In no particular order:
- Read widely. As Jim Rohn said: “All leaders are readers.” You could do no worse than starting with Dale Carnegie’s seminal work How to Win Friends and Influence People. Don’t just read books that you think a lawyer should read. Read something that will make you more rounded.
- Listen. This is skill number 1. Time yourself next time you are speaking to a client or a colleague as to how long you leave it before you interrupt. I bet you can’t stay quiet for more than a minute.
- Put the other person’s interest first. Stop thinking incessantly what’s in it for you.
- Say thank you. And get into the habit of sending thank you notes. You might just be the first lawyer to use them. In 14 years of practice I never heard a single partner talk about them let alone use them.
- Extend trust. At some stage you are going to have to give someone a chance.
- Volunteer but do it with a big fat smile. If you think you need to suck up all the time don’t bother.
- Don’t forget why you went into law in the first place. When it gets really gnarly later on in your career and you feel weighed down by the expectation of billing (as if there was nothing else of importance) go find one of your essays or law papers and read it. You will appreciate just how far you have come and why law originally meant so much to you.
- Never trash your competitors. You never know where you might find yourself in the next few years.
- Show up. If someone asks you to do something, make sure you are present, motivated and energised. If you talk about under promising and over delivering with your clients well the same maxim applies to the internal market.
- Have fun. I have always believed that if it is not fun it’s not worth doing. Now I am not suggesting you go around with rose-tinted spectacles, but for heaven’s sake given how much of your life is given over to work you need to enjoy and take pleasure from what you are doing. If you find yourself endlessly searching for the next big thing or complaining then may be you need to take a short break to recharge your batteries and consider whether you have chosen wisely in your career choice.
The legal landscape is changing faster than at any time previously and you simply can’t afford to adopt a wait and see policy. No: you need to work on things NOW.