Clerking at Rice Law: by Chelsea Conn

I recently attended the Cecil C. Humprey’s School of Law Pillars of Excellence Dinner. The banquet honored several Memphis area attorneys who had really set the bar (so to speak). The award dinner featured videos of the honored attorneys. Some had worked with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement in Memphis. Some came from incredibly humble beginnings, while others inherited their business from generations before. Their stories were so interesting, and they were all amazing examples of what an attorney should be: professional, fair, and honest.

The thing that stood out the most to me that night was one quote from an honoree: “If you haven’t earned the respect of your colleagues, you really haven’t done anything.”

Every attorney wants to win. Some try unfair tactics to gain an advantage. What you leave behind, however, is the impression that you can’t be trusted. No one wants to have the reputation that they are untrustworthy or impossible to deal with. In fact, generating a reputation of respect can only help you. Other attorneys who know you are a good person and treat clients with dignity will be highly more likely to recommend you, as will other clients who have been treated with care and respect.

This is mirrored in law school. There are students known as “gunners”. They answer every question, cut people off when they are making a point, and do their best to make sure the professors know who they are. They also lack the respect of their peers. It may not matter what we think of each other now, but law school begins your reputation as a professional, and some could be doing permanent damage as far as other students are concerned.

The point is this: winning isn’t everything. No one will remember if you won every case, but they will remember how you treated them- and that lives on longer than any courtroom drama.