The March Issue of The Complete Lawyer focuses on "The Critical Importance Of Coaching And Mentoring For Today's Lawyer." I couldn't agree more, and yes, it is a self-serving statement, coming from a coach. Here are some of the great offerings:
The March Issue of The Complete Lawyer focuses on "The Critical Importance Of Coaching And Mentoring For Today's Lawyer." I couldn't agree more, and yes, it is a self-serving statement, coming from a coach. Here are some of the great offerings:
iMantri is a new social networking site for people who offer and seek mentoring:
"Whether you want to be a mentor or a mentee, iMantri allows you evaluate your competencies, help find a suitable mentoring match, provides a framework and facilitates mentoring interactions."
I am about to explore this site more. Shifting Careers has a nice review of this application. (Here's the link to my post on "How to find a mentor.") I think Web 2.0 has a great potential to foster mentoring relationships. What do you think? Can you see a social networking site as a platform for lawyers to seek and offer mentoring? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this high-tech approach? I'd love to read what you think.
Author/lawyer/career coach Michael Melcher offered a "year-end review" exercise to the readers of Shifting Careers to help them set goals that would naturally support their development over the past year. That post generated over 80 comments and a follow-up post. Check it out.
Blawg Review #142 is here, hosted by Susan Cartier Liebel at Build A Solo Practice, LLC. It is designed as a “Letter to New Lawyer,” and it will make you think, dream, laugh, learn and soar! Be sure to read it.
Steve Pavlina is writing a series of articles on career development that you may want to check out. Below are just a few excerpts, but please take time to read the articles in full, they will make you think.
When you succeed in creating a fulfilling career, it will be uniquely you. Your career will absolutely ooze with your own creative self-expression. It may take the external form of a job, a business, a web site, volunteer work, or some other entity, but it will never be generic because you are not a generic person. The right career will be so ridiculously you that if you thought about replacing yourself with someone else, it just wouldn’t make sense.
A fulfilling career is an effective outlet for your creative self-expression that satisfies the following criteria:
From Career Planning:
Just because you can do something and get paid well for it doesn’t mean you should.
From Career and Commitment:
For most people, myself included, enjoying a good career is one of the most important goals in life. But very rarely do people just fall into the career of their dreams. It takes a combination of proactive thought and action. While the steps to get there may require a lot of effort, they’re rarely unknowable or shrouded in mystery. It’s usually just a matter of putting in the time and persisting. If it takes years, it takes years, but delay won’t get you there any sooner.
From Exploring Career Choices:
Exploring is an integral part of any fulfilling career, not merely something you do before making the choice. No career choice is final.
The notion that you generate income by trading value is a simple concept, but it’s amazing how many people still don’t get it.
From Discover Your Strengths:
I suggest you take at least one assessment test to gain clarity about your in-born strengths. Working from your strengths will help you (1) be far more productive, (2) get better results, (3) contribute more value, (4) attract higher compensation, (5) enjoy your work, and (6) experience greater fulfillment.
Once you recognize your mistake, cut your losses and get out as soon as possible. A wrong decision doesn’t become a right decision by pretending. Forgive yourself and move on.
From Career Apathy:
A bad career choice can serve up some major emotional consequences. First comes discontent and dissatisfaction. Next comes frustration and overwhelm. Then comes depression and learned helplessness. And finally you get numbness and apathy.
From You Are Self-Employed:
Even if you seemingly work for someone else, you still work primarily for yourself. You have your own company with one employee — you — and you’re in the business of selling your employee’s labor for profit.
10am ET: Evangelizing Evangelists to Build a Business and Build Your Brand a panel facilitated by Guy Kawasaki with Krishna De, John Jantsch, Andy Sernovitz, Tim Demello.
11am ET: How To Write A Great Business Blog with Debbie Weil.
12pm ET: How Coaching For Performance Can Help Your Employees Develop Their Personal Brand and Realise Their Potential with Carol Wilson.
4pm ET: Promoting Brand You with Viral Marketing on the Web with David Meerman Scott.
6pm ET: Identity You: Creating a Personal 5x5 Branding Strategy with Phil Gerbyshak.
