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How to be a practicing attorney: Advice from a law firm founder

Law Firm

Sean M. Cleary is a Miami based personal injury attorney and the founder and president of The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, which opened in 2005.  Here, he answers a few common questions about practicing law and shares a few insights for future attorneys.

How did you find out what kind of law you want to practice?

I always knew that I do not want to work in a large law firm. My goal was to start my own law firm. At the beginning of your career, you need to recognize your skills, find out what you are good at, and how you can stand out. Read the blogs of successful law firms and see which areas attract you. Follow the legal news to learn about interesting and difficult cases. Listen to both your mind and heart. Passion and enthusiasm are essential for success in any career.

How do you balance your career with family life and other necessities?

I am the founder of a personal injury and trial litigation law firm. But, I am also a married man and I have two children. I love diving and fishing. I have a Master Scuba Diver Trainer instructor certification.

Do not put your life on hold for the sake of your career. Career is important to me, I love my job, but it is important to make your life, to value your relationships, and your family. However, as law students you must be aware, that to have the best career options, you will have to spend several years working full time to learn how to practice law and to gain precious experience.

What are the most important skills of a successful lawyer?

In my opinion, critical thinking, working under pressure, practical experience, continuous learning, interacting and getting along with all kind of people are essential skills for a successful lawyer. Delegate the responsibilities, budget your time accordingly so that your obligations fit into your daily schedule along with everything else you need to accomplish. For me, it is also essential to handle each case with honesty, integrity and a high level of compassion.

What do you expect from your clients?

Be on time for appointments and be completely honest about all facts concerning your case. Take my advice if you asked for it, be patient, understand that most cases require time and attentive research. Value our work we invest precious time and energy in each of our cases.

What advice would you give to law school students?

Seek what’s truly makes you passionate and dedicated. Reach out lawyers that you admire and ask their advice, help, guidance, find mentors. It is also essential for a healthy and accomplished life, to schedule time for yourself. Whether you take an hour to read a book, watch a movie or hit the gym, or just have a cappuccino in your favorite café, do something to take your mind off studying for once in a while. As I mentioned before I am an avid scuba diver, so I really know how to relax.

Sean M. Cleary Sean M. Cleary received his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1998 with the distinction of Cum Laude. In his first year of law school, he and his trial partner won the University of Miami Moot Court Competition. He began his career at Stroock, Stroock and Lavan in New York and later he worked at Colson, Hick, and Edison. In 2005, he opened his own law firm. He was named Florida Legal Elite Attorney in 2006, Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2009, 2010 2011, Rising Star in The Wall Street Journal in 2011.