What would stop me from becoming a successful lawyer?

I’m thinking of becoming a lawyer. Are there any mistakes that people who want to be a lawyer make and fail at obtaining their career choice? Lawyer-Dopers, got any advice?

Paul Drake is dead.

Even if you have watched EVERY season of “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: CI,” you should not practice law … unless you have also seen “12 Angry Men” and that Pauly Shore movie where he gets on a jury.

On a serious note, depending on the type of law you practice, you can be a lawyer without good public speaking skills. You can be a good lawyer without knowing how to make small talk. You can even be a good lawyer with poor writing skills.

But you won’t make it as a lawyer if you don’t have very good to excellent reading comprehension. I know some lawyers that read slowly, but they make up for it by remembering almost all it after only one reading. Being able to follow an argument, to find both similarities and differences in situations, to reason out the next reasonable position or conclusion, to reach a conclusion and to be able to explain how and why you reached it, this is indispensible for a lawyer.

It’s all about words.

And good shoes. You can’t be a lawyer without good shoes.

A sense of ethics or any shred of human decency.

Piles and piles of mounting debt.
And we don’t need another stinkin’ lawyer.

Why not become a plumber like a good boy?

Honesty. Lawyers are professional liars. The ability and willingness to lie is an integral part of a lawyers job. (Hence Bill and Hilary?..sorry, I couldn’t hep it.) I don’t say this out of malice as I’ve not any had run-ins with lawyers. It’s simply an observation made from life experience

The gratuitous cheap shots aside, here are some of the keys to success in the practice of law:

Do not take up practice in a town where you are the only lawyer. Your economic and professional success depends on having somebody to argue with.

Never, never lie to a judge.

Never, never lie to your client

Get the money in front

When you have a good staff do anything to keep the staff happy. If you have a bad staff get rid of them

Be a part of the community

Realize that, at best, you will never be paid for about %20 percent of your work

Never, never commingle other people’s money with your own

Never, never sleep with a client

Remember that the services you provide to the community are no more important than the services provided by hundreds of other people – avoid the big head.

Don’t churn the files – do the work that needs to be done a quickly and efficiently as you can

There are others but those just come to mind in the moment.

Spavined Gelding, assuming that my comments are among those you refer to as gratuitous cheap shots, let me say I’m quite serious. I pride myself on being the most honest person I know, and the lying that is part of a lawyer’s job would make it impossible for me to be a lawyer. If your comment was not directed in part at my comments I apologize to you but my point still stands. I do find it interesting though that the only lies you seem to find objectionable are those that are bad for business.

You don’t know what you are talking about. Are there dishonest lawyers? Of course, just as there are dishonest doctors, plumbers, teachers, and artists. I am a lawyer and I pride myself on my ethics and honesty. I have NEVER lied or made any sort of misrepresentation to a client, a judge, or opposing counsel. You owe me, and every other honest lawyer on these boards, an apology. Unless, of course, you have some sort of evidence to back up your claim? In that case, please share. By the way, your earlier post is completely incoherent. In one breath, you claim that all lawyers are liars but that this claim does not arise out of malice as you’ve never had any run-ins with a lawyer. In the next breath, you claim to make this “observation” based on “life experience.” Which is it? These seem inherently contradictory to me.

As for the OP, laziness or a willingness to cut corners will lead to failure as a lawyer.


  1. Not making it into law school due to letting grades slip as an undergrad, and/or not preparing for the LSAT.
  2. Not getting a decent articling position by letting grades slip during law school.
  3. Burning out by not maintaining a sense of balance in life, or by not being prepared for the path one has chosen.
  4. Not being called to the bar or being tossed out due to unethical conduct (particuarly fraud).

Hey, whatever floats your boat. Personally, I don’t like taxi drivers. Never give a taxi driver an even brake, says I. But I digress.

Could I trouble you for an authoratitive cite from a reputable law school, bar association, or law firm, setting out that lawyers are professional liars?

If you can’t back up your supposedly factual answer to the GQ question, then you might wish to reconsider your highly offensive post.

Well, Starving, your post was a cheap shot, it was gratuitous and my opening line was directed at you. Your gratuitous cheap shot was, however, perfectly consistent with a mood that has been prevalent in the West for about as long as I am aware of. It is the basis for the line in the Shakespear play that the first thing you do to impose anarchy is to kill all the lawyers, it is the first refuge of the scoundrel (patriotism being the last refuge), it is based on a misunderstanding of the duty to the client, and on the nature of the adversarial system of justice. Maybe on the willful misunderstanding of them. It is the cry of the man who just cannot understand that he does not get everything his way all the time. It is biting the hand of the only class of persons that give a rat’s ass about your liberties.

If you have something to back up you gratuitous and irrational and willfully misinformed cheap shot then trot it out. And don’t give me some balderdash about evil conniving trial lawyer or some liability insurer disinformation about people trimming hedges with a rotary lawn mower. If you are going to relieve yourself of blanket slanders I want to see something really good and persuasive.

Put up or shut up, friend.

Oh for fucks sake, here we go again with the morons on this board who don’t understand how citations are used and attempt to use it as a cheap rhetorical device. Newsflash - what he said is not a data fact capable of being cited. It is an argument, an opinion. Please do not ask someone to provide a “cite” for a statement like, “I believe brussel sprouts taste terrible.”

