I am routinely asked to speak to various legal groups. Sometimes those making the request are new or aspiring lawyers, and most want me to speak on how to be successful as a lawyer or how to manage being a lawyer and having a “life.”
I’m always honored when I am asked to speak, and, if my schedule allows, will typically accept the invitation, no matter the group or its size.
I’ve hired more than 100 lawyers over the years. I’ve seen young lawyers from some of the highest and lowest ranked schools in the country. Over the years, I have honed my list of “what it takes to be successful” to just a few broad categories. Without any commentary, I list them here:
Hard work is the key to success—not luck.
There is no substitute for hard work.
You can’t succeed without hard work.
There are no shortcuts you can take to be successful, other than hard work.
JUST BE HONEST:
As a lawyer, the most important thing you have is your reputation. It brings you cases. Once its tarnished, you don’t get it back. Be honest, always. We don’t make the facts, we deal with the facts as given to us
BE THE ONE WITH ANSWERS:
I believe that a strong law firm must have strong systems in place. No one should be so important that, in their absence, the system fails. That being said, if you want to be successful, remember:
Don’t ask someone else, especially a senior lawyer or judge, something that you can find in a book or a case. You will learn a lot more, more quickly, if you research and find the answer yourself. And, your knowledge will be much more comprehensive.
You are being paid to know the answers, or find them. If you don’t know the answer, go find it. Your bosses, the judge, and the client expects this of you. Expect it of yourself.
Your education actually begins when you graduate law school. Law school attempts to teach you to “think like a lawyer.” It doesn’t teach you to be one. Go ahead and accept that the practice of law means a lifetime of study.
Make yourself relevant. Volunteer for tasks. Step up when asked, even when not. Learn about issues you know will come up and be prepared. I quickly surmise those lawyers who will be successful and those who want simply by determining the ones who always want to be involved in whatever the firm is doing. Be that person.
BE GOOD TO YOUR STAFF:
Your staff can make or break you. Take care of them; they will take care of you.
Find out what each person does at your firm; have an understanding of their jobs. With regard to your personal assistant, if you have one, know that job inside and out. You may have to do it at times.
Do nice things for your staff. There will be times when you say things you wish you hadn’t. There will be times when you ask them to stay late. There will be times when you need them on the weekend. Build up good will with them; let them know you recognize their importance, because they are important.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF:
It’s easy to get caught up in the law practice to the exclusion of everything else. Although certainly that type of focus is key during sometimes—like a trial—that cannot be maintained all the time. Take time for yourself. Read; write; exercise; Travel; watch good movies; go see some great art; see a musical; eat great food. You need a creative outlet; you will need to give the mind a rest at time. It will not only make your more relatable, it will make you happier, a better advocate, a more well rounded person, and better lawyer, boss, mentor, mentee, etc. This is as important as reading the latest Supreme Court case. Take care of yourself!!
In addition to focusing on yourself, focus on your personal relationships. Having a support system is key; cultivate it. Family and friends may not understand your daily trials and tribulations, but having them there for support is support enough. Better yet, lending an ear or support for them will take your mind off your own troubles, will also assist them.
DON’T CONSIDER THE ODDS:
As I have stated in the previous blog, be damned the odds. If you want to do something and believe you can (something legal, of course), go for it?
Don’t forget: WORK HARD.
Tony Buzbee is a distinguished attorney in Houston, Texas. He has been involved in some of the most high profile cases in the United States and has earned a reputation for winning. One of his recent Big Money Wins was in the news again, read the article here! Tony Buzbee was also profiled by Bloomberg Business week and his involvement in Hurricane Harvey litigation last fall, check out the article here! Read more of his law blogs or follow him on Twitter!