The new year is here and last year I made some suggestions as it regards lawyers and New Year's Resolutions. Many including myself quickly lost focus by the third month. This is our chance to get it right this year. These may worth being repeated. Here are some resolutions that we as a lawyer practising in the West Indies may want to consider. Let us make 2018 a GREAT year as we endeavour to:
1. Read More
The business of law is primarily about information The first step to understanding and analysing this information is always to read. Knowledge comes from reading. Many lawyers have lost cases because of failing read a case or some piece of legislation that was directly relevant to their matter. Some of the most successful lawyers I know claim that if one wants to be really successful, then reading must be your number one habit.
Brian Tracy one of America’s foremost authorities on developing peak performance and individual achievements explains:
We live in a knowledge based, information based society. Successful people are simply those who know more than their competitors. One of your most important responsibilities is keeping up with your field, staying ahead of your pack by continually taking in more information. [i]
How do we do all of this? We have to continuously read. Tracy goes on to state that the knowledge base of any profession doubles every seven years. Imagine that! All the knowledge of the legal profession will be twice more than what it currently is seven years from now. This means that in seven years one would have to know twice as much just to keep up. And how do we keep up? Once again by reading. Tracy says that if one reads one hour per day within his field he will be an expert in 3-5 years, a national authority in 5 years and an international authority in 7 years. Resolve to read more today.
2. Become A Better Time Manager
Time management is key to peak performance as an attorney. The phone is constantly ringing, walk-ins are frequent and deadlines for replying to correspondences and filing court documents are forever hanging over a lawyer’s head. One suggestion to deal with phone calls is to have your assistant accumulate all messages from calls between 9am – 11:30 and have you return them between 11:30 and midday. Writing down important actions to take the next day is a daily activity one should be engaging in at the end of each day. Resolve to take the necessary steps to properly manage your time this year.
3. Spend More Time With Family
It is often said that “law is a jealous mistress”. The nature of a lawyers work causes him to be caught up in a whirlwind of activities. He is engulfed in work and unless the lawyer makes a conscious effort to schedule time with his family, he can inadvertently end up neglecting them. If it is even having one meal together daily, it would do one well to spend time with your family on a daily basis.
4. Pay More Attention To Your Health
If lifting and carrying law books are the only form of exercise you undertake, it’s time to set aside at least 30-45 minutes to workout in order to keep physically fit. The fact is many drive everywhere and inactivity is slowly killing our society. Try walking to court at least twice per week for those in jurisdictions where your office and court are in the town. Your diet should also be healthy. Resolve to eat balanced meals and exercise more this year.
5. Take at Least 2 Pro-Bono Matters This Year
There are many people who have matters that are deserving of representation, yet they are unable to afford a lawyer. I’m talking about the matters where the society on a whole benefits. This could be the unlawful invasion and or illegal search of a person’s home to a bank unlawfully forfeiting property of a customer when the matter was statute barred. Matters like these not only protects the person you are representing from injustice, but it also demonstrates to all that the judiciary is here to ensure that laws are to be enforced. Can you imagine if all the lawyers in region took 2 pro-bono matters for the year, how many people would have accessed justice? Resolve to take 2 this year with at least one being to champion a constitutional cause.
6. Be More Courteous
Given that we are governed by rules and regulations, there are some lawyers who are so pedantic that courtesy gets dismissed. The Civil Procedure Rules in many jurisdictions provide for the filing of a defense within a certain number of days. There are also provisions in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Rules for extension of time to file a defense, once lawyers on both sides agree. There are some who file defenses the day after the deadline has passed. While it is not an obligation, a simple call to ascertain whether the other side intends to file would save both parties time and establish a good working relationship with your fellow colleagues. This courtesy call in no way prejudices your client and is beneficial and polite.
7. Be A Law Abiding Citizen
Just because you are a Lawyer does not mean you are above the law. In fact it is especially because you are a Lawyer you should uphold the law. The legal profession has had a not so glowing reputation for countless of years. Many lay people view us practitioners as dishonest and quite frankly they have valid reason to do so. However all is not lost, we can all do our part to turn this around. Be law abiding citizens, practice the law of the land and not make up our own laws, stop being dishonest and fraudulent, do the work we are employed to do and not just take our clients hard earned money, be patient with our clients, answer their questions and concerns, keep them informed. If we all resolve to make a conscious effort to do these things, the reputation of the profession will turn around and we will find that we are better citizens and better practitioners.
[i] Brian Tracy, “How to Master Your Time” (Audio), Tape 6.