Two Natural Laws of Lawyering

The practice of law is highly competitive and adversarial. It starts in law school. I remember  listening to the welcoming remarks of the Dean of the Law School, when he said, “Look to your left, look to your right…..”, you know the rest. It’s not just that I had to do my best, but if I wasn’t better than others I wasn’t going to make it. Did you ever hear the principle say that in elementary, middle or high school? I never even heard it in college.

Whether it’s business or family law, criminal or admiralty law, most lawyers have at least some aspect of their work where their clients interests are competing against someone else’s. As a personal injury attorney, my winning means the other side does not. Both sides can’t win. Working up a case is not just about advising my clients, but it’s to make sure that whoever is on the other side does not diminish what my client is entitled to or has a right to.

Not all aspects of being a lawyer occupy the competitive world. Interactions with our clients, legal assistants, paralegals, receptionists, office managers and other attorneys in our office, are complementary based. Imagine if your relationships with co-workers, family or friends resembled the competitive world.

The complementary world operates under fundamentally different rules. My winning does not mean my legal assistant loses. In fact, it’s the opposite. We can choose to be creating a work environment that’s about helping those around us living their best lives, which has the added benefit of increasing productivity .

A recent post, Stargazing, concerned how living a life where we are both the star and the stargazer occupies one of life’s universal truths. We are optimizing life around us by living our best life.

Factumforming is taking the initiative to create a work world that not only allows us to be successful at the practice of law, but at practice of life as well. This happens by intentionally dwelling in the complementary world.

It’s harder to function in this world when others around you are not. We know the effects when lawyers see life only through the lens of competition. It’s one of the reasons we have the reputation for being mean spirited. Too much time is spent sharpening the competitive nature of our work.

To be a true advocate we must occupy both the competitive and complementary nature of our work. The art of lawyering is the mastery of both.

It is through practice, patience and perseverance that most great accomplishments materialize. Recognizing the competitive and complementary nature of law is to elevate lawyering to its highest level. It’s not always easy. Some days are better than others. It’s the small everyday efforts and intentions that true mastery is born.

How do you keep these worlds properly separated? How do you make amends when the competitive world is spilling over?  Sometimes it seems easier to function more competitively. What daily steps can you take to expand fully into the complementary part of your practice?

When our thoughts, words and actions are in alignment with these two natural laws of lawyering, we will find ourselves living our best lives.

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  • […] In The Two Natural Laws of Lawyering blog post, I talk about the competitive and complementary world that lawyers live in. When we are in the competitive mode our listening is critical analysis based. Listening in the complementary mode is how our clients experience healing listening. […]

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