Last night I re-watched the first episodes of one of my favorite shows, SUITS. I related so much more to it now that I’m no longer a law student and I’m actually out there
slaving working as an attorney.
It’s also a show that has taught me a-lot about my chosen career. Here are 9 things that I learned from SUITS:
1. The rules of the game
At one point in the pilot episode, Harvey (the hot-shot senior partner) tells Mike (his new brilliant but rookie associate) how being a lawyer works. “You make a move, and then they make a move, and then you make a move…until somebody wins.”
I think nobody can understand the truth of this statement unless they practice law day in and day out. I made several mistakes at the beginning of my career because I just gave up, or I thought the other party was right, and I didn’t fight it. This is a typical rookie mistake.
But as I’ve already learned, and just like Harvey told Mike, you have to keep making moves until finally one person beats the other one. That’s just how the game works. Which leads me to the second thing I learned from SUITS…
2. The game is cut-throat, man
“What happens if I don’t win?” Mike asked Harvey after he told him the rules of the game. He just smiled and said, “Then you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
Reality-check right there… especially for all of us who think we’re always the smartest person in the room (this is a common problem with lawyers).
3. You have to dominate
“When I first got here, I fucking dominated. People thought I worked 100 hours a day.” Is what Harvey told Mike during one of their mid-afternoon chats. And it’s true. Being a lawyer is probably one of the most time-intensive professions out there. There is no room for lazies. If you want to be great at this, you’ve got to put in the hours. It’s as simple as that.
4. You always have a choice
Never feel like you should give up in any given situation. There is always something you can do, but maybe you just haven’t seen it yet. While in a crisis situation, just stick it out. Crisis is fluid, not static. There are always variables, so learn to play with that. Also, stay cool, like this guy:
This one is fundamental, but you’d be surprised how many people screw it up. Work on important and urgent things first, and when you’re done you can spend the rest of your time on your other to-do’s.
6. Always think five steps ahead
Lawyers need to view problems and situations from every possible angle. Not only that, but they have to think about what their opponent might do, and also think about what their opponent might think you will do. The key word here is ‘think’. Use your brain matter, that’s what it’s there for. And don’t be naive, always assume the worst from people. I know it sounds harsh, but sadly it’s the truth. Many people are just waiting to take advantage of the next sitting duck that comes their way.
7. Do your research
Don’t be mediocre. If you’re going to fight a point of view, then fight it with everything you can find. In other words, do your research. Read…a-lot. Investigate doctrine, jurisprudence, codex, everything you can get your hands on. It will pay off down the road when you start winning cases because nobody knows the subject matter at hand like you do.
8. Do the leg-work
Same as the point before. If you’re going to gather proof, then gather proof. Go out there, talk to people, look at the evidence, find out how best to present it. Aim to overachieve and you’ll probably hit the mark.
9. Be brave
Harvey tells Mike this just after he’s about to quit: “You may have the balls to become a lawyer, but you also have to have courage to stick it out when things get rough.” And really it all comes down to that. You have to be courageous and stand with your job through thick and thin. I
t’s the only way you’ll get somewhere in this profession, because after the glamor and prestige of being a lawyer wears off–and trust me, it will… no matter how many Suits episodes you watch for inspiration–all you have left is the work.
And the drive.
So keep on going.
And that, my friends, are 9 things I learned from SUITS.