11 ways in which the teachings of Donald Trump can guide lawyers to success

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By Will Buckley on

Reinterpreting the preposterous Art of the Deal


The Donald may have stumbled slightly in Badger country but he remains a strong odds-on favourite for the Republican nomination and will fancy his chances against Her Hillariness.

The more people tell you that Trump can’t win the more one starts believing that the man with the hair that, as Rolling Stone magnificently put it, “looks like it has been recently fed” might actually be the next president of the United States. It’s part of the con: It can’t happen… Oops it has happened… How the hell did that happen?

Weirdly, it all started with a business book — the preposterous Art of the Deal which was number one on the New York Times bestseller list for 51 consecutive weeks.

Amongst all the bluff and bluster it contains Trump’s 11 commandments for business success (trust the Donald to go one better than Moses).

And laugh at the Donald as we might it is increasingly hard to label him a failure. Maybe, staggeringly, the Donald was on to something and we all would benefit from following the path of Trump.

So here are those rules in full, complete with commentary for all aspiring young lawyers:

1. Think big

I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.

Excellent advice — particularly the ‘if you’re going to be thinking anyway’ part. Trust me if you want to shine at a magic circle firm the ‘I wasn’t thinking’ card can only be played so often.

It was Marco Rubio’s implied attack on this rule with all that ‘small hands’ nonsense which so incensed Trump. The Donald hates people dissing Rule One of the Donald.

2. Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself

I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst–if you can live with the worst–the good will always take care of itself.

Wise words, indeed. The important thing for the lawyer here is to massage his client into anticipating the worst without depressing him so much that he is incapable of paying his bills. A hard trick to pull off but master it and you will be a partner before you are forty.

3. Maximise the options

I never get too attached to one deal or one approach… I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.

Every thrusting lawyer will have his or her favourite Merger & Acquisition. Frankly, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. But, as the Donald points out, it’s important not to become too obsessed with one deal, one approach and, perhaps most importantly, one client. Juggle your clients as you might your work-life balance.

4. Know your market

I like to think that I have that instinct. That’s why I don’t hire a lot of number-crunchers, and I don’t trust fancy marketing surveys. I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.

Do your own accounts, do your own marketing, do your own surveys and draw whatever conclusions you please and should anyone have the temerity to question them just tap the side of your nose and say ‘know your market’ with utter and complete conviction

5. Use your leverage

The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.

Anyone who has been in a magic circle boardroom will know that smell. And it’s not pleasant. Particularly, if it is your own blood that is stinking up the place. To avoid such a fate try to adopt a Donald-style loucheness.

As he says on the stump I can play golf whether I am president or not. (Interestingly, if elected Trump will become the first man in the post-war era to play less golf having become president than he did previously.)

6. Enhance your location

Perhaps the most misunderstood concept in all of real estate is that the key to success is location, location, location…First of all, you don’t necessarily need the best location. What you need is the best deal.

Take that, Kirstie and Phil. Your programme should be re-named Deal, Deal, Deal. While of particular application for property specialists this rule is amended to your chosen field.

7. Get the word out

One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better…The point is that if you are a little different, a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.

Core Donald. One of the planks of his campaign is how little money he has spent and yet how much has been written about him. His money:coverage ratio is off the scale. Traditionally timid Legal PR departments should take heed of Rule 7 and relish the fine work being done here at Legal Cheek to give them so much publicity.

8. Fight back

In most cases I’m very easy to get along with. I’m very good to people who are good to me. But when people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my general attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard.

Without actually assaulting anyone. The book of Trump was written in the late eighties. The world has moved on. Punching out a partner is no longer the gold-plated career move it might once have been.

9. Deliver the goods

You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

Part of being Donald is putting the con into convincing and that involves conning people by convincing them you are not conning them. Which may sound convoluted but is the only way of interpreting what Donald-ologists have always found his most perplexing rule.

10. Contain the costs

I believe in spending what you have to. But I also believe in not spending more than you should.

This rule should be trotted out as soon as you find yourself in the happy position of determining other people’s salaries. Until then, live with it.

11. Have fun

Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.

Make rule 11 — Donald’s favourite rule ––the cornerstone of your interview strategy. Scoff at the six figure salary on offer and lean forward and with great sincerity whisper… “you know what really excites me about Clifford Chance, it is the chance you are giving me to play this great game that we call law.”