The Good Lawyer

Unless you are an attorney, you probably have not come across the phrase “good lawyering.” What exactly does it mean? What is a “good” lawyer? Is it a lawyer who always wins? A lawyer who charges lower fees than others? A lawyer with an intimidating reputation? The correct answer, I would submit, is none of the above.

This term of art suggests certain professional characteristics which are not necessarily quantifiable. Good lawyers aren’t just tightly aligned with their clients; they are consistently mapping out new, and better, routes for reaching the desired outcome. Beyond any specific skill (e.g., reasoning, writing) or subject matter (e.g., contracts, domestic), good lawyers are masterful problem-solvers. No matter what transpires, clients benefit by virtue of counsel’s solid judgment, systematic thinking, and flexible mindset.

It may be surprising to hear that it’s somewhat common for clients to come to our office aware that they have a legal problem but not knowing with certainty what outcome they seek. Clients may believe that they have been wronged but may require counsel as to what would be an acceptable and cost-efficient result and, naturally, an effective strategy for obtaining it. That’s when our experience, creativity and overall enthusiasm kicks into gear. In these situations, “good lawyering” calls for even more than just attorneys with book-smarts. We must then also serve as legal counselors, educating and guiding our clients, as well as anticipating potential future conundrums.

So, what does good lawyering entail?

Returning phone calls and emails promptly, treating all parties, attorneys and the court respectfully, and acting as our clients’ human “Siri” by reminding them of pending deadlines and appointments. It also means advising our clients when the law is not in their favor, keeping up with continuing professional education and training, and cultivating a network of trusted professionals in other fields such as accounting, construction and medicine to bolster and perfect our work product. Good lawyering includes foreseeing important turning points in our clients’ cases so that preparation is more than simply adequate, and resources are appropriately allocated. As the saying goes, “everyone makes mistakes;” good lawyering skills must include devising acceptable solutions to the inevitable error.

There are many “good lawyers” in Massachusetts. “Good lawyering,” though, is a rarity – and a plum.

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