1. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1 continued on backAn attorney’s job is to solve the problems ofothers. Attorneys are hired to be advisorsand problems solvers. One of the most no-table aspects of many of the people who be-come attorneys is that they are hardly awareof why their jobs exist. These attorneysbelieve that the law exists to serve them. Intheir minds, the law exists to give them feel-ings of superiority, income and respectabilityin society.This article examines the importance offocusing on the needs of others in your pro-fessional life. Whether you are an attorney,legal secretary, paralegal-or even if you arein another profession outside of the law en-tirely-you will be far more successful if youfocus on the needs of others. Your work willalso be far more fulfilling.One thing that I have noticed in my manyyears of dealing with lawyers, both as alawyer and as a recruiter, is that when youstop thinking about yourself in your work andconcentrate on the needs of others, you willbegin to do well. I have seen this rule repeatitself over and over again and this rule, I be-lieve, is one of the largest keys to success. Icall this the “I’m Second Rule”. The I’m Sec-ond Rule is built on the realization that whenit comes to work, our own interests shouldbe secondary. The interests of our employerand the clients we work for should always beat the top of the list.A. How I Learned The I’m Second RuleWe all can name a few experiences that havehad a profound effect on our lives. One of mypersonal experiences was in my work as anasphalt contractor. This is where I learnedthe I’m Second Rule.When I was in high school, I started anasphalt business, paving the driveways ofhomeowners in the Detroit area (where I amfrom). The work was absolutely grueling andwas so difficult that very few people in theentire area would even attempt to do it. Thiswas not the sort of work anyone wanted to doand, because of that, it paid very handsomely.I started this business because I wanted tomake money for college. I worked at thisbusiness for about two months, includingfour weeks of the summer. While there aremany entertaining stories I could tell, tomake a long story short-after several weeksof doing this business I lost a great deal ofmoney, had done very poor work and hadfailed. Miserably. There were a lot of peoplethat were upset with me for my shoddy work.When I did my job the only thing I thoughtabout was making money and finishing mywork. The customer was certainly not my toppriority. I was.Because I absolutely had to make money forcollege, I became a garbage man for $5.00 anhour and worked from 5:00 am to 4:00 pm onMonday through Friday. I did this throughoutmost of the summer. It was not a fun joband the people I worked with left a lot to bedesired. One day, the driver of the truck I wasriding on the back of was pulled over by thepolice and arrested for assaulting a womanthe evening before. I was then delegated toanother truck and the driver of this truck toldme that if I was not careful, he would “cutme up.”Even though I had basically quit the asphaltbusiness, the phone in my home still rangconstantly with complaints about my shoddyasphalt workmanship and demands that Icome and fix the work. Towards the end ofthe summer, I had saved just over $1,000and went to a hardware store to buy suppliesin order to fix one of the jobs I had botched.I did not have to fix the job because I hadalready been paid, but I believed it was im-portant to ensure that I fixed every job that Imessed up before I went off to college.As I was buying supplies, I noticed an olderman asking a hardware store clerk questionsabout various asphalt products. The clerk didnot know the answers, but I did. I approachedthe man and began answering his questions.I was surprised how much I knew aboutasphalt and I must have answered his ques-tions for over an hour. Despite the fact thatI was not a talented asphalt contractor, I didknow quite a bit about asphalt!This man owned a large apartment complexand was planning on having his maintenanceman do a large resurfacing project on thecomplex. In our conversation, I told him howmuch he should be paying for the work, thebest material to buy, how to apply it and howto ensure that his maintenance man did agood job. At the end of the conversation, theman asked me if I would go and look at hisapartment complex to provide him with moretips.The I’m Second Rule[A. Harrison Barnes]If You Focus on the Needs of Others and Not Yourself, You Will Succeed. Following this simple rule can make your legal career more fulﬁlling (and suc-cessful).
2. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 2 continuedNot even thinking about the money (I wasactually interested in the PROCESS-andhelping this man), I went and looked at thecomplex and then called the man and toldhim everything I recommended he do withthis particular asphalt. The man then askedme for my phone number in case he had anyquestions. I hung up the phone feeling goodthat I had assisted the man with his questions.Throughout my whole exchange with this man,I never expected anything in return.A day or two later the phone in my house rangagain. I was not in the habit of answering thephone because I was always afraid it would beanother complaint! My mother answered thephone and told me it was the man from thehardware store. He wanted me to do the workon the apartment complex for him! I could notbelieve it. He said something to the effect of:“You care about the work. You will look out forme. I want you to do this because I know youwill do a better job than anyone else I couldever find.” To make a long story short, I madeover $3000.00 in just over two days doing thisjob. And the job turned out perfectly! I also dida great deal of work for this man again overthe years.I took a lot from this lesson. Two summerslater, I was only twenty years old and I amconfident I did more driveway resurfacing thanany other contractor in Michigan. I did thiswork throughout college, law school and evenafter law school! I loved the work! I owed allof this success, I believe, to the realizationthat in business you can never concentrate onyourself. Today I literally owe my home andmuch of my current motivation to that onelesson in selflessness-and caring about yourwork---that the man in the hardware storeunknowingly taught me.B. Why So Few Legal Professionals Follow TheI’m Second RuleInstead of following the I’m Second Rule,a great majority of attorneys out there arestuck following the I’m First Rule. You too mayfollow the I’m First Rule., which will lead youto believe that the work you do is simply totake care of your own needs. This belief willbe something that is quickly picked up by oth-ers-whether they are your employer, or yourclient. In addition, you will be less effective inyour work.This sort of attitude is engendered in at-torneys because of the values our societypromotes. In the Western world, many peoplefeel that success means having their sensoryand material wants satisfied. This sort ofattitude is constantly reinforced and strength-ened through a barrage of advertisements andmessages sent out by our society that successand happiness translates into having manypossessions. Many attorneys may thereforebelieve that their success as an attorney hasto do with their level of economic accomplish-ment in the profession. Any yet, even whenthey do get these possessions, these sameattorneys usually want more possessions, andtherefore remain quite tormented and still donot truly enjoy their work.Under many Eastern philosophies, satisfactionand consciousness comes from a differentfoundation. Material possessions are con-sidered empty and meaningless unless theyare accompanied by an attitude that does notconnect their existence with your happiness.If you have a comfortable life and many pos-sessions, you will enjoy them, but these thingsshould not be viewed as something that willultimately bring you peace of mind and happi-ness. Peace of mind can only come if you arefreed from emotionally upsetting states. Allemotions are ego centered:In the ego-centered state, tensions or anxietyresults in discomfort and distress. To allevi-ate that distress, we look for relief throughdistraction. Distraction does give us tempo-rary relief, but it does nothing to free us fromthe discomfort which will return when anothersituation distresses us. As we toss about inthis ocean of experience with its waves ofego-centered activity, we experience repeatedperiods of anguish, followed by periods oftemporary relief.Ellen Kei Hua, Wisdom from the East, p, 10,1974 (Farout Press)The fact of the matter is that the reason thejob of an attorney exists is because peoplehave problems and need other people tointerpret and help them solve these problems.If you are working for a large law firm or cor-poration, the reason your job exists is becauseother attorneys in your firm have work theyneed done and they need someone to helpthem with it. The job does not exist becauseyou have a divine right to earn $100,000+ peryear. Nor does the job exist because you havesomething to prove to the world by being anattorney. The only reason the job exists isbecause you are presumed to have the skills,experience and training to solve these prob-lems that other people have.C. ConclusionsImagine you are an employer looking to hirean attorney. Whom would you want to be help-ing you? Would you want someone who is mostconcerned about their own needs, or someonewho is most concerned about your own?In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Ef-fective People, Stephen Covey talks about“empathetic listening”:When I say empathetic listening, I mean lis-tening with intent to understand. I mean seek-ing first to understand, to really understand.It’s an entirely different paradigm.Empathetic (from empathy) listening gets youinside another person’s frame of reference.You look out through it, you see the world theway they see the world, you understand theirparadigm, you understand how they feel.When your employer or client knows andsenses that your priority is to satisfy their best
3. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 3interests and that you are empathetic, they’lltrust you more and want to give you morework to do. They’ll also want to help you, too.Get on your employer’s side and away fromyour own. As soon as you recognize that youare second-or embrace this rule even more-- your professional life will improve.