Things to do Today to be a Better Lawyer
The beauty and the curse of being a solo-practitioner is that you are your own boss. You have the freedom and flexibility to practice in the areas that interest you, to take the clients and cases that you want, to brand yourself and your firm in the way that you believe will be most effective and to work from home in your pajamas if you so choose. One downside is that you may never get a written performance review from your supervisor, a promotion or a fancy new job title. Once you’ve found steady footing in your practice, you may feel as though your career has plateaued and you have no upward mobility. This is especially true when your non-lawyer spouse, friends or family members are rising through the ranks in their respective careers.
So, how can you keep climbing the ladder? Here are three things that you can do today to make yourself a better lawyer:
Reflect on your Goals
Have you defined your short-term and long-term professional goals? If you have, how are you measuring up? Do you need to refocus your direction to make those benchmarks attainable? What little steps can you take today, this week, or this month to ensure that you are consistently striving towards meeting your goals? Take a moment to reflect on your goals and what you can be doing to reach them.
If you haven’t set goals for yourself, sit back and think about what you want to accomplish. Start big – what’s your long-term vision for your career? Maybe you want to want to be a preeminent lawyer in a certain practice area, argue a case before the Supreme Court, or grow your business in to a large law firm someday. Perhaps you have a dollar figure in mind for your firm’s worth or your annual salary. However you measure your success, figure out what you want to achieve. After all, unless you are occasionally doing some “big picture” thinking, you’re likely unknowingly missing the forest for the trees.
Once you know what you want to achieve, break things down into simple, bite-sized pieces and spread them out across a reasonable time frame. Don’t be embarrassed to make a list and put it somewhere visible. You can’t expect to be regarded as the best in your field overnight, but you can look for opportunities to learn, teach and write today.
Ultimately, the simple act of setting goals and regularly checking in on your progress will certainly make you a better lawyer.
The law is a beautiful thing. It is constantly evolving. Its dynamic nature allows anyone to be on the cutting edge of a new development. It doesn’t take any special skill to be up to date on current events. Take a few minutes to read a new case, proposed rule changes or recent legislation within your practice area. Informed lawyers make the best lawyers.
If you’re fresh off of a CLE and feeling pretty well versed on the recent developments in the law, check in on other topics that could improve your practice. This could be anything from new technology to simplify your practice to the top ten vacation spots for stressed out lawyers. The simple act of taking a few minutes to read the ideas of other lawyers could change your thinking in big ways, such as how you approach a legal argument, advise clients, or market your firm. Even if you don’t read anything revolutionary today, taking a step away for a few moments to see what’s going on in the legal profession as a whole will make you a better lawyer.
Reach out to a colleague that you haven’t spoken with in a while. Meet someone new. Network. Set up a coffee, lunch or after work drinks. Connecting with other lawyers can be mutually beneficial for each of your businesses and there are plenty of reasons why. The most obvious is that you may be able to pass along referrals with one another. Referrals aside, the legal profession is about providing the best legal services to obtain the best possible outcomes for our clients. Staying isolated from other attorneys disadvantages you and your clients. Plus, who wants to sit alone at those day-long CLEs? Connecting with another attorney will literally take you 15 minutes or less. And surrounding yourself with a powerful network will certainly make you a better lawyer.
So there you have it. It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Becoming a better lawyer requires only three simple steps that you can take today: set goals, read and connect. So let's get started!
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success.