Are you wondering how you can become a better lawyer, one who stands as a hero, upholding honesty, ethics, and enlightenment, all while diligently billing hour after hour? As a former family lawyer with 27 years of trial experience, I have valuable insights to share. During my career, I dedicated considerable time to assisting lawyers grappling with addiction and substance abuse issues, as well as representing colleagues facing disbarment proceedings. I noticed that lawyers were often taken aback when they discovered their friends and colleagues had been disbarred due to unethical conduct.
In 2004, I retired from the legal profession to embark on a journey of wellness and wholeness consulting. Reflecting on my experiences, I have realized that certain learnings would have significantly benefited me during my legal practice. Here are some key points on how to be a better lawyer, not succumbing to a “junkyard dog” mentality:
- Compassion vs. Aggression: Many trial lawyers are often advised to embody a fierce “junkyard dog” persona to achieve success. However, being compassionate and seeking solutions for clients can be equally effective. Being a bridge to solutions rather than an aggressive fighter can lead to better outcomes and greater respect for the legal profession.
- Focus on Excellence, Not Results: As lawyers, it’s essential to concentrate on being the best counselors possible without overly fixating on the end result. The opinions of others become irrelevant when your primary goal is helping clients navigate their challenges and move forward.
- Dispelling Misconceptions: Clients may have unrealistic expectations about what the legal system can deliver for them. As a lawyer, it’s essential to communicate honestly and manage their expectations realistically to avoid unnecessary trials and disappointments.
- Honesty and Integrity: Transparency and honesty within the legal system can lead to greater respect and trust from all parties involved. Instead of engaging in gamesmanship, lawyers should strive to promote justice and fairness.
- Balancing Ethical Obligations: Lawyers must find a balance between serving their clients’ interests and upholding their ethical duties to the legal profession and the judicial system. Open communication with clients is crucial, and short cuts should be avoided in favor of professionalism and integrity.
- Embrace Compassion and Empathy: Justice is best served when lawyers approach their work with compassion and empathy. The mindset of “win at all costs” should be replaced with a focus on seeking just resolutions and solutions.
- Avoid Short Cuts: True professionalism involves doing one’s best without resorting to shortcuts or unethical practices. The financial aspect should not overshadow the ethical responsibilities of the profession.
In conclusion, being an honest, ethical, and enlightened lawyer can be achieved while continuing to bill hours. By maintaining your integrity, embracing compassion, and seeking justice, you can return to being the hero you aspired to be when you entered this noble profession.