10 Things You Really Need to Know to Practise Law – Hull on Estates # 244

March 28, 2011 Hull & Hull LLP Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, PODCASTS / TRANSCRIBED, Show Notes, Show Notes Tags: , , 0 Comments

Listen: 10 Things You Really Need to Know to Practise Law

This week on Hull on Estates Sharon Davis and Natalia Angelini discuss a recent article in Canadian Lawyer Magazine 4 Students "10 Things You Really Need to Know to Practise Law" . Specifically, this article discusses "what more you need to know besides the law?"

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Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.

Natalia R. Angelini – Click here for more information on Natalia Angelini.


10 Things You Really Need to Know to Practise Law – Hull on Estates- Episode #244

Posted on March 29, 2011 by Hull & Hull LLP

Sharon Davis: Hello and welcome to Hull on Estates. You’re listening to episode #244 on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

Welcome to Hull on Estates, a series of podcasts for the Canadian legal community dealing with issues and insights surrounding estate planning in Canada.   Hosted by the lawyers of Hull & Hull, the podcast will touch on some key considerations when planning estates and wills. Now, here are today’s hosts.

Natalia Angelini: If you want to be heard on Hull on Estates, you can participate by leaving us a comment. Email us at hull.lawyers@gmail.com or you can visit our blog at estatelaw.hullandhull.com.

Sharon Davis: Hi Natalia, how are you doing today?

Natalia Angelini: I’m well, how are you?

Sharon Davis: Very well. I’m Sharon Davis and I’m here with Natalia Angelini and we’re gonna discuss today an article that appears in Volume 6, Issue 1 of the Spring 2011 edition of the Canadian Lawyer for Students Magazine. Now this is a magazine I think most lawyers are familiar with, the Canadian Lawyer Magazine. And this is a version put out for students. And I found it very interesting and I have to say there’s a good reason I found it interesting, because I was approached by Michael McKiernan of Canadian Lawyer and he was asking a variety of practitioners what sorts of things that they thought students should know when they’re in law school, you know, to practice well when they get out in the real world. Because I think really when you think about it, law school is not exactly like the real world, what would you think?

Natalia Angelini: No, I totally agree. You know, the practice of law is a whole different ballgame and I’m sure if we could all go back and have received greater insight at the time, you know, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. And would likely have been helpful. So we’re hoping we can discuss the points that Michael addresses in his paper and maybe it’ll be useful to some students or other lawyers out there, since this applies not only to new lawyers and students, but also to, you know, lawyers who have been practicing for some time. There’s some helpful points, in my view.

Sharon Davis: I agree. And I think, too, that even clients understanding sort of where lawyers come from and what the process is for us in learning what we do, can also help clients understand, you know, when they’re dealing with either a student or a young lawyer as opposed to someone who’s really more experienced.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: And so when you look at number 1, the article is called “10 Things You Really Need to Know to Practise Law” and the first one is, we’re not in law school anymore, Toto. And I think that’s very true. Law school is set up to give a basic grounding in learning all of the legal rules and applying them to relatively simple fact scenarios.

Natalia Angelini: Yeah. And I think what’s definitely distinctive about practices, you know, I’ve certainly come to learn that it really a lot of the time is about the facts. And of course there’s always, you know, legal principles that we deal with. But the facts certainly do drive litigation. And, you know, judges are people too and they’ve got guttural senses of the facts of a case and where the right decision should lie. So I think that he…you know, Mr. McKiernan makes a good point about, you know, don’t forget about the facts and avoid, you know, too much of a focus on the legal principles.

Sharon Davis: I think too students can be very caught up in the law and, you know, it’s like writing a research paper. But that’s not the way life works, and in fact my experience has been that the facts are not always clear-cut and there are always two sides of a story. There is never 100%, you know, someone who’s 100% right and someone who’s 100% wrong or else you wouldn’t be in litigation.

Natalia Angelini: Right, right.