By the way, I’m a lawyer; the guy is an idiot for saying this. But I cannot provide a cite factually showing idiocy.

Being the type of person to avoid conflict or wanting everyone to like you all the time.

As long as the subject of credibility has come up, let me suggest that the quickest way to not have a successful career in the law is to develop a reputation as a lying, dissembling weasel. When you say to a judge, to an opponent, to a client, to a witness or other third party to your particular dispute, that a thing is true, it damned well better be true. I owe Starving Artist for pointing out this omission from my prior posting.

There are always a certain number of people who, being convinced that the whole thing is some sort of con game in which the object is to take all you can get and to avoid paying retail, who will go to the weasel lawyer (which may explain the memos out of Justice and Defense about the Geneva POW Conventions). Those guys may prosper but in the profession they are pariahs who have no one’s respect or affection. If you are held as an undesirable by the people in your own profession you can hardly call that success.

Au contraire, my berobed amphiobous friend. There are a great many cites to be found that set out what makes for a successful legal career. Law schools set out what they require of students. Law societies / bar associations set out what they require of lawyers. Jurists speak on the subject. There is a great deal of information available on legal ethics. If starving were to do his/her homework, he/she would find that honesty is important to practising in the profession, rather than the opposite. The exercise would help starving to realize just how important honesty is to lawyers.

For example, the first guiding principle of the Canadian Bar Association’s Code of Conduct begins: “Integrity is the fundamental quality of any person who seeks to practise as a member of the legal profession.” The second guiding principle is: “The principle of integrity is a key element of each rule of the Code.” Integrity is defined as: "soundness of moral principle, esp. in relation to truth and fair dealing; uprightness, honesty, sincerity, candour."

Sir Thomas Lund CBE is often cited by law societies on this: "You may well ask for a short summary of a solicitor’s duties. I suppose really it is the old principle of ‘do unto others as you would they should do unto you.’ If I had to advise briefly the young solicitor on the guiding principles of conduct when he comes into the profession, I think I should say to him that it is clear that only the very highest conduct is consistent with membership of this profession of ours. Your client’s interests are paramount - that seems to be clear - except that you should never do, or agree to do, anything dishonest or dishonourable, even in a client’s interest or even under pressure from your best and most valuable client; you had better lose him. You should refuse to take any personal part in anything you yourself think is dishonourable. So far as you possibly can, consistently with not actually letting your client down, you should be completely frank in all your dealings with the Court, with your brother solicitors and with the members of the public generally. Finally I think I would say that where your word has been pledged either by yourself or a member of your staff you should honour that word even at financial cost to yourself, because his reputation is the greatest asset a solicitor can have, and when you damage your reputation, you damage the reputation of the whole body of this very ancient and honourable profession of ours."

In light of the above cites, which set out the vital importance of honesty to the practise of law, it is both fair and reasonable to challenge starving to prove otherwise, and to support his/her proof with equally reputable cites rather than blind conjecture.

But those aren’t “cites”. Those are quotes stating other people’s opinions, and guidelines for what attorneys should be. That’s my point. People on this board use “cite” like a $5 whore; that is, often, poorly, and wrongly.

For everything stated above, were I a typical user of this board of a particular persuasion, I could also say, “cite?”

“I suppose really it is the old principle of ?do unto others as you would they should do unto you.”

Cite? Find me a citation that states why this is the case.

"If I had to advise briefly the young solicitor on the guiding principles of conduct when he comes into the profession, I think I should say to him that it is clear that only the very highest conduct is consistent with membership of this profession of ours.

Cite? Why? Why is this so? On what authority does the author make this statement?

See, it’s pointless. It’s misusing an academic tool. You cite to facts, you request reasoning and facts when someone gives an opinion. Of course, you do all of these in a rigorous academic setting, not in the barroom like conversation that goes on here.

Not to mention the fact that everything quoted above contains aspirations, which unfortunately do nothing to show what the war on the ground is really like. But once again, I believe that, other than being money grubbing pigs for the most part (particularly in private practice), legal practioners are no worse than any other workers. They just often have the brains to make more money from their grubbing, which pisses off the other folks who would do the same if they knew how.

What would stop me from becoming a successful lawyer?

Morals? The desire to go to heaven?

Kidding, relax.
Keep your paralegal happy.

In my case, they are not just what I should be, but in fact are what I must be if I wish to keep my ticket. YMMV in your jurisdiction, but in mine, this in fact is what is required of me.

To parse it out, I had to swear: “. . . that I will honestly and diligently and to the best of my ability execute the duties of barrister and solicitor, abiding by the ethical standards and rules of the legal profession whose honour and dignity I will not compromise . . . I shall conduct myself truly and with integrity . . . .” The LSUC rules to which I am bound were developed out of and follow the CBA code, and with regard to integrity the CBA holds out Lund to assist in interpretation.

To put it another way, if I were hauled up before the discipline committee, I would not get anywhere quibbling about whether or not the warm and fuzzy guidelines of Lund were binding on me or not.

It’s really quite simple. To be a lawyer in my jurisdiction, honesty is formally and in fact required as set out in my cites above.