If you can’t listen to this event today, the recordings will be available as a free podcast on Monday. You need to register to get the instructions for accessing the podcast.
If you want to know how big law firms rank when it comes to diversity, check out www.betterlegalprofession.org. Their statistics cover six major markets: New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Northern California, and Southern California-LA. The firms are ranked in five categories: female, African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and openly gay. The numbers come from the public, online directory of law firm employment statistics maintained by the National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP).
Wouldn't you like to peek into the future to see what a lawyer's life would be in 20 or even 100 years? Luckily, several well-known futurists have launched their guided tours into the future of the legal profession, so buckle up and prepare for some time travel.
The new issue of The Complete Lawyer focuses on "Viewing The Law In 2020." Jonathan Peck delivers the good news that "The Knowledge Revolution Will Make You Healthier":
In 2029, an American will wake up in the morning, do Pilates, take a couple of pills, put on his suit and head to work. The pills will dissolve and be absorbed into his bloodstream, sending nanoparticle probes to various parts of his body. These nanoparticles will collect information about his health and transmit the data to sensors in the man’s jacket; the data will then be recorded on his electronic medical record accessible online. If any irregularities are observed, a computer program will search information from resources all over the web and deliver health recommendations specifically tailored to suit his genome.
Peter Bishop reads "An Open Letter From A Retired Lawyer To His Great-Grandson, Who Is Turning One":
We liked being "unplugged" once in a while, but today of course that is unheard of. At the same time, your mother’s generation developed customs that solved some of the problems that we found so annoying, like too many emails, cell phones ringing in the middle of meetings, and wireless connections that would not connect. The implant that you will receive at your Bar Mitzvah will handle all your communication needs. It’s amazing, but "thinking will make it so" in your world. You will be truly wired, all the time, but you can control your connectivity to the outside world as easily as you control your hand or foot, once you get the hang of it. Truly amazing!
Bill Cobb asks the question "Are You Ready For The Revolution In Legal Services?"
Lawyers will acquire problem-solving skill sets using multiple skills not taught in law schools, such as client relationship development and project management. They will also be able to become more efficient in the way they deliver legal and legal related services.
Charles F. Robinson reveals his vision of how "Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Humanize The Future Of Health Care." Read his predictions and learn about three crises that are going to influence the elder law practice in 2020.
At the same time, in London, The Times offers the extracts from Richard Susskind's forthcoming book "The End of Lawyers?" and invites you to join the debate over the future of the legal profession "Will lawyers exist in 100 years?" (Hat tip to Idealawg). You can read what others think in the comments and share your opinions. Frances Gibb writes:
In a new book (to be published next year by Oxford University Press) Susskind argues that lawyers and the legal profession in their present shape face extinction – or at least are "on the brink of fundamental transformation". He sees a future, as he puts it, when "conventional legal advisers will be much less prominent in society than today, and, in some walks of life, will have no visibility at all".
How do you envision the legal profession in 20 or 100 years?
How do you think about the value that you bring to your clients? We often measure what we do in terms of numbers, projects accomplished, hours billed, etc. But what is the real human value behind those numbers? In the hustle and bustle of the day, it is easy to lose track of why we do what we do, and then we feel undervalued, unappreciated, insecure of our own abilities.
How often do you remind yourself of the true value you create for the people around you? How do you know your value?
YourABA reports on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which was signed into law last month. The new law includes the income-based repayment program for public service:
Under the program, borrowers of student loans who are working in qualified public service would repay loans at an affordable percentage of their income and, after 10 years of service, would have the balance of their loans cancelled.
The program caps monthly payments at 15% of discretionary income.
Young lawyers who are involved or have interest in a cross-border practice may want to check out the scholarships from The Inter-Pacific Bar Association.
The Inter-Pacific Bar Association ("IPBA") is an international association of business and commercial lawyers with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
The IPBA scholarships enable young lawyers to attend the IPBA’s Eighteenth Annual Meeting and Conference which will be held in Los Angeles from April 27 – 30, 2008.
