E21: The Wisdom of The Professional - from junior lawyer, to partner, to coaching the lawyers of the future, with Chris Gardener, Partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Play • 44 min

This week, I’m diving deep into the traits and mindsets of successful lawyers.

Chris Gardner is a partner with leading international labour and employment firm Seyfarth Shaw. Chris specialises in workplace relations law with over 25 years experience and is one of the country’s leading lawyers in workplace change, strategy and enterprise bargaining, recognised in the Legal 500 and in Band 1 of Chambers.

But in addition, Chris is passionate about what makes it takes to be a successful lawyers. Chris is a coach and is writing a book on this very topic, so it was great to have him on the show to share his learning so far.

We covered:

  • A day in the life of a partner at Seyfarth Shaw 
  • How legal skills evolve over time and as you take on more senior roles
  • The essence of a trusted advisor and how to make the transition from being a junior lawyer to a fee-earning partner
  • How to navigate the challenges presented by the workplace
  • What Chris sees the best young lawyers doing/their traits
  • The three buckets of being a great lawyer
  • The importance of mindset and the key elements of a successful lawyer’s mindset including optimism, growth mindset
  • Why mindfulness is so important - we know it makes a tangible difference to performance, so why wouldn’t you use it? 
  • Chris’ book, in which he is interviewing 100 professionals and turning those interviews into case studies about what sets the best apart from their peers, in connection with some of the research on positive psychology.

Some of my favourite quotes:

  • “Don’t tell the client what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.” 
  • “It takes 6-8 years to build the right kind of expertise, but at some point, you grow another skillset, closer relationships with clients…the skills that take you to a certain stage in your career will only take you so far. The capacity to take your career to the next stage lies upon another skill set which is not taught in university…it’s mostly taught on the job.”
  • “You can win a case but lose a client, and conversely, you can lose a case but win a client…”
  • “It’s not just the what [of being a successful lawyer] but the how, because you watch some of the best practitioners and they can’t describe what it is that they do so well…but we can distill mindsets and behaviours to learn more quickly.”
  • “I don’t know any lawyer who hasn’t faced some setbacks in their careers.”
  • “Resilience, hunger, passion…they’ve done their studies but they’ve done something else too. They’ve had to fend for themselves.”
  • “I would say to any junior lawyer…Find what it is that makes you do what you do, find some meaning in your work that drives you and how that is reflected in your work.”
  • "You don’t grow your career unless you grow your mindset."
  • I want to give back to the profession that was so good to me…It was often difficult and challenging for me, and I’m hoping to bring awareness a

Books referenced:

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