Transcript: What it Means to Be a Better Lawyer with Dina Cataldo
My friend, how are you doing today? I hope you are having as lovely a day as I am having here. Yes. It's a little warm here in Northern California, but you know what? It is so nice and I'm having my lemon water. I have a nice quiet corner of my house where I can record this
To talk to you. And basically
Everything is just dandy. So let's get going. I want to talk to you about being a better lawyer. In fact, I just want to talk to you first about being a good lawyer, which I know if you're listening to this, you are, I have no doubt about that. There are not bad lawyers listening to this podcast.
Okay. What I
Want to talk to you about is our perception of ourselves because our perception of ourselves is everything. It determines how we show up in this world. And if we are not perceiving ourselves as a good lawyer, if we're not perceiving ourselves, as someone who shows up for our clients, someone who shows up for ourself every day in our practice, then we're not going to do it. And it's going to be hard and we're going to procrastinate on things and it's okay to procrastinate. It just means you're human. But I want to show you that you don't have to procrastinate. You don't have to feel bad that you're not doing what you think you ought to be doing in your practice. One of the reasons that we have the perceptions of ourselves that we do in fact, the big reason is the way we have been socialized.
And our socialization runs deep. I mean, since we were children deep and there have been lawyers forever. So of course, as we were growing up, we were picking up what other people in our society thought about lawyers and what lawyers are supposed to be and how they should behave and what it means to be a good lawyer. And a lot of our culture is based on knocking lawyers. And I mean, that's pretty evident with all the lawyer jokes. If you Google lawyer jokes, there's like a good Jillian, right? And you know, what's 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, a good start, you know, those kinds jokes. And even though those kinds kinds of jokes are meant to be light hearted. We do factor that in as we are growing up and what it means to be a lawyer. That's just one example. Another one that we take in is that lawyers are supposed to be tough as nails.
And we are just supposed to be the toughest rock hard. It's not just being an advocate. It's more like being an attack dog. And that is what a lawyer is supposed to be in order to be a good lawyer. It also builds on this reputation that lawyers are not to be trusted, that lawyers will do anything and to win a case that they are unscrupulous all of, all of those things. And some of the things, things that we pick up about what it means to be a lawyer, isn't just that, you know, this generalized idea of that, we should be tough as nails, but that we should be up at three in the morning, researching cases. You ever see those movie montages or those TV montages, where the lawyers are just like, they they've been up all night, they're exhausted. And they've just been doing all this research and all this legwork and doing all of these things.
And they're all. Then they only have one case, like they're only ever working on one case at a time and they put all of this energy in the case. And you're only, this is the perception that we pick up. You're only a good lawyer if you're doing that. And that means sacrificing yourself, oftentimes your family. I see this in cop shows too. It's like, that's what a cop, it means to be a cop is you sacrifice your family and you can't do anything, but be a police officer. Like it's really interesting to see all of these socialized ideas of what it means to be a certain profession or to have a certain identity. So when it comes to being a lawyer, not only are we picking up what society has fed us, but we are also picking up what those people in our office are emulating.
And of course what they are emulating is what they've seen in society, right. And what their predecessors had picked up in society and so on and so on. And it, it takes re-imagining to be a better lawyer. Like we could be a good lawyer. We can like work really hard and, you know, make sure that we're, we're tough advocates and we're, you're doing all of that right there. That is definitely part of being a lawyer, but there's also a human being that we are. And I would ask yourself, like, I'll invite you to ask yourself, Hey, what do I think about myself as a lawyer? What are my perceptions? Do I perceive myself as a good lawyer? If so, why? If not, why? And really this conversation came about when I had a conversation with one of my clients. And one of the things that she said was that, you know, she didn't, even though she, she and I have had conversations and she's an excellent lawyer.
