Excellence in Law

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How do we determine an excellent lawyer? I was confronted with that question by a client. Now it was not clear if he was actually referring to excellence in the practice of law, or excellence in lawyering, or even excellence in being a lawyer. Being an excellent lawyer is often equated with subjective accomplishments, such as legal victories, recognized scholarship or position of importance. But we all know that such titles are not a guarantee of the underlying qualities that make an excellent lawyer. I honestly think that the best lawyer are not found amongst law professor, and may even be some of the struggling lawyer in town.

Excellence in the practice of law is also not the same as excellent in law. Excellence in the law requires a love of learning. One who seeks to excel in law must commit to becoming a lifelong scholar. You must learn a variety of legal subjects, and understand the factual situations in which legal questions arise.

Many trial lawyers will tell you they love trial work or litigation because they must learn to become experts in a variety of subjects. This is because excellence in the practice of law requires extensive knowledge of the law, personal qualities such as compassion and patience, integrity, and commitment to doing the right thing. Experience counts, but its not all in all. Law school teaches you law, but not how to think like a good lawyer. You’ll have to teach yourself how to practice law to be able to excel.

This effort of practicing law excellently is also a lifelong trip. At no time will you be able to say I have reached excellence in the law, and now there is nothing more for me to do. There is always more to do. Sometimes you think of what you may have done differently. And some times, just like in every other life pursuit, your emotions may take the greater part of you. But a good lawyer must commit to strive for justice in every case and in every way that life offers him the opportunity to do so.

To some of us, excellence in law equates excellence in the pursuit of justice. But the pursuit of Justice can take on any of an infinite number of meanings. Different lawyers view it differently and may have different answers to the following questions: Is it excellent pursuit of justice to pursue your clients cause with zeal but without civility? Is it excellent pursuit of justice to pursue your clients cause with zeal, but without fairness to other parties? Is it excellent pursuit of justice to pursue your clients cause with zeal, but without honesty and candor? Is it excellent pursuit of justice to pursue your clients cause with zeal, but without service to the community?

What do you think?

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