Good lawyers have mastered and understand the analytical and communication skills taught in law school, but great lawyers build upon this foundation by continuing to develop traits and skills for success. Here are five tips to help good lawyers enhance client outcomes and excel within their profession.
Lawyers cannot be effective advocates unless they are first willing to perceive and analyze problems from all angles. Lawyers must discern strong claims from weak; urgent concerns from long-term; and large issues from small. A lawyer who adopts the tone of an emotionally-charged client risks alienating the court and jury.
The need for honesty begins at the initial client consultation. The best lawyers help clients set realistic goals by presenting a clear picture of the litigation process and potential legal outcomes. At the close of a case, the clients who are most likely to be satisfied are those who, with the assistance of counsel, maintained reasonable expectations throughout the process.
Lawyers should exercise good judgment in anticipating and preparing for each client’s next steps. Too many hearings are won or lost based on an attorney’s level of preparation, rather than the merits of the case. Even in the absence of an upcoming courtroom appearance, lack of preparation may leave one side without the ability to properly analyze a settlement offer before it is revoked.
Seemingly small legal issues, such as the proper timing and method for service of process or the rules established by a particular courtroom, can significantly impact a client’s rights. Develop the ability to recognize these issues. Then, set aside sufficient time to address them. A lawyer’s brilliant legal arguments may never see the light of day if the finer details of the case are not addressed.
Know Your Limitations
The best lawyers are self-aware. No matter the financial incentive to accept all new cases and opportunities, lawyers need to recognize the limits on their time and skills, as well as the limits on the time and skills of their staff and colleagues. It will sometimes be necessary to associate with other counsel or refer potential clients to other well-qualified lawyers.