2021 Missouri Bar Senior Counselors offer advice
Each year, The Missouri Bar designates a group of lawyers as "Senior Counselors." To become a Senior Counselor, a lawyer must reach the age of 75 or have been admitted to The Missouri Bar for 50 years. We asked this year's class to share some words of wisdom with their fellow Missouri lawyers -- specifically those recently admitted to the bar. Here's what they said:
Adjoa Artis Aiyetoro
Always, always do your best. Do not work harder for some clients based on your view of them.
Edward L. Armstrong
Always be courteous, honest, and respectful to your colleagues and opposing counsel. Treat your clients as human beings and not as customers.
James R. Bickel
Remember every client’s case is their most important case you have. And if you’re advocating in court, be sincere and impassioned. A judge can tell when you’re just going through the motions.
Jon W. Bilstrom
E. Rex Bradley
Always be prepared for court and other meetings.
Jerome E. Brant
Be honest with your clients, opposing counsel, and the judiciary. Never undertake a matter you are not capable of handling well. Promptly respond to calls, texts, or emails from your clients or opposing counsel. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Douglas F. Browne
An older lawyer, decades ago when I first started, told me to refer to parties by position (TT, D, etc.) rather than using lawyers’ names when appearing in court. That removes the personalization that tends to create or breed antagonism.
Robert A. Cahn
Be prepared. Be thorough. Be cordial. Be respectful. Be collegial. Strive for excellence. Strive to exemplify integrity.
Danny Joe Chatfield
Work hard, be kind, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Hon. Sue Chrisman
Especially in family law, a reputation for being reasonable is one of the most important qualities a lawyer can possess.
James T. Cook
Practice the “Golden Rule” and always wait 30 minutes before replying to a nasty email!
Charles David Dalton
One of the earliest and hardest lessons I learned in my early years of practice is: there is a big difference between having a judgment against someone and having money in the pockets of your client or yourself.
Philip Frederick DeMoss
Don’t lean on the bench!
Jerome A. Diekemper
Our best legal advice is given when we do not take our clients’ emotional issues personally. Keep it professional.
James A. Eidelman
Robert N. Feldmann
Protect your integrity and reputation – it’s your most valuable asset.
Be diligent, be prepared, and be respectful to all.
Hon. Jane Buchanan Geiler
From the day you are sworn in, your reputation begins. From there, every day you practice adds to or detracts from it. Be fair, honest, and hard working.
Michael G. Goldstein
As an attorney there are three things to remember: listen, listen, listen. Even if you are, please do not act like the smartest person in the room. You can learn more by listening to others and then, and only then, apply your analytical skills to solve a client’s matter.
You may have many clients, but your client has only one lawyer. Act as if you have only one client. Hiring a lawyer is a major moment in a client’s life and as such the client believes that you will always be there for them. So, return phone calls and reply to e-mails and texts; put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask yourself how you are being treated by the person you entrusted with your matter. Being a lawyer is an exciting and important profession and a major aspect of the fabric of our society. Enjoy the profession and make it proud.
Bradley Philip Grill
Being an attorney at law is an honor and privilege. The key to success is hard work, but more importantly realizing the need for work/life balance. In recent years, this has become more difficult, but is the key to success in life and in the legal profession.
Dianne M. Hansen
Care more about your clients than the money you earn. When you look back over your career, it is the people you helped through a difficult time that will make you feel proud – not the lifestyle you achieved!
Edward J. Heller
At the onset of each new matter, determine what statutes apply to the matter and read them thoroughly. Then read them again.
Terry L. Hickam
Be respectful and courteous to all you encounter.
William James Hill III
Always be courteous, always be professional, always wear the white hat, and always return phone calls, if possible, within the day received.
Gregory F. Hoffmann
A sincere ‘thank you for everything you did’ after a call was over was as valuable as any fee paid by the client.
James F. Hollander
For a decision aided by columns of ‘pro’ and ‘con’ entries, include a numerical 1-10 (called valence) and add the numbers in each column to compare the greater sum. See “How Writing Can Sharpen Personal Decision Making,” in the Journal of The Missouri Bar for the pro/con column entries.
Hon. Ronald R. Holliger
There will not be rewards every day, but if you stay devoted to the law and your clients, you will have a lifetime and career of rewards both big and small.
Susan (Sue) Ingalls
Knowing the ‘law’ is the easiest part. Knowing the people and working with them where they are is the challenge.
Albert D. Johnston
A successful lawyer does not worry about paying his bills – he worries about the client being able to pay his bills.
Jane Baxter Jones
I appreciate every colleague that helped me along the way; be sure you do that for those around you.
Thomas Earl Loraine
‘Your word is your legacy. Protect it as if it is gold.’
Lawrence M. Maher
The “Golden Rule” is still the most important rule in practicing law.
John Kelly Martin
Do the right thing, for the right reasons, all the time, regardless of the consequences to you personally.
Laurence D. Mass
Be empathetic and courteous with your clients. Maintain your integrity throughout your representation. Do not compromise your integrity. Be firm, frank, and truthful with your clients, even when doing so can be awkward. Recognize when you and your clients might have a conflict and discuss it openly and frankly. (Then act according to the Rules of Professional response.)
