This post addresses the question of “What do I need do/what skills do I need to demonstrate to be a successful lawyer?”
1) Bring passion to their work
Top lawyers have combined what they are most talented at with what they have a passion for doing. And the key is they have found a way to bring their passion and talents while at the same time meeting the needs of clients.
LegalJob has repeatedly emphasized the importance of having an other-person centric mentality to help one achieve success. For example, superstar associates focus on addressing the client’s and partner’s needs, wants, quirks, and preferences. They are able to put themselves in the mind of the clients and the partners because they are constantly asking them what they want or learning what they are thinking about.
Consider how one can maximize being of service in the simple example of serving iced teas.
People have many different preferences when it comes to iced teas such that it behooves the waiter or waitress to ask about and understand these preferences rather than making dangerous assumptions. There are many opportunities to be of service here and just as many chances to foot fault. Consider the following example:
LegalJob was recently asked what makes a superstar associate. There are several items – sound judgment, the ability to present complex issues in a straightforward manner, etc. but one of the most important skills is the ability to give advice to partners and clients in a helpful manner. Follow the three keys below for best results:
- Understand that the value to your advice is not in direction but in information. So, the appropriate next step or “the answer” is not as helpful as providing sufficient and relevant information from which the person can make an informed, thoughtful decision.
- Listen more than you talk. When asked to offer advice, first do not offer advice. Listen and then listen some more. Before dispensing advice, ask questions to help you understand the problem and to help the person seeking advice understand the problem.
- Inform more than you advise. Do the work (such as reading and understanding the law and policy where statutes are ambiguous), be patient, and do not jump to conclusions. Then, provide value by taking the welter of considerations and sorting them out but stop short of making recommendations (unless and until asked).
Legaljob has previously posted advice for getting your dream legal job. Along similar lines, LegalJob was recently asked for advice about getting on the Hill. That advice seeker heard that it was difficult to land a job on the Hill and that it was all about whom you know. That is not Legaljob’s experience. For the candidate willing to put in the work and do the five steps below, landing a job on the Hill is quite possible. Note that the steps are iterative and work together and off each other.
Here is another useful article which provides a different way to think about networking. LegalJob agrees with the author about the importance of not tying networking to a specific work goal.
Instead, as LegalJob has previously posted, networking is just another opportunity to be of service to people. If your goal is merely to be helpful to people as suggested in the article, a likely by-product is that you will attract clients because of all the strong value you provide. It is a win-win once your goal is to help people regardless of whether they become clients.
LegalJob has posted before on four keys to effective networking. The idea is to first seek to provide value to the person with whom you are networking. Then help people help you by being specific about what you want, what you offer, and how they might help.
A refinement to this advice is to be able to say all those things in under 10 seconds. Here is a link to an article from a movie producer who provides some ideas on how one can accomplish this level of brevity for their company. This advice can easily be applied to marketing your legal expertise/practice.
According to the author, you start by identifying these four things. Read More…
The keys to getting your dream job is to deeply understand what draws you (by doing meaningful research and going through the process of asking yourself hard questions and answering them) and being of service to people currently working at your dream job. These three steps are elaborating on below:
Ask yourself hard questions.
- What are the kinds of clients/industries you want to help? What draws you those clients/industries? What experience do you have with those clients/industries?
- What are the issues that people working in these industries (business people and their advisors) spend their time thinking/worrying about? Are those the issues you want to spend your time thinking about? Do you have innovative ideas relating to these issues or the industries generally?
- What are of law is most relevant to the clients/industries you have identified?
- What about your background or interests makes you well-suited to work in these industries or with these clients? Read More…
This post continues the recent theme of examining the habits of superstar associates. The habit of being of service is so important it gets its own post. This habit incorporates other habits previously discussed on this blog including the value of deeply understanding your client’s business, learning to adapt, being vulnerable, and anticipating client needs.
What does it mean to have a mindset of being of service? Consider the following example from the book, “How to Sell a Lobster” by Bill Bishop. Bill describes a “basketball mind trap” and gives the example of a company that has been selling basketballs so long that the balls are all they think about. But, as the author points out, they are really in the business of helping those involved in the sport of basketball succeed. So, when their product is no longer popular, the company with a mindset of being of service thinks, “how else could I help basketball players?” Perhaps one could provide software for coaches, uniforms, new basketball courts, training videos, etc. The lesson is that the successful company is always focused on how the company can help its customers thrive.
Similar thinking shifts can be done for associates. The superstar associate has a mindset of “being of service” to clients (who are generally partners in the early years) because they understand the following:
This post is the second summarizing what ten big firm partners think contributed to their success as an associate. In their view (which LegalJob shares), one’s success as an associate depends on whether they have: (i) an insatiable thirst for knowledge; (ii) strong interpersonal communication skills; (iii) a high level of enthusiasm for their work; (iv) a partner’s mindset; (v) a long-term view; (vi) willingness to seek and take feedback; (vii) good judgment; (viii) a tendency to take ownership; (ix) a strong mentor; and (x) creative intelligence. This post describes the importance of having a partner’s mindset. Note that many of these items overlap.
One could write a book on this category (and one is coming) but for this post here is a summary. There are at least three ways to have a partner’s mindset: (i) have a big-picture focus, (ii) be the person that figures out what else should be done on the project and do it, and (iii) be intrapreneurial.
This article on Above the Law by a managing partner confirms the importance of being enthusiastic, one of the keys identified in an earlier post about how to be a superstar associate.