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Lawyer offers 10 tips for aspiring attorneys

Friday, February 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:55 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Stephen Easton, an associate professor in the MU Law School, took the floor in Hulston Hall on Tuesday, he was there to deliver his “last lecture.”

It was not truly his last lecture, but part of a series begun last year by the Newman Center in which an MU faculty member presents what he or she might say if it were really his or her last shot.

Easton’s lecture was based on his essay “My Last Lecture: Unsolicited Advice for Future (and Current) Lawyers,” which placed first in the nationwide Warren E. Burger Writing Competition.

In the lecture, Easton elaborated on 10 suggestions on how to enjoy the practice of one of the world’s oldest professions.

Here’s the boiled-down version of his lecture:

1 FIGURE OUT WHAT IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

Grant opposing counsel’s re-quests whenever possible. “You will enjoy life more,” Easton said.

2 HAVE THE COURAGE TO WIN AND TO LOSE.

“Nothing is better for your ca-reer than trying a case and winning it, but the second best thing is trying a case and losing it,” he said. You will become a better lawyer by learning from your mistakes.

3 BUILD A STRONG REPUTATION.

“Your reputation lives with you throughout your career,” he said. Do not lie. Honesty, knowledge and hard work are required.

4 AT LEAST EVERY ONCE AND A WHILE, BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.

“Develop and nurture your per-sonal morality,” Easton said. “Know well the line beyond which you will not go.”

5 CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS CAREFULLY

It is important to not only choose your co-workers carefully, but also your clients.

6 FIND WORK YOU ENJOY AND ENJOY YOUR WORK.

“It takes a lot of work to be a good lawyer,” he said. Too many lawyers are miserable because they “chase dollars and prestige instead of happiness.”

7 RETURN YOUR CLIENTS’ PHONE CALLS.

Keep in mind this case could be the most important thing that ever happens to your client.

8 KNOW THE RULES.

Remember the rules. Take them out and read them once in a while.

9 MAKE TIME FOR LIFE AND FOR LOVE.

It can be discouraging to spend money on fun activities instead of working, but it’s important to sometimes ignore the math.

10 GIVE SOMETHING BACK.

“Take on a case that hurts you in a real way,” Easton said. “Fight for justice, even though it ‘costs’ you. At the end of your career, that will be the case you remember.”


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