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Eye on the Profession: Let’s take ‘good’ and make it even better in 2019

December 26, 2018

TrimbleThose of us who hold law degrees and practice law in some form are among the most fortunate folks in the world. We get to help people; we see and hear the most amazing stories; we meet characters of every description; and, if we are lucky, we make a living doing it. In most places, we are leaders in our communities.

As we go about the business of law, we can view what we do as a job, or we can view it as a calling. Either way is fine, but either way, we owe it to ourselves, our clients, and our profession to practice law the best we can. To those whom much is given, much is expected. We must recognize and shoulder the burden of being the best.

My pitch to you this week is simple. Let’s all break out of the daily routine in which we do things the same way every day. Instead, let’s be mindful of our niche in the law and resolve to practice law better. Let’s resolve to make our profession and our communities better.

In December of 2015, as I was ending my term as president of the Indianapolis Bar Association, I shared a column that contained my 2016 New Year’s resolutions. I tried valiantly to accomplish every one of them, but I would be lying if I told you that I did all of them. I have taken that list, eliminated a few, and added some new ones. I hope that a few of them will grab you and motivate you to make a good practice and a great profession even better. In no particular order, here you go:

• Take the time to read about our profession so that you stay abreast of change. (The best among us stay ahead of change.)

• School yourself on the problems in your community, and take steps help cure a problem.

• Take the time to get better organized and embrace technology.

• Be as businesslike as you can be. If you are a partner in a law firm, embrace all of your duties as a partner.

• Capture all of your time, and get your bills out on time. Stay on top of collections.

• Reach out to get to know someone new in your workplace and in the legal community.

• If you volunteer to do something, do it, and keep doing it.

• Write an article for a legal publication.

• Contribute to your firm newsletter, a bar association publication, or a community publication.

• Contribute to a firm community project or to the community projects of the bar or your non-legal organizations.

• Improve your health and fitness, and urge others around you to do the same.

• Diversify the circle of people with whom you go to lunch. (Or, if you are eating at your desk, get out and go to lunch with others now and then.)

• Once a month, call a friend from high school or college or law school and meet up with them.

• Be a better supervisor, mentor, manager, friend, spouse, parent ...

• Make every effort to be more responsive by timely returning calls and replying to texts and emails.

• Join and get more involved in a bar association, and encourage your friends and co-workers to do the same. (Firm leaders, please support the bar.)

• Be result-oriented in your case handling. Clients are paying you to solve problems, not bill hours.

• Implement a personal strategic plan and encourage your firm or your business or your court to do the same.

• Honor your commitments to your clients, your partners, your family and your associations.

• Move out of your comfort zone. Risk failure. Face your fears and conquer them.

• Learn what it means to be a better listener, and then attentively become one.

• Embrace and promote change.

• Work mindfully to recognize and understand your implicit biases, and then overcome the bad ones.

• Strive to bridge generational divides by seeking to understand another generation’s frame of reference and point of view.

• Acknowledge and credit your staff, your partners and your friends and family for what they do for you. (Do this daily!)

• Strive to be a problem solver.

• Work with a purpose.

• Do not harbor concerns and criticisms. Learn to tactfully address them

• Learn to accept criticism.

• Be open to the ideas of others.

• Strive to be innovative and creative.

• In this ever-changing world and ever-changing profession, strive to support diversity and to be inclusive.

• Be collegial. (It is less expensive for your clients, and it will reduce your anxiety level and let you live longer.)

• Park across the parking lot. Walk everywhere you can, and take the stairs more than once a week.

Have a great 2019! I will see you in the stairwell! #WILLYOUBETHERE?•

John C. Trimble (@indytrims) is a senior partner at the Indianapolis firm of Lewis Wagner LLP. He is a self-described bar association “junkie” who admits that he spends an inordinate amount of time on law practice management, judicial independence and legal profession issues. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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