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HOW I BECAME THE ATTORNEY I SAW ON TV
FINDING MY VOICE
When I first started practicing law, I had to train myself to be the strong, confident attorney who I had always seen on court TV and other real life legal documentaries. The lawyers I saw were leaders who knew exactly what they were going to do and say. That wasn’t me. It was who I wanted to be, but not naturally who I was. I wasn’t a natural advocate, partly because of my upbringing. My mom was a dominant and strict disciplinarian, and she taught us that a child is subservient to their parents. We couldn’t talk back to her and we couldn’t say whatever we wanted. We were taught to hold our tongues and that a well-behaved child is a quiet one. As I got older, I found I’d carried this with me. I had to train myself not to sit silently when I wanted to say something. The discipline instilled in me as a kid was strong, and I had to train myself to believe I had something important to say. In my career, I’ve been in several leadership roles, first as a cop, then as president of my law school and now as an attorney. In all those professions, you are the person in charge; you can’t be second fiddle. But that wasn’t second nature to
me. As a result, everything I did in those days was geared toward transforming myself into a leader. I focused on becoming the person in charge that I’d always seen on television. It would require a mindset shift and a lot of preparation. To overcome my reservations about speaking out, I knew I’d have to put in the work; it wasn’t just going to happen on its own. So I trained myself. I wanted to be ready and never to be caught off guard. The best way to prevent this when I was starting out, I found, was to overprepare. When I first started practicing law 20 years ago, I relied on a script to find my voice. It took time, but now, I no longer need a script. I speak on the fly a lot more. Things that used to take me hours to do 20 years ago can now be done in just minutes. I’ve learned how to prepare to say the right things. Over time, I gained confidence and became the person I wanted to be. Confidence isn’t something handed out easily. You earn it by overcoming challenges. You have to learn to believe you have something important to say. That comes with experience and knowledge. Confidence that’s earned is true confidence.
“Over time, I gained confidence and became the person I wanted to be.”
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