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By: John C. Cox, Esq.
To the readers of this article, a word of caution: I am making a presumption about you. I am making the presumption that you want to be among the best in your field. This is not intended for someone who is merely happy to receive a paycheck at the end of the week. It also is not for someone who is content just being good at their job or hoping not to get a pink skip at the end of the week. It is for those that seek the highest this profession has to offer. It is for those that deeply desire to be considered not the best in your office, but in your entire profession.
One thing that has been pestering me lately is how we, as a society, have an overabundance of information at our disposal, yet fail to have a true mastery within the legal profession. For several months, I have questioned what has caused this decline in our culture, and more specifically, our legal industry. The best that I can come up with is that we have fallen into a dangerous trap; one I have coined the “Superficial Knowledge Trap.”
The Superficial Knowledge Trap, or the SKT, is a virus; we each must be wary of our possible susceptibility. It has a tendency to prey upon the ambitious, hard-working, and worst of all, the time-crunched. Its most common symptoms are embarrassment at inopportune moments and failure in unexpected endeavors.
All playful rhetoric aside, one of the most unsuspecting culprits between you and your goals may be superficial knowledge. For a variety of reasons, I believe we often only retain, maintain, and obtain knowledge that is specifically relevant to the tasks currently at hand. However, it is that lack of intense knowledge that keeps us from reaching our true potential.
So what is the difference between superficial knowledge and intense knowledge? It is the difference between knowing how to find a piece of information in a file, and knowing that information from memory and showing your audience how deeply you care about a legal matter. It is the difference between preparing a document because an attorney asked, and knowing the reasoning behind each word that is written and how it will be responded to and perceived by a judge when deciding whether to take a particular action in your client’s favor.
This begs the question, of course, how do I obtain this so-called intense knowledge? Only one way: WORK! For some, this may mean taking a trip near the intersection of a personal injury accident to “re-live” the accident through your client’s eyes. It may just mean asking someone, “Why do we handle this issue like this?” It may just mean spending some time every day learning something to make you better at your craft (honing in on your client interview skills, legal research methods, or spending more time on The Paralegal Society after hours). However, if you want to be intentional about your professional growth, you have to put in the extra time and effort to increase your knowledge each and every day. As members of the legal community, we are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility in handling legal matters that matter deeply to our clients. Our clients deserve a legal service that reflects deep understanding and attention to detail.
In professional athletics, there are a few elite superstars that have set their own standard for greatness. These individuals have a unique combination of talent and discipline. They spend extra time in the film room, and entire off-seasons addressing their weaknesses to maximize their performance. To set your own standard of greatness, I encourage you to take the same approach. By virtue of where you are, I know you already have the talent. The next step is what do you do with this talent? If you commit yourself to a work ethic that goes beyond superficial knowledge, you will soar to a new stature in your career. Believe me, it is truly the difference between having a good job, and writing your own ticket to success. I wish you the best in your endeavors, and trust that your work ethic and commitment to continually obtain knowledge will allow you to accomplish all of your goals.
John Cox is a partner at the law firm of Bleecker Brodey & Andrews, a law firm dedicated to creditor’s rights in the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Within the law firm, John specializes in the areas of client relations and technology development.
How fabulous was this article? A major thank you to my former boss, John, for sharing it with us. We’d love to see this one make its way all across Paralegal Nation due to the content, so if you like it – please share it with a friend or better yet, your entire network! We put those share buttons below this post just for you.
In the words of my 7-year-old son, Gavin, uttered yesterday evening (in a most heartfelt and sincere voice), “The weekend went by too fast, and I didn’t even get to spend that much time doing the things I wanted to do…and now I have to make it through one thousand more days…” So true indeed. While walking another one thousand days in the land of legal, might as well upshift your potential, seize that time, and work to become the very best.
We’ll see you soon.