While business and law might seem to be on opposite sides of the playing field, they are surprisingly similar – and this similarity has only grown through the years.
David Nied, a trial/appellate lawyer and mediator with over 30 years of experience representing companies and individuals in business, real estate, and employment, says, "law firms, at least in my experience, have become more and more like a business."
But despite this, many lawyers are still unfamiliar with basic business practices. On the other side of the coin, business people (until, perhaps, recently) are often unaware of what exactly goes on in a courtroom or legal proceeding. Merging these fields exposes important principles for both sides.
1. Seek the truth
According to Nied, a trial attorney can maximize their chances of winning through a seemingly simple strategy: "Find the truth, [and] treat it like a friend." He says, "If you know what the truth is and you present the truth to the jury, and you have a case to present based on the truth, that's your best way of winning the case."
This is also important in business because people are naturally drawn to truth. All it takes is one exaggerated or inaccurate product description for the irate reviews to fly off their perch and peck holes in a company.
In a corporate environment, the truth of "whodunit" becomes vitally important when an important document goes missing or there is a breach of confidentiality.
2. Be a good sport
"When you lose a case, usually it's because the other side had better facts," Nied says. As a litigator, winning is often just as possible as losing. What matters is how you deal with the aftermath.
According to Nied, moving forward is essential: "You're not going to win every case, so you've got to turn your attention to the next two or three that are in the pipeline and do your best to prepare those cases for trial and win those."
When it comes to business (and life in general), loss is inevitable. But time and time again, successful companies emerge from failure. A famous example is the Walt Disney Company, which was founded by a young, aspiring animator fired from his first job because he allegedly "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
For both CEOs and lawyers, the key to success is optimistic persistence.
3. Care about people
Losing can bring out either the best or worst in a business founder or lawyer. If you lose a case as a litigator, says Nied, "your primary motivation is to help your client through a difficult time." While many lawyers drop the ball directly after the unsavory verdict is announced, Nied suggests following through and at least giving the client some thoughtful next steps.
Also, when it comes to developing business prowess as a lawyer, humility and relationships are essential. The first step, says Nied, is to acknowledge one's lack of certain skills, whether that's deciphering a balance sheet or developing a marketing strategy, then take action by getting help: "Get people around you that are good at those things."
For those in business, caring about people is just as important. Healthy interactions and relationships create a productive work environment and, in turn, a solid and magnetic company.
The bottom line, in the timeless words of Nied, is this: "Be prepared; be thorough; seek the truth.