Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To Be A Great Lawyer, Especially a Great Anti-Discrimination Lawyer

People start law school for many reasons. I am going to address the species of lawyer called trial lawyer, specifically plaintiffs' trial lawyers, especially those of us who are paid usually by contingent fees. I will break down the different motivators that produce trial lawyers and how some of those end up representing others in discrimination and civil rights cases.

I believe there are many, many reasons people go to law school and what their satisfaction as a lawyer will be:

1. Daddy or mommy was a lawyer - if that's the only reason, not great prospects for long range career satisfaction.

2. Afraid to leave school - prognosis for satisfaction is same as 1 above.

3. Lawyers are rich (which is usually not true) - money can't make you happy forever.

4. Ego and prestige - trIal lawyers oftentimes are more egotistical. This may be enough to make some lawyers happy. It's a rather shallow existence, though.

5. Intellectual and creative stimulation - this might be enough for some.

6. The possibility of helping someone find his or her own power. This is the basis of satisfaction as a trial lawyer.

7. Realizing the potential, through trials and representing clients, of changing stereotypes and improving society. This is the most rewarding aspect of being a trial lawyer and can sustain the lawyer for many, many years.

So, what are the characteristics of a successful civil rights' plaintiff's lawyer (and by "success" I don't mean money)

A. The lawyer must know him or her self, be able to know what motivates him or her.

B. Empathy is a must. I won't explain all of the reasons here. Read the 3 Sisters book, Trial in Action or attend one of their seminars to improve your empathy and self-knowledge.

C. Learn to love your client, learn who he or she is. Know his or her wants and dreams.

D. Prepare for everything, but be spontaneous - spontaneity is only possible with preparation.

E. Empathize with jurors and even opposing parties.

F. Try your case from your heart. Sure you need to know the rules, but sincerity is what you
need to win.

G. Don't give up. Go to Plan B, appeal, keep at it, keep fighting.

If you follow this recipe, you can change the world, one case at a time.

1 comment:

  1. Lynne - you left out one of the most common reasons for going to law school, I.e. someone can't figure out what else to get a graduate degree in. In other words they treat it as an "undecided major". Whenever someone tells me they are about to go to law school, that's the first thing I try to determine and my admonition to them is "don't treat it as an undecided major". I don't believe anyone should go to law school unless they truly want to be a lawyer. It's too expensive and entails too much heartache.

    David Frye
    David Frye