The highlight of the year for the IPBA is its annual multi-topic four-day conference. The conference has become the "must attend event" for international business and commercial lawyers. In addition to plenary sessions of interest to all lawyers, programmes are presented by the IPBA's eighteen specialist committees. The IPBA annual meeting and conference provides an opportunity for lawyers to meet their international colleagues with Asian practices and to share latest developments in cross-border practice and professional development in Asia.
Learning doesn’t end when you leave the classroom, submit a paper for grading, or finish a test. Most of our learning in life happens informally through conversations, stories, actions, and mistakes. Have you met people who always seem to know how to find an answer quickly, who to ask for advice and where to go for help? The truth is you can be one of those resourceful people. You just have to master informal learning. Here are 7 pointers to get your started:
Orientation Series: 21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner:
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives
Step 2: Taking an inventory of your skills
Step 3: Taking an Inventory of Your Learning Tools
Step 4: Finding opportunities for cognitive apprenticeship
Step 5: Determining the "IIQ" of what you read
Step 6: Choosing helpful books for law students
Step 7: “The Three 'P's of Performance” in Action
Step 8: Tapping into your social networks
Step 9: Identifying your learning barriers
Step 10: Finding your sources of motivation
Step 11: Managing your energy
Step 12: Focusing on how you think
What metaphor for life and career do you like? I prefer “work life blending” over “work/life balance.” I can’t easily separate my work life from my personal life, and I like them blended, at least for now. My office is in my home, and my toddler’s playground is in my office. I find “Happy Baby Colors” next to Bryan Garner’s “The Elements of Legal Style.” Yesterday, I couldn’t figure out why nothing happened when I typed only to discover that my keyboard was disconnected. And then there is that very tempting button on my modem, which is my gateway to the internet and phone, the lights change if you push it…it’s pretty cool, I understand. It can be challenging at times, but it is rewarding nonetheless. And I know for sure, it will eventually evolve into some other arrangement, and I am OK with that too. Nothing is permanent except change, as the saying goes.
More and more people embrace such blurred careers, as I was happy to find out form The New York Times Blog “Shifting Careers” written by Marci Alboher, a former lawyer and the author of “One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success.” She writes in her post “Blurring by Choice and Passion”:
I am not yet convinced that loosening boundaries is the answer for everyone. But if you chronically blur the lines between work and life, it is wise to find work you love — or at least enjoy enough to welcome it following you home occasionally.
With that thought, off I go as my life competes for my attention by unceremoniously turning the swivel chair away from the computer.
Pull up a chair, get your cup of coffee (or tea) and join our conversation about informal learning and professional development.
Think how rapidly things change nowadays. Successful knowledge workers have the skills to learn fast, think clearly and act decisively. They don’t feel overwhelmed with information because they know what to look for and how to find and prioritize it. Yet, many of us would probably agree that we have very little time to work on the skills we need to learn better. Here’s an idea. Let’s have a conversation about our informal learning and professional development. How do we learn? What works and what doesn’t? How can we maximize our learning “on the job” – by doing what we already do anyways, but perhaps with better approaches, frameworks, and focus?
Are you ready to take charge of your learning? Join our Learning Incubator community to share your learning goals, achievements and tips for success, to inspire and get inspired to be the best learner you can be. Bring curiosity, humor, respect, and appreciation – that’s how we learn best. The membership is free. What’s there to lose, except a good conversation?
As synchronicity would have it, after I wrote my post on energy management, we received the October issue of the Harvard Business Review with an article on this topic. In “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Tony Schwartz, the president and founder of the Energy Project, describes some specific rituals that can help busy executives to gain more energy. You can also take a short questionnaire “Are You Headed for an Energy Crisis?” to evaluate your energy needs.
The economic statistics of the legal market described in the Wall Street Journal article "Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers" by Amir Efrati shouldn't really come as a surprise, but it is a good reminder for law students to start their financial planning early:
Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book "Urban Lawyers" found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% -- while income for the other 75% actually dropped.
A BigLaw job is like a lottery - the chances are against you, so you owe it to yourself to use your critical thinking skills to evaluate the hyped-up talk about lawyers' salaries.
