Can You Be Trusted? Why Credibility is One of the Most Important Characteristics of the Most Successful Attorneys
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

I used to teach professional responsibility in law school. In this class, like most professional responsibility classes, we spent a lot of time going over the rules and debating various ethical questions. Personally, when I took this class in law school, I believed that it was somewhat of a "blow off," as did most of the students in the class I was in. This is not a blow-off article about professional responsibility, however. As a legal recruiter, I have seen far too many legal careers end—or stall out—due to credibility lapses by attorneys. This is more common than you might think. In fact, I would estimate that at least 5-10% of all legal careers experience long-term negative effects because an attorney has done something that is dishonest or not credible. When you probe the reasons why top attorneys often cannot get interviews or are not hired when references are checked, it is most often because people believe they cannot be trusted. While the need to maintain credibility may seem obvious—for example, no self-respecting attorney would steal client money or lie in court—most often, indiscretions can be far more subtle. If an attorney shades the truth to superiors or does not make important information known to a client or superiors, the results can be disastrous for his/her career.