Several months ago I had the pleasure and privilege of being asked to make a presentation to the Anderson County Young Lawyers Division, and I discussed with them the following “suggestions” and points which I had found useful over the years. [I realize that the audience for this particular blog is the attorney practicing for less than 10 years, and that the more “seasoned” attorneys will “hit delete” very quickly…and I’m OK with that.]
1. Always, always, ALWAYS “deconstruct” your case by starting at the end of it and working back to the beginning.
2. At least once a week, go the South Carolina Judicial Department’s website – www.sccourts.org – and click on the “Video Portal” menu, and then go the “Supreme Court Archived Video” page and watch at least one case being argued before the Supreme Court (it will send chills up and down your spine, but you’ll learn more about the practice of law than any book or website or CLE can ever teach you).
3. Whether or not you think you’re smarter than an opposing attorney never matters…because it’s much more important that you develop a reputation among your peers as ALWAYS being prepared to “outwork” them on a case.
4. Your lifelong reputation among your peers is made within the first 10 years of your professional life.
5. It is (infinitely) more important for you to develop a reputation among your peers as being professionally considerate and ethical than for being a professional bully.
6. Always assume that the judge knows more about your case than you do … and, at the same time, always assume the judge knows nothing about your case.
7. If you practice family law, then memorize SCRFC, Rule 9(b) … and live by it.
8. Finally – always know that whenever judges meet anywhere – either at conferences or at lunch or in the hallways behind their courtrooms – they’re asking/talking/gossiping about YOU… and know that YOUR reputation and ability matter to them (more than you’ll ever know).
9. ALWAYS give your clients “the bad news – 100% of the time”. Since you can’t guarantee a “result” or “outcome” for your client, then it’s professionally dangerous on your part to “paint a rosy picture” about anything involved with your client’s case.
10. NEVER represent a family member or a friend in ANY contested case, in any court of law. And to insure that you remain professionally objective (so that you can do your job), never become your “client’s friend” during the litigation.
11. DRESS LIKE AN ATTORNEY. (For the men) never meet with your clients in your office – or at a mediation – wearing a golf shirt or casual clothes; (for the women) wear professional attire when meeting with your clients. I assure you that the “visual” of how you present yourself to your client is as important (to them) as the advice you’re giving them.
12. FINALLY – always remember that “this is the business we have chosen” , so NEVER take anything said to you by an opposing attorney personally…”it’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business” .
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