Randy Wilson, a Texas judge, recently wrote a letter to his two children, who are both aspiring lawyers, on how to have successful careers as attorneys. Some of his advice sounds like common sense, but it is great advice to aspiring lawyers, who are all considered officers of the court.
Be proud to be a lawyer. Wilson acknowledges that he has told a few lawyer jokes in his day, but still hangs his head high. Wilson has a point that lawyers have a rather negative perception right now. One way to change that is by treating clients with respect and advocating for them. Zealously advocating for clients should help lawyers hang their heads high, and be proud of who they are.
Always tell the truth to the client. If you miss a deadline, call your client immediately. Even though clients turn to lawyers when they need help, clients also realize that lawyers make mistakes. Being upfront and honest to your clients will strengthen your bond with your client, which will help you effectively advocate for them.
Maintain consistent contact with clients. So many potential issues with clients can be resolved through good communication. As noted above, good client communication creates a better bond between lawyers and clients. A better bond creates a better advocate, and a more zealous advocate displays to the community that lawyers deserve respect, not ridicule.
There is no reason to be a jerk to opposing counsel. You do not have to roll over and grant every request from opposing counsel, but do not go out of your way to be combative. Opposing counsel could end up being a co-worker someday, or could refer business to you down the line.
Lawyers might not have the best public perception, but that can change quickly. As 2009 comes to a close, this is one lawyer’s hope that perception begins to shift in 2010.