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Five lessons we can learn from Harvey Specter

Five lessons we can learn from Harvey Specter

Marie Ade


Reading time: four minutes 

Harvey Specter is a fictional corporate lawyer from US TV-series Suits. Although the show is designed for entertainment, we can still implement some of Harvey’s qualities to help with our careers in the real world. 

1.  People skills

Throughout the show we see Harvey interacting with numerous clients, potential clients and other lawyers (granted, these are dramatised and not always conducted professionally). Harvey seeks out and understands people’s motives, emotions, and business positions, and adjusts his strategy (ie, the way he chooses to interact with an individual) depending on his objective. He always appears calm and in control, maintains eye contact and has a goal in mind; we never see him faltering, fidgeting or slouching. However, since not all of us have a fine-tuned script to follow, it may take us more time to develop these skills. 

His confidence and self-assurance make him charismatic, which is substantiated by his knowledge, experience and reputation. This increases people’s trust in him and his ability to get the job done. Clients need someone who has their best interests in mind and who is highly competent and authentic. Harvey continually asserts that he is the right person for the job. He understands and shows his value to the client by assuring them that their goals can be achieved and explaining why he is the best person to do it. 

2. Mentorship

The classic mentor-mentee relationship in the show is between Harvey and Mike Ross, the associate Harvey hires. Despite lacking the legal qualifications, Mike has a photographic memory and impresses Harvey with his wit and legal knowledge. Throughout the series, Harvey gives Mike professional and personal advice, and we see Mike mirroring Harvey’s behaviour and tactics. However, Harvey also allows Mike to make and fix his own mistakes and to take responsibility; yet, as a senior lawyer, he still takes ownership of his own and his team’s mistakes. 

Although Mike is initially inexperienced, he strives to complete or assist in high-level tasks, so do not be afraid to speak with certain people or undertake certain jobs, as this is a great way to develop your skill set. Be receptive to constructive criticism, as Mike is from Harvey, but also do not be afraid to have and share your own ideas. 

A mentor is there to provide support and guide you in a new and possibly intimidating industry, but you cannot wholly depend on them to provide solutions to all your questions. In fact, mentors may not have all the answers. Even though Harvey is now an experienced lawyer and a partner, he too has a mentor, Jessica Pearson, the managing partner at their firm. 

Mentees also provide their mentor's value – Mike is Harvey's right-hand man. The mentors themselves may adopt the mentee’s tactics. For example (albeit not morally sound), when in the pilot episode Harvey does not get his promotion, he seeks to fire Mike on his first day at the job but rehires him as Mike argues that they will both lose their jobs if Mike reveals that Harvey hired an unqualified lawyer. Soon after, Harvey uses the same tactic on Jessica to secure his promotion. 

4. Problem-solving skills 

Harvey is rarely seen complaining. Rather, he seeks to deal with any problem that comes up immediately and tries various methods until one of them succeeds. He instils in Mike that when he is “backed against the wall” he should “break it down”. Through this metaphor, Harvey encourages us to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to problems, a skill that is highly valuable in the legal industry. Where possible, trying to find a solution to a problem that arises in your work (as opposed to just reporting it) will impress your supervisors. You have been entrusted with a certain job because you are qualified enough, so do not be afraid to tackle some challenges on your own. 

The series also shows the lawyers acting under pressure, yet even amid high-stress situations, Harvey is always collected and calm in front of others, even when he may feel otherwise. It is best to deal with issues with a clear head, so ensure that your judgement is not clouded by excess worry and anxiety. 

5. Sticking to your values

Despite hiring an unqualified lawyer and employing some questionable, manipulative tactics, Harvey still has his own set of values that he does not abandon. For example, prior to working at the law firm, Harvey was working as an assistant district attorney. His mentor at the office, Cameron Dennis, who Harvey looked up to, commits ethics violations. Harvey stays true to himself and his beliefs and chooses to walk away from his position. Authenticity is important, and both colleagues and clients will value this in you.