What Have You Done to Improve Lawyers Public Image?

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Even though the legal economy is in the tank, that has done little to change public opinion on attorneys. Public opinion will not change overnight, so take some time to think about how you can make an impact—major or minor—on public perception of attorneys.

Keep pro bono on your calendar

In this economy, many attorneys (especially solos) are scrambling to take any and every case they can just to make ends meet. This makes it incredibly easy to cut pro bono out of you caseload. At the same time, the down economy also means that more people than usual need legal advice, but cannot afford a lawyer—so do what you can to help out.

Even if you cannot handle a pro bono case right now, dedicate yourself to a pro bono clinic once a month, or even alternate months. That is a great way to limit the time commitment, but also keep yourself involved and visible in the public eye. As an added bonus, it should make you feel good about yourself.

Focus on your clients, not the bottom line

Of course you need clients to keep your doors open and in this economy, it can be easy to focus on how the client affects your bank account instead of how you can impact your client.

But take a step back for a moment. The legal market is flooded with attorneys desperate for work—which means despite the other options, your client chose you. Lawyers should never take their clients for granted. Especially in this economy, when more and more individuals and families are turning to the legal system to help them get through tough times.

You should always go the extra mile for your clients, but now the need is even greater than ever. Making the extra effort is bound to be helpful in more than one way.

Hold yourself to a higher standard

Just because opposing counsel acts like a jerk that does not give you the right to act that way. If you have to take on a higher workload to make ends meet, that is not an excuse to cut corners on certain cases.

Spend the extra time on your briefs, prepare for court, and treat the court with respect. For many members of the public, court is their only real interaction with attorneys. Frankly, when I know opposing counsel will probably show up in a sweater and bumble through an argument, that just motivates me to work even harder to show the court that most attorneys still take this seriously.

There will always be bad apples that reflect poorly on the rest of us—make sure you are not one of them.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikemac29/280289212/)

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  • Good post. It seems like the whole idea is to simply change your frame of mind. Money is important; it keeps your practice running, but don’t lose sight of the real reason behind it. What are you contributing to society? How are YOU helping?

  • Edward Bradley

    Instead of decrying lawyers who can’t afford to do pro-bono, why not spend your time more productively on advocating for the thousands upon thousands of unemployed lawyers? If pro-Bono is so important, maybe lawyers should be offered a credible loan forgiveness program by the ABA and their law schools in exchange for doing x number of hours pro-Bono. This will never happen as profits are more important to law schools than the public perception of lawyers.

    • I don’t know any lawyers who can’t afford to do pro bono. I know lawyers who say they are too busy (making money) and lawyers who have plenty of time, but no inclination. How many busy-but-poor lawyers do you know?

    • If you are doing pro-bono work in order to make money (through loan forgiveness), is that really pro bono work? And it doesn’t defeat the purpose of doing pro-bono work?

  • I would add to also get involved in your community with volunteer work. Helping others without any expectation of getting something in return. Our firm traveled to another state to help with disaster relief. We did it because we wanted to show as lawyers we care about people, not about making money or getting another case in the door.