“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln
By and large, lawyers take their fair share of bashing from mainstream media. After all, many successful movies and novels revolve around lawyers failing to pay their taxes, acting irresponsibly, betraying the trust of their clients, ripping people off or “chasing ambulances” in an attempt to milk as much money as possible out of unfortunate situations.
As a lawyer, what can you do to avoid getting tossed into the stereotypes? What habits should you adopt at your firm? How should you treat your clients? What types of pro-bono work should you consider?
1. Be up-front. One of the biggest concerns about lawyers is that they’re sneaky. As a lawyer, you have the responsibility of being frank and candid to both the court and your clients. Apply these concepts throughout your practice as well as your life.
2. Have integrity. Integrity needs to be the mainstay of your firm. Integrity will put the higher good above your self-interest. Integrity will prevent you from becoming involved in blame-shifting, finger-pointing and saving face. Rather, integrity will hold you accountable to your words and ensure you take responsibility for your actions.
3. Stay grateful and humble. If you’ve had the opportunity to go to law school and work in a firm, consider yourself blessed. You’ve been entrusted with the extraordinary task of assisting clients every day. Remember that it’s a privilege, not a right, to help people in their most difficult times.
4. Be diligent. There’s no doubt about it – you have a hard job to do. Step up to the plate, take a deep breath and take a swing. Follow through with your word. If you told a client you’d dig into a problem, do it, and follow up with the results.
5. Take on pro-bono cases. While the “not-getting-paid” thing might be a turnoff for some lawyers, pro-bono cases are some of the most uplifting, enlightening cases you’ll take on in your career. Look for charities or nonprofit organizations that might need legal services, and offer your assistance.
6. Go above and beyond. Ask yourself, “What more can I offer my client? How can I step up and positively influence change in the world? What else can I do for my community? How can I lead by example to raise the standard for lawyers?”
By implementing these methods and skills into your firm and daily life, lawyers can help to raise the bar.