The rules of law: A top lawyer shares 5 secrets for success

Street smart and business savvy, VU law alum Farhan Rehman has achieved his goals on his terms.

Like many VU students, Farhan didn’t have family or friends in high places to open doors for him. Instead, it was with hard work and perseverance, and leveraging the practical experience and connections he obtained himself and through VU, that kick-started his career.

A decade on, and with his own award-winning law firm, Farhan shares his experience to inspire current and future students.

Farhan’s road to success

I've worked hard to build my career and my firm RSG Lawyers and Associates. It was not an easy road, and I hope others can benefit from what I have learnt along the way.

Originally from Wagga (NSW), I moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts at Victoria University. I wanted to become a lawyer, but I did not truly know what that meant.

I did not always enjoy legal theory and did not come from wealth. I was street smart. I knew business well and even while I was studying, I ran an international cosmetics, leather, and ecommerce business. I later realised the skills I learnt from my side “hustles” allowed me to prosper as a lawyer.

So what makes a good lawyer? Is it the eloquent, confident and knowledgeable lawyers that make it? There is no doubt that such traits are important and will help you to succeed in the legal profession. But let’s be honest. There are hundreds of lawyers who already have such attributes.

This leads me to an important point. In my experience, being you is what will make you a great lawyer. Sounds like a cliché but it is indeed your character, your unique self, your cultural background, your emotional intelligence and style that will allow you to be distinct in order to build a formidable reputation in the legal profession.

After a decade of practice, my 5 tips for aspiring lawyers

1. Brick by brick

Greatness takes time, don’t rush. Understand that volunteering, clerk and paralegal roles are all a part of your legal training. In one of my first legal roles, I was copying and pasting schedules in contracts. At the time, I found the work mundane. But, in hindsight, the experience taught me about recitals, how clauses are drafted and the importance of proofreading. I have undoubtedly implemented those learnt skills now in my legal practice.

2. Put in the hours

Your clients are people with real, profound, meaningful issues and they are relying on you. In my view, if you are not prepared to put in the hours, you just cannot be a good lawyer. There is no easy path. You need to be comprehensive in obtaining instructions, deal with your clients matter like a project and have the ability to manage the various stakeholders associated to that project to get as close as you can to that preferred client outcome.

3. Do it once & do it properly

Seems simple enough, but it does not come second nature to everyone in a fast-paced world. Getting things done quickly is not always the right answer. Getting things done properly always is. So take the time you need by diarising deadlines, reading orders/directions closely and providing well thought-out advice to your clients. And if you are too busy, and do not have the time, simply don't take on the client!

4. Manage your mental health with a system

I now define SYSTEM as: Something You Stick To Emphatically and Methodologically. Without a system you will do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result; the definition of insanity. A system gives you measurable results and boundaries. You must have a system for both your business and mental development. Write the system down. Make sure you regularly review it and constantly improve on it.

5. Transparency & ethics

Yes, you must protect your clients, use legal strategy and techniques. However, you have a duty to the court. Do not ever forget your duty, read the Australian solicitors’ rules closely, I have a copy on my office wall. Be courteous to other solicitors as they are not your enemies. You also tend to get more done when you can negotiate with good faith.

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