July 22, 2014

Coach’s Corner: What Is a Successful Lawyer?

Develop the Right Perspective

Successful lawyers tend to work long hours and are focused and passionate about what they do. But in the effort to excel, made more intense by the pressure of economics, trying too much to succeed can cause problems for lawyers. Those who don’t have the right perspective can see their striving for success become counterproductive.

Our Success Motivation

Success is not just a matter of hard work – the thought of 2,000 or more billable hours a year proves that. But the billable hour is only a method of accounting; it is not the reason for working long hours. Our success motivation comes from loving what we do, from wanting to help people and from needing to take care of our families and ourselves.

A Checklist for Success

So, in this context, what is a successful lawyer? The answer lies, not in earning more money or racking up more billable hours, but in moving your professional life down as many of these paths as possible.

  • Do what you love. Passionate, satisfied attorneys perform better, feel better about their careers and themselves. Attorneys who are not happy need to refocus.

  • Put the client first, by treating every client like your only client. Grateful and appreciative clients will always be there for a committed lawyer.

  • Think like an owner. Everything that occurs in the firm’s day-to-day operation important and a focus on increasing revenues and profits is a sure recipe for personal success.

  • Be a problem-solver. Instead of just reacting or being busy with immediate concerns, look ahead for solutions to future problems.

  • Never stop learning. That means going beyond the minimum CLE requirements and continuing to learn new trends and update old thinking.

  • Develop business competency so you can speak the language of your business clients. Presenting advice in this language builds the client’s trust and confidence.

  • Treat colleagues as clients and integrate your practice with others in the firm to benefit from the variety of relationships that they have with the outside world.

  • Make yourself invaluable to clients. If you go the extra mile, providing the service they need and anticipating their problems, you will always compete successfully for their business.

Treat Everyone With Respect

A final thought is implicit in traveling each path. Treat everyone – clients, colleagues and contacts alike – with the same civility and respect you wish to receive. The truly successful person never has to worry about the comments made by others when out of earshot.

Ed Poll is a nationally recognized coach, law firm management consultant, and author who has coached and consulted with lawyers and law firms in strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development for over twenty years. Ed has practiced law on all sides of the table and he now helps attorneys and law firms increase their profitability and peace of mind. He writes the LawBiz® Tips E-zine, where this post originally appeared on September 20, 2011.

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