The Exceptional Lawyer

August 14, 2008

Cleverness v. Intelligence, a Key Distinction

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuahornick @ 8:24 pm

In executive and life coaching, we often utilize distinctions between words to clarify points.  Two of the more commonly used distinctions are “react vs. respond” and “want vs. need.”  One key distinction in the realm of exceptional legal practice is that between “cleverness” and “intelligence.”

To be exceptional, a lawyer must be intelligent, not merely clever.

“Clever” comes from the Dutch or Low German word meaning “to cleave.”  A clever lawyer can cleave things.  She can separate one point from another.  She can dissect arguments.  She can understand minutiae.  Her research skills may be fine.

On the other hand, an intelligent lawyer puts things together.  She sees a complete picture of the situation.  She senses the case or deal in its entirety, sees it from the perspective of every player and from a birds eye view, above the interests of all the players.  She then melds together all those perspectives to sense the whole.  She grocs it.  Significantly, one of the perspectives of which she is aware is her own position, her own desires and motivations.

So, as you immerse yourself in a deal or a case, as it starts to come into focus for you, see if you are being clever.  If so, consider how you can play with your perspective to invite intelligence into your understanding.

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July 21, 2008

Genuine Caring

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuahornick @ 8:45 pm

A seasoned civil litigator told me today that if you don’t genuinely care for your clients, you don’t strive as hard for them and they don’t trust you.  Sometimes the caring can be faked well enough so there is a modicum of trust.  Will power and the desire to win can power a certain degree of striving for the client.  An exceptional lawyer does not have to fake to create a bond with the client or force himself to strive for the client.  It simply flows.  For the technically skilled litigator, there is extraordinary value in learning and building the habit of genuine caring.

When Billing Is Not a Conflict of Interest

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuahornick @ 5:11 pm

[These thoughts grew out of a conversation I had with a transactional attorney in Manhattan.]

Any business that charges by the hour has an inherent conflict of interest.  The law business is the prime example.  The lawyer who wants to earn more money has an interest in billing more while the client who wants to spend less has the opposite desire.  If we had a completely transparent, full-information marketplace, lawyers would have no temptation to work more hours than what creates the optimal value for clients.  Alas, we don’t have such a marketplace.  Lawyers’ interests are conflicted.

The exceptional lawyer never experiences the conflict because she comes from a perspective of partnership.  The exceptional lawyer considers herself a partner with her clients.  If this partner, the client, spends more than is necessary on legal fees, it is a loss for the partnership and hence for the lawyer.  There is no temptation to work more than the optimal amount.

The partnership perspective differs from that of a free agent in the marketplace.  It is based on a sense of connection with the client.  Feeling that sense of connection does not come naturally for many lawyers.  For them, there is a temptation to work more hours.  The presence of that temptation taints the quality of their professional service.

The most elegant solution is for lawyers to develop the skills, and indeed habits, that create a sense of connection with the client, that make partnership their natural perspective.  Mastering these habits is a formidable task that does not lend itself to book learning.  Few lawyers take it on.  Few strive for that kind of education.  This is one barrier that prevents many lawyers from becoming exceptional.  

July 18, 2008

Picking Raspberries

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuahornick @ 2:30 pm

Last night, picking raspberries reminded me of a key to exceptional legal practice.  I was with my 8-year-old son, Noah, it was getting dark, I didn’t have my glasses on, and finding the nice, dark red raspberries was getting tricky for this old timer.  I kept walking around the bushes, poking around, looking for the best berries, and only finding them occasionally.  Noah was having much more success.  Then an amazing thing happened.

I found that when I positioned my head close to a raspberry bush and just kept still for a few seconds, the beautiful raspberries popped up into my field of vision.  The key to finding all the best fruit lay in my keeping still and being receptive for just a few moments.

This is a fundamental lesson for lawyers that wish to be exceptional.  All too often in our quest to get the best argument, find the best approach, gather the best information, or just get things done, we don’t “just keep still” effectively enough to allow the “best fruit” to pop into our awareness.

The more a lawyer fosters methods, or better—habits, of stillness and receptivity, the more effectively s/he will see the options and opportunities available.  The masterful intuition displayed by exceptional lawyers is largely a factor of having developed this strength.

July 15, 2008

The Exceptional Lawyer

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuahornick @ 5:10 pm

The Exceptional Lawyer is dedicated to developing good or excellent lawyers into exceptional lawyers.  

For more informations, contact Joshua.Hornick@ExceptionalLawyer.com.

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