Three Things They Don’t Teach in Law School

Your success as a lawyer depends on understanding more than what’s on the bar exam.

Your success as a lawyer depends on understanding more than what’s on the bar exam.

I have the privilege of working with and talking to a number of recent law grads and law school students. They have a great understanding of the law and are eagerly learning procedures and writing, and can’t wait to practice. I have found that they are pretty much unaware of their lack of understanding in a few things that are essential to a successful life as a lawyer…so here we go!

1. People will hire you for their reasons, not yours.

I watch new lawyers and students eager to show off their knowledge. When they meet people, they are waiting for a break in the action so that they can talk about themselves; not their true selves but about their achievements. Their insecurities about themselves fuel their conversations and invariably, the other person turns them off. 

We have all encountered the person who is saying, “I’m tired of talking about me, so why don’t you talk about me for awhile.” Don’t be this person. 

Set aside your insecurities and listen. Listen to others and their stories. Listen for their real problems, listen for their emotions. Listen with an ear to what they are seeking, then see if you can help. This is the way to securing clients.

2. You have to learn to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. 

People will come to you at their low points. No one genuinely wants to hire a lawyer; they consider the move when circumstances in their lives force them. At these times, people need to address their legal problems but also need your guidance on how to take care of themselves as they deal with the stress of the legal matter. Whether it’s divorce, a criminal matter, or business concern, they are under stress. 

I once counseled the wife of a client to hide his file in a closet. He had been placing it on a table just inside the front door of their home. Every time he went out of their house, or came back in, he was reminded of the pending claims against them. I solved the legal matter but it took months. At the end, they both approached me and told me that my advice to hide the file until they needed it was the best advice I had given them. I have found that sometimes “out of sight, out of mind” serves me, and this is something that became key to my service to them.

3. A key to influence is by your use of questions. 

Most new lawyers try to influence their clients, witnesses, and others by telling them things. I watch as the person listening puts up blocks and the things never have a chance of influencing anyone. Lawyers decry, “They never take my advice!” as if it is the fault of the client. 

Give your advice a chance. Ask questions and let the person draw the conclusions on their own. If they draw their own conclusions rather than adopt your assertions, they will learn deeper and longer. 

Your use of questions will also help you get at a deeper understanding of what your clients want, and that takes us back to number one…they are buying for their own reasons, not yours.

Try one or all of these out. You will be surprised at how they serve you, and your practice.

In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post.

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. In addition, he coaches people to become more flexible and effective in responding to business and personal challenges. To learn more,  contact Brian  online or at (616) 608-4440.