If you are a regular reader you know my wife, Nancy, started playing golf when she was about 40. I should not give her age now except to say she is younger than me. She currently has a very low handicap. When we play golf together, she plays from the men’s tees and typically shoots in the 70s or low 80s. 

(Nancy Eagled the Par 4, 18th Hole at Diamante Cabo San Lucas last week)

Why does Nancy play so well? Sure, she is an athlete. But, more importantly, she really works at it.

Most men golfers I know rarely practice. Nancy practices frequently and has a plan when she practices. While listening to music on her iPhone, Nancy will practice bunker shots, or putting, or flop shots.

Each time she practices, she focuses on certain shots. I remember she took me out with her to practice chipping. She started by chipping to the hole furthest from us and worked back to the hole closest to us. In each instance she knew where she wanted the ball to land to get to the hole.

So what does Nancy’s deliberate golf practice have to do with your legal career? The principles are the same. What are you deliberately practicing?

If you want to become a great trial lawyer and you are not trying cases, you actually have to find ways to practice opening statements, or cross examination, or final arguments. When I was a young lawyer I read as many actual cross-examinations as I could get my hands on. Then, I would create a scene and outline how I would cross exam the witness.

Client development skills can be learned the same way. What client development skills are you deliberately practicing?

If you want to learn how to network, go to events where you can practice. In fact, go to a networking event and approach strangers, introduce yourself and start a conversation.

If you want to remember names of people you meet, deliberately practice remembering names when you are practicing networking.

If you want to become a better listener, practice asking questions and actively listening.

If you want to become a better public speaker, speak in public. Consider joining a Toastmasters International club, or starting your own speaking club.

If you want to become a better writer, write and have someone review it and offer a critique. There are plenty of editors and senior lawyers who are retired, who would gladly critique your writing.

What will you be “practicing” to become a better lawyer in 2014?