How to Build your confidence in the legal profession

To succeed in the legal profession, confidence is key.

Whether it’s arguing an application in court, explaining to your boss why you should adopt an unorthodox approach in dealing with a client or trying to secure a client – confidence is needed to achieve success in the legal profession.

After practicing law for a while, you will have attained a certain level of confidence. The experiences you have gained in the field and the mistakes and lessons you have picked up will build your confidence.

However, a young lawyer who is just starting out in the field or who has little years of experience may struggle to gain the certain level of confidence needed to deliver results.

In my few years of practice, I have had to innovate and think of ways to build my confidence. Along the years I have picked up these 3 vital lessons:

Knowledge increases confidence and results in excellence Click To Tweet

Always be prepared

Over the years, I have come to realize that thorough preparation for any task or activity, has helped me in my few years of practice. Be it a client meeting, arguing an application in court, or going to trial and so on.

When you are thoroughly prepared to carry out a certain task, you will have the confidence to convey your point or secure a client regardless of how apprehensive you naturally are or unexpected twists that occur when carrying out the task.

For instance, if you are arguing an application in court, or pitching an idea to your boss or trying to secure a client in a novel filed that you have no real practical experience in, it is advised that you prepare extensively.

This will involve reading and practice your arguments, cases, studying in depth and any other relevant information.

Imagine you are having a conversation with your friend

I had a conversation with my boss with respect to building my confidence when addressing a Judge in court and one of the key points he told me that has stuck with me all these years is “to imagine you are having a conversation with your friend”.

I personally think this is an off-shoot of the first point discussed above.

If you’ve done your homework, it should not be difficult to convey your submissions or points. However, if the client or the Judge may be cantankerous or erratic, you would probably have some fear when addressing them.

One way to deal with this is to imagine that the person in question is your friend. Think of how you would explain the case or hold a regular argument with your friend.

This attitude will help relieve whatever fear or apprehension you have. You later realize that your points come across much more clearer and eloquently. Also, it will help you deal with whatever unexpected questions you are asked.

Believe in yourself

This is the most important point. If you are well prepared but don’t believe in yourself, it will show! The impression you will create is that you are actually not well prepared.

Take for example you are scheduled to argue an application for an injunction in court. You have studied your client’s case well and the relevant law on an injunction. If you aren’t confident and the Judge interrupts you questioning, “Why should the Court grant your Client this injunction”? Your thoughts will be jumbled up and you may end up confusing the judge.

The truth is you probably know the answer to this. You just need to apply the law to the facts explain how the law favors your client. However, if you do not believe in yourself, you may begin to overthink the question being asked. Then you’ll start talking too much till you go off point.

In summary, you have to believe in your self and your case. Even when you have a bad day or have received a bad review!  Naturally, when such events occur, your morale is down and you lose all motivation to continue working hard.

If you believe in yourself, you should not let this affect your productivity. Instead, you should use such negative comments to fuel your energy and motivate you to perform better.


Do you have career tips on how to build confidence in a given industry? Let us know here.

Natasha Wagiet: Positively impacting her community the pro bono way

pro bono (def)

Free legal services that are offered to people who do not have the financial means to afford legal representation.

In South Africa, all attorneys are legally required to provide a certain number of hours of pro bono services each year in order to remain in practice.


 

Natasha Wagiet brings an immediate sense of calm to a room, her warmth of character is infectious and you can’t help but feel comfortable in her presence.

She currently works as the Pro Bono Coordinator at the Mitchells Plain Office (in Cape Town) for ENSafrica, Africa’s largest law firm.

Natasha’s family background ensured she would have a passion for education, given her parents being the first in their respective families to obtain tertiary qualifications and further obtaining postgraduate qualifications.

Natasha completed her Bachelor of Laws at the University of Cape Town followed by a Masters of Law at the University of the Western Cape majoring in corporate law. Her next educational pursuit is her Doctorate, with a possible focus on the role of the corporate sector and pro bono in facilitating access to justice.

There is no “typical day” at the pro bono office for Natasha and that is what she loves about it.

Some of what she attends to involves consulting with clients, both walk-in and those with appointments. The pro bono office also presents sessions as part of their enterprise development and legal education.

Natasha also assists and reviews corporate social investment proposals as well as mentors students to prepare for moots.

Find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them. Click To Tweet

Natasha is proudest of the simple feats that the pro bono office manages to achieve on a daily basis – assisting an 88-year-old woman to sign her will, helping her take ownership of her property and empowering her wishes through her will, going after an ex-husband who has been avoiding maintenance payments and managing to garnishee his wages to ensure the ex-wife receives the maintenance payment she is legally entitled to.

It is these “bread and butter” issues, what affects the daily lives of people that Natasha and the pro bono office manage to touch on and positively impact through their hard work. It is about using the law to empower communities, such as Mitchells Plain, that have so often been underserviced or felt as if the law was beyond their reach.

A further initiative to be celebrated is the Gogo Project, which Natasha spearheaded, whereby employees of ENSafrica were given the opportunity to donate blankets for the elderly in Mitchells Plain.

Instead of doing a handover of just the blankets, Natasha organized for a lunch that was catered for by a business from Mitchells Plain, further enforcing her support for community upliftment. The elderly were provided with a buffet lunch as well as a talk about dignity before they were handed the sponsored blankets.

One can imagine that working in this sector can be emotionally strenuous but Natasha has found key ways in which to equip herself to address this. She lives 30 kilometers from the pro bono office and uses this driving time to mentally prepare for the day on the way to work as well as to destress and process the day on her drive home.

Natasha also finds it important to truly focus and be present wherever you are – when spending time with family and friend, enjoy doing that and be there. It is also important to find other hobbies/ activities that fulfill you.

For Natasha, that is being created through makeup (she recently completed a course on it). I asked Natasha to describe herself in terms of a make-up item; she decided on deep gold eyeshadow because it is both bold and warm.

Surround yourself with people who ground and challenge you, who can be real with you. Click To Tweet

Natasha’s advice to aspiring women who would want to work in a similar role is simple – find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them.

She further advocates job shadowing and volunteering to make sure that working in this sector really is for you. Natasha believes that this is definitely a “calling and not a job” and as such you must be sure that your passion is in the right place.

Natasha knows she is working in the right place for her because she is inspired by “the ordinary men and women who sacrifice in order to provide a better life for their children. I see them and am in awe of them every single day”.


Know of anyone impacting your community? Share their story with us here.