Larry Kramer, the Richard E. Lang Professor and Dean at Stanford Law School, highlights a few areas where legal education is failing students in “Law School Innovations Result In Broader Students:”
This shouldn’t surprise anyone: by the third year, students know the drill and are no longer getting as much from their classes….
The second problem with legal education is that it is too individually focused. Students basically work alone. They study for class and for their exams, they write their papers. But the work is all done individually, whereas lawyers in the real world invariably work in teams….
As the profession has evolved, the international or global dimension has become incredibly important, and we’re just starting to come to terms with what that means. What should we teach students who are going to work with lawyers, clients, businesses, and regulators from other countries and across borders?
Last, like every other profession, legal practice has become more specialized, and as that has happened, law firms have changed. They do not train young lawyers the way they used to: they can’t, their clients won’t pay for it. It’s not that law schools need to teach the nitty gritty of practicing law—new lawyers still learn this best by doing it, on the ground. Rather, law schools must teach students to be reflective lawyers, must teach them how to think about what they are doing and the choices they’re making. Clients will demand this of them, and rightly so. And lawyers need to be trained to be problem solvers as well as problem spotters.
Donald Polden, Dean and Professor of Law at Santa Clara University, addresses the importance of building leadership skills in law students in the article “Educating Law Students For Professional And Community Leadership:”
Instead of serving as community models of professional excellence, discernment and good judgment, lawyers in contemporary America are perceived to be caught up in the commercial and business demands of their work and are not sufficiently attuned to their prudential roles and responsibilities to their communities, to the national polity, and to the legal profession.
Daisy Hurst Floyd, Dean and Professor of Law at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, talks about the importance of developing a healthy professional identity in the artcile "A Matter of Identity:"
During their time in law school ... many students experience a loss of purpose, which is harmful to individual students and has negative consequences for the profession and for those served by the profession. The loss of purpose results from students’ changing identities.
In the article “Critical Relationship Building Skills For Associates,” Arnie Herz, a practicing attorney, mediator, and the author of the Legal Sanity blog, reveals three core business relationship principles that you need to know to have a successful and satisfying career.
Professional life coach Anne H. Whitaker will help you “Create A Personal Vision And Change Your Life.”
Paula Patton from the NALP Foundation discusses new insight on associate attrition in the article “Why Do Associates Leave Firms That Want Them To Stay?”
Among 2,225 associate departures reported by 118 law firms during 2006:
- 21% were characterized as “desired”
- 28% were characterized by law firms as being “neutral” departures (neither desired nor undesired)
- 51% were described as “undesired” or “unwanted”
In the article “Six Key Pieces Of Advice Straight From Corporate Counsel,” Marcie Borgal Shunk, a principal with The BTI Consulting Group, talks about the key characteristics corporate clients look for in a law firm.
And there are more interesting articles to read in The Complete Lawyer, so check it out.
ABA Journal reports on the launch of a new social networking site for attorneys called LawLink. It is a network exclusively for licensed attorneys, who can join free of charge. The application form will ask for your bar number, and the applications are checked. LawLink provides the following services:
The Network: Acquire new clients, advance your career, build a network of trusted attorneys.
The Classifieds: Jobs, client referrals, atty to atty services, office space, announcements, personals and more.
The Forum: Discuss legal topics, share info with other attys working on similar matters, and discuss judges, experts and other attys.
The Brochure: Create a brochure with your bio, qualifications, colleagues, endorsements and photos.
Law firms are busy now, but it may not be long before they start feeling the pains of the credit crunch, according to the article "With Dip in Economy, Are Associate Layoffs on the Horizon?" by Gina Passarella at Law.com:
"Future layoffs are a realistic possibility, and they would come in the areas of corporate finance and real estate," Duane Morris Chairman Sheldon Bonovitz said. "This is by reason of the turmoil in the debt markets which has made finance of many transactions in the pipeline problematic or not feasible."
The firms that will be hit the hardest, he said, are ones focusing on financings and securitizations as well as leveraged buyouts. Litigation, bankruptcy and employment law would then pick up, Bonovitz said. Practices like health care, intellectual property and energy would probably be immune from any hits, he said.