Robert J. Matlock
There is no ‘magic’ involved in practicing law and no mystical formula for success. The practice of law requires:
Element number 4 is indispensable – it makes the other elements doable.
David L. Mayhugh
One of the most important things to know is that a lawyer must have credibility with the lawyer’s clients, the courts, and other lawyers.
Thomas A. Mickes
Someone much wiser than I once said words to the effect that if you love your work, it is not really work. I love my practice and have been blessed with wonderful clients, brilliant and congenial colleagues, and the support of my spouse. I am blessed with good health and enjoy continuing my practice.
Hon. Michael L. Midyett
Illegitimi non carborundum
Mark D. Mittleman
The advice I give young people considering law school is this: Don’t be a lawyer unless your purpose for doing so is to represent clients — not to promote yourself or some other ambition. Remember the old adage: He who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. And while there’s nothing wrong with being well compensated for serving clients, also remember that a fool and his money are soon parted.
Charles Robert Monroe
It has been an honor to practice law for so many years. My advice to current and future attorneys is to build long-lasting relationships with clients, to practice ethically and professionally, and to be active in your community and The Missouri Bar.
M. Harvey Pines
In my opinion, there are two precepts which every lawyer should live by in his or her practice. These may seem obvious and even simplistic, but they are essential to the trust in which you want other lawyers and judges to place in statements which you make to them.
First, your word should be your absolute bond. If you make a statement or promise to another attorney or to a judge, then they should be able to absolutely rely on such statements as if they had been delivered to them in writing under seal. Be trustworthy and you will receive the trust of your colleagues.
Secondly, lawyers should always be courteous to their peers and opponents. This is the “Golden Rule” of practice. If you would like to receive courtesy from your opponents, then you should be courteous to them. I am not saying that you should not vigorously represent your client’s interests, but you can do so, even in a hotly contested issue, without using vituperative language and without making personal insults which achieve no purpose but that of further inflaming a situation which may already be fraught with high emotions.
John H. Quinn III
Being a lawyer and member of The Missouri Bar has been an honor. I believe that if one treats clients, courts, and one’s peers – even those on the other side of a case – with candor after diligent investigation and analysis, one will achieve respect that goes beyond any won-loss record.
David Albert Ramsay
Integrity is a lawyer’s most valuable asset.
Richard L. Rodemyer
Consider your clients to be your friends and part of your extended family. You are on a quest for justice and fairness similar to Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.
Michael G. Schappe
Be truthful with clients. Show them respect.
Stephen M. Schoenbeck
Keep in mind that while ours tends to be an adversarial profession, especially for my fellow litigators, we can disagree without being disagreeable. You add nothing to your stature with arrogance. Treat everyone kindly: clients, witnesses, court personnel, and yes, even your opposing counsel. Last, but not least, return phone calls!
The most important skill for a lawyer to develop is the ability to focus on the key facts and legal principles in a situation while remembering that small details also can be very important.
Stephen Paul Seigel
When first meeting with a potential client and throughout the relationship with a client, get realistic and honest expectations about the outcome of their case and what you can and cannot do for them as their attorney in representing them. I have talked to too many potential clients who have consulted with another lawyer who had made promises of unrealistic outcomes. Never promise a potential client or a client an outcome, especially in cases involving litigation.
James E. Seiler
Treat others how you would like to be treated. Ability to get along with others will reward you unexpectedly in friendships and career opportunities.
James W. Sherby
Learning to be patient and persistent in getting the facts, along with carefully listening to my clients, enables me to enjoy practicing law.
Fred L. Slough
There are no shortcuts. Work hard to know the law and to be an effective advocate.
Daryl F. Sohn
When I was leaving my law clerkship to become a trial lawyer, U.S. District Judge Roy Harper gave me these two pieces of advice: First, remember the facts are 100 times more important than the law. You can find a court decision to support almost any proposition, but if you don’t present persuasive testimony and documentary evidence, you will lose. Second, go to the bathroom every chance you get. You do not want to be squirming while you are questioning your witness. During my career, I found Judge Harper’s foregoing advise invaluable and I pass it on to all those younger attorneys hoping to become trial lawyers.
William Elvis Sorrell
In this great nation, a lawyer is privileged to serve the law that serves the law. Personal ambition must take second place to this high purpose.
Edward R. Spalty
Surround yourself with talent and listen to you clients.
John Arnold Swearingen
It was lawyers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Constitution of the United States.
Jerome W. Thomasson
The practice of law is an honorable profession, and a lawyer is a professional. A professional views clients different than a businessperson views their customers. Recognize the difference and conduct your practice accordingly.
I used to think the job was to win or beat your opponent, but I came to realize the key is your relationship with your clients: to satisfy them, win or lose; to be able to say ‘no’ to them whenever necessary; and to teach them what is a reasonable result, what is doable, and when it is time to accept what is reasonable and doable.
Vonnieta E. Trickey
Listen carefully with both ears. How else will you be able to ask the hard questions? Never assume.
Treat everyone you meet from all walks of life with respect, compassion, and dignity. Promptly return phone calls, emails, and texts. If you have to break bad or sensitive news to someone, do it in person, when possible, and don’t do it by email. Be patient and generous with your time and advice, and don’t act out of a desire for something.
Hon. Stephen K. Willcox
Clients are willing to pay you hard-earned money in order to solve serious problems they cannot handle by themselves.