She had a thought in a particular instance that maybe she was, wasn't a good lawyer. And we deconstructed that. And it turned out that not only is she a good lawyer, but she is a better lawyer. And let me tell you what that means. That's part of being, being a better lawyer is questioning everything that's inside of our mind and questioning what we are fed by the outside world. So if we have someone, for instance, tell us that, you know, wow, you're just too nice to be a lawyer. Like, that's just amazing, which I've had people tell me that. And I think it's hilarious. I tell them, well, you've never been under cross-examination by me. So, you know, that is what it is, but we can internalize that and perceive that differently. Like I may think it's kind of funny. Someone else might really internalize that and get a little defensive about it. Right? And because they're making it mean when somebody says that to them, that they're not a good lawyer, that they should be tougher, that the way other people perceive them as more important than they perceive themselves. And of course, if you ask, if this has happened to you ask yourself where those people who told you, you were too nice to be a lawyer where those people, lawyers probably not.
And I want you to start really thinking about who you are, not just as a lawyer, but as a human being, because we're humans before we are lawyers, we have this label of a lawyer and we have all these ideas about what it means to be a lawyer and ask yourself if that is okay, what you want, do you want to be a good lawyer? And we're in my mind, you know, the whole reason I have this podcast called be a better lawyer podcast is why not be a better lawyer, right? And being a better lawyer means that you are taking care of your whole self, because you can perform better for your clients. You can be there better for yourself when you are questioning everything that you are being given by society that you are being told by people in your office, on what it means to be a good lawyer, really thinking about how you walk in the world and how you are with other people.
And maybe that means taking a list and saying how you think you should be and how you want to be. Right. So I have a whole manual about how I believe lawyers should behave, right? A handbook that I have, I carry around with me. And I have to remind myself that these are just thoughts. Hey, I'll give you that manual for you, embedding that you share a lot of these and you think that they are a hundred percent true. They should be ethical. They should not bring spurious motions. They should be on time. That's a big one for me. They should be polite. They should be easy to get along with. They should be nice to court staff. They should be smart. They shouldn't make stupid objections. They shouldn't roll their eyes. They should proofread their briefs
Twice. And I have more thoughts
About how I believe a lawyer should behave. And I'm betting you do
To ask yourself where these thoughts come from.
They come from other people somewhere along the line, we were taught to believe all the things that I just said. And I can almost hear you thinking. Yeah. But all of that's true, like that really does show that someone's a good lawyer, right? Maybe it is. Maybe all of those things do mean that you're a good lawyer, right? If you follow those rules, but here's the thing, not all lawyers were taught the same rule book when it came to being a lawyer and not all lawyers have the same opinions. Okay. So one lawyer may think that they are bringing a valid motion and another believes it's spurious. Have you ever, had you ever read a motion? And you're like, I can't believe they're even bringing this motion. This is ridiculous. And of course the other lawyers like, well, I need to make a record. Like I have to be able to bring this objection, bring this motion so that I can appeal this and, you know, take it all the way up if I need to.
Right. Really think about like, all of our perceptions are just that they're just perceptions. They're just thoughts. They're interpretations of the world. And not all of us interpret things the same way. Even though, as lawyers, we were taught in law school to see both sides of an issue. When we get locked into our world of how people should behave and how lawyers should be doing things, we start to waste a lot of energy on thinking about how a lawyer should be, instead of just accepting what is and making it not matter. And we can waste a ton of energy on a lawyer. Who's not on time. Who asks for things late, who doesn't provide things on time. We can waste a ton of energy on that. Or we could just look after ourselves. We can make sure we're doing the best that we can do and not worry about other people, because those other lawyers have different perceptions.
They have different interpretations of the world. How are they a good lawyer in your mind? Maybe they aren't. And that's fine, but wasting your time, thinking about how other lawyers behave and how they should behave and kind of getting locked into that manual of how they should be acting is not going to help you be a better lawyer. You will not be able to improve your life skills. You won't be able to improve your time management, your mind management. You're not going to be able to connect better with your clients. You're not going to be able to connect better with yourself and your family members. If you are in your head, thinking about what other people are doing and how they should be behaving, Hey, bang. And another part of this is under we're standing that you don't need to fit into a box. So even if all the lawyers in your office are working till three in the morning to find that one case that might crack open this matter, you don't have to be that way.
