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.