A good lawyer can have a positive and dramatic impact on the life of a client. In law school, aspiring lawyers are taught about the law and some useful skills for law practice. They cannot, however, teach them how to have character while practicing law. Character is what makes a good lawyer.
A lawyer advises and represents clients during the most challenging of times. Many students are attracted to the law profession, but before enrolling in law school, you need to know if you have what it takes to be a good lawyer.
Being a lawyer is not an easy job, and not everyone is suited for this profession. The American Bar Foundation (ABF) says that about a quarter of lawyers shift professions within seven years of becoming lawyers. Knowing what it takes to be a good lawyer is to take a look at the common traits of successful lawyers in the US and elsewhere.
A Day in the Life of a Lawyer
Lawyers work longer hours compared to other professionals. You often see on TV lawyers in chic suits, enjoying meals with clients, and having a good time. This is not necessarily true because lawyers work, on average, between 50 and 60 hours a week.
The many hours law students spend to read and study to complete their degrees prepare them for the hard work ahead of practicing lawyers. The duties of lawyers are more than just appearing in court and negotiating for their clients.
Lawyers often work during business hours and beyond working hours.
During business hours, lawyers are often at meetings or on the phone interviewing clients and witnesses, updating clients on their cases, consulting with other professionals related to their case, and discussing some of their cases with fellow lawyers.
Lawyers who are in solo practice take on more tasks that are not related to the practice of law, such as doing administrative work, marketing, and finding new clients.
Beyond working, it is common for lawyers to complete some work, especially when they were out of the office most of the day. They usually have emails to answer and paperwork to complete. Lawyers always work with deadlines, so they often cannot move their work to the next day.
Everyday responsibilities may include:
• Advise clients.
• Research legal records to gather evidence for a case.
• Interpret the law to apply them to cases.
• Examine legal data that can be used to defend clients .
• Prepare and draft legal documents.
• Represent clients in court.
• Present evidence to prosecute defendants or present evidence to defend their clients.
• Act as trustee, guardian, agent, or executor for individuals or businesses.
• Supervise legal assistants.
Eight hours a day is not enough for a lawyer to complete all they need to do in a day.
Daily Challenges of a Lawyer
The practice of law is one of the most stressful jobs. Lawyers are faced with many challenges in the course of practicing their profession:
• Long Hours
Most lawyers work between 50 and 60 hours a week. The competitive legal market has forced them to spend many hours on client generation and business management tasks over and above billing hours.
Many lawyers are also into a global law practice that means they must be available to clients in various time zones. Work-life balance is a common complaint among lawyers.
• Competitive Legal Market
The job market for lawyers today is one of the bleakest in history. There are not too many jobs available for new lawyers, and salaries are on an all-time low. Yet, law schools are not holding back on enrollment.
The steady supply for new lawyers combined with the low demand has made many lawyers settle for lower salaries or a shift in career.
• Changing Legal Paradigms
Lawyers today face stiff competition from a lot of non-lawyer sources. Lawyers no longer have exclusivity in the legal field. There are now self-help legal websites, virtual law offices, and legal document technicians competing for the same work.
While it does not necessarily mean that these sources can provide the same results as an educated and trained lawyer, they have posed stiff competition to licensed lawyers.
• Clients are more Conscious of Spending money.
Clients now want more value for their money. In many circumstances, the hike in lawyers’ billings has exceeded inflation rates. This has led to lawyers adjusting their billing rates to make them more reasonable.
Clients are no longer willing to pay more dollars to high-priced lawyers for tasks that can be completed by efficient, quick, and cheaper paralegals and legal technology.
• Not all Clients are the Same
There are easy-to-deal with and difficult-to-deal with clients. Lawyers who are still working their way to the top often do not have the luxury of choosing which clients to take on. Not all clients are the same, and some clients may be sophisticated and wealthy yet exacting and arrogant.
Lawyers may not like some of their clients, yet they need to provide the best representation to all of them.
Technology has changed the practice of law. Whether they like it or not, lawyers must be updated and proficient with the latest technology, such as billing software and document storage, to name a few.
Even as lawyers are updated with technology, it still poses stiff competition because it can provide more efficient and cheaper legal services.
On top of these day-to-day challenges, lawyers have to contend with the rising costs of law school education. New lawyers often do not earn enough to pay their law school debts.
What Makes a Good Lawyer?
Despite the many challenges and stiff competition in the legal market, lawyers need to be on top of their game. A legal career is still one of the most sought-after professions.
While being a lawyer has many rewards, it also has its drawbacks. Being a lawyer is not all about being an esteemed member of society, courtroom dramas, and grateful clients.
Before starting your long journey toward being a lawyer, ask yourself if you have the patience and tolerance for the challenges and how you will deal with them. Look at the factors that make a good lawyer and decide if the legal profession is for you.
Here are some of the traits successful lawyers have. If you have these traits, you will be a good lawyer and achieve your objective of being a successful lawyer.
