Average lawyers abound, good lawyers are common, but great corporate lawyers are hard to find. What is the mantra that makes a good lawyer GREAT? Great lawyers love what they do and it is this passion towards their work that separates them from mediocrity.
Step 1. Know your subject & law thoroughly. In-depth and sound understanding of the substantive law is a must. Know your subject, its nuances, interpretations and important case laws to have a command on the law that you are practicing. No amount of communication or writing skills can gloss over the lack of knowledge in law which comes from continuous reading & practice. Repetitive reading of law with an open mind brings different connotations and opens the door for creative interpretations. I have personally read same clause differently at different times which new perspective each time.
Step 2. Know the facts crisp & clear. Complete understanding of the facts of the transaction helps correct application of law as law applies differently to different facts. No two matters are similar so grasp the facts correctly to assess an issue. Misreading of a fact may change the entire structure and the end result sought to be achieved. My senior and mentor in law late Mr. J.K. Gupta had the ability to get to the crux of the matter by sheer power of crisp reading and clarity of thought. I continuously strive for that clarity.
Step 3. Understand the objective sought to be achieved. Empathize with the needs of your client, dynamics of the transaction and what is intended to be achieved. Alignment with the objectives of your client coupled with certain analytical & assessment skills helps in gaining long lasting confidence of the client. One possible way of gaining this insight is by having an earnest need to know your client’s business and by feeling the passion he/she feels for the issue.
Step 4. Know your environment. Make a conscious effort to read new developments in the practice area that you are specializing in; understand its dynamics, rules and regulations, latest amendments and changes in law and the transactions closed in the sector. This will help in gaining the confidence of the client and also structuring the transaction better. Client’s expectation from a good corporate lawyer is usually a mix of good legal understanding and sound commercial assessment/advice.
Step 5. Keep the Right Attitude. It is the attitude that separates mediocrity from greatness in any profession. Sincerely loving the work that you do makes all the difference to the advice given. Believing in the work one does and the clients one represents is important to ignite that all so important passion – so therefore do not accept briefs that you not go well with your own belief system. There are times when I refuse briefs/transactions that require me to render advice or undertake work that goes fundamentally against my value system. Reinforcement of one’s commitment towards work and aiming for the satisfaction of the client also helps.