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Wink’s 12 tips on how to succeed in the law

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

He called himself a dreamer, but noted, like John Lennon sings, “he’s not the only one.” With that, Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler offered up his recipe for success in the profession to about a 100 guests at a Women’s Law Association of Ontario dinner at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto last night.

CJ Winkler
Chief Justice Warren Winkler has had a fair bit of success in the legal profession. Photo: Gail J. Cohen

1.    Law is a helping profession. Help others without looking for something in return.

2.    People want to help you. Graciously give them the opportunity to do so. “Everything good that happened to me came from others,” said Winkler. As far as he’s concerened, there’s no such thing as climbing the ladder to success. Success comes from getting a hand from above to help pull you up the ladder.

3.    Respect your elders. Respect your youngers. Respect those of the same age. Respect your peers. Basically, treat everyone with kindness and respect.

4.    Be loyal. Loyalty begets loyalty.

5.    Do not exaggerate. Do not mislead the court.

6.    Get a mentor. Get several mentors.

7.    Be a mentor. Mentoring is a two-way street and you are never too old or too young to have or be a mentor.

8.    Always go to events early. That way the next person who comes in has to meet you and they’ll most likely remember you.

9.    Join organizations and speak at any event that you’re asked to. Winkler said he often got new clients that way.

10.    If you have no work, go to your office anyway. You never know what will crop up.

11.    Take advice from your mother, your grandmother, your granddaughter. . . .

12.    Get a dog. Buy a lot of CDs. Read a lot of books. Clients want you to be balanced. And following on that, Winkler said: “If you love doing what you’re doing, people will want to work with you.”

And as a bonus point, Winkler said if you follow his tips, you won’t have to worry about problems with collegiality and civility.

  • Victoria Lehman
    And do this all regardless that you cannot expect reciprocation, and will often be taken for a fool, not to engage in kind, and to refuse to return discourtecy and even scorn. After thirty years, I have found that those people usually burn out real quick - and (sorry to be morbid) seem to have a high burn-out and mortality rate.
    Particularly hard on the new lawyers, who come fresh-faced nd enthused about the profession, only to meet a deeply negative "adversarial" attitude, and "let the Judge" make the decision.
    And thank goodness for Case Management and Judicially Assist4ed Dispute Resolution here in Manitoba, even if some "old-time", generally large-firm lawyers have stated to me that they literally hate it. Keeps the level of civility to an excellent level as a consequence. Perhaps less lawyer fatigue from not having to gear toward the demands of a Trial with only one possible outcome and risk of loss in a complicated and intense process.

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