This Saturday, I was invited to speak at the annual Conference of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL), this year with the theme “Paving the Way.” Each year I attend, the gathering gets bigger, livelier and represents a snapshot of the legal profession’s vibrant future. In addition to participating on an engaging panel exploring the end of the first full year of the Law Practice Program (LPP), I was asked to join the final plenary panel ambitiously titled “60 tips in 60 minutes”! Six lawyers were asked each to offer 10 tips on how to serve clients better, manage practices more efficiently, develop business relationships, increase profile in an increasingly diverse profession, and ensure ethical compliance. I was joined by Ian Hu of LawPro; Phillip Tsui of MAG; Law Society Bencher Jeffrey Lem; Bindu Cudjoe, the Deputy General Counsel of BMO; and Lai-King Hum, National President of FACL and owner of her own firm. I understand the tips from the whole panel will be posted shortly on the FACL site and I found the tips from others invaluable, but in the meantime, in hopes these may be of interest to some who were not in the room, below are my ten tips on enriching personal and professional success for young lawyers.
1) Never miss an opportunity for random acts of kindness (you never know how this will come back to make a positive difference in your life, and even if it doesn’t, it might just make a positive difference in someone else’s);
2) Publish early and perfect over time (this works for academics and for any other walk of practice) – though might not apply to factums!;
3) Whenever you have a professional encounter that you wish you hadn’t, diarize it. The act of writing it out will almost always lead to reflection, and also may come in handy if you need a contemporaneous account down the road;
4) Join a non-profit Board, and make it a cause or organization you’d want to make time for no matter how tired you are by the rest of your day;
5) Always be ready with an answer when someone asks, “if you were an animal, what animal would you be?”(hint – saying “eagle” suggests leadership but that you are not a team player; saying “ant” suggests you are a team player but not a leader; saying “dog” suggests loyalty and drooling; and saying “cat” suggests you are only in it for the pay-check; and saying “dolphin” says you are intelligent, playful, enjoyable to be around, collaborative, enterprising and a deep thinker when you need to be – how do I know these things? Because the internet told me so;
6) Authenticity sells (and takes surprising few resources to market) – though adaptability is not a bad skill to develop if it does not come natually;
7) Respect your clients enough to be honest with them;
8) Develop a socially acceptable vice (like butter tarts, Reality TV or double espressos) – you can’t earn someone’s trust if you have no flaws;
9) Always be in the midst of at least one long-term self-improvement project (learning a new language, a musical instrument or yoga all qualify; shopping does not); and
10) Be grateful – you can’t change the parts of the world around you outside your control but you can control how you experience them – so, if you believe glass is ALWAYS half-full, it will be!