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Ten Lessons Ten Lessons

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					                                                                                                                           In Court



Ten Lessons
                                                                                                    essential ingredient of effective problem
                                                                                                    solving.
                                                                                                       7. A confident lawyer is more likely to
                                                                                                    be successful and happy. A chronically
                                                                                                    anxious, self-doubting lawyer is generally
                                                                                                    not very happy or successful. A good
A YOUNG LAWYER MUST LEARN                                                                           lawyer builds confidence by mastering the
                                                                                                    necessary knowledge and skills in a chosen
                                                                                                    area of practice. When you demonstrate
FOR SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS                                                                           justifiable confidence, you will attract
                                                                                                    clients, earn the respect of your colleagues
                                                                                                    and maximize your effectiveness as a
IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW                                                                              lawyer. No lawyer is perfect and every
                                                                                                    lawyer makes mistakes — but a good
                                                                                                    lawyer does not let that fact erode self-
By The Honorable William A. Klatt                                                                   confidence. Mistakes present some of the
                                                                                                    best learning opportunities.
                                                                                                       8. Never compromise your personal
                                                                                                    integrity or your professional ethical
                                                    3. Although a strong work ethic is an


T
          he practice of law is a demanding                                                         obligations. Putting aside the obvious
          and challenging profession — and       essential characteristic of any good lawyer,       threat to your law license, nothing should
          it can also be a very enjoyable and    you need to maintain a balance in your life.       be more important to a lawyer than a
          fulfilling one. Although law           Too much of a good thing can have                  reputation for honesty, integrity, and
schools do a good job preparing students         unintended adverse consequences. It is very        professionalism. Although the legal
for the bar examination, there are some          important to develop and maintain the              community in central Ohio is large, it does
important lessons that are difficult to teach    proper balance between your professional           not take long for an attorney to develop a
in an academic setting. Most of these            obligations and those obligations you have         reputation among lawyers and judges.
lessons are not directly related to the study    to yourself, your family, friends, and your        Damage to your reputation can occur even
of law. Nevertheless, I believe they are         community. There is no magic formula. Each         more quickly and can be difficult to repair.
critical to professional success and             person must find and maintain a balance               9. Set and maintain high standards for
happiness. I have listed below ten lessons       that works for him or her. A lawyer with           any written product that bears your name.
that I believe a young lawyer must learn to      balance in his or her life is far more likely to   Whether it is a letter, legal opinion,
achieve success and happiness in the practice    cope effectively with stress and to                memorandum, pleading, motion, or brief,
of law.                                          consistently demonstrate the mental energy,        that written product is a direct and lasting
   1. You have to take primary responsibility    judgment, and interpersonal skills necessary       reflection of your abilities as a lawyer.
for your own professional development.           for long-term happiness and success in the            10. Every few years assess whether you
Unlike law school where there is an              practice of law.                                   are getting all that you want out of your
established curriculum, there is no set             4. Always treat your secretary, office staff,   professional life. The practice of law offers
curriculum once you enter the practice.          court reporters, paralegals, and court             a diverse array of professional
Given the challenges lawyers face in meeting     personnel with the utmost courtesy and             opportunities and substantive areas. If you
their day-to-day professional obligations, it    respect. These people all have important jobs      are not happy with your professional life,
can be difficult to find the time and energy     to do and a lawyer can learn a lot from            invest the time and energy needed to
to assess what knowledge or skills you need      them. Moreover, many a lawyer has been             determine why, and if necessary, explore
to develop or improve in order to excel in       saved from embarrassment or worse, due to          other practice areas that might be a better
your chosen area of practice. A periodic self-   the diligent efforts of a secretary, clerk, or     fit for your natural abilities and
assessment of your strengths and weaknesses      staff member. These people deserve your            personality. You are more likely to excel in
is the first step toward becoming a better       respect and support.                               an area of the law you enjoy. Life is short
lawyer. The second critical step is to develop      5. Good lawyers are problem solvers —           — don’t waste it doing something that
and implement a strategy to work on your         not just problem identifiers. Few things will      does not take advantage of your natural
weaknesses. Watch and learn from lawyers         turn a client away more quickly than a             interests and abilities.
who are recognized for their competence and      lawyer who focuses on identifying all the             A lawyer who learns these lessons is far
professionalism, and then seek out               obstacles that stand in the way of the client’s    more likely to realize success and
                                                 objective, but fails to offer potential            happiness in his or her professional life.
opportunities to implement what you have
                                                 solutions to overcome those obstacles. It is
learned.
                                                 also important to understand the context of
   2. Remember, the practice of law is
                                                 the problem. A good lawyer recognizes that
primarily a people-oriented profession.                                                             waklatt@co.franklin.oh.us
                                                 the context of the problem often provides
Work ethic, interpersonal skills and personal    clues to the solution. Fundamentally,
integrity are critical components for long-      clients want problem solvers.
term success and happiness in the practice of       6. A good lawyer is intellectually
law. A lawyer who works hard and can             tenacious. Don’t stop researching an issue
relate well to clients, colleagues, opposing     until you are satisfied that you fully
counsel, judges and court personnel has the      understand all the relevant points of law. A              The Honorable
essential ingredients for sustained success.     complete understanding will allow you to                William A. Klatt,
The smartest lawyer is not necessarily the       recognize nuances and to draw                      Tenth District Court of
best or most successful lawyer.                  distinctions. Intellectual tenacity is an                         Appeals

                                                                                                      Summer 2008 Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly    19

				
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