Sharon Davis: The chances are. Sometimes it happens but not always.

Natalia Angelini: Right. So…and I remember learning that lesson in my earlier years where I was more worried about the law and, you know, if one case decided this I felt bound by it and I learned rather quickly, you know, it wasn’t so. So moving on to his next point which is that you can’t know everything…

Sharon Davis: I think that’s a nice segue.

Natalia Angelini: Yeah. That’s something we can certainly relate to. We’re working in a specialized area and, you know, it’s…if you’ve got a more general practice, I’m sure it’s all the more challenging to know everything you need to know about all the areas you’re working in. So he makes a good point about, you know, not being afraid to confess that you need advice. And you may turn to other lawyers for advice. And the last thing you want to do is try to just go it alone in spite of that.

Sharon Davis: That’s right. And I think, like you say, that’s more of an issue for sole practitioners perhaps. And I know that even in our area, like you say, we’re lucky, we’re very fortunate because we practice one area of law. There’s someone who knows the answer somewhere in our office for absolute sure. And if it’s something novel, it’s all very exciting, because you’ve got a lot of minds working on it for you. But I really enjoy that particular, you know, part of how we practice and the collegiality. But if you don’t have that and if you are someone who feels you don’t have anyone in a firm or nearby, you do have to reach out. And, you know, that kind of leads into number 3, which is help at hand and mentoring. And this is where I really have a strong, you know, commitment to the whole mentoring idea because mentoring is something that is completely critical, I think, to any legal career. And you learn something whether you are a mentor or a mentee, I can guarantee you. What parent does not learn something from a child? I don’t know if there are many of you out there, but I certainly have learned a lot from my children and you don’t expect. But it really is important because mentoring gives you that network. It gives you people to draw on, to ask questions of, to you know give your expertise to and to get their expertise back. And it gives you a great deal of confidence because it is important. There are a lot of scenarios out there. You do need to know as a lawyer that you’re making a very sound decision and one great way of doing that is, you know, to access a mentor.

Natalia Angelini: Right, absolutely. And this next point ties into that to some degree as well. It’s his point about networking. You know, it’s who you know not what you know, but I mean that’s sort of a simplistic way of looking at it. But, you know, the reality is when you make contacts and you present well and you build that network, you’re also building your group of people that you can turn to, to bounce ideas off of and that you can help out.

Sharon Davis: That’s exactly right. And, you know, networking is not something that we give maybe…we give thought to it or lip service to it. It’s not something everybody enjoys but networking takes a lot of different forms. And it doesn’t really have to be picking up a phone and cold calling someone.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: I mean, that’s not really networking. It’s accessing the people you know and the people they know. It can be social media.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: You know, it can be email, it can be by phone, it can be in person, it can be by letter. And there are all kinds of ways to do it and it is essential to, I mean, not only for your competence and your general, you know, sense of confidence in what you’re doing, but also in your marketing. And, you know, having that network of people on whom you can count. Certainly civility in the law and amongst lawyers has been something that’s been discussed lately and also extremely important. And, you know, the more respect you give other lawyers and the more time you spend building those relationships, the easier it’s going to be when you have someone like that on the other side of a file. You’re gonna be able to problem-solve together and you’ll both be better lawyers.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: So it’s just my…okay, I’ll get off the soapbox now. We can move onto the next point.

Natalia Angelini: Yeah, the next point deals with clients. And I think this is a really important one because we are dealing with clients every day and our job is to help them, you know, to the best of our ability. And, you know, he…I guess in canvassing the Bar, what he learned was that, you know, lawyers’, I guess, consensus is that get to know your client’s expectations. You know, learn their story and do your best for them. Also, don’t be afraid to be candid with them and realistic with them about what, you know, the procedure is of the litigation, let’s say, that’s gonna be underway, what the cost is, etc. You certainly want to be as transparent as possible and that’ll avoid any…hopefully avoid conflict down the road and misunderstandings down the road.

