I feel I was very fortunate to have built a construction law practice that enabled me to work with some of the finest construction companies in the United States.
I remember when I was an associate, one of the partners in my firm said to me:
Cordell, any firm can hire smart lawyers. They graduate from law school every year. Firms are looking for smart lawyers who have a confidence inspiring personality.Those lawyers will over time develop and expand relationships with clients.
That conversation taught me that if I was just a smart lawyer I was expendable. On the other hand, if over time I was able to develop and expand relationships with clients, I would have the greatest asset a lawyer can have. I almost immediately began focusing on how to become more valuable to clients.
I have spent many years trying to better understand what distinguishes the most successful lawyers. Successful lawyers I know have many characteristics, but virtually no one has all of those characteristics. Successful lawyers are:
- Big picture thinkers. They are better able to see the big picture of how the legal work fits into their clients’ business.
- Client focused. They are more interested in helping their clients than they are getting legal work.
- Internally driven to succeed and develop.
- Patient and resilient. They know building a book of business takes time and they are not afraid to fail or be told “no.”
- Not content. They are always learning and becoming better lawyers.
- Likeable. They make clients out of friends and friends out of clients.
- Authentic and trustworthy. They are comfortable in their own skin.
- Thoughtful about how to let people know they care and doing things for people that will help them.
- Team builders. They know how to delegate, supervise and build teams.
- Active. They are frequently “out there” doing stuff in the community or for the Bar.
- High energy. They are able to go the extra mile when others are not.
- Risk takers. They are willing to get outside their comfort zone.
- Optimistic. They believe in themselves and their ability to take care of their clients’ needs.
- Quick reads. They figure out quickly what clients want or need.
- Confidence inspiring. They convey to their clients that they truly understand and can take care of the client’s problems.
- Unique. They have a “UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION”.
Which of these attributes do you have? What will you do in 2009 to develop the other attributes?