1. Commitment to their Jobs
Good lawyers are always committed to helping their clients even if they have to put in more hours at work. In some cases, the work of a lawyer changes their client’s life, whether it is helping them get the compensation they deserve for a personal injury or getting them acquitted of charges against them.
Having a positive impact on their clients’ lives is often what motivates good lawyers to work harder and longer than others do.
2. Thorough Knowledge of the Law
Good lawyers do not only know their area of specialization but about different areas of law as well. A great deal of their knowledge of the law will come from their education, but most will come from experience.
Thorough knowledge of the law allows lawyers to use legal sense to immediately identify the issues and provide legal solutions.
Thorough knowledge of the law allows lawyers to make sound judgments for their clients and themselves. It also will enable lawyers to determine whether a legal is worth pursuing, most often with a personal injury claim.
Clients hire lawyers to get good legal advice. A good lawyer knows the law and can give excellent and relevant advice. While it is true that clients make the final decision, it is the job of a lawyer to ensure that the client fully understands all critical information needed to make an educated decision.
A lawyer without good judgment will not only be a good lawyer but will not last long in the legal profession.
3. Passionate of what They Do
A good lawyer has a passion for working hard to help their clients find solutions to their legal problems. A passionate lawyer is happy about what they do, more fulfilled, and performs better.
A lawyer who is passionate about what they do can research effectively and quickly because it is needed to prepare good legal strategies. Creating an effective legal strategy entails comprehending and absorbing humongous information and writing them down in something useful and manageable.
4. Has the Perseverance to Work Hard
Being a lawyer is a meaningful career. Although it is one of the most rewarding professions, it entails a lot of hard work. There will be many difficult times, such as dealing with a client that is difficult to handle, canceled meetings with another professional, or an opposing lawyer who is being rude even without any reason to be.
Lawyers meet a lot of challenges in the course of their practice, but good lawyers know how to persevere and overcome them.
5. Persuasive Skill
Every good lawyer has mastered the art of persuasion. Excellent persuasion skills allow lawyers to effectively present the case in court and convince the judge about the position of his client. A persuasive lawyer has an analytical mind and has a good command of the English language.
6. Good Interpersonal Skills
Good lawyers have excellent communication skills, but in the highly competitive legal market, good lawyers also need to have excellent interpersonal skills or develop strong relationships with clients and peers.
To be able to communicate with clients effectively, good lawyers need to have excellent listening skills. Good listening skills allow lawyers to understand their clients’ needs, immediately identify issues, and spot the missing links of their case.
Being able to understand the client’s needs, know what the client wants, and deliver based on the client’s expectations is an essential trait of a good lawyer.
Being detached from the cases they handle is now a thing of the past. Clients today want understanding and empathy. They want someone willing to listen to them and not just advise them. Lawyers who can connect well are those who are valued more by their clients.
Excellent interpersonal skills also entail being a good communicator. Lawyers with good communication skills can express themselves better with their clients and the court.
Excellent communication skills also entail being able to relay ideas in the form of emails, formal legal writing, phone conversations, and discussions within legal settings.
Good interpersonal skills also allow lawyers to attract and retain clients. Effective networking is essential to attract new clients, and lawyers need to be able to demonstrate their capabilities through excellent interpersonal skills.
7. Has People Skills
The practice of law entails a lot of collaborative work. Lawyers often need to work with professionals from other fields or multi-disciplinary teams when working on a case. A lawyer’s people skills will allow all of them to reach positive outcomes.
Lawyers always work with people and on behalf of people and the decisions they make affect their clients’ lives. Lawyers should, therefore, be personable and patient.
They should also be able to read other people to determine the honesty of the witness and gauge the reaction of the judge or jury. Additionally, good people skills also allow lawyers to take the best approach to achieve the desired results.
Lawyers also need to be professional when meeting clients and everything they do, especially when in court.
8. Good Negotiating Skills
Lawyers do a lot of negotiating; thus, many say this is the most important trait a good lawyer should have. A good negotiator leaves the table, making everybody feel that a good deal was achieved for everyone rather than having overturned the opposition. This means achieving a good and workable result and feeling good about it.
A lawyer with excellent negotiation skills is confident of their abilities and makes everyone feel they have a thorough knowledge of the law.
9. Has Knowledge of Technology
Lawyers are said to be resistant to adopting changes brought about by technology, and many of them take pride in not being tech-savvy. This is no longer the case. Advancement in technology has affected everyone’s lives, and knowing how to make good use of it can set lawyers apart from their competition.
Clients expect to communicate with their lawyers not just through the phone but also through email, online chat, and even virtual meetings.
Technology also allows lawyers to be more efficient and quick in their work because they can work anytime and from anywhere. Technology has allowed the secure storage and pull-out of documents, proper management of schedules, and on-time and reliable invoicing.
Good lawyers leverage technology to efficiently and quickly attend to the needs of their clients and promptly produce positive outcomes.
It is not enough to be a lawyer. You should be a good lawyer or work at being one. A good lawyer delivers positive outcomes most of the time. More importantly, good lawyers create a positive impact on the lives of their clients.
Want to read more about what you need to consider if you want to become a Lawyer?