Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

10 Tips for Success After Law School

If you want to improve your chances of a successful law life, don’t worry about tweaking your resume or prepping for that upcoming interview – just sit quietly for 10 minutes.

Emptying your mind will bring clarity to your career quest.

“We are trained to analyze, anticipate and avoid problems,” writes attorney James Gray Robinson in the ABA Journal. “The problem is we love to think, and that is not always good for us 24-7. Take 10 minutes every day and focus on your breathing. It will make you feel much better and give your brain a reboot.”

Robinson knows a thing or two about launching a law career, although he’s gone about it in a somewhat unorthodox manner. He practiced in North Carolina for 27 years before stepping away in 2004 to examine his life and try new things. Eventually he found himself on the other side of the country, where he has recently become licensed to practice in Oregon.

In an ABA Journal article titled 10 Rules for Being a Successful Lawyer, he shares some of the lessons he’s learned on his professional journey.

James Gray Robinson’s 10 Rules

1. Don’t be a prisoner of your past. “What happened in your life is a lesson, not a life sentence. We are our own jailors, and our minds are the key. You do not have to obsess over events that were painful or not what you wanted. You are not a victim, so don’t act like one. True leaders and winners accept what has happened and move on. However, we do have to repeat behavior that produces unpleasant results.”

2. You are what you eat. “When we eat or drink things that aren’t healthy, it makes us feel depressed, stressed or angry. We can say things we will regret when we feel terrible. So, if you are eating unhealthy foods or drinking too much, you will feel bad, which makes you say negative things, which makes you feel worse. So you will eat and drink more—and on and on.”

3. Health is true wealth. “Who are the people you admire most? What is the object of this game called life? Is it to die with the most toys or the most friends? Wealth and possessions are addictive; you will never have enough. If you are healthy and happy, wealth will naturally come to you in whatever form you choose.”

4. Take 10 minutes each day to just breathe. “One of the most common complaints among lawyers has to do with overthinking.”

5. Honesty is more important than winning. “We all know those lawyers who are aggressive, confrontational, disagreeable and just plain unlikeable. People may dislike dealing with them or fear them, but they are rarely admired.”

6. Seek balance. “You have to focus on your physical body, your emotional body and your family, however you define that.”

7. Be kind. “You can get your point across without being hateful. Lawyers don’t have to threaten each other.

8. Change is good. “Look for the opportunity in change. Don’t resist. If you leave a law firm or change your practice, that is a good thing! If we are struggling in our practice, it is evidence that something needs to change. Perhaps you need new partners, a new practice area or to get out of practicing law altogether.”

9. Control your emotions. “When we don’t focus on positive events and thoughts, chances are we will focus on negative events and thoughts. That is what lawyers do because we focus on worst-case scenarios. It may come as a surprise, but most successful people do not focus on worst-case scenarios, they focus on the best thing that can happen.”

10. Being a lawyer is a gift. “Remember we choose to be lawyers, we weren’t drafted. When practicing law gets dicey, that is the time you need to be grateful.”

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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