Whether “success” is defined by amassing victories or building a book of business, credibility is the foundation of success in the law. As you acquire professional credentials, expand your experience, and develop subject-matter or practice-area expertise, you can build a strong foundation for success by being credible. Credibility does not require years of practice, a track record of trial victories, or a list of published decisions. Build credibility with judges, lawyers, and clients by being prompt, being thorough, and being right in all interactions.
Be Prompt. In a profession driven by deadlines, promptness is critical. Being prompt does not simply mean meeting a deadline. Thinking ahead and delivering early fosters credibility, particularly with colleagues and clients, and helps to ensure that you can further develop your credibility by being thorough and being right.
Be Thorough. Not every task or assignment requires that no stone be left unturned. Economic and strategic considerations impact decisions regarding deliverables and how to allocate resources. Regardless of the task at hand, be thorough in your research your considerations. Identify questions raised by your approach or presenting facts and tie up loose ends. If appropriate, consider the broader implications of your work product. Noting broad implications, thinking two steps ahead, or identifying alternative options for action demonstrate proactivity and big-picture thinking that are valuable assets in client and case management.
Be Right. As the adage goes, there are three sides to every story. While your work product should be substantively correct, being “right” in litigation does not necessarily mean arriving at the absolute truth. Being “right” means making the right decision for the circumstances or empowering your decision maker with thorough and accurate analysis. Sometimes being right means being prepared to offer an opinion or analysis on the “rightness” of various options. Being right is the capstone of credibility.
It is important to remember that building credibility in all aspects of your life can contribute to the foundations for professional success. Being prompt, being thorough, and being right in education and professional-development activities, volunteer organizations, and in interpersonal relationships fosters relationships and a reputation that will yield substantive success.
Stephanie McCoy Loquvam is with Moyes Sellers & Hendricks in Phoenix, Arizona.