It looks like clients may prefer lawyers in India over high-priced U.S. associates to conduct legal research and proofread documents. Legal outsourcing is on the rise according to Bloomberg’s article “Jones Day, Kirkland Send Work to India to Cut Costs” by Cynthia Cotts and Liane Kufchock:
Clients are pushing law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis to send basic legal tasks to India, where lawyers tag documents and investigate takeover targets for as little as $20 an hour. The firms are reacting to a trend that will move about 50,000 U.S. legal jobs overseas by 2015, according to Boston- based Forrester Research Inc.
Law firms contribute 45 percent to offshore revenue, while corporate law departments contribute 36 percent….
In India, legal education is based on common law, conducted in English, and requires two or three years of classes. The country produces about 80,000 law school graduates a year, according to ValueNotes, compared with about 44,000 in the U.S.
Offshore companies charge $10 to $25 an hour on low-end work and $25 to $90 an hour on advanced jobs. Junior Indian lawyers might earn as much as $8,160 a year, according to ValueNotes, compared with the $160,000 average salary for associates in major U.S. cities.
UPDATE: To learn more about the topic of outsourcing, visit Legal Process Outsourcing Blog by Mark Ross.
"For real-life female lawyers, and millions of working moms in other high-pressure fields, balancing work and family may be the toughest part of the job. Law firms are starting to recognize the hard choices their female attorneys face. In this, our inaugural Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms for Women list, we salute those firms with groundbreaking programs to help women strike a better work/life balance and climb to the top. Our winning firms have taken the lead in implementing penalty-free flex schedules and mentoring, networking and leadership programs."
To create the list, the magazine used an application measuring "a law firm's workforce profile, benefits and compensation, parental leave, child care, flexibility and retention/advancement of women." The ranking is based on the responses to the application provided by the firms themselves.
What do you think of this methodology? It seems that such policies can look good on paper, but how they are implemented is less clear.
Learning how to handle rejections is not something we look forward to, but it is something we must master as a prerequisite for our lesson in success. Maybe, you didn’t get the job you wanted, the firm didn’t extend you an offer after your summer internship, or you didn’t close the deal with the coveted client. You are certainly disappointed, perhaps, angry and resentful. How do you move beyond these negative feelings towards a more productive and brighter future?
You’ve probably heard a lot: “Don’t take rejections personally.” And you understand it to be true when you think rationally, but even our rationality is bounded, and so the rejection hurts nonetheless. Take time to experience your feelings of hurt, anger, or self-doubt. As many of you know, I am a big fan of yoga and meditation, and I think these practices offer a safe environment to explore your negative emotions without acting on them. Experts suggest taking a pause in your activities when you realize that feelings overwhelm you. Whether you decide to sit in meditation or do yoga, focus on what’s going on inside you as you breathe in and out. Psychologists believe that labeling emotions actually helps neutralize them, so go ahead and name what you are feeling and notice any tightness or other sensations in your body. Now, visualize a place or a person that would invoke a sense of love, peace, safety, gratitude in you. Pretend you are in that place or with that person, and you breathe in the energy of love and acceptance and breathe out the resentment and anger. Try this exercise and see if it helps you shift your mood.
Once you’ve achieved a calmer state of mind, focus on what you can learn from the situation. Whenever you can, get some feedback from a representative of the employer or another insider you trust, but do it in a tactful and professional way. You may find out that the rejection has nothing to do with you and is a result of bad economy, changed plans or other factors outside your control. Sometimes, rejections mean that you and your potential employer are not a good match. Think of why it may be the case. Examine your own work style and values and think which work environment is the best fit for you. Rejections can truly be blessings in disguise even if we may not see them that way for a while. On the other hand, if you discover that you lack certain qualities that are important to employers, treat it as an opportunity to improve and grow professionally. This is your early wake-up call. Make a plan for how you can develop those desirable characteristics. No matter what your particular situation is, you can always learn something about yourself and other people that can help you become a better lawyer and a better person.
Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges. You don’t want to do anything on the spur of the moment that can tarnish your reputation. Don’t start any communication when you feel upset. Don’t disparage the firm or the people who work there. The same people can move to a different place of employment, you may have to meet them in court or at the negotiation table later. In addition, as salespeople would tell you a “no” doesn’t really mean that. You may get an eventual “yes,” and it may turn out to be a bigger and better “yes.” The lesson is to foster good relationships, which can bring you more opportunities.
