Having the long view

LegalJob was asked about what it takes to be a successful attorney.  This post focuses on one important quality that should help toward that pursuit --- having the long view mindset.  In other words, do not look for the short-term payoff in the things you do for yourself or for others because it is not likely that there will be one.  For example, you may have to invest many years working on your writing and speaking skills before you can carry the confidence of a so-called expert in your field.  The investment in yourself is worth it even though the acknowledgement from the world or your colleagues may be delayed.  Below are three tangible steps to take toward being successful in the law with the long view in mind:

  1. Brush up on your writing and speaking skills at every opportunity.
    • Write articles in journals covering your area of law.  Write articles in industry publications.  Write memos to the client.  Write status memos to partners.  Consider turning long e-mails into memos.  Ask for specific feedback on writing projects.
    • Take writing classes.  Hire a coach.  Enroll in a program.
    • Speak at bar events either as a panelist or a moderator.  Speak at client industry events.  Make presentations at firm lunches.
    • Take speaking courses.  Hire a coach.  Enroll in a program (i.e., Dale Carnegie course).
  2. Constantly hone your abilities in your substantive legal specialty
    • Seek advice from an experienced mentor that has been practicing 20+ years.
    • Take PLI and similar type courses and attend conferences even if you do not need CLE credit.
    • Start a group/Join a group discussing current topics in your area of law.
    • Seek insight from a thoughtful, former (or any) professor who enjoys discussing hot topics in the area.
    • Follow relevant blogs from experts and think tanks.
  3. Learn the business of every client for whom you work
    • The key is to develop clients for life not just during the term of the project.  Even if you are not successful with every client, it is good practice to:
      • Know the history and culture of the client, including the current and former principals of the business and their personalities and interests.
      • Understand the client's industry, its competitors, and threats.
      • If possible, visit the client (even if at your own expense) to see how widgets or made or their service is provided.  Get your hands dirty to the extent possible.

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