You can manage your time in a way where you're not up till three in the morning doing that. This is a reality, right? You can do that. A lot of lawyers think that in order to be a good lawyer, that's what it means. It means spending all your time, researching a case. It, it means spending all of your time doing legwork on a matter of talking to a client over and over again, for more information, or this is one that really can keep lawyers spinning and wasting a lot of time. They talk to their clients about all the things, even if they don't matter, they're not essential to the current hearing. They're not essential to the current brief that you're writing. You don't need more information. But what you're doing is you're spinning your wheels by responding to the emails right away, to giving your cell phone number out by, you know, responding to all of these different phone calls and just picking up the phone all the time and not having organizations so that you can have an organized mind about the work you want to get done.
That's most important. And then choosing those blocks of time to call clients back to respond to emails. Is this a very different way of being when you are in the space of creating your life, designing your life, creating your perception of how you want to show up in the world versus seeing the perception that other lawyers give out and picking up on those. And then just like regurgitating them, just being that lawyer instead of being you think, because you are different, you may be serving your clients better. That's what, that's a big thing here for me. When I see this with, with my clients, my clients are amazing. Like they're all rockstar lawyers and they are all attorneys who have great relationships with their clients. And there is no coincidence. I attract really great lawyers with great attitudes who are working on themselves, who want to be better in every way, not just in their law practice, but just as, and I love that.
I love that. I get to work with these amazing human beings. And one thing that they have in common is that they question everything, right? They are willing to question everything, all their beliefs about how they think they should be, how much time they should be spending on something, what they think should matter. And then they start looking at, okay, how do I want to show up? Do I want to show up as the best lawyer I can be for my client? How do I do that? Oh, it's by taking care of myself, it's by making sure that I am blocking time to care for myself so that when I come to the office, I am a hundred percent ready to take care of my clients. It is making sure that you are in a space where you aren't staying up till three in the morning, killing yourself because at 8:00 AM, you've got a meeting with somebody that you want to foster trust, so that they open up to you and share with you what you need to know in order to argue their case to the best of your ability.
That's what it means to really question these perceptions. Because when we start behaving, like what we see on TV as lawyers or what we see in our offices, lawyers like the lawyers who stay there all night, we are killing ourselves to live up to some false ideal of what it means to be a lawyer. You do not have to burn yourself out. You do not have to burn your relationships up. You do not have to kill yourself in order to be a better lawyer. In fact, you're a better lawyer when you don't do those things.
So I'm hoping that just hearing this gives you the confidence to know that when you work on yourself in any way, I mean, just listening to this podcast and opening yourself up to questioning how other lawyers behave in the world, how you behave in the world, all of that can be questioned. Like, is that how you want to be? Do you want to feel overwhelmed? Do you want to feel like you're constantly procrastinating on matters? Do you want to be that lawyer who is always just fumbling around in the courtroom and feeling like you're not confident feeling like you're not a good attorney because I guarantee you, if you are in that space, you're not alone, right? Every lawyer has been there at one time or another, whether or not, you know, it or not, like every lawyer has gone into a courtroom, or if you, if you don't do matters that end up in a courtroom, you've had your briefs published and you think to yourself, oh my gosh, I can't believe that that's out there in the world.
That I, that I said, those things that I, you know in this public forum where other people can see me, right? And then we start judging ourselves as not good enough. And part of that judgment is coming from what we think it means to show up like an attorney. I remember thinking to myself for years, like, I can't believe they let me do this. Like, I can't believe they let me, like I've I was a year in and I was doing trials. Like how, how do you just let me do this? You just, so you're just going to, let me go do trials now. Okay. You know, it's like this huge responsibility that we have to represent people to the best of our ability and to show up professionally and to be on, especially if you're in a courtroom setting where you have so many balls in the air and you are watching the entire courtroom and how everything is playing out and how the jurors are perceiving evidence and how the defense attorney is behaving and trying to read the judge.
