The Three Most Ineffective Qualities Of A Successful Law Firm Professional

There is much analysis about what qualities create a successful lawyer. But, what about those traits that are overvalued, unwanted, or just plain annoying?

Considering the traditional, cliche reputation of lawyers, undoubtedly you have a few ideas already. So, let’s hop to our list.

Nosiness.

It’s wonderful to keep apprised of all the latest developments…. in law. But, it does not matter what gossip you overheard from the equity partner’s secretary.

Additionally, attorneys and law firm professionals are often privy to a variety of private information about clients via the discovery process. Consider the ethical oaths you took as an attorney, and refrain from circulating (even among your team) the scathing photo (Doc#10000003) of that high-profile client.

First year associates, especially, may be tempted to pry personal information from more senior attorneys. However, hearsay won’t help you better understand office dynamics, and it certainly won’t advance your career.

Instead, you’ll be branded a gossip or snoop—the person who is now, suddenly, last to know items like, who recently quit, who is a closet Trekkie, and also, incidentally, the time of today’s case meeting (oops…).

Ironically, if you fall victim to business busybody syndrome, you won’t be the one to get the last laugh.

Favoritism.

When you conduct that extra hour of research for a friend’s case instead of working on your own, you thought of it as a favor—a gesture of goodwill that will one day get repaid.

Alas, law firms don’t operate like the mafia. Favors between colleagues not only mess with the efficiency of the firm and its allocation of casework, but they also undermine the firm’s chain of command.

Next thing you know, Jack has heard about that “little extra on the side” you did for Jane, and he believes he deserves the same special treatment. Your reputation will degrade from respected and hardworking to unbusy and unfair.

Furthermore, you may be doing a favor for a single individual, but you’re not doing any favors for the firm.

Time must get billed to the client, who won’t recognize your name on his statement and will most likely inquire as to why a strange attorney billed $300 per hour for “conducting research re: subject; conferred with counsel.” And, your supervisors will wonder the same thing.

Plus, if there are ever problems concerning your casework, the senior partner will wonder why you spent an hour nosing your way into other matters instead of proofreading work for your own.

Avoid costly repercussions by seeking approval for all unassigned tasks.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Reticence.

When was an attorney ever thanked for his modesty? In and outside the courtroom, lawyers are appreciated their analytical ability, legal aggressiveness, and successful execution of assignments.

The lawyer who stays silent and passes off credit to his colleagues is one who won’t last long.

The old adage, give credit where credit is due holds true. When you complete a project successfully or go above and beyond on a task, don’t hide it. Your superiors are busy and cannot always monitor associates’ every move. Demonstrate how and where you are a value add to the firm by writing a summary e-mail of your success or arranging a meeting.

In the same way, speak up when you have an idea. No matter how outlandish it may seem in your head, the only way innovative ideas get written on paper is through persuasive speech, to start.

Unlike other professions, the legal industry rewards direct and candid communication.

In the current recession, lawyers are fraught with myriad professional pressures. So, lighten the load. Leave your burdensome curiosity, preferential treatment, and introverted self at home.

-WB

Read 3 Geeks And A Law Blog’s Elephant Post on “What Is The Least Important Trait To Have In Your Profession?” here.

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