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7 habits of highly effective lawyers

Every Issue

Cite as: August 2015 89 (8) LIJ, p.76

1 A legal career is a marathon, not a sprint

Develop a reputation for being accurate, forthright and reliable. Don’t sacrifice your long-term reputation for short-term gain.

2 Most people do things for a rational reason

Give people (including your clients) an opportunity to explain, preferably in person. Natural justice is “natural” for a reason.

3 Don’t forget to delegate

Develop the skills of those you delegate to. The people in your practice are your principal asset, and it’s your duty and of benefit to you to help them develop.

4 Know the law

Recognise that the law is the framework for, but not the entire content of, your advice.

5 Treat people well

Bureaucracies (including courts) are made up of people who exercise judgment and discretion. Treat them with humanity and understanding.

6 Develop professional networks

Networks not only develop your business, they add depth to your legal career. Draw on the knowledgeable and interesting people around you.

7 Consult when making decisions

Better decisions are often made with more perspectives taken into account – but sometimes you just need to make a decision and bear the consequences. Ultimately, it is about judgment.


Alison O’Brien is Assistant Victorian Government Solicitor at the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office. She leads a team of lawyers in the government and public law branch. Alison is a member of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, was the LIV Victorian government lawyer of the year in 2011, and is the only government lawyer named in the Best Lawyers in Australia (8th ed).

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