Like we have so much energy. We are expanding in those moments and to be judging ourselves at the same time, we don't have the energy for that. Like it does not work. So we've got to start questioning how we perceive ourselves as lawyers and how we want to show up as a lawyer. So how do you want to show up? Do you want to show up in a way that feels good to you? Right? It doesn't yeah. Mean that you let people walk all over you. That's not what it means to be a better lawyer. Right. You're still advocating for people. And just because you're nice doesn't mean that you let people walk all over you. I mean, like I was saying earlier, it's like, yeah, you can seem really nice, but you know, if you've got someone under cross-examination, you've got a job to do.
Doesn't mean you're a jerk, but it does mean that you're going to get what you need to get out of that witness. So just understanding how you want to show up and how you perceive yourself is like a huge game changer. Sure. I just, just go there. And once you start looking at that start deconstructing. Okay. Where did I learn that I needed to stay up at three until three in the morning to, to research cases, to work on things. Where did I learn that I need to eat like crap during the day in order for me to just get by? And what is it about your socialization, your education in your office? Yes. That has put you in a spot, right? Like your mindset is now that you perceive that this is the right way of doing things. And is there a better way of doing things and you already know that's true because you listened to this podcast.
You already know there's a better way now. Now, you know how you want to perceive yourself. You want to show up in the world. What's the next step? How can you begin to be the person that you want to be? How do you shift your identity in a way that includes all the things that you want to be, that you want to show the world, that you are a strong advocate, but that you allow your clients to open up to you. So you have that kindness about you, that you're kind to the court staff. And at the same time, you are very respectful of everybody's time. Like all of these things are things that you have control over. It doesn't always feel that way. I get it right. We have a lot of responsibilities, not the least being to protect the interest of your client.
Right. But understand that you are more than a lawyer, right? You can be a good lawyer right now. You are right. You could be a really good lawyer. Are you the lawyer you want to be? Are you that version of yourself that quote unquote, better lawyer, right? That version of yourself that you want to be in your law practice and in your life, can you let go of some of the preconceived notions that have been fed into us about what a good lawyer is supposed to be? Okay. I think you got the point. This is a really great topic for, in my mind, because I know that I struggled with this. I know that a lot of lawyers come to the legal profession thinking that, you know, there's a certain right way to be a lawyer. And the reason they think there's a right way and a wrong way to be the lawyer is because of all of the, the socialization that we get in law school.
Cool. And just, you know, outside in the world on TV jokes that we, we hear and then in our office, right? Depending on what kind of office that you have, and maybe you don't feel a hundred percent confident about how you show up and you have some insecurities about that, and you want to be the best person that you can be. And that might mean doing extra work on yourself in order to show up as that person. And if you want to do that extra work, if you want to put in the energy you want to put in the time to becoming the very best person that you can be the very best advocate that you can be. And along the way, maybe have some more fun and make more money. Then I'm going to invite you to work with me because that's what my clients do.
My clients, they get to raise their prices. Like they don't have confidence in their practice at one point to raise their prices as much as want or deserve based on the market value. And now they're raising their prices. They're charging for consults. I have other clients who are building a business on top of their law practice, just like I've been doing. And they are learning to not only manage their time, but manage their mind around all that self doubt that they have about showing up in the world bigger and better every single day. I have clients who are dealing with huge legal matters and dealing with lots of pressures from the people in their office, their own expectations of themselves, and starting to learn that they put so much external pressure on themselves, that they make it impossible for them to enjoy their life.
And when they work with B, they start to love life again. So I want to invite you to schedule a strategy session with me, go to Dina, cataldo.com and click on the work with me button. And when you schedule a time with me, we will have a conversation about what's going on in your life, how you feel like you're showing up in your practice, in your life and lots of different areas of your life. So we can get a full picture of what's going on. And what the mindset that you have is that is preventing you from getting the results that you want. And then we'll create a game plan. If you want to work with me to show you how you can create exactly what you want, design exactly the life that you want, show up exactly the way that you want to and start to release all of these outside expectations that we've just allowed to be stacked on top of us. And we've never deconstructed. So if that interests you
Come and join me, it's a ton of fun and we are improving
Ourselves along the way. I love it. All right, my friend, I
Will talk to you soon and bye for now.