The reason you go to law school is not so you can learn a bunch of Latin phrases that you can’t use outside of the courtroom. You want to become a great lawyer and build a reputable career that rivals greats like Gerry Spence.
But, most students won’t learn how to become great attorneys until they’ve left law school. That is, unless you’re lucky enough to have a passionate and experienced lawyer as a professor to teach you all the tricks of the trade.
To help you get started on your journey to becoming a great lawyer we’ve put together the following tips from experienced attorneys who are respected for their honor and integrity.
Work With Zeal
To have zeal means to pursue a cause or objective with great passion and enthusiasm. As a lawyer, it’s important to devote yourself to the client’s cause entirely. Remember that your job is to passionately defend and maintain their rights.
To achieve this, you’ll use all of your knowledge and experience to fight for your client, while staying within the ethics and rules.
But, only when you understand your client’s case can you work with courage and determination to defend it. That’s why it’s important to do a tremendous amount of research on each individual case, looking for useful information that’ll help your client to prevail. Most importantly, accept ambiguity and question everything.
It’s also important for lawyers to cultivate proficient listening skills so you can better understand your client’s needs, including any blind spots or loose ends present within the case.
Use Body Language To Your Advantage
“Every case begins from the moment that you walk into the courtroom,” says Mark from Steinepreis Paganin. That’s why you’ll notice that successful lawyers are always dressed sharp and on point. This is done deliberately to create a powerful impression in whomever is present in the courtroom, even if it’s just two people at first.
Keep in mind that by the time you open your mouth, people will have already formed 60% of their opinion of you. If you’re sharp, focused and confident, It’ll be easier for them to believe your story.
It’s important to maintain consistent eye contact without making anyone feel uncomfortable. Use a commanding yet empathetic tone. Express your emotion appropriately to magnify the attention when it’s good for your case and dissipate attention when it isn’t.
All of these seemingly small gestures can play a huge role in the final outcomes of your cases, and in turn your track record as a lawyer.
You Have To Care
The mark of a really great lawyer is to truly care about the cause that you’re fighting for. If you don’t really care, then you can’t win. After all, if you don’t care then how can you ask a jury to care?
To develop empathy, you must understand who your client is, where he comes from, what he’s done and what formed his identity.
The challenge with empathy though, is that it opens you up to the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being in a courtroom. That’s why you need to temper your empathy with rationale and a well-researched argument.
Always Prioritize Your Opening Statement
If anything, lawyers are storytellers. In no other part of the job is this fact evident than in the opening statement. The opening statement is not just a story about the case, it’s about revealing who you are to the judge and jury.
Keep in mind that everyone is a conglomerate of stories, so a single story that’s presented honestly and openly, can either boost or damage your credibility with the jury. As such, the details of the story are very important and this is where preparation in the form of research and empathy come in.
Your body language during the opening statement must be confident and deliberate, to show that you know what you’re talking about.
There’s no denying that there’s a large variance in quality when it comes to lawyers and people know this. While every lawyer’s goal is to become a respected member of the legal fraternity, it can take years to reach that goal.
That’s why a passion for justice is essential because you have to apply these principles consistently in the pursuit of justice. These are just some of the tools that you’ll need on your journey to become the great lawyer that you desire to be.