Five things successful attorneys did not learn in law school

Labor Law Lawyer Legal Business Internet Technology Concept.

By Sam Farkas, Esq.,
BARBRI Product Development Manager


Law school may have taught you the framework and skills to solve legal problems, but it did not teach you how to solve them efficiently. Successful attorneys are acquainted with two basic principles: The Pareto Principle that states 80 percent of the effects stem from 20% of the causes and Parkinson’s Law that states work expands into the time allotted for its completion. Focus on investing time on the 20% of your work that brings the most value and reduce the time to complete the remaining work by half. By implementing these two principles, you will work more efficiently, hone your focus and free up more time to live your life.


You initially learned law school is a “marathon and not a sprint!” and indeed law school teaches you how to push yourself past your limits and challenge you in a whole new capacity. While such sustained mental and physical exertion is acceptable for a couple of years, most attorneys only ramp up the pace once they begin their practice. Life cannot be one continuous race and also well-lived. Successful attorneys have learned how to become more mindful of stress and negative emotions. They have learned to appreciate life more by controlling time spent on work and developing healthy tools to manage stress.


You learned in law school how to be a scrooge. You learned that to give another student missed notes will mitigate your own success. You learned that one person’s failure is another’s summa cum laude. Successful attorneys, though, have learned to shed this belief in favor of a broader recognition that when you devote yourself to serving others, you get it back two-fold. If you want more, you have to give more. It’s that simple.


Law school may have taught you to “think like a lawyer” but it certainly did not teach you how to act like one – well, a good one at least. Most business people are trained in “soft skills” early in their careers. Unfortunately for attorneys, such training is up to you after graduation. Soft skills are essentially people skills or the kinds of personality traits that are associated with a person’s Emotional Intelligence. Attorneys must effectively communicate, offer advice and inspire relationships of trust and confidence with clients. Indeed, soft skills are personal attributes that enhance your job performance and career prospects. Your ability to deal effectively and politely with clients, opposing counsel and even your colleagues may become more important to your success than the hard skills.


From your first day in law school, you were effectively trained to identify and analyze all risks to a given problem. What you were never taught, though, was how to pursue a goal while minimizing risk. Attorneys often say, “There’s too much liability here to pursue this,” or “that is not prudent,” when a client wants to pursue a new venture and the project carries some risks. A successful attorney understands how to account for risk by identifying them, while working with the client to accomplish the goal.

Scroll to Top