Recently, Toni Jaeger-Fine was speaking to a former student about the current state of the legal profession. “There are a lot of really bright lawyers out there, in terms of legal skills, knowledge, and education,” the former student, who now serves on the managing committee of a major New York law firm, told Jaeger-Fine. “But that’s just not good enough anymore.”
Jaeger-Fine’s book Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona (West Academic Publishing) addresses what goes into being a successful lawyer in the modern era beyond the legal skills and knowledge one learns in law school. The project draws upon research in the social sciences and law in order to illuminate how up-and-coming—and more seasoned—lawyers can use carefully honed personal and interpersonal skills to get ahead in their careers.
While the book offers much in the way of concrete advice concerning behaviors and attitudes—chapter topics include “Working with Others,” “Time Management and Organization,” and “Mindset and Dispositions”—Jaeger-Fine says that building a successful professional persona will be a different process for each person.
Hundreds of conversations with attorneys in various practice settings convinced Jaeger-Fine that there is no single definitive way to be a successful lawyer, particularly with regard to one’s professional persona. What matters, she says, is a balance of authenticity to oneself with a willingness to evolve and adapt to one’s particular business environment.
Jaeger-Fine is assistant dean of international and non-J.D. programs.