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Attorneys Exploited to Succeed

published December 23, 2021

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Many attorneys and employees of companies in other industries fear being exploited and taken advantage of by their employers. They do not want to do more work than they are compensated. It is understandable - everyone wants to get paid as much as possible for doing as little work as possible, and no one wants to work hard for nothing in return.
 

When these attorneys realize that they are providing more than they are getting, they often start providing less work leaving their employer unsatisfied with their work. They switch firms immediately to find an employer that will pay them enough or advance them to partners quicker.


They do not realize that to become successful in the legal profession, you sometimes have to allow your law firm to take advantage of you and your work. Now, I do not mean any severe financial exploitation by this. I am talking about giving the most law firms expect the best regardless of what you are getting back, trusting the system to care for you. Firms like to advance those who give them the most and keep back those who give enough. That is why the most successful attorneys are those who always give their best.
 

Giving and Taking Outside and Inside of the Law Firm


This is not true just in your professional life. It works like this in personal relationships as well. When someone thinks they are being taken advantage of by their partner, whether financially, emotionally, or any other way, they usually try to leave to avoid being exploited more quickly.

I knew a man who had been quite successful in his career and decided to retire relatively early in his 50s. One of his other characteristics was that he wanted his romantic partners to always contribute (financially and emotionally) equally or more in the relationships regardless of the situation. He calculated everything and kept records to make sure he was not giving more than the other person.

As he was not earning any money on his retirement and constantly bickering with his closest ones about money and contributions, he soon ended up alone without much money in his bank account. No surprise there.

Like most law firms expect, people like to avoid these types of individuals who are always watching how much work/money/time they have put into something to make sure they are getting back enough, if not more in return. And it brings nothing good into that person's life either. Yeah, they have made sure that no one and no company is taking advantage of them. Still, they are breaking any personal or professional relationships because they view them as a mathematical equation rather than a meaningful relationship between two equals.
 

Is It Worth It To Game the System?


Every employer struggles with the employees that want to game the system - work as little as possible but get money as if they were working their hardest. Work ethic is an essential factor in that. I am no exception.

I recently went on a holiday, and the maintenance person who helps me in my house offered to look after my dogs while I was away. I thought it was a great idea, as he already had some tasks to do in the house. However, when I got back, I found out that he did not do any of the maintenance tasks I wanted him to do; he was only looking after the dogs. He thought his average compensation would not be enough for him to do his regular job and take care of the dogs, so he decided to postpone all of his regular duties until the time I came back. You can imagine how disappointed and angry I was.

Vacations are probably my curse because when I was on a different one, in Mexico, I experienced this being taken advantage of again and on a much higher level. The house we rented came with a concierge who was supposed to help us arrange various activities and have a great time. We got a lot of money out of the concierge without doing much work. We did not have that many wishes for him to fulfill, but whatever we wanted, we received it with a hefty margin and a recommendation to tip 20% from this inflated price.

Whether it was a massage, champagne, or paying for dinner at the hotel, every appointment we had through him was for a price higher than you would expect in your worst nightmare. Staff members always decided how much to tip, sometimes even including $150 information without being asked. I felt very exploited throughout that whole stay, and it undoubtedly prevented me from ever going back to Mexico.

In both of these situations, I met people who wanted to get more for doing the bare minimum of what I would expect for that price. You can bet that I never sought the services of anyone I mentioned again. Like the retired man I said before, people do not like to have someone like that around them.

People in the legal industry are no different. Other people, however, want to game the system and get as much as possible for as little as possible.

I once hired a recent law school graduate from one of the Ivy League Schools, not for any legal services, but for helping me choose and edit some written pieces for a website. He was getting paid hourly as much as lawyers do for a not that hard job, so I expected his best efforts. But what I got was highly underwhelming. He was probably against working long hours, as coming in late and leaving was part of his daily living.

Moreover, the amount and quality of his work were not anything spectacular; he also had some other demands for our company and me. It did not take long until my managers and I decided to let the employee go and hire attorneys again.
 

What It Takes To Succeed in Law Firms


Many hire attorneys (or rather employees, generally) who avoid giving their job their all and working hard because they want to avoid being advantaged. They want to get more than they are putting in and believe that it would be financial abuse if it were the other way, and their employer would take unfair advantage of them.

But the legal profession does not work like that. When attorneys learn that giving their all, working hard, and working more than is expected of them does not mean being exploited in the literal sense of the word. Still, it is instead an "investment" for their future and a building block of trust with the other side; they can succeed.

