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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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