July 13, 2012
No legal doctrine or rule of civil procedure ultimately matters except to the extent that they impact the lives of people. Opposing counsel, the courts and clients can be significant sources of stress, but they can also make the practice of law an immensely rewarding and enjoyable vocation. If you treat other counsel with respect, courtesy and honesty you will frequently find that they reciprocate. Good lawyers know how to vigorously seek their clients’ aims while treating their opposing counsel appropriately.
Clients likewise can be the source of inspiration for much of the good that you may accomplish during your career. Clients pay our fees, provide us with causes to undertake and the opportunity to serve people most in need of help during a time of crisis in their lives. Clients give us a chance to see justice sometimes served.
When you learn to take a sincere interest in the well being of your clients, they can be the most appreciative people in the world. A client senses if you really care, when they do a client can even overlook a mistake made when you were working hard and acting in good faith. For many clients you are the personification of the law. This gives you the power and influence to impact the clients’ lives. Finally, most judges are hard-working, strive with all of their power to be fair and achieve just results in the cases they decide, and are quick to show mercy to advocates who have given the court respect and acted professionally.
How can you accentuate the positive and decentuate the negative when dealing with the potential triangle of despair? Treat others as you yourself wish to be treated. From time to time we will identify examples of how this concept dovetails with the core value of professionalism. You can make your practice rewarding and a cause for celebration rather than despair.
Being organized, strategic, efficient and diligent will help to minimize the stress, anxiety and uncertainty associated with pretrial practice. Small choices have large impacts on your character and can transform your practice.
Where to start? Some small changes can include properly calculating deadlines and placing them on your calendar, answering client phone calls and returning phone calls promptly from your opposing counsel, minimizing uncertainty and procrastination by having a strategy for pursing your client’s litigation goals and never making ethical choices that cause you to look over your shoulder. The back pages of state bar publications are filled with examples of advocates who failed to learn to practice strategically, effectively and ethically and have received public reprimands and suspensions. But many more advocates have taken the other route–the path advocated on the pages of this blog.