Professional New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 by

Megan Watson and Judy Stouffer, The Legal Intelligencer (online)

It’s Jan. 2 and some of us probably made, and already broke, New Year’s resolutions. Since we will very likely never maintain our personal New Year’s resolutions (you know, all that good stuff about exercising, eating right and taking time for ourselves), here are our professional New Year’s resolutions. Feel free to do as we will, which is cut them out and stick them next to our computer screens so that we never forget.

•    Do not work for free (unless it qualifies under the second resolution below). What we do as lawyers is valuable and important and we deserve to be paid; just as doctors, photographers and plumbers get paid upon services being rendered, so should we.

•    Do choose to work for free sometimes. Pro bono work is so crucial to the continued value of our judicial system. Justice is not only for those who can afford it. So resolve to take a pro bono case, or two or three, this year.

•    Do not represent clients you do not believe in. If you don’t trust your client, or support their cause, or believe what they are doing is right, don’t represent them. Why sacrifice your own values for someone who is in and out of your life? You need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every morning and be happy with who you are. Sleeping peacefully at night is important too.

•    Do treat each client as if they are your only one. You know, and they know, they are not, but making a client feel important and heard – from the pro bono client to the corporate executive – should provide for a more tolerant reception when you must deliver news they don’t necessarily want to hear. Respect begets respect.

•    Do not grandstand for your client. Always think before you speak. Needlessly berating the other side either in writing or in person is unjust and unprofessional. The best compliment you can receive is a referral from an opponent.

•    Do turn the other cheek. When your adversary acts inappropriately, there are ways of calling it to their attention that don’t involve reducing yourself to their level. Document the incident by adding a note to your database for future reference – venting, in this form of writing, can be very therapeutic.

•    Do not forgo a daily to do list. Anticipating and handling deadlines in advance of their due date beats having to handle every task as though you are putting out a fire. This goes hand in hand with asking for help when necessary.

•    Do expand your network of resources. Making time for professional association activities, board service or even volunteering can gain allies, and even clients.

•    Do not forget common courtesy, whether it’s with a staff interruption or your significant other calling at the most inopportune time. Routine “pleases,” delivered with, “I have to get my response to the opponent’s idiotic letter to the judge right away” or, “I really need you to start dinner tonight,” and “thank yous” once the task is complete can garner consistent support whenever help is needed.

And last, but not least:

•    Be happy in what you do. We have always believed that if you love what you do, then those around you (co­-workers, clients and even your family) benefit. If you don’t like what you do, that usually results in curt conversations and cranky interactions. So, resolve to find something this year that you love, that makes you happy and you look forward to doing, each and every day.

Reprinted with permission from the JANUARY 2, 2014 issue of THE LEGAL INTELLIGENCER (online). © 2014 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved.

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