PI Associate- Professionalism

Today John Henry talks to me about “professionalism.” He begins by telling me I will soon develop a reputation among lawyers, judges, court clerks and bailiffs, court reporters and people in the community. He tells me my reputation the long run is all I have. John Henry makes a big deal about “professionalism.” He tells me I must practice law at my highest level at all times. He tells me I must look like a professional, speak like a professional, write like a professional and be a professional.

Look Like a Professional. John Henry says dress like I am going to court. This means a suit or sport coat with a pressed shirt and tie. This means pressed slacks and dress shoes that are shined. John Henry likes Hickey Freeman for suits and sport coats. He wears Gitman shirts. His shirts are dry cleaned. He likes Allen Edmunds shoes. He  wears a belt matching his shoes. He wears subtle colors. John Henry fits the stereotype of a successful lawyer. He says “to be successful look successful.”

Speak Like a Professional. John Henry reminds me we earn our living by talking and how we speak is essential to our success. First, think before I speak. Refrain from senseless babel. He reminds me of the Lincoln quote “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” He tells me to speak with power. This means speak in nouns and verbs. Eliminate modifiers- adverbs and adjectives that suck the blood out of a message of nouns and verbs. Words that have no place as far as John Henry is concerned are: pretty,  little, probably, maybe – any word or phrase that telegraphs weakness, doubt or uncertainty.

Write Like a Professional. As well as speaking we earn our living by writing. John Henry gives me Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, and tells me to read it from cover to cover. Read it every year until it is ingrained into my writing (and speaking). He tells me never to write something I do not want the world to read. He says this is especially true with e-mails.  On writing he likes to stick to the point, make the point and move to the next. He likes short paragraphs. He likes the rule of three.

Timeliness. John Henry says always be on time. Plan ahead. there is no excuse for being late. John Henry says timeliness means returning telephone calls, and correspondence. Timeliness also means meeting deadlines, including discovery deadlines.

Kindness. John Henry explains a professional is kind. He says “you never know who you are being nice to.” John Henry says learn the other person’s story and therefore who they are.  Here John Henry says the secret is listen. John Henry likes a “soft cross examination.” He prefers to make the witness his rather than destroy the witness.

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