Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Law school is mostly about books. There are books of cases, books of regulations, books of statutes, and books that you should have finished reading already. But being a lawyer is about more than just knowing what is in those books. It is about building relationships of trust with colleagues and clients and having the professional skills to cultivate those relationships. Fortunately, William & Mary Law recognizes this and strives to help law students develop the professional skills necessary to become the best lawyers possible.

On February 27th, I had the chance to attend W&M Law’s Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar. Subtitled “the professional success initiative”, the purpose of the seminar was to help law students be better lawyers through enhanced communication skills, a growth mindset, and adaptability to evolving industry conditions. To that end, the school invited several high-end speakers from New York and Washington, D.C. firms to come and teach us the secrets to succeeding in the legal industry. I would like to share some highlights from my two favorite presentations.

Jay Sullivan, the managing partner of professional communications firm Exec|Comm, shared a number of ways in which law students can improve their communication skills. The first tip is to always focus on the client. There is a fine balance between being the legal hero who solves the client’s needs and being the person that they can trust and share those needs with. Remembering to orient yourself properly with a “what can I do to help you?” attitude enables lawyers to maintain that balance. When we focus on the client, rather than our own expertise, the ego stays under control and our clients feel heard and important. The next tip is to know your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Recognizing what you naturally excel at and what needs work creates a platform from which you can set goals and make plans to put yourself into situations which will improve your weaknesses. You will never be able to learn the things that “you don’t know you don’t know”, so start now, be honest, and put yourself in situations which stretch your capabilities.

Milana Hogan from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP taught us about the importance of grit and a growth mindset. We have all heard about the power of positive thinking before, but this was fresh. Instead of simply telling us that attitude is altitude, Milana presented evidence from research that she has conducted which found a statistically significant correlation between leadership capacity and the belief that a person can improve their intelligence and talent over time. In fact, belief in the ability to grow mentally is the most reliable indicator of success for lawyers. Not LSAT scores, not GPA, and not internships. So the next time you see a poster telling you to believe in yourself, take it seriously! It just might be what gets you into your dream job one day.

To sum it up, remember to put the client first, and never stop stretching yourself or believing that you can achieve the professional success that you dream of.

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