At the end of last year, having coffee with a colleague who has recently started practicing, she began to ask me about different aspects of the profession and, in particular, what “advice” I would give to a lawyer who was starting out Law tuition.
This is how this post came about and the truth is that it is a pleasure for me to share it with you, Law students at the Rey Juan Carlos University, future colleagues. In all fairness I have to say that the idea is not mine, it is my colleague’s, I would not have dared to give “advice” to my colleagues, even if they are just starting out, but…
These “tips” are mine – other colleagues will surely give different ones, equal or better -, I share with you what , in these 18 years of professional practice -2003 to 2020-, has given me good results .
1. SPECIALIZE / MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
In my opinion, this is the most important “advice” that can be given to a lawyer – also to other professionals in other fields -, mainly for two reasons:
a) It is impossible to master all branches of law.
b) Most clients prefer experts, lawyers who master a certain subject.
From my point of view, the generalist lawyer – the one who carries “a little bit of everything…” – has no future. You have to make a difference, become a reference in a subject.
And at this point a question may arise, in what subject can I specialize? My answer is very simple: the one you like the most , the one in which you feel happiest. When choosing a subject to specialize in, it is not worth doing so thinking in financial terms .
2nd STUDY: YOU MUST BE UP TO DATE
I don’t think this is a particularity of the world of law, I think that in other professions, to a greater or lesser extent, it also happens.
If you thought that once you finished your degree, studying was over, I have bad news: the laws, as well as jurisprudence, are changing. What I studied at university has little to do with what I now encounter on a daily basis, therefore, it must be constantly updated .
It is mandatory to be up to date , there is nothing that scares me more as a lawyer than having to defend in court something about which I am not sure – for example: if I had to take charge of a commercial law matter -.
3. IF YOU ARE NOT ON THE INTERNET, YOU DO NOT EXIST
To be honest, the phrase is not mine, Bill Gates apparently “beat me ahead of myself”, but today it is a reality: ” If you are not on the Internet, you do not exist .”
When I started – in 2003 – clients came through referrals from other clients, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. It may sound very “romantic”, but today this is unthinkable.
Nowadays, when an individual needs a lawyer, they look for one on the Internet, that’s why ” If you’re not on the Internet, you don’t exist .”
How can you be on the internet? Create a website, but not just any website, because there are web pages that can become a “bad” business card.
What is really attractive about a website is not its design – even if it is the first thing that is shown to us –, it is its content , and it has to be varied and useful content , above all, useful . You have to show what you know, because if you are very good at a subject, but only your family and friends know it, you have nothing to do.
How can you prove what you know? A blog is a good tool. Be generous , make your blog useful to others , so people will get to know you and want to work with you.
4. THE CUSTOMER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE OFFICE
You can specialize, study a lot, have a good website and a good blog, but if you don’t have clients, all that is of no use.
The most important person in an office is the client , which is why you have to take great care of them.
I have had and have cases in which clients who have started with a lawyer decide to change and hire my services. The main reason for 90% of these people to change lawyers is that their lawyer does not pay attention to them, does not return their calls, does not answer their emails, etc. A call or email must be answered within 24 hours at most .
You always have to keep one thing in mind: the client is the one who pays your bills, and I’m not referring to the minutes you send them for your work, but your house, your car, the children’s school, etc.; This is something that must always be kept in mind, therefore, treat the client as you would like to be treated if you went to a lawyer .
5. THE CUSTOMER “NOT” IS ALWAYS RIGHT
I know it may seem contradictory to say that “The client is the most important person in the office” and then say that “The client is “NOT” always right.” Just because the client is the most important person in an office does not mean that the client is “always” right.
Lawyers can be classified in many ways, one way of doing so is that which distinguishes two types of lawyers:
a) The lawyer who tells the client what he “has” to say.
b) The lawyer who tells the client what the client “wants” to hear.
Well, you always have to tell the client the truth. “Telling him the truth” involves telling him when he is right and when he is wrong, when he is right and when he is wrong, advising him to take a certain step or telling him not to even think about it…
Our obligation is to always tell you the truth and, although initially some “bounce back”, in the end honesty is rewarded.
6. SIGN UP FOR THE OFFICE SHIFT IF IT IS YOUR VOCATION
This is a delicate, thorny topic and, if you are starting to practice, you will most likely be wondering whether to sign up for the professional shift or not.
Just as when talking about what subject to specialize in I said that it is best to do what makes you happiest, when talking about this subject, my “advice” is that if it doesn’t “call you”, don’t do it . The job shift is a vocation , if you don’t have it, it is best to leave the position to someone else.
If one signs up for the office shift it is to “give everything.” Therefore, if you are going to treat the clients on the office shift the same as if they were paying, go ahead, if you are not going to do so, perhaps it would be best not to sign up.
7. DON’T COMPETE ON PRICE, COMPETE ON SERVICE AND QUALITY
Never compete on price , there will always be a colleague who charges less than you , compete on quality and service .
What’s more, if you don’t adequately value your work, no one will value it. I do not consider that being the “cheapest” lawyer is a good claim or that it inspires more confidence. That doesn’t mean it has to be the most expensive either. You know, “Virtue is in the middle.”
By the way, it is essential, always work with an “Order Sheet” , that is, with a budget , so that the client knows from minute zero what your services are going to cost so that there are no surprises at the end, neither for you nor for him.
8. IN YOUR WRITINGS TAKE CARE OF THE BACKGROUND AND THE FORM
Lawyers mainly get paid to speak and write. Well, the same thing happens with writing as with food, a simple dish with good presentation can be more successful than a very good dish but with poor presentation.
For this reason, we must take care of the writing, the substance and the form and, above all, that they do not have spelling mistakes . There is nothing that produces more rejection than a piece of writing that is poorly presented, poorly structured or, worst of all, with spelling mistakes.
To this we must add something important: the good, if it is brief, is twice as good. Keep in mind that whoever has to read your writings, usually the judge, is not going to be excited because you put a lot of pages on them. You know, more important than quantity – extension – is quality.
9. IN THE ROOM TAKE CARE OF ALL THE DETAILS
It is common to see professionals who enter the room without saying hello and leave the same way they entered. That is an error.
A trial begins the moment you enter the courtroom and ends the moment you leave, which is why you have to take care of the forms:
a) You must greet when entering and leaving . It is something so obsolete that there are judges who are almost surprised – or scared – when you go to greet them.
b) You have to take care of your clothing , out of respect for the room and the client.
c) Care must be taken in the way of addressing the SS, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, colleagues and the parties – plaintiff, defendant, complainant, accused, witnesses, etc.
That is to say, you have to take care of the details , because the judges are also human and, in case of doubt, a good impression can tip the balance in your favor .
10. RELAX AND ENJOY
Don’t just strive to be a good lawyer, strive above all to be a good person.