successful lawyers and law firms are known to be experts in one or a few areas of law, and when a big client comes into town with an issue in those areas, these lawyers and law firms 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 most important tools for a lawyer.

  • Well Equipped Library: A well-equipped library is one great 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 easier.

Basic Office Equipment: Having some basic office equipment will help you deliver on time. Apart from quick delivery, those who lack basic 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 important documents.

Dress Well.

Closely related to having basic 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 good clients and briefs by not creating a good 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 lawyers who appear to be successful 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.

Update.

One thing with successful lawyers is their tendency to constantly 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. Constantly update your 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.

Don’t Compromise.

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. This is because 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 to excel in the profession is paramount.

Learn To Collect Your Fees.

This is one of the most important tips to being a successful lawyer. Except you are doing pro bono cases, a lawyer must learn how to charge good fees, and also know how to collect them for your services.

This tip is very important 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 difficult 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 collect your fees is an art that every lawyer who wants to be successful must possess.

Diversify.

Lawyers do 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.

Invest.

Most successful lawyers do not have one source of income. In some jurisdictions, lawyers are barred from practicing law and doing other types of business at the same time.

But smart 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.   

This is certainly the most important. 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. This is because lawyers practically carry other people’s problems on their heads. When you allow these stresses to accumulate, it will certainly 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 a good legal movie – Movies are great ways to relax. The experience is even better when it is a legal movie. There are many great legal 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.

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