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IBA: Surviving in the Legal Practice

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By Sonia Munoz Gallagher

Time is constantly ticking isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem to get even faster when you walk into your office? Competition for solo practitioners and law firm associates is only getting tougher each month as more lawyers lose their jobs.

So, how can you stand out? How can you differentiate yourself, be profitable, and truly enjoy being a lawyer?

As lawyers, we often see clients with issues that could have easily been prevented. We can learn from their mistakes to avoid these issues for ourselves. Though some days may seem like the world is against you, there are specific things we should always keep in mind. If opposing counsel yells at you on the phone, your paralegal gives you an attitude, or a client refuses to pay for work you’ve already done, always remember these 6 rules for the firm.

These 6 rules enable you to get more work done, keep you from getting a bad reputation, and allow you to be a happier lawyer.

Listen. How often do you truly listen? Paying close attention to your colleagues and staff can give you a wealth of knowledge. It allows you to have your finger on the dial. You can find out about issues, concerns, and developments going on in your own practice. Don’t lock yourself up in your office. You can miss really important information about things going on around you. The information you miss can be incredibly helpful for your professional development, partnership potential, or change of employment.

Take a breath. We are known for liking to hear our own voices. Be careful not to say whatever pops into your mind, unless you want to take the risk of having to explain it later. This may happen at the worst possible time- like when you are up for a review or promotion to partnership. Think about the way you say things too.

Your beliefs become your reality. You are the captain of your own thoughts. The only thing in life that you have complete control over is your own thoughts. Yet, so many of us find it extremely difficult to control our thinking patterns. The easiest way to change this is to take 10 minute silence breaks each day. This can be done anywhere and at any time. Doing this frequently empowers you to be able to recognize negative thoughts for what they are, acknowledge and let them pass, and not be affected by them.

Patience is a virtue. Patience is one of the key elements to being an effective lawyer. After all, we work with a wide variety of cases and personalities each day. It’s easy to see how we can lose it at some point. Remember, you can be patient and strong. In the practice of law more than any other profession, it’s extremely important to keep your cool. Think about it. How quickly will you be at risk of losing a client or losing a case if you get affected by every little thing that people say or do to you? Don’t give anyone else that much control over you.

Lend a hand. Try not to be territorial in defining your work from the work of others around you. If you face an opportunity to be helpful, do it. Not only will it make you feel great to be useful, it reflects that you are willing to collaborate and go the extra mile- An attorney to watch come promotion time.

A moment. Sometimes the stress can get the best of us. The key thing to keep in mind when we face a difficult case, client, or situation is that it is only a moment in our life. Like all other moments, it too will soon pass. Remembering this can be the key to a profitable and balanced practice.

Apply these tips to your professional and personal life as often as possible. Before you know it they will become second nature and won’t require any effort from you at all.•

Sonia Munoz Gallagher, Esq. is an attorney, trainer, and executive coach for lawyers at Time for Life, LLC. She works with lawyers nationwide guiding them to steer the direction of their careers, be happier and more effective advocates, and get more clients, more profits, and more free time.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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