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This past Saturday, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) held its 9th annual conference in Toronto. We closed the conference with the first-ever “60 tips in 60 minutes” session, a popular format borrowed from our American neighbours. I squeezed in with the heavy hitting 60 tips panel including Lorne Sossin, Osgoode Hall Dean; Jeffrey Lem, Director of Titles and Law Society of Upper Canada Bencher; Phillip Tsui, Assistant Crown Attorney; Bindu Cudjoe, Deputy General Counsel of BMO; and, Lai King Hum, FACL National President.

The conference offers Asian legal professionals a chance to network and collect the thoughts of the top Asian legal minds in Ontario today. The conference and FACL have grown exponentially in the last several years. When I was on the executive some years ago, FACL was an Ontario-only association and we had a modest conference of some 100 or so attendees. Saturday’s conference was sold-out at 250 attendees and FACL stands as one of the few national associations representing a group of racialized lawyers.

Here are my favourite 7 tips from the session.

  1. Be likeable – mirror the person you want to influence by speech and body language

I’ve written on the importance of being likeable and mirroring before here on the blog. Research has shown that we all have a cognitive bias to like those who are similar to us. Mirroring a client’s pace of speech, volume, and vocabulary can improve your ability to make a meaningful connection. Similarly, mirroring body positioning and even rate of breathing can help create rapport.

  1. Lawyering is a “long game”

Jeffrey Lem explained that lawyering is a “long game”. Consistency in client service and work product go to making your reputation. The profession is a “long game” – your practice is built on years of pounding the pavement for clients and recording a history of legal accomplishments.

  1. Get out of debt and build wealth by saving more than you spend

Lawyers as a group tend to save less than others relative to their income, as I blogged previously. It is tempting to spend according to one’s income and social group. But the key to building wealth is saving, not spending.

  1. Get some sleep

Phillip Tsui regaled the audience with stories of lawyers giving sub-par performances at trials while sleep-deprived. Consistently losing sleep can affect your ability to function well, which in turn can make you more prone to make mistakes. If the cause is stress, it helps to determine the sources (as found in this blog post, originally published in LAWPRO magazine), and to take steps to address the problem. Ontario lawyers can look to the Members Assistance Program. Check out our recent wellness magazine “Finding Your Blue Sky” for even more tips.

  1. Lose with grace. (Phillip Tsui)

I like this one as a former litigator. I have found that sore losers are remembered by their opponents and by judges. The legal bar is not big enough to disappear into the woodwork if you act unprofessionally. It costs little to lose with grace. If the profession is a “long game”, it makes sense to lose with your dignity intact.

  1. Always be ready with an answer when someone asks, “if you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

Dean Sossin offered this tip (click here for his blog post) which forces introspection. It is really a chance to search for what you admire or see yourself as. If you are an eagle, what is it about the eagle that attracts you? Is it the freedom to fly and go wherever you want? Or its majesty and grace? How do your answers align with the way you are living and practising?

  1. Respect your clients enough to be honest with them. (Dean Sossin)

Client communication is the #1 source of malpractice claims (click here for our post on communication breakdowns). Being honest with your clients goes a long way toward good communication. Litigators often say that in the first meeting with a new client they rarely promise happy outcomes. Clients likely find lawyers more credible when they are given possible outcomes, the costs involved, and the time it takes to take a case to trial. Being honest with your clients is a fundamental way to keep your relationship with your client whole.