Introduction to Practice Guides
Useful information to help you avoid common pitfalls, reduce stress and improve your career.
Unlike our Policy and Procedures, this information is not mandatory. It is valuable and is provided to aid you in reaching your potential.
The Rewards Of Optimum Performance
Quality of life for a litigator is an alluring but elusive goal. Throughout the course of his or her career, a successful litigator will encounter many difficult moments and challenging milestones. How can you pursue such a demanding career and still lead an enjoyable life while progressing sufficiently to achieve your ultimate goals?
Many have succeeded in doing so, and so can you.
Ambition alone can get a young student through law school, and even the bar exam. To that ambition, add native intelligence and sustained hard work, and the result is often a top student with a superlative grades and an impressive resume listing items such as law review, prestigious clerkships, awards and community service. Among graduates of this caliber, a few have also obtained substantial professional experience in other demanding fields, such as business, engineering, medicine or the military.
Such a person has great potential, and just might become a top litigator, or even a world-class trial lawyer.
The fact that you have been given access to this material and are reading it now indicates that you are likely such a person. You have reached your first major milestone: you are now ready to begin the actual work. It will likely be more difficult and more challenging than anything you have experienced so far. It chould ultimately be more rewarding than you can imagine, provided you learn to handle the demands of real-life litigation practice.
Keys to Success: Attitude and Training
To become an elite litigator, you will need far more training than you have obtained to date. Training at this level requires much more than your mere cooperation. In the world you have entered, no one is willing to drag you up to any level of excellence. If you show promise, you will be provided with superb training opportunities, but you will be the one who propels yourself into, and through, those opportunities. You will be the one who gathers new skills and understanding as you progress. You—and you alone—will be the one who is responsible for the evolution of your career. Others, such as your Firm, will provide the resources; you must do the work required for your success. There are no free rides, only tough climbs.
Like all professions, the quality of your litigation service depends on five primary elements: your knowledge, efficiency, skill, mental clarity and emotional strength. These Practice Guides help you to improve in these five areas. This material can improve your practice, and your quality of life, but only if you truly learn and faithfully apply it.
There is a certain kind of lawyer who will feel somewhat burdened by the idea of reading this material. He will tell himself that he already knows it, or that he will get to it later, or that it just isn’t that important to be steeped in abstract ideas when there is actual work to be done in pending cases—or golf to be played! Those lawyers may “do okay,” especially in the middle of their careers, but they rarely attain high goals and often burn out due to a lack of that special kind of soul-nourishing satisfaction that only personal achievement and growth can provide. Of course, the flat salary growth of lackluster lawyers plays a role as well. For more on the anatomy of what can cause a career to skid off the rails, read the Practice Guide entitled Derailment, which covers in depth the phenomenon of disengagement and how to avoid it. Other lawyers will have a natural thirst for information of this kind, and for them absorbing it will be more of a pleasure than a burden. Some will want to learn it, but lack the attention span, disciplie or study skills to do so.
Please pause in your reading for just a brief moment, and consider where you are on this spectrum. Be honest with yourself, and more importantly, decide whether you are capable of making and enforcing the choice to move to a higher position on the lawyer food chain.
The Power of Imagination
As you weigh this question, envision yourself a few years from now, first as a truly superb lawyer who has earned a terrific reputation and the benefits that come with it, routinely facing and defeating skilled opponents and providing great value to clients, handling the most interesting cases and being paid top dollar for your work. Then, after you have given this vision fair attention, envision yourself a few years down the road as a merely average lawyer with far fewer resources to provide for your family, reduced job security and much less career satisfaction. Then return to the original image once again, and welcome yourself home. You just woke up from a nightmare.
The decisions you make during this mental exercise will have a tremendous impact on which of these two alternate futures come to pass.
Take comfort in knowing that you can break free from mediocrity, you can control your future, and you can win. It will be a struggle at times—especially in the beginning—but you can definitely prevail. If you make up your mind strongly enough, nothing can stop you.
It is true that the only enemy you will ever really have to fear is yourself, just as it is true that you are the best friend you will ever have. You must be your own guardian angel.
Investing In Yourself
The time required for continuous and ongoing study and self-improvement is something that must be budgeted into the daily life of a busy professional. If you have “the right stuff,” you are hard-wired to continually invest in yourself. You will do this naturally, taking advantage of the fact that this information is available to you on this secure website, just as you take advantage of a host of other valuable training resources and study materials.
Unlike our Policy and Procedures, compliance with the guidance supplied in these Practice Guides is not mandatory. This information is valuable and is provided to assist in your application of our Policy and Procedures as you meet the daily challenges of practice.
Our Policy and Procedures were designed to serve several purposes, one of which is to reduce stress and increase performance. Indeed, you will note a close relationship between our Policy and Procedures (particularly those pertaining to workflow, calendar management, information and communication skills) and the more philosophical material in our Practice Guides.
The challenges and difficulties encountered in a highly regulated litigation practice lead to issues that arise with some regularity and predictability. We see the same problems arise again and again, particularly with newer lawyers, and over the past 30 years we have been able to identify solutions to most of these matters. Some of our solutions have been developed by trial and error; others have been found in informative articles, books and treatises relating to the practice of law, business productivity, stress reduction, communications, psychology self-improvement and the technology of study.
Each of those areas of interest are so vast that no single compilation would do any of them justice – and while we also have begun to assemble an electronic collection of books and articles in our Electronic Firm Library, but here we have founded a collection of key principles of particular relevance to the work we do in this Firm.
We recommend that you take time to steep yourself in our Practice Guides, as well as our firm library, and pick the items that most appeal to your for study.
We want you to win!