Kindness is a quality that most of us were taught at an early age: “Treat others the way you would want to be treated”; “be nice to everyone”; “no act of kindness is ever wasted.” Clichés aside, one thing any young lawyer should quickly learn is the power and benefit of being kind. We all know (or, at least, hope) that extending a favor to opposing counsel, such as stipulating to an extension for a filing or continuance of a hearing, can go a long way toward receiving a favor from that counsel down the road. But the benefits of being kind don’t stop at just other lawyers—we should be kind to everyone. You never know who will be in a position to help you, and if that person likes you, he or she will be much more likely to do so. Even as an intern, the rule was drilled into my mind: “Treat everyone, from the judges to the sheriffs at the metal detectors, with kindness, and eventually, they’ll help you out when you need it.” It is so true. When I was filing documents at court, the clerks would take the time to review everything to make sure it was all right before processing it. When something wasn’t right, instead of filing it and waiting for the court to kick it back, the clerks would give me a heads-up and let me fix it before they accepted it. When the sheriffs saw that I was in a rush and running late, they’d make sure I was able to get through the security checkpoint quickly. I found that kindness given is kindness returned, even within the often sharp-elbowed practice of law.
If you don’t already make it a point to be kind to everyone you meet, give it a try and see how much better things will work out for you.
Nasir Hussein is an associate with Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago, Illinois.