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Be an intentional lawyer

Special to the News Columns

Elevating ethical practices is at the core of being an intentional lawyer. When lawyers approach their ethical responsibilities with intentionality, they ensure that they are not only meeting the minimum standards required by the legal profession but striving for the highest level of ethical conduct.

Jim Vickaryous

Jim Vickaryous

How many days end with the gut feeling that you didn’t accomplish what truly needed to be done? It happens to all of us. Being intentional is hard and takes discipline. To truly excel in your practice, build strong relationships, and uphold the ethical responsibilities of the profession, you must adopt an intentional mindset. Being intentional means more than just going through the motions or reacting to external stimuli. It involves actively setting goals, making deliberate decisions, and taking thoughtful actions. For a lawyer, this approach can be the difference between a mediocre practice and a highly successful one.

An intentional lawyer does not merely look at the facts of a case; they analyze those facts to fully understand the situation and develop a clear strategy. They don’t merely check their emails each morning; instead, they start their day with a clear sense of purpose and prioritize tasks accordingly. This purposefulness extends to all aspects of their practice, from their interactions with clients and colleagues to their courtroom demeanor.

Elevating ethical practices is at the core of being an intentional lawyer. When lawyers approach their ethical responsibilities with intentionality, they ensure that they are not only meeting the minimum standards required by the legal profession but striving for the highest level of ethical conduct.

An intentional lawyer recognizes their duty to provide competent representation to their clients. This means not only having the necessary legal knowledge and skills but also the intention to continually improve and stay up to date with legal developments. They take a proactive approach to enhance their competencies, making them better equipped to serve their clients.

A lawyer’s duty to maintain client confidentiality is a fundamental ethical obligation. Intentional lawyers go beyond the minimum requirements by implementing strong data security practices, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected from cyber threats, and unauthorized access. They are intentional in safeguarding their clients’ trust.

Identifying and addressing conflicts of interest requires a deliberate and vigilant approach. An intentional lawyer maintains a comprehensive system for conflict checks and maintains a high level of transparency with clients when potential conflicts arise. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of ethical violations.

Being intentional in the client-lawyer relationship means always putting the client’s best interests first. This goes beyond mere compliance with the rules of professional conduct; it involves a deep commitment to understanding the client’s needs, goals, and priorities.

Intentionality also plays a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of a law practice. An intentional lawyer approaches each case with a clear plan of attack, considers multiple strategies, and chooses the one that aligns best with their client’s objectives. They do not waste time on distractions or procrastination; instead, they focus on what needs to be accomplished in the day.

As Gen. George Patton famously said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” An intentional lawyer embraces this reality by having a robust plan but remaining adaptable in the face of unexpected developments. They understand that, sometimes, a good plan violently executed now is better than a great plan executed next week.

Consider Neil Armstrong’s intentional action while piloting the lunar module during the Apollo 11 mission. When he noticed the module was headed for a crater during the moon landing, he took control and intentionally maneuvered it to a safer landing site. His quick thinking and purposeful action averted a potential disaster. This level of intentionality is precisely what is needed in legal practice – the ability to adapt and make informed decisions when unforeseen challenges arise.

Intentionality extends to the relationships lawyers build with their clients, colleagues, and the courts. An intentional lawyer fosters strong, trust-based relationships through active listening, clear communication, and collaboration. They genuinely listen to their clients, understanding their concerns, and addressing their needs with empathy and attention. They communicate clearly, avoiding jargon, and ensuring that their clients understand the legal process and their options. This not only fulfills an ethical duty but also builds trust. Intentional lawyers actively seek collaboration with colleagues and the courts. They work to resolve conflicts efficiently and promote civility within the legal profession.

An intentional lawyer not only focuses on their external responsibilities but also on their personal development. They intentionally inspire themselves to be the best they can be by setting goals, seeking continuous education, and maintaining a work-life balance.

This approach involves acknowledging and managing distractions effectively. The intentional lawyer does not let distractions overrun their day. They balance moments of distraction with a sense of accomplishment, ensuring that they stay on track and make the most of their time.

Being an intentional lawyer is about purposefully and deliberately approaching every aspect of the legal profession. This intentionality elevates good ethical practices, ensuring that lawyers fulfill their obligations to the highest standards. It leads to more successful legal practices, stronger client relationships, and a personal commitment to growth and excellence.

As Neil Armstrong exemplified during the Apollo 11 mission, being intentional can be the difference between success and failure. Just as he took control of the lunar module to ensure a safe landing, lawyers can take control of their legal practices to ensure the best outcomes for their clients and maintain the integrity of the legal profession. Being an intentional lawyer is not only a choice but a responsibility to uphold the highest ethical standards and serve clients to the best of one’s abilities. Let’s all resolve to be intentional lawyers.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 

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