“What Is Success As A Lawyer?” - Not Just A Question For New Lawyers.
“ I first wrote on this topic a couple of years ago, for an ANU College of Law blog. I was directing my writing to law students then, but this subject is something that ought to be visited, and revisited, not only by new and junior lawyers, but by those who have been in the game a lot longer (so I have edited that blog piece here).
It is very easy to lose sight of what’s important, both professionally and personally, so reflecting on personal values, motivations, goals and objectives, on a regular basis, is something that I think should be made a priority in our busy lives.
I started my blog for students by asking them ‘what does success as a lawyer mean to you?’. This is also a question that applies to more experienced lawyers.
Some misconceptions about success as a lawyer include things like:
A large six-figure salary.
High profile cases.
Working long hours, and working weekends.
Being so busy you can’t keep up (because busy is good, right!?).
Constantly juggling cases and workloads (because you’re good, and in demand!?).
It can be easy to lose perspective and become caught up in the hype associated with lawyers and legal practice, especially with all the glitzy television drama these days about being a lawyer and the high-flying lifestyle that comes with it (I am thinking along the lines of shows such as ‘Suits’ and ‘The Good Wife’).
I can tell you, with total confidence and from the heart, that real success has nothing to do with glamour, salary packages or designer outfits. Nor has it got anything to do with how busy you are, how stressed you are, or what you don’t have time for. Success is about understanding your values as a person, being clear on your responsibilities and duties as a lawyer (to the court, to your client, and to your opponents) and then living by your values and discharging your obligations to the best of your ability - Every. Single. Day.
I am often asked by students ‘what does it take to be a successful lawyer’. My answer is always the same. Grit. Determination. Hard work. Integrity. Compassion. It’s about so much more than your academic transcript or your well-developed CV. It’s about the sort of person you are, the sort of person you want to be, your commitment to helping others and your ability to trust yourself and be true to your values. Without this you will almost inevitably fall short.
As a lawyer, we are in a position of privilege in that we can have a profound impact on the lives of people who genuinely need our help. Practicing the law is about so much more than glamour and prestige. It’s about people, their livelihoods and their liberty, and the role that we play in preserving that.
Here’s the advice I have given to law students on how to become a successful lawyer. I revisit it regularly (I don’t think its exclusive to law students):
1. Know your values, and know yourself – in times of uncertainty or doubt, be guided by your values and trust in yourself. You won’t regret it.
2. Find a Mentor - someone who you admire and respect. Watch what they do, and how they do it. Pay attention to how they conduct themselves and how they treat people, especially their opponents. If you do this you will be well on your way.
3. Choose carefully – understand the values and reputation of a firm/workplace before you apply/agree to work there. If the firm’s values don’t align with your own, keep looking.
4. Work hard and learn from your mistakes – you won’t get it right every time. No one does. Learn from your mistakes, be committed and don't give up.
5. Treat people well – you don’t have to be embroiled in conflict to be a good lawyer. Even in contested litigation matters, you can fight fair without being disrespectful and rude. The way you treat people will inform your reputation and it will follow you throughout your career. Remember that.
6. Don’t lose sight of who you are or what the practice of law is about – don’t become caught up in the hype and notion of glamour. Be true to yourself. It will serve you well.
Much of this can be helpful throughout a legal career, not just at the beginning of it. It’s easy to lose sight and become caught up in the busy lifestyles typical of lawyers.
Don’t lose sight.
Don’t get caught up.
Value yourself, and always remember what you stand for.”
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Tracey Mylecharane - Solictor
Tracey Mylecharane has more than 12 years’ experience in legal practice. She is the founder of ‘Tracey Mylecharane - Solicitor’, a virtual, online boutique Law Practice providing legal services to individuals, businesses and corporations Australia wide.
Tracey thrives on helping people. She has done away with lavish offices and the traditional law firm model, to focus on providing a more tailored, personal and affordable experience for her clients.