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5 Bad Habits You Should Break

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

It happens every single year. You resolve to change a few bad habits and then you invariably fail to reach your goals. But, hey, if you've changed even one bad habit, you've made admirable progress.

And there are a couple of recurring lawyer bad-habits that really should be dealt with, and dealt with fast. Here are some of the more troubling habits small firm lawyers and solos should tackle.

Talking Over Your Clients

This is not a particularly costly habit, but it's a habit that has the potential to offend. Every profession has its own book of specialized lingo, jargon, gobbledygook, what have you. But not everyone is well-versed in your profession's particular lexicon and vocabulary -- especially the clients. I recently spoke to a client who complained that her lawyer spent an hour assaulting her ears with terms like "touch and concern" and "meeting of the minds." (Hers was an easement, covenant, and contract case). She said she suspected the lawyer wasn't confident in what he was saying and was attempting to impress her with his token terminology.

Do this and you waste your client's time. Avoid the urge to talk down to your clients and communicate with them plainly and easily. You'll get a much better response.


Procrastination is by far the most widespread and difficult problem to address. It's not a lawyer problem -- it's an everyone problem. Putting something off, I submit, has as much to do with fear than anything else. We all fear failure or the unpleasant process of paying bills. But you'll notice that when things are going great, you are much more inclined to get things done today. There's really no easy way to deal with procrastination other than to find a manageable workload. Charge your clients a reasonable fee for your services and build up confidence. Overload, ironically, leads to retreat into your shell and that can end up in financial, professional and personal disaster.

Biting off More Than You Can Chew

Taking on an issue that's too big for you to handle is closely related to procrastinating. If you're just fresh from obtaining your license, you are not prepared to handle an international business contract case involving software licensing -- period.

Too many attorneys suffer from hubris. Ironically, these are the very same who often procrastinate (how's that for irony). There's something to be said about first learning the ropes and learning some humility. Learn to start jogging before you handle your first marathon. There's no shame in taking smaller cases to build up your skills.

Relying on Legalese

Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit has been on a rather public mission to abolish this profession's use of legalese. At FindLaw, we've read our share of court opinions and we can say this -- legalese does not clarify points of law. If anything, it tends to make the law more opaque and vague. There are those who would profit from confusion in the law, but we hope you're not that type of lawyer. You may be able to impress your clients with your legalese, or you could annoy them (see above). But if you're writing a memorandum to the court or submitting some other pleading, you could also end up ticking the judge off -- especially if he happens to sit on the Seventh Circuit.

Forgetting to Audit Yourself

This doesn't simply just mean keeping accurate books. This means to check all aspects of your professional life. Have you paid the bills? Have you stayed on top of your marketing? Are your skills advancing with each case you work on?

Police yourself and always ask if you are maintaining best practices -- because it's better to police yourself than to be policed by someone else.

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