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How to Be a Success at Your Law Firm Without Making Enemies

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

An enemy can be a motivator. Many public defenders can fight harder for their clients because they believe that most prosecutors are awful. Corporate counsel can try to destroy employment discrimination lawyers -- in court, of course -- because they think they're pesky opportunists. Viewing the other side as the other side isn't always the worst thing. The law is an adversarial system, after all.

But of course, no one wants adversaries on their own side. No one needs them outside of the courtroom. As competitive as lawyers can be, especially when they're just starting out, it's entirely possible to move up ranks in your firm without making enemies.

Want to Get Along? Start With Yourself

Sure you're likable, smart, successful. We're not worried about someone disliking you here -- how could that even be? -- but you disliking others. Because, face it, everyone has plenty of haters. Real enemies are the ones that you can't stand, fixate on, refuse to cooperate with. So getting rid of those enemies means starting with your own attitude.

It can be done, with just a bit of effort. Start with some willful self deception, Lawyerist's Andy Mergendahl suggests. That person you hate? Nah, they're not really that bad. From there, ask for a favor. Any favor. Why? Because those sort of relationships are reciprocal. Get a gift and you should feel the need to give one back. Simple favors can be the beginning of a positive relationship.

It works. That's because your feelings, Mergendahl writes, have less to do with who the person actually is than how you actually treat them. Treat someone with respect, kindness or even simple tolerance and you'll have more positive feelings towards them. Treat someone poorly and you'll feel poorly towards them.

Of Course, Some People Really Just Are Awful

We know, if you had wanted to be everyone's friend, you wouldn't have become a lawyer. So rest assured, you don't have to trick yourself into getting along with everyone. First, plenty of people will rebuff your attempts to make nice. Others won't even be worth the effort.

You don't need to become bosom buddies with people who are lazy, incompetent, dishonest or just awful. For those who aren't, though, turning a potential enemy into a friend can be good for your career and your psyche.

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