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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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