If you do this job because you love being an attorney and helping people, the last thing on your mind should be being compensated for every tiny thing you did to help the client. When you put time and effort into making sure you are doing what you can to ensure that your clients and your smart law firms get a successful resolution to all problems and tasks, the reward will come eventually.

Maybe it will take a few years, but the most successful people do not demand immediate reward for everything they do. They want to do good work and provide value to those who sought out their services. The success will follow through the trust of those around them.
 

Attorneys Are Here to Provide Value


One of the more successful attorneys I know is an excellent example of how this formula works. He has over eight digits in business a year, and he did not get there by being cutthroat and exploiting his smart law firms or clients for money. He wanted to help people around him, so his approach was to network, get to know people and their problems, and try to help them and find solutions if he could. Often, he was doing this for free in his free time, so it is no surprise that people started to be pulled toward him. He was doing something not that common in the legal industry.

Before that, they probably only came into contact with attorneys who were making their problems out to be more severe than they were to be able to charge more money. When they found someone who just wanted to help them and did not see them only as a paycheck, it was so positive and refreshing that they were drawn to him in huge numbers.

His clients recommended him left and right because they knew he would always do his best to find the right and most effective solutions for everyone's problems. The value he provided to them was much higher than what they were paying for, so they trusted him that he had their best interests in mind and did not do the work only to earn money off of them.

I have learned the principle of constantly providing more value quite early on, and I have my father to thank for that. When I was still a kid, he asked me to do various chores, such as shoveling the snow in our driveway in winters, blowing leaves away during fall, or mowing the lawn in summers, and I would get paid some money in return.

He was always telling me and emphasizing to do more than was expected from me every time. He taught me to always think about what I was doing and find where I could help on top of my task. It could have been not only shoveling the snow but also cleaning the snow from the car. He was doing anything valuable that average workers would not do because they did not have it "on paper" beforehand. The idea was that providing added value without expecting anything extra will create trust and appreciation between the two parties, creating a solid bond and making you valuable to the other person.

This was not something my dad learned on his own. He got inspired by the Japanese community in our area. When I was growing up in and near Detroit, their car companies became extremely popular in the U.S., more popular than American companies.

Before, they were inferior to the American-made; however, these people refused to give up. They invested a lot of time and effort to make their cars more safe, effective, and convenient for people. They provided more value while keeping the costs low, something the Americans refused to do. Our cars kept their higher price but did not also evolve to provide more value.

As a result, Americans started buying Japanese cars instead of American-made ones. Since then, my dad has always told me to approach everything as the Japanese would - always give more value than others.
 

The Key To Succeeding in Law Firms


If you want to have a promising career and do very well, providing more value to your firm and your clients than your peers is the best thing you can do. Unfortunately, too many people believe that the time they spend in college, law school, or studying for the bar examination is enough to warrant a good salary, and they do not have to do much on top of it.

I can tell you from my valuable experience that that is not true. You always have to provide more value than others do if you want to become a successful lawyers trust. My advice is always to do better work, perform better socially, contribute more to a team effort and bring in more business than others. This is how you are evaluated at your company, so you must always provide more value than your peers.

And that is not true only for the firms. Your clients need to get more value from you as well. Some attorneys believe their main task is to get their clients to pay as much money as possible for as little work as possible, but that is not the case.

You should always provide more value - give them more time, offer more services, be more sociable, connect them to more professionals, etc. - to your clients than other lawyers. Clients choose their attorneys based on what they can get. It follows that they recommend attorneys to different people based on their own experience with them.

If you want to build a massive business book, this is the only secure way to do it. Always provide more value than you get and do the work you are doing because you love it, not because you want to become rich.

You might look at it as being exploited, but everyone in the legal industry, whether lawyers, law students, partners, even a judge, everyone is being taken advantage of. It is not about justice or injustice, fair or unfair. That is just how the system works.
 

Conclusions


If you want to become a successful lawyer, you cannot approach the job by constantly seeking to gain more than you are getting. Only those who immerse themselves in their work without thinking about immediate compensation can ever become successful. When you start finding ways to provide your clients, your law firm, and those around you more value than others, good things start happening. Of course, situations like financial abuse or financial exploitation happen as you become a vulnerable adult by offering as many benefits to those around you as possible. So, when the exploitation has been going on for too long, and you do not see it changing any time soon, it is better to leave and find a new firm.

See also:
 

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