How to be a lawyer requires that you are polite to everyone! Perhaps you think a law license allows you to be rude to other people… let me assure you it does not and being rude will only work against you.
Obviously you have to be polite to any clients you meet, because they generate cash flow for the Firm. Further, they will discuss your performance with the law firm partners (your employers) and an unhappy client is an unhappy partner which could result in a situation where you are unemployed.
How to be a lawyer who is successful also requires that you be polite to the other associates at the firm. You will come across problems with matters you are handling and your partners will not have time to answer your questions. One of the most beneficial methods of solving a new legal problem is discussing the matter with other associates at your firm who may have some experience with related matters.
I recall one particular litigation matter where I wasn’t sure what direction to pursue, so I asked one of the other associates to assist. Luckily he had handled similar matters recently, and was able to point me in the right direction, advise of a couple of legal hurdles I was unaware of, and overall save me a few hours of work.
So as a general rule, once you actually start practicing law, a very important part of how to be a lawyer is to be friendly with the other associates of the same rank.
Guess who are the most important people working at your law firm who you should interact with politely? The paralegals, secretaries and other support staff who run the day to day operations of the law firm.
Why is this important? Lawyers must solve problems for clients, and the support staff is there to help you accomplish that goal. If you are rude they will find a way to frustrate your efforts which can hurt your productivity and your reputation in the firm.
Additionally, support staff are a great source of information that may benefit your career. I recall one instance when as a younger associate I learned from the managing partner’s head paralegal that I was losing my office and had to move into a smaller office. Or another time an administrative assistant informed me the firm was looking for a new associate and I was able to get a good friend hired at the firm.
Outside of your law firm, it is very important that you are polite to court staff (if you practice litigation), or agency/government employees (if you do transactional work). The reason for this is because these government workers control how quickly you can obtain information/reports/documents that you require to do your job as a lawyer. They are neutral to your problem, but if you are polite and generate a good rapport, it is much more likely that they will assist you and provide what you require in a short amount of time.
Another important consideration regarding how to be a lawyer is being polite to your adversaries (or attorneys on the other side of a transaction or lawsuit). If you are rude to them they will be less willing to settle matters, more willing to use ruthless tactics, and you WILL BE REMEMBERED.
I can recall the name and face of every lawyer who was rude to me… Perhaps our paths will cross again. Chances are they won’t remember me, however I will remember them.
Finally, think of how to be a lawyer as being a PROFESSIONAL, act like one and your law practice will be easier and more productive.
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