Litigation & Arbitration

What does being a “great lawyer” mean to you? The term is thrown around so frequently, it sometimes loses its meaning and probably means entirely different things to different people.

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Such a good question. To me it’s three things. First, it’s having really exceptional technical skills. For a trial lawyer that’s mastering everything from the rules of evidence and civil procedure, to the psychology of persuasion, to writing, to color theory, to data visualization, to project management, to direct and cross examination, to presentation technique, along with business development and client management. Every practice specialty has a similarly broad range of skills that a great lawyer in that speciality has to master. Second, great lawyers have great judgment and counseling skills. Knowing that the law says X is essential doesn’t get you very far in advising a client. You also have to understand the client’s objectives, perceive nuances in the situation you’re confronting, figure out what your adversaries are up to, and have the judgement and perspective to be able to wisely advise clients how to choose among the options available. Third great lawyers have to be good teachers, because it’s rarely possible to handle a modern legal problem without the help of other lawyers, along with a range of nonlawyer staff members. Someone has to teach them how to do what needs done. And sadly law schools don’t do that. I also place a lot of emphasis on being a good colleague, because the great lawyer described above can be very disruptive and corrosive is her or she is an a-hole.

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Thanks, TL1.

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Someone who views law as a commitment for itself, not as a way to make a lifestyle. Client first, with ethical provisions.

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likesmart
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Skills, poise and most importantly, gravitas. You get this when you are about 15-20 years out. Until then ...

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Disagree that good attorneys are born. Skills, judgment, characteristics etc of great attorneys are primarily developed through experience and practice. A base line level of intelligence/talent is required, but it is not what separates top performers in nearly all fields, including law. Other factors like a person’s grit (per the book), growth mindset (same), and dedication to a path to mastery (same) are more important.

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Great lawyers are reliable, accessible, trustworthy, knowledgeable, caring/compassionate and get good results. They take all the worrying off the client.

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