How your values as a lawyer enhance your legal career

How Lawyer Values Enhance Legal Career
Aligning the core values of a lawyer with our day-to-day lives is one way to pursue a career in the legal profession with a sense of honesty, integrity, and pride. 

What lawyer core values should you abide by? A simple question with a long answer.

When each of us chose the law as our profession, we knew it was possible that, from time to time, our moral compass could be called into question. There wouldn’t be scores of jokes about the evils of lawyers if this weren’t the case.

Nonetheless, we chose this profession anyway. That choice may have come from a sense of justice, a dedication to truth, or a good, old-fashioned desire to make a decent living.

Regardless of your reason for choosing a career in law, all of us can pursue this profession with a sense of honesty, integrity, and pride.

How? It’s simple. We just have to align our personal values with our day-to-day lives.

Read on to discover how this seemingly daunting task can be accomplished.

Defining your personal values

Have you ever sat down and thought about your core values as a lawyer? I’m talking about the things that matter to you — the principles that guide your life. Surprisingly, many people have never done this. The good news is, it’s never too late to start.

(Full disclosure: I did this recently with a business coach and, I’ll tell you, it’s not as easy as you’d think but it sure is illuminating.) So, let’s begin.

What matters to you?

In most courtrooms, that question would be met with the objection, “overly broad!” It is, and that’s intentional. So, let’s break it down. I’ll use myself as the guinea pig.

The first thing my coach had me do was visualize things that really make my blood boil. When she initially asked this question, I had just finished a particularly frustrating drive across town. Multiple drivers sat through green lights, drove under the posted speed limit, and otherwise wasted my time. Therefore, my response to the blood-boiling question was “Inefficiency!”

Fortunately, I had my coach there to break it down further. After much discussion, I realized that, to me, inefficiency signaled a lack of respect. The corollary, of course, is that respect for others is extremely important to me. Once I looked at the issue through that lens, it was clear that respect is one of my personal values.

Focusing on the positive

You can also find your personal values by focusing on the positive. Ask yourself, for example, what behaviors in others really warm your heart. When I thought about this question, I immediately thought of people helping other people.

Whether it is a young person holding the door for an elder, somebody buying a meal for a homeless person, or any other random act of kindness, I am always so pleased to witness selfless acts. I mean, it really brings me joy. It didn’t take much reflection to realize that kindness and compassion are two of my personal values.

But enough about me. Why don’t you stop reading for a minute and try both of those exercises? What did you come up with?

Now that you have your own personal values in mind, let’s take a look at how you can use those values to enhance your career.

What are a lawyer’s work values?

A lawyer’s work values are the principles and beliefs that guide their professional conduct and decision-making. These values are essential for maintaining integrity, client trust, and a successful legal career.

Generally speaking, these values will encompass the following:

  • Integrity: Upholding honesty and strong moral principles in all professional dealings.
  • Justice: A commitment to fairness and ensuring that legal processes are equitable.
  • Confidentiality: Maintaining client privacy and protecting sensitive information.
  • Diligence: Demonstrating thoroughness and persistent effort in handling legal matters.
  • Competence: Continuously improving legal knowledge and skills to provide high-quality representation.
  • Empathy: Understanding and addressing clients’ needs and concerns with compassion.
  • Accountability: Taking responsibility for one’s actions and decisions in the legal process.
  • Professionalism: Adhering to the standards and ethics of the legal profession.
  • Advocacy: Zealously representing clients’ interests and striving for the best possible outcomes.
  • Public Service: Contributing to the community and promoting the public good through legal work.

We recommend reading our article on the subject for more on what makes a good lawyer today.

How do strong personal values further your legal career?

The core values of a lawyer form the foundation for ethical decision-making, client relationships, professional reputation, motivation, advocacy, resilience, and work-life balance in the legal profession.

Integrating these values into one’s legal career can lead to a more fulfilling and successful professional journey.

Ethical decision-making

Lawyers often face ethical dilemmas in their practice. Personal values serve as a moral compass, guiding them to make decisions that align with their principles. This is essential for maintaining professional integrity and trust with clients.

Ethical decision-making is paramount for lawyers as a personal value, serving as the bedrock for professional integrity, client trust, and legal compliance.

Upholding ethical standards not only ensures adherence to rules of professional conduct but also contributes to a positive reputation, essential for attracting clients and sustaining a successful legal career.

Lawyers, entrusted with promoting justice and fairness, find ethical decision-making aligning with their broader societal responsibilities.

