Michelle Suskauer knows a thing or two about building a successful legal career. She’s been practicing for 25 years in Palm Beach. She’s participated in hundreds of criminal defense trials, and is a nationally known legal analyst who has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, and CNBC.
On top of that, she’s been a past president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers (Palm Beach County). Currently, she’s president-elect of the board of directors for the legal aid society of Palm Beach County. And, she’s running for president of the Florida Bar.
Michelle has worked tirelessly advocating both for her clients and for the legal profession in general. However, there have been a few key factors that supported her along the way. In light of the recent addition of the Palm Beach County Bar Association to Clio’s Affinity Program, we spoke with Michelle about what has contributed to the success of her practice.
From our conversation with Michelle, here are three tips for supercharging your career and your legal practice:
1. Get involved in your community and bar association
Michelle attributes much of her success to her early involvement in the Palm Beach Bar Association. “I got active as a young lawyer in the young lawyer’s division, and met some incredible lawyers in different practice areas,” she said.
Getting involved with voluntary bar work has been especially fulfilling as an ongoing learning experience for Michelle. However, it has also been a valuable networking opportunity.
“When I got involved in the Palm Beach County Bar Association I was one of very few criminal defense lawyers to be involved,” she explained. “If someone had a criminal issue or a criminal problem, they would call me and I could attempt to assist them or assist their clients.”
On top of that, Michelle now has contacts at law firms all around Palm Beach County—and all around the state, as a result of her work with the Florida bar. “To be able to make those types of contacts is invaluable,” she said.
2. Use a practice management solution
About a year ago, Michelle started using Clio to manage her practice. So far, it’s made a big difference for her firm.
For starters, it’s helped her stay organized without the need for physical files. “For me, not having to have physical files and being able to access everything that I need with a one-stop-shop is the best,” she said. “From emails to pleadings to letters, everything that [I’m working on] is in one place.”
On top of that, Michelle uses Clio to evaluate her practice and look for ways to be more effective as a practitioner. For example, she looks at Clio to see where her cases are coming from, and how long her cases are pending, on average.
“I don’t have a lot of time, so any kind of tool that will help save me time, and will help focus me and direct me to what I need when I need it, is a wonderful tool,” she added.
Note: Members of the Palm Beach County Bar are now eligible for a 10 percent lifetime discount on Clio. Claim yours today!
3. Build positive relationships, build your reputation
The number one factor that Michelle says is essential for success for lawyers? Building positive relationships.
As she explains:
I think so much of what we do is about relationships, and about reputation, and credibility.
When you are starting out as a young lawyer, you’re the new kid on the block, and you have a clean slate. It’s very, very important to make sure that everything that you do is ethical, that you are always prepared, and that you are forging your reputation from day one.
It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, and one bad act to ruin it. It’s very important that you are constantly aware of that, and that you’re building positive relationships—not just with other attorneys in town, but with their support staff, the judicial assistants, the clerks, the courthouse deputies, and the judges.