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How To Become a Successful and Rich Attorney

published March 30, 2022

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Most law firm attorneys want to become successful in what they are doing and also earn some money doing it. Unfortunately, not everyone can get to the top in the legal profession, and too many young lawyers quit practicing law before they are not even able to come close to the very few attorneys who can say they have made it. But what determines who becomes a successful lawyer and who does not? Read on to find out the two main ways how lawyers can become successful and rich.
 
 

The Crisis of Law Firm Lawyers


As a legal recruiter with over two decades of experience, I come into contact with many different attorneys every day. I have noticed that those who start out in large law firms in big legal markets often quit practicing after only a few years as associates, while those in smaller law firms usually stay active lawyers their whole lives.


The main difference between these two types of law firms and what I believe is contributing to lawyers from big firms quitting early in their careers is how these types of firms function. In large firms, young associates who have just graduated from law school usually get assignments that keep them sitting behind their desks for long hours doing clerical work and writing up materials. They might not even meet with a client for the first few years of their career. It is, therefore, no surprise that after two or three years of sitting behind a computer, these attorneys start to feel burnt out and want to leave the practice of law. Their experience of practicing law in a firm is completely different from what they expected the legal profession to be and what it is.

In smaller firms, the work is not as divided and "sectioned." There are not that many attorneys for the firm to put all the clerical and research work to junior associates, and they have to be a part of the attorney work from the beginning to the end. Being in direct contact with the clients they are helping, and other people in the legal industry helps these small law firm attorneys keep their excitement about the job.

Attorneys from large firms who have not talked with anyone besides their direct superior in the first years of their placement and cannot see how their work assists real people do not have anything to keep up their excitement and energy for their profession. I find that disturbing because energy is one of only two ways to become a successful and wealthy lawyer.
 

The Two Only Ways to Becoming a Successful Lawyer


To advance in the legal field, law firms are searching for two main qualities in attorneys - an attorney's skills or accomplishments and energy. An attorney rarely has both, but when that happens, it automatically shoots them up to the top among the most successful and richest attorneys.

Most lawyers either have one or the other, and some possess neither of these qualities. At the same time, skilled attorneys without spark and excitement or excited lawyers full of energy but without the necessary skills can work on themselves and stay in the legal world. They probably will not be those who are the most famous.


Why?


Understanding what role these two aspects play in the legal profession might provide answers.
 

Skills and Attributes Most Successful Attorneys Possess


Law firms and other legal employers look for many different skills, attributes, accomplishments, or qualities in their employees. Some of these attributes differ from law firm to law firm, and every employer values them differently, but there are a few main skills and accomplishments every legal employer looks at.
 

Academic Qualifications

 

Many law firms, especially the large ones, focus a lot on academic qualifications when hiring young lawyers. That is understandable as they do not have that many other attributes to look at when these attorneys are fresh out of law school. Firms are looking at the quality/rank of the law school an attorney had received their law degree from but also how they ranked in their class. The more prestigious a law firm is, the pickier it can be with the qualifications they require from attorneys they choose to hire. The most prestigious law firms often have lists of schools they accept attorneys from and lists of schools they will not consider.

Intelligence is extremely important for lawyers as they have to grasp complex issues quickly, come up with a solution, and explain it well to others. The quality of law school and academic results speak to some extent about an attorney's intelligence. Law firms cannot afford to hire an attorney who has difficulty understanding basic concepts, and choosing those who went to top law schools or were at the top of their class in a law school should serve as a marker that this would not happen.

Educational qualifications reveal not only the intelligence and aptitude of attorneys but, to some extent, also their energy and determination. Getting into these schools and getting good results does not happen just like that and requires hours and hours of studying. Being able to accomplish this gives the hiring law firms at least a bit of assurance that an attorney like this will handle the day-to-day tasks.
 

Previous Work Experience

 

Another important indicator of attorneys' skills and ability to work in a law firm is their previous experience in that environment. Many lawyers who came out of the most prestigious law schools and got into great law firms quickly find out that the stressful law firm environment is not for them. If their skills and abilities are not up to par with the other attorneys, they will not survive in the firm long-term.

Having several years of experience in a law firm on a resume tells other potential employers that these attorneys can survive in this environment. This experience is also essential for developing skills necessary for fulfilling assignments and advancing in the firm. The more years an attorney has worked in a law firm, the better their skills usually are.

The quality of the law firm(s) an attorney has on their resume is also an indicator of their skills. More prestigious firms have higher standards for the quality of the work they require from their employees, so attorneys there can develop skills at a very high level. If an attorney has been employed in a major law firm for several years, other law firms are usually quite sure that this attorney has the skills they are looking for.
 

Ability To Notice What Other Attorneys Are Missing

 

Being intelligent is often not enough to be among the most successful people in the law industry. Those at the top also can understand complex issues quickly and see connections and interpretations others do not. This allows them to help their clients much more effectively and be great advocates for them.

Unfortunately, only a handful of attorneys have this ability, and it is very hard to find them as there are no assessments that test it. But when a law firm finds an attorney who can see what others do not, they become extremely valuable to the firm and the clients.
 

People Skills and Ability to Get Along With Others

 

Attorneys in law firms have to deal with many different types of people. From potential clients, existing clients, other attorneys, partners, opposing counsel, judges, paralegals, and other people in and outside the office all act differently, and attorneys have to get along with them to succeed in a law firm.

Those who cannot get along with people often get into unnecessary conflicts and create trouble in law firms, which they do not need. If you want to find success and become a rich lawyer, you must know how to deal with all types of people at work.
 

