Word For Word

Super Lawyers asks: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Published in 2011 South Carolina Super Lawyers — April 2011

Early in your career, just read as much as you can, because later in your career you won’t have the time to do it. Even though early in your career you don’t feel like you have time to [read], you really do, more than you think. My first boss at a law firm, George Cauthen, gave me that advice. He just told me to read the bankruptcy code, read the rules, read all the cases I can, and that was very good advice.

And then my dad told me to watch how you treat people because you never know when the tables might turn and you need them. [Laughs] … You never know—this person you want to be ugly to might end up being a future boss or the president or somebody like that, so watch how you treat people.

—Jane H. Downey (Partner, Moore, Taylor & Thomas; Bankruptcy)

 

You have to understand your clients’ business in order to really help them. You need to understand what their issues are and how the law applies to them to help them solve their problems. … That’s probably the interesting part about [having] a commercial corporate practice—you learn lots about lots of different businesses. It’s very interesting, but not only is it interesting, it’s also critical to understand how the business operates. When you get into a legal issue, you can only really solve the clients’ problems if you understand the business and the law.

—Benton D. Williamson (Shareholder, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd; Real estate and corporate matters)

 

My mother always told me your reputation is your most valuable asset, and that has served me well through all of my law practice as well. Always deal with others honestly and forthrightly. Never make any sorts of misrepresentations to the court—or anyone else for that matter. Be honest with your clients, even when they don’t want to hear what you have to say.

Work hard, be prepared: That really came from my husband, who is also a lawyer and started practicing before me. … Now my advice to people is: If you have to pick between a lawyer who is brilliant and one who works hard, pick the one who works hard. It doesn’t matter how much you know in general about the law or how brilliant you are; if you’re not well-prepared before going into a hearing or a negotiation or anything else, then all that knowledge is wasted.

—Pamela E. Deal (Partner, Deal & Deal; Family law)

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