Firm Blog

Tennis Lessons For My Legal Career

Posted by: Victoria Santoro

As a tennis player, one of the first things you learn is the importance of your follow-through.  Of course there are many components to a great stroke, but there is nothing like the follow-through to both correct a poorly executed swing, and keep the tennis ball on course, over the net, and heading gracefully towards your opponent.  For reasons still unknown to me, a strong follow-through ensures the ball goes, generally, where you want it to go.  But I don’t really need to know why, all I need to know is that the follow-through gets it done.

People always used to tell my younger self that the lessons I learned playing team sports would help me immensely as an adult.  As with so many things adults have told me, this one was particularly true.  Especially as a young attorney with less credibility and fewer established relationships, creating a reputation as a focused and attentive attorney is important for your future success.  Litigation is a lot like a game of tennis, with a significant amount of volleying back and forth and jostling for good court position.  As you may have predicted I would say, a great follow-through can put your opponent on their heels, correct the course of a case, and speed up the litigation process.

Some of my more formidable opposing attorneys are not those who write the most terrific discovery requests, but those who stay on top of the deadlines and hold me to them.  This kind of follow-through turns the heat up.  I would caution you to back off if you’re crossing the line of professional courtesy; sometimes people need multiple extensions, etc.  Try to give them if you can.  But, follow up on the extension to make sure someone is meaningfully attempting to respond to you.

The same is true for so many aspects of a case.  If you promise a demand package to an insurance carrier, provide it to them in a timely manner.  I have found, through some missteps and some successes, that an informed insurance adjuster is a happy insurance adjuster.  If you need some extra time to provide the necessary documentation, don’t just let the deadline pass.  Make the extra phone call to let them know you’re still working on it. 

Let’s say you’re not at the point in your career where you are dealing with cases…you are instead looking for a job.  Following through (and following up) are some of the most important indicators of a conscientious and attentive employee.  Once you have made a contact with an employer you are interested in, don’t let multiple days go by without communicating your interest, sending your resume, and writing a thoughtful cover letter.  Similarly, if you manage to get an interview, don’t let a day go by without a thank you note! So much of this sounds so simple, even as I write it, but so few people are able to master the follow through.  And what that means for you is that there are myriad easy ways of distinguishing yourself from the pack.

Executives, partners, other associates: all of these people are impressed with those who can follow through.  It showcases a respect for the other person’s time and attention and it represents your attention to detail and your level of dedication to the task.  And, as with tennis, practice makes perfect, so get started and don’t forget to follow through.

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