Is Resiliency The Most Important Career Success Skill?

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What does DC Bar Association president and Sidley Austin partner Tim Webster say is the number one skill for an attorney's success? "It took over 20 years of practice for me to realize that the most important skill a lawyer can have is not analytical acumen, oral advocacy, or legal writing, but rather resiliency. The ability to stretch without giving, to bounce back," Webster says in "Learning to Be an Elastic Lawyer."

Why is resiliency so key? Law is a highly stressful profession – made more stressful by the contraction in the global economy that disproportionately hit lawyers. The day-to-day deadlines, client management problems, economy woes, and more means lawyers face tremendous pressures that result in high levels of substance abuse, mental health issues, and other problems. "Multiple studies evidence that lawyers as a group have rates of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide far above national averages," Webster notes. Resiliency helps us cope.

Webster focuses also on the realization that this elasticity is not a rigid, inborn character trait. Instead, it's a skill that any attorney can learn. In fact, it's a skill that the U.S. Army teaches, through its Master of Resilience Training program. Maybe it's time lawyers had this kind of training too.

Read Tim Webster's "Learning to Be an Elastic Lawyer" in Washington Lawyer magazine.