Constant Drive for Learning and Improvement

 

The best attorneys are passionate about what they do and want to learn and improve constantly. Even when they have already accomplished a lot, made partners, became successful lawyers, they never feel like they know everything and never stop learning. They read books, attend seminars and conferences, meet with more skilled attorneys in their practice area, or are a part of local bar associations to stay in contact with others in the industry and better themselves. This improves their legal skills and helps them provide better legal services for clients and their firms.
 

Competency To Win a Lot


Firms and clients want skilled attorneys because they want to win. Whether winning litigation in court, negotiating the conditions clients want, finalizing transactions, or getting any other result the client wants, successful lawyers win more than they lose on behalf of their clients. While winning is not a result of a single skill but rather a combination of the attorney's skills, experience, and personal attributes, only lawyers who practice law successfully have a record of winning.
 

Ability To Generate Business

 

As an attorney's seniority level increases, they are expected to bring in their own business. The most successful and rich lawyers commonly get where they are because they can generate business and earn more money. Some lawyers are more skilled in finding paying clients than others, and not every famous and successful lawyer had to get there by getting clients. However, generating enough business is often what makes an attorney successful.
 

Attorney's Energy and Its Role in Succeeding in Law Firms

 

Being passionate and energized about what you do is essential for getting to the top in any industry. However, it is especially vital when you are practicing law. A constant stream of energy for doing the job helps attorneys work long hours, be effective, and most importantly, fight for their clients and win on their behalf. When they lack this spark or passion, they cannot stand behind their clients or firms and fully defend their interests.

Those who are passionate about what they do cannot stop doing it. It gives them the purpose and energy to live. When I think about people passionate about what they do, I always remember my friend in the motivational and business training industry writing books and giving speeches. I always knew he was passionate, but I truly realized the extent of his love and obsession for his work when he was on his deathbed.

He was diagnosed with cancer, and even though he was hospitalized and undergoing different treatments and chemotherapy, the disease was spreading. He did not have much time left, and you could see it in his appearance. Despite this, he never stopped working. He kept writing long motivational and business articles and essays and articles about his illness and possible cures. He also kept having business calls and meetings, even though he could no longer stand up from his hospital bed.

I once stayed with him overnight at the hospital and was astonished that he kept writing and talking about his business ideas until almost three in the morning. I barely had my eyes open then, and I was completely healthy! His body was shutting down, but his mind kept working because he loved his job so much and was so passionate about it that he could not stop. I believe it was what was keeping him alive until his last moments.

Of course, most people and attorneys are not even closely as passionate about their job as he was. However, successful and rich lawyers are not far from it. They would not get where they are without being thrilled and excited about what they are doing. The great lawyers at the top often practice law well into their retirement age, and it is not that uncommon to come across partners in their 70s who are still happy to wake up for work every day. If you are good at your job and passionate about it, your legal career can last for decades.

Being energized by and passionate about the job you do every day is essential for doing it long-term and successfully. A person who loved their job wakes up every day with a smile, excited to do what they love. They have the energy and will to spend hours fulfilling their daily tasks and then spend more hours bettering themselves in all aspects of their job and life.

Attorneys who are not passionate about their work understandably do not advance easily in their job and are not good advocates for their clients or firms. How could they? They are bored and careless at work, keep waiting for the moment the clock shows 5 PM to be able to go home, they cannot wait for the moment their pay comes into their account to feel that they are getting at least something out of a job. The work they produce is usually very underwhelming, if not downright bad. Without passion and energy for the job, you cannot become successful or wealthy doing it.
 

Finding Passion and Energy in Law


You probably understand by now that energy is necessary for success and to be an effective advocate for clients. But what to do if you do not feel passionate about your job now? Is it necessary to quit practicing law?

No, it is not.

You can find passion by changing aspects of your legal career without leaving law. You might find passion when you change your practice area if you are not passionate about the one you are in now. Some lawyers find passion when they switch from a large law firm to a smaller one or become a solo practitioner because they can get more contact with clients or have a better work-life balance. Sometimes, all you need to find passion is to switch to a different firm with different people and company culture that is more aligned with your outlook on life.

There are many different ways to find the passion needed to succeed as a lawyer. You have to try them. Sometimes, you will not get excited about the law even when you try changing your focus, which is okay. You do not have to be an attorney.

There are many other professions you can try and be happy and successful in. If you fail to find passion and energy as a lawyer, do not be afraid to go after something you can be passionate about. There is nothing worse than spending your life doing something you do not like. You are miserable, and you are not helping anyone when you are not putting everything into your work.

If you want to find success in the legal world or any other profession, you have to be excited about the work you do and be passionate to learn more and get better every day. That is the only way.
 

Conclusions


It is no surprise that so many young lawyers leave the practice of law so early in their careers. While working on difficult but clerical tasks without seeing how the work directly benefits clients, can be difficult to maintain your energy and avoid burnout. However, keeping your energy and enthusiasm is necessary if you ever want to achieve something in this industry.

Many attorneys are smart and skilled enough to be great and successful. Still, only a handful combine these skills with enough energy and enthusiasm that keep them going for decades without ever seeming like they are slacking. If you want to become one of them, you have to find ways how to keep your energy and enthusiasm for your work up all the time. For some, taking time off, spending time with close ones, or exercising regularly works and helps them recharge. Others have to keep constantly working and bettering themselves to keep up their energy. Whatever it is that keeps you energized and passionate about your work, find it and keep doing it if you ever want to be successful and wealthy as a lawyer.

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