Beyond mitigating legal consequences and resolving conflicts, prioritizing ethics enhances long-term career success, fosters personal fulfillment, and establishes a principled foundation for navigating the complexities of the legal profession with integrity and commitment to justice.

Client relationships

A client-centered approach, influenced by personal values, ensures a more empathetic and collaborative relationship.

Long-term connections are forged as lawyers integrate their values, demonstrating a commitment beyond immediate legal needs. Ethical decision-making, guided by personal values, instills confidence in clients seeking trustworthy representation.

Conflict resolution becomes more principled, contributing to positive outcomes aligned with shared values.

Client satisfaction is heightened when lawyers bring personal values into their practice, fostering a positive experience and potential referrals.

Additionally, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, as personal values, enables lawyers to connect with clients from diverse backgrounds, expanding their legal network.

Professional reputation

A lawyer’s core values are instrumental in building a good reputation for several reasons. Firstly, personal values guide ethical behavior, and a lawyer known for ethical conduct enhances their professional credibility and integrity.

Clients, colleagues, and the legal community appreciate lawyers who consistently uphold moral principles. Secondly, personal values contribute to consistency in decision-making and actions, creating a reliable and trustworthy professional image.

Thirdly, aligning one’s values with the broader principles of justice and fairness enhances a lawyer’s reputation as a principled advocate.

A strong reputation, built on a foundation of personal values, attracts clients, fosters positive professional relationships, and establishes a lasting legacy in the legal community.

Motivation and job satisfaction

When lawyers align their personal values with their legal careers, it goes beyond mere professional alignment—it becomes a source of profound job satisfaction.

This integration creates a meaningful connection between personal beliefs and professional endeavors. Lawyers, feeling their work resonates with their values, experience heightened motivation and engagement.

The intrinsic alignment fosters a sense of purpose, making each legal endeavor more fulfilling. This connection between values and profession not only enhances job satisfaction but also leads to a more dedicated and passionate approach to the practice of law.

Ultimately, lawyers find a deeper sense of fulfillment as they navigate their professional journey with a strong alignment of personal values.

Advocacy and social justice

Many lawyers pursue a legal career driven by a commitment to justice and fairness. Core lawyer values rooted in social justice and advocacy guide their choices, leading them to take on cases aligned with these principles.

This dedication extends beyond individual cases to include broader advocacy efforts and systemic reforms, contributing to positive societal change.

Lawyers with a strong sense of social justice actively engage in shaping a more equitable legal landscape, becoming agents of change both inside and outside the courtroom.

This alignment of personal values with the pursuit of justice not only defines their career choices but also underscores their role in making lasting contributions to a fair and just society.

How do your personal values match your law firm values?

Aligning your personal values with your law firm’s values is essential for professional fulfillment and effectiveness. Begin by identifying your core values, such as integrity, respect, and compassion.

Then, examine your law firm’s mission and culture. Does the firm prioritize ethical practices, client-centered approaches, and social justice? If so, you’re in a good position.

For example, if you value integrity, a firm that emphasizes ethical decision-making will resonate with you. Similarly, if respect and compassion are important to you, a firm known for its client care and community service will align well with your values.

Ensuring your values match those of your firm will allow you to find greater satisfaction and purpose in your legal career, contributing positively to both your professional life and the firm’s success.

How to use your personal values to make your legal career more fulfilling

No matter what your personal values are, you can use them to make decisions about your career. Let’s say, for example, that personal financial security is a core value of yours. If that’s the case, then you probably want to choose an area of law that pays well. That way, your day-to-day grind will be feeding your need to be financially secure.

If, on the other hand, justice and equity are strong personal values of yours, perhaps you should work in criminal defense, labor and employment law, or consumer rights. If you do that, you just may find that your daily crusades will enhance your strong pull toward justice.

How about those of you who list creativity as a core personal value? Can you align your legal career with that credo? Some would argue that every legal career involves a degree of creativity —  but that may not be enough for you.

So, perhaps you need to feed your personal value outside the office. Make time to take a painting class, learn to play the ukulele, or write a short story. The good news is that caring for your drive toward creativity just might make you happier at work.


Aligning your core values as a lawyer is key to navigating the complexities of the profession. Despite potential challenges to one’s moral compass, lawyers can foster honesty, integrity, and pride by integrating their values into day-to-day practices.

Defining personal values provides a compass for ethical decision-making, client relationships, and professional reputation.

This alignment not only enhances job satisfaction but also propels lawyers toward a fulfilling and successful journey in the legal realm.

Whether advocating for justice, fostering client connections, or maintaining a principled reputation, aligning personal values creates a purposeful and enriching professional experience.

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