X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
I coach my son’s flag football team. So far we are 0-5, which is probably why my firm’s marketing department refuses to put “champion coach” on my bio. The biggest struggle is convincing the kids that they are good football players and that the game is fun, even though their record reflects otherwise. That’s why we celebrate each first down like a touchdown and each touchdown like a birthday. On or about the same time I started coaching, my firm assigned me to supervise a first-year associate. That means I supply him with a healthy dose of billable hours and try to soften the blow of real life and real partners (i.e. the partners that the firm doesn’t let near summer associates). Unlike coaching, it is much more difficult to measure success as a supervising attorney; for one thing there are no first downs or touchdowns. Most supervisors are ecstatic if their first-year is someday elevated to the firm’s partnership. But being an attorney is much more than achieving prominent status in the firm or profession. It’s a lifelong journey that can bring you much happiness and satisfaction or much misery and regret. I recommend the following step-by-step playbook to help you achieve enduring success: Step One: For those of you who don’t rely on public transportation, buy a nice car, preferably one with a decent stereo and A/C. I know you are carrying a hefty load of school debt, but just about any dealership in town doesn’t care about your credit (I know because I’m a bankruptcy lawyer). Just say the magical words “I’m an attorney” and the keys are yours. The purpose of a nice car is not to say “Look how cool I am!” to the world and to your friends � though tempting. This step is designed to help make the agonizing commute you will likely face each day for the rest of your life more enjoyable; and nicer cars generally have better safety features that protect you in the event of an accident. One word of caution � be sure to park the car far away from your kids’ toys and bicycles in the garage, lest they scratch $5,000 of value off the car less than one week after you buy it. Step Two: Create an interesting bio, but don’t embellish too much. Some law firms don’t post attorney bios, or even have websites at all, because they are paranoid that opposing counsel can hack into their computer system and obtain all sorts of tactical information. (Those are the same firms that still use Dictaphones and typewriters as their primary means of lawyering.) Other law firms � the “prestigious” ones that don’t believe in any form of advertising � reluctantly post short bios that don’t say much more than the name of the attorney and his or her law school (usually one of the top five), law school honors, and specialties. Those firms also typically omit pictures of their attorneys, apparently due to the rapid aging effect of too many billable hours. Fortunately, most firms give their attorneys some leeway. Use it to describe what makes you unique, like how my first-year played college (flag) football and is helping me draft plays for my team that might actually work. If nothing else, it will serve as a shrine to yourself that you can re-read after a bad day to remind yourself that you are special. Step Three: Get involved in the community. Some attorneys like to sit on boards and get involved in charitable organizations. Other attorneys don’t like to sit on anything and express charity in less obvious ways. Like coaching. As soon as the season is over, though, I’m going to find me a nice board to hide on for the rest of my life. Step Four: Find a good secretary. To borrow an expression, you will need a secretary who is your right hand and your left hand and sometimes your brain when you are losing it. That only happens every couple of days. Step Five: Learn to say “no” to partners. By this I don’t mean be lazy � hopefully you’ve learned by now that hard work is the key to success no matter what you do with your law degree. I simply mean it is important to keep a good work-life balance. I’ve discovered that most partners don’t ask you to work late nights or weekends unless they are working long hours, too. And most partners will help you out of a jam if needed. That said, if a partner treats you poorly, stand up for yourself. Step Six: Tell the truth; don’t spin. Someday you may come to the crossroads where telling the truth will seem like career suicide. Buck the trend. Step Seven: Be positive and smile. Too many attorneys are cynical, sarcastic, spiteful, angry, depressed and anxious. The best attorneys are those who work hard and take their cases seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. Jokes and “crazy client” stories are all part of a healthy diet. Speaking of a healthy diet, don’t forget to get adequate rest, eat well and exercise. (Your mother asked me to add that last sentence.) Step Eight: Go on cool vacations. Europe, Hawaii, the Amazon, and Phoenix, Arizona, are all exotic vacations, but don’t overlook the cheap, easy destinations that are often in your backyard. Well, not your literal backyard, although my dog would be very happy for the company. The “backyard” I’m talking about is the nearby vacation where you exert some physical and mental effort to enjoy yourself. For example, I live three hours from the Grand Canyon. It is an easy weekend retreat; doesn’t require two weeks away from the office; and the hiking is good exercise. But, to be honest, I’ve only been there once when I was 12 years old and I haven’t taken my kids yet. In other words, I’m a hypocrite. Let’s move on. Step Nine: Be a mentor. Mentoring means taking time and interest in someone besides yourself when your time and interests are being pulled a million other ways. During my clerkship, my judge spent a lot of time trying to teach me how to write. That was helpful (he would say it was an absolute necessity!), but my fonder memories are of the many lunches we had together — he always paid — his passion for traveling and photography that he shared with me, and the interest he took in my family. I still send him updates on my family and he still corrects my grammar. Step Ten: Accept failure, but don’t let it define who you are. I recently read a bio of a seasoned trial attorney who bragged that he had never lost a trial. Though impressive, I wondered if he was missing the purpose of being an attorney. Is it really about winning every trial? Atticus Fitch didn’t win every trial, but everyone would agree that his character was one of an ideal attorney. Indeed a happy attorney. Experiencing failure � i.e. facing and owning it � is usually the only way we human beings experience happiness and success. Attorneys are no exception, even if they deny it. I conclude by quoting myself: “In this game of life, focus on (and celebrate) first downs; if you do, touchdowns and wins will take care of themselves.” Becoming a competent, happy attorney may be discouraging and seem impossible at times, but at least you are not 0-5. Scott Brown, an attorney with Lewis and Roca LLP in exotic Phoenix, Arizona, is a self-proclaimed expert on first-year associate life. His heavily anticipated book “Champion Coach” will be written and published just as soon as his flag football team wins a game.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.