What does it take to become a successful lawyer in your particular niche or practice area? In a series of in-depth interviews for the Estrin Report, Chere Estrin profiles top lawyers from all types of practices. In this column, we zero in on their top tips. First up: Amber Saunders (@AmberCSanders).
Here’s how Amber Saunders sums up what she does in her field of law: “I make trust fund babies.” A personal loss inspired her to focus on estate planning, and she now represents high net-worth families and their businesses in various personal and business matters. Her firm takes an unconventional approach to business clients by incorporating tax, succession, business, estate, and intellectual property planning into every aspect of the clients’ case. What does Saunders believe you need to be a top lawyer in your field?
Five Things You Need to Become a Top Lawyer
1. Know who you are.
I wasted a bit of time trying to be Johnny Cochran. I was in awe of putting together the puzzle pieces and telling the story to the jury. I didn’t even think about the other side of it — the connection you have with clients who may end up in prison. When I had to come face to face with that, I was a hot mess. I admire people who practice criminal defense. Some fantastic lawyers in the public defender’s office don’t get the credit or the pay they deserve. But I’m not built for that life. I could have saved a ton of time just paying attention to who and how I was.
2. Be who you are.
Once you figure out who you are, be precisely that. The job you are supposed to have will find you. You may be practicing law for a long time. Find a practice area you enjoy. Not one that just makes money. Many of my law school professors loved their practice area but hated working for big law firms. They ended up altogether leaving the practice of law because they were burnt out. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can build a life and a law practice that you love, but you first have to be comfortable being who you are and unapologetically living the way you want to live.
3. Give yourself some grace.
You are going to screw up. Maybe not in a room full of people, but you will make a mistake at some point. Don’t hold on to it. Don’t worry about what anyone has to say. Own your journey. It may take you some time to get where you want to be, but don’t sweat it. Trust me; you will have more than enough stress put on you being an attorney. There is no need for you to add anything more. Relax. It will be fine. You will be fine.
4. Don’t quit.
You wanted to be a lawyer for a reason. So when you feel like quitting, remember that. And don’t do it.
5. Help someone else.
You should. An intern. A new lawyer. It doesn’t matter who or how. Just be helpful. That’s it.
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