Best Advice I Received as a Lawyer: Don’t Forget to Take the Time to Think

We are very fortunate to be bringing on board a new member to our family of columnists, Rush Nigut.  Rush is a recognized authority in the area of business law who also happens to really have a handle on the importance of utilizing technology in practice.  From his unique perspective as a business lawyer, he is going to be writing a monthly column called ‘Business Law and Tech’.  Of course, he’ll add his experiences as a long time practitioner to showcase implementation and how technology, when used properly, improves the overall effectiveness of your practice and benefits your clients, too.

Best Advice I Received as a Lawyer:  Don’t Forget to Take the Time to Think.

I was fortunate as a young lawyer to work with a terrific mentor when I started in the practice of law who taught me the importance of regular “think” sessions.  He owns a small three-lawyer firm in Des Moines, yet represents a stable of clients that would make most in BIG LAW envious. Many of these clients weren’t big clients when he started representing them.  But by studying and truly analyzing his clients’ issues, he was able to position himself and more importantly his clients for opportunities.  Most lawyers I know hope for the big client or case. Instead, he has the uncanny ability to often turn the small client into a big client.

The result is a career that I joke Walter Mitty couldn’t have dreamed up. Some of his highlights include winning multi-million dollar verdicts, representing international corporations, chairing six different presidential campaigns in Iowa, owning a championship professional basketball team and even watching his horse run in the Kentucky Derby.  If asked about the keys to his success, he could easily say he was blessed with a gift for public speaking, loves his work or perhaps has been lucky. But I’ve always felt he had a much more profound reason for his success. He takes the time to think.

Lawyers, particularly solo lawyers, have a lot on their mind.  Solo lawyers must develop a client base, somehow get the work done and then run the business too. With these demands, it’s hard not to have a myopic viewpoint and focus only on the task that lies directly ahead.

But it’s critical to take time to think. It isn’t a waste of time. In our fast-paced professional practices where moving from client to client is the norm, our thoughts can easily become scattered and unfocused. Focused, uninterrupted time spent thinking can help lawyers immeasurably.   Think about the practice of law and how it’s changing.  And definitely don’t forget about where your clients’ industries are headed and how you can best position your clients to take advantage of opportunities.

So schedule time each day or week to think about and focus on the future. Start with setting aside an hour or two each week. Keep notes of your ideas and in my experience it works best to use the same journal or notebook to record your thoughts.  During each week, make notes of things that come to your mind as well as the challenges and problems you run into.

One of the best things to remember is that just because something has been done a particular way, or because no one else does it that way, doesn’t mean you can’t do it your way. Be innovative and resourceful. Think of ways to come up with better, more productive solutions, both for your law practice and your clients. If you do, I have a feeling you’ll find your practice rewarding, not just from a monetary perspective, but also a personal perspective. It’s the best advice I ever received in the practice of law and it’s made a big difference for me.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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2 comments on “Best Advice I Received as a Lawyer: Don’t Forget to Take the Time to Think

  • Welcome to the family, Rush! This is great advice.

    When I was representing an elderly woman facing eviction in my law school clinic, my professor-advisor sat me down after reviewing my work. He said I had done a great job but that I could have done an even better job if I would have spent time just thinking about the case. I was really surprised by that. I did win the case for my client but that advice has always stuck with me.

    Now I will often complete work but not ship it. I take a day or two to think about it and then go back and review to incorporate any changes I’ve considered. I find it to be a good practice.

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