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7 habits of highly effective lawyers

Every Issue

Cite as: July 2015 89 (7) LIJ, p.85

1 Give advice

Clients want to know what you think they should do, not just be given a list of pros and cons.

2 Meet deadlines

Be realistic when taking on new work, then deliver within time. It keeps clients happy and reduces the stress that comes when work starts piling up.

3 Have a routine

If possible, start and end the day at the same time, and avoid spending time and mental energy on little decisions.

4 Plan

Think about the outcome that you want, and then the route to get there (which may not be the route you are asked about).

5 Exercise

I row a couple of times per week and it reduces stress, clears the mind, and helps create some work/life balance.

6 Respond immediately to simple calls and emails

It is usually no faster or easier to deal with them later.

7 Be friendly

Good relationships with colleagues makes the long hours at work more fun, and where possible good relationships with opponents tend to produce greater flexibility and better outcomes.


Dr Stephen Donaghue QC has appeared in about 40 matters in the High Court, and he regularly appears in appellate and public law matters in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court. He holds an LLB (Hons) from the University of Melbourne where he received the Supreme Court Prize, and a D.Phil from Oxford University (Magdalen College) where he studied after receiving Menzies and Commonwealth scholarships. He is a senior fellow in Law at the University of Melbourne, where he teaches in the Masters Program. He is also the secretary of the Public Law Section of the Commercial Bar Association.

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