Having been some days in preparation/A splendid time is guaranteed for all/And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill. The Beatles, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
A group of boys apply for a farm job. They are all asked what skills they possess. While the others profess various practical farming skills one answers, “I can sleep through anything”. No matter how many times the farmer presses, this is all he gets. This boy is hired. Shortly after there is a terrible storm. The farmer runs to his farm hand’s quarters. Try as he might, the farmer cannot not wake him up. In a panic the farmer runs outside to settle the parts of the farm dangerously exposed to the storm. To his amazement and delight he finds everything, the barns, the stalls, the haystacks, the horses and other animals all secured and quiet for the night. Of course, the farm hand having understood what it takes to protect against such a storm, and having diligently performed his job, could in fact sleep through anything.
The value of careful preparation in any endeavour cannot be denied. And it is truly better to be overly prepared than under prepared, you get more sleep that way.
In law, as has been often noted, it is difficult to over prepare. Preparation, and the mastery of the file that goes along with it, instills confidence. It also leads to presence. Presence earns respect. Respect breeds trust, and reputation. With reputation comes standing and elevated opportunities, leading to comfort, contentment, security, and… sleep.
Further, preparation generates and facilitates courtesy, corroboration and collegiality and serves to avoid conflict and the stress that goes with it. How so? Because lawyers who find themselves unprepared in relation to either the matter or the opposing lawyer, will lack confidence and seek refuge to obfuscate that fact. Inadequate preparation will have robbed them of the ability to do otherwise.
The bar which a lawyer seeks to reach, whether at the closing table, the discovery table or in the court or hearing room, is high. Our colleagues are called upon to discharge their responsibilities to clients, tribunals, the public and other members of the profession honourably and with integrity (Rule 2.1, Rules of Conduct). The Commentary associated with the Rules requires that their work reflect favourably on the legal profession, inspire the confidence, respect and trust of clients and of the community, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. This is a tall order. Achieving these standards consistently without adequate, conscientious preparation is highly doubtful. The role of preparation and the sense of self-confidence that goes with it cannot therefore be exaggerated. There is really no reason for any lawyer to become aggravated, knocked off stride or lured into objectionable behaviour once adequately prepared. If we can help our junior colleagues become comfortable in their own skin, no-one will get under it.
How do we assist? We ensure that we have adequate programs to train them. We ensure that they know how best to analyze, plan for and organize their work. And we give them every opportunity to play meaningful roles in support of the files that engage them. We ensure that they both work with us, and independently of us. We find time for them, keep our eyes and ears on them, give them feedback, constructive criticism and praise.
Preparation is also known to enhance communication, and communication is of course an important life and professional skill. Everything our colleagues do during their careers requires elevated communication skills, achievable through training, practice and of course experience (the best training of all). Written, oral and visual communication skills can be practiced, learned and constantly enhanced. Here we can assist by offering mock, but realistic in-office exercises, opportunity, and constant encouragement.
For any lawyer, preparation can only improve self-worth and lead to enhanced self-esteem. It is axiomatic that preparation at any level builds self-confidence. Experts argue that deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude. Practice “can be very useful and is highly recommended because in addition to building confidence, it also tends to improve quality… even people who are confident in their abilities can become more so with better preparation”.
Last, but not least for the lawyer, preparation leads to outcomes which are part of the service quotient. The term “service quotient” has come to identify a person’s propensity to serve others, in the way that the emotional quotient has come to identify the ability to relate to others in an emotionally mature manner. Lawyers are trained to provide sound and valuable service to their clients. And not only trained to do so, but they are also required to do so and most aspire to do so. Lawyering is at one level no more or less than a highly refined service industry. And service, Mr. Kite, requires preparation.