Sharon Davis: That’s right. And really in our business today, I mean, the clients do come first. There’s no question about it. Client service is first and foremost on everybody’s mind. And clients, as he says, are people too. You know, they’ve got feelings, you have to listen to them, you have to respond to them and you have to make sure that you respond in a timely manner. Setting the expectations is something that is also critical ‘cause you’ll be judged. You’ll be judged by those and it’ll be minimum expectations.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: And then whatever communications you have will be minimum.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: The next piece is that you need to get a life. Now this is something that some lawyers do. Many lawyers don’t, I think. You know, you really do have to have some boundaries around personal life and free time. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a great lawyer and be responsive and work as much as you need to. 

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: It just takes a little, you know, creative planning, I think, for sure.

Natalia Angelini: Right. I whole-heartedly agree with that and I think it’s something, though, that honestly a lot of lawyers will admit that we struggle with. But it’s heartening to see that in his research for this article that this is what’s come out of that. That lawyers are saying, yes this is important. You know, I think there might be a change with…there might be a reflection of current day attitudes about work-life balance and how really it is important.

Sharon Davis: That’s right. And really, you know, that ties right into the next point. You know, you do have to be happy. And I think a lawyer who…first of all practicing in an area that you love certainly helps. And really making sure that you do have some balance so that, you know, a happy lawyer is a good lawyer. And I do think that the happier we are, the better we do serve our clients. And there really is a connection. That connection between happiness and superior client service is a proven one and there’s much written on it. And so that really is something that you have to think about. I had made a couple of comments to Michael myself that basically you should like what you do and practicing law should be fun. It is fun. And if it’s not fun, maybe you need to find another area. There’s lots of choices. Give it a fair shot. I mean, I love a lot of things in my practice today that I never thought I would have liked when I first got out of law school, and I love them. And so, you know, give it a fair shake. But if it’s not for you, take your experiences, pack ‘em up and move on.

Natalia Angelini: Yeah. And I think one of the last…well we’ll probably touch on one or two more points. But one of the points that I thought was interesting was about perfectionism not paying. I think that’s something is counter-intuitive to most of us. But, you know, there’s a good point made by various counsel in this article, one of which was, you know, that clients want good, solid work product delivered in a timely manner for a fair price. So if you get bogged down in, you know, a discreet legal issue, you may not be serving your client in the way that they want. You know, one of the quotes in the article is “you could be the best technical lawyer in the world, but if your clients don’t think that, then you’re not going to be successful”. So, I mean, that’s something that I can appreciate but I do think it’s hard to…

Sharon Davis: We all strive for perfect…

Natalia Angelini: Yeah, yeah.

Sharon Davis: It’s our person. I think lawyers are by nature very careful and we do want to make sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: And certainly we do everything we do to the best of our ability. I guess the thing is, is to really assess when you need to look at what you’re doing for cost-effectiveness.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: And how can you achieve your client’s objectives, perhaps, without going overboard on the perfectionism.

Natalia Angelini: Right.

Sharon Davis: I mean, you don’t always need a Cadillac. A Toyota might get you where you’re going, so you have to think about that.

Natalia Angelini: It’s true. And I guess we can just close with one final point which is, look out for number 1. We’re all responsible for our own professional development and, you know, your firm may support you, other lawyers may support you, but the point that really we can glean from this article is that it’s going to be helpful to take ownership over it and take active steps to get there. And if you want to really develop your career, then I think that’s great advice.

Sharon Davis: Well I do think it’s an article worth reading. Certainly I wish I had read an article like that when I was a law student. You know, we all have to learn our own experiences but thank you to Michael for that article. I think that brings us to the end of this week’s discussion. Thanks for listening and thanks for joining me today, Natalia.

Natalia Angelini: Thanks Sharon. Until next time, so long.

This has been Hull on Estates with the lawyers of Hull & Hull. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.


To listen to other podcasts, or to leave a question or comment, please visit our website at www.hullandhull.com.


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