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Training for Excellence

Men's Journal Men's Journal

This week I was honored to receive Super Lawyer status for the second consecutive time. Having practiced law for 38 years, I actually just recently learned of Super Lawyers and was more than happy to be nominated. The rating is awarded to those attorneys "who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations."

While Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell AV, Avvo "10" and other ratings are reliable markers of legal excellence, the time invested to acquire such status was literally decades of practice. A lawyer's path to excellence begins in law school, where tenacity, an analytical mind, and countless sleepless nights are needed to endure a harsh weeding-out process that prepares the burgeoning law students for the bar. Thousands of work-hours and four decades later, awards only signify what you've done - exhaustive case research, contentious litigation, tough settlement negotiations - all in fighting for your clients.

What applies to lawyers applies more broadly to other professions and callings in life, from athletes to zoologists. There's no substitute for training, which contrary to popular conceptions does not end once you've earned your degree. Rather, that's when the real training begins - when you encounter reality, sharpen your skills, and continue to learn both on the job and off. Through years of endurance you'll taste both victory and defeat, but only the wise man learns from either.

If we can gain just a little bit of wisdom from our experience, then the battles we fought, even when we failed at times, will be worth all that blood, sweat, and tears. The Greek philosopher Aristotle also loved wisdom, and he had this to say about pursuing excellence:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

My friends and fellow veterans of the legal and business worlds will attest that true excellence indeed comes from consistent practice, not only of one's profession, but most especially of virtue. When we're in need of help or seek advice, we turn to someone we can trust, someone who lives by virtue.

So I advise my younger colleagues to not worry so much about awards - those will come with achievement - but to keep learning and strive for virtue. Life's a marathon, and everyday is training day.

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