10 Tips on How to Transform Into a Great Lawyer

JD Supra Perspectives

I once saw a poster in a successful lawyer’s office that I found to be rather motivational. It went something like this: “Every morning, a gazelle wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up knowing that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. So it doesn’t matter whether you are a gazelle or a lion, when the sun comes up, start running!”

Although it may seem like common sense, the ten behaviors discussed here are not all that common. It takes hard work to be a good lawyer; it takes just a little more work to be a great lawyer. So start running. 

Good lawyers try to deliver; great lawyers deliver...

It takes time to go to a client’s place of business and to talk to them about what they need and value. If you are uncomfortable talking to clients, it takes time to get some training or coaching that will help you be more comfortable. You might have to go out of your way to read what your clients read, and to learn what is important to them personally and professionally. If you are unwilling to make the effort to super-satisfy your clients, then you should not be surprised if they become someone else’s clients.

Here are 10 attributes all great lawyers share:

1. Great lawyers are always available and accessible to their clients.

Good lawyers return phone calls reasonably promptly. Great lawyers don’t just respond when their phone rings, they make other people’s phones ring.

2. Great lawyers know the law, but they also know and understand the client‘s business.

Good lawyers focus mostly on the law. Great lawyers know what makes the client successful and they understand the client’s preferred form of communication.

3. Great lawyers get the work done too, but they do the work in the context of knowing the client's business - which makes it more practical, and puts them in the role of advisor.

Good lawyers are all about getting the legal work done well. 

4. Great lawyers look for ways to make legal services more valuable to clients.

Good lawyers do legal work effectively and efficiently. Great lawyers give clients more than they pay for.

5. Great lawyers personalize the relationship by recognizing the unique styles, interests, and needs of the individuals with whom they work.

Good lawyers focus on treating the client professionally.

6. Great lawyers do what they say they will do, and get it done when they say they will.

Good lawyers do their best to keep promises about when work will be completed. Good lawyers try to deliver, great lawyers DELIVER.

7. Great lawyers project confidence, but not arrogance, in any setting.

Good lawyers are reasonably comfortable in most settings. Good lawyers attend meetings; great lawyers arrive early—fully prepared. Good lawyers are present at meetings; great lawyers are a real presence in the meeting.

8. Great lawyers own the client’s problem, and engender a belief that they will do everything possible to help the client succeed.

Good lawyers are thought of as “capable,” and are expected to do a good job.

9. Great lawyers are loyal to clients, and dedicated to their success.

Good lawyers care about them.

10. Great lawyers seek meaningful feedback from clients and act on it.

Good lawyers accept feedback when clients offer it, but do not actively seek it.

If you are a great lawyer in your clients’ eyes, you will have a steady stream of new and repeat business from them, and a regular flow of referral work from the people they refer to you. If you are not getting a flood of repeat, new, and referral work, then you are probably doing something wrong.  Great lawyers almost always get the first call whenever someone needs any help with a business or legal challenge.


[Jim Durham is the Managing Director of GrowthPlay. He is a veteran attorney who has worked with hundreds of professional service firms as a consultant and trainer, developing sales, marketing and management strategies designed to change the way lawyers and clients work together.]

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