Friday, 17 May 2013

Flies and honey...

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve noticed that my colleagues’ posts have been full of helpful articling tips. So much so that I wondered what else I could possibly provide in terms of tricks of the trade. As I reflected on my experience in the last ten months, I remembered something a mentor of mine told me at the outset of the articling term - a good reputation is more valuable than money.

"...we have one thing that sets us apart from one another: our reputations."

Any lawyer (in Toronto especially), will tell you that the legal profession is a small community. The six degrees of separation are arguably most evident in our world. You probably went to the same law school as your principal’s wife’s sister, and she is probably dating that guy you knew from 1L Contracts. The bottom line is…we’re all connected. We are all educated, skilled and trained in the same laws but we have one thing that sets us apart from one another: our reputations.

First impressions are important but the lasting impression you leave with opposing counsel, is the one you want to be concerned about. The Law Society imposes on all of us a good character requirement but independent of a formal requirement, it’s probably a good business decision to conduct yourself with integrity and grace. Advocate vigorously but kindly; fight for your client not with opposing counsel; exchange pleasantries; grant reasonable indulgences. There’s a difference between advocating for your position and being unnecessarily aggressive. I’m throwing in a cliché here, but you really do catch more flies with honey….

The legal profession is hardly “Law and Order-esque”. We are all colleagues. We might not all know each other’s names but we remember when someone was reasonable and pleasant. We will also remember those who give us a hard time…

And these sentiments aren’t just applicable to our interactions with the profession at large. I’ve learned that your relationships with your colleagues are of the utmost importance – especially as a litigator. There are deadlines, upon deadlines and constant unpredictability. Who knows when you’ll need a helping hand and if you’re good to your colleagues, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one. At MB, there are no name plates on the doors. Most people know each other and when they don’t, they introduce themselves. Although we started as a small firm, as we grow, the air of collegiality among colleagues is ever-present.

Everyone is busy but no one is too busy to smile at a colleague, to build a relationship, to make a friend and grant an indulgence here and there. We all want our clients to like us so why wouldn’t we want our colleagues to as well – both inside and outside of the firm. I guess what I’m really trying to say is - it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!