When you attend business meetings, dinners and other social functions, you want to make the best impression possible, don’t you? The knowledge of business etiquette may help you feel confident in social settings and ensure that people are comfortable in your presence. Do you introduce the more important person first? What do you do with your napkin if you are called to a telephone during a business meeting in a restaurant? If you share a cab with a business client, where should you sit?
At the website of Louise Fox Protocol Solutions, you can take the "EtiQuiz" to test your knowledge of etiquette, learn about “Top Ten Etiquette Blunders,” and get some tips on how to look and act your best.
Finally, if you do business internationally, check out the resources at Executive Planet. This website offers guides to international business culture and etiquette in over 35 countries.
Positive Psychology News Daily can be your source of happy reading:
"Positive Psychology News Daily provides the latest news about happiness, the 'science of happiness,' and Positive Psychology. Our goal is to be your fun, collaborative place for a research-based daily boost of happiness."
For example, the article "Using Your Strengths in the Job Search" by Senia Maymin encourages you to explore the relationship between your strengths and your job.
"To what extent would you personally agree with this statement: ‘At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?’ When Gallup asked this question, it found that only 20 percent of those surveyed said they strongly agreed with this phrase. Are you in that 20 percent, or is it maybe time for you to re-craft your job to match what you do best?"
She proceeds to discuss a job search trap that many job candidates fall into. They often build their job interviews around the skills they demonstrated at their previous jobs. But this strategy is going to get you more of the same type of work. If you want a job that uses a different set of strengths, you need to know how to incorporate what excites you into your job search process. The article has some suggestions for you.
While we are on the subject of happiness, check out the happiness carnival at Think Happy Thoughts.
Susan Cartier Liebel is an attorney, national coach and consultant who shares her wisdom and advice on how to create and grow a solo practice in her blog Build A Solo Practice, LLC. Here’s what I asked Susan:
“I saw your category of "You Ask...I Answer" posts and thought I'd ask a question on behalf of my readers. Summer time is when many students try to get practical experience by interning at a firm, government or non-profit. If students know they would like to go solo after graduation, what would you recommend they do during their summers to prepare for their solo practice?”
Susan was kind enough to craft a great answer with good questions to make you think about your overall law school experience as it relates to your goal of becoming a solo, as well as practical advice on what you should be doing with your time outside law school:
“If you know you are going to become a solo practitioner upon passing the bar then everything you do, from your course selection to your extracurricular activities to your summer internships should be geared towards two things, networking/building professional relationships and gaining 'practical' experience that mirrors the life of a solo practitioner.”
Read the rest of her post here as she shares her three-step approach to your solo success.
Thank you so much, Susan!
How do you know what you clients really need or want? ABA Inside Practice offers “Keys to Understanding the Needs of Clients and Prospects” in an excerpt from The Lawyer’s Field Guide to Effective Business Development by William J. Flannery. The author talks about seven categories of needs and the ways to discern them in a conversation with your client: active needs, visionary needs, latent needs, ego needs, organization or company added-value needs, job needs and implied needs.
What do you do if one day your client decides to question your motives? What if a client accuses your firm of running up the billable hours? How do you respond? David Maister addresses such incidents in his article “Integrity Impugned.” (Hat tip to International Lawyer Coach Blog). There is a lot of good advice in the article from how to figure out the reasons behind the client’s actions to what to say in response. For example, if you need to buy more time to analyze what was just said, you can reply: “That’s interesting. Could you say a little more about that?” I like this recommendation because it can be used in a variety of situations.
How do you go about figuring out your clients’ needs? How do you respond if somebody questions your motives?
Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg and Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz have teamed up to launch a new exciting blog – Brain on Purpose. It explores the implications of neuroscience for the field of conflict resolution. It’s a must read for anybody who deals with conflicts as part of their professional life. And who doesn’t? The recent post "There's a great future in [neuroplasticity]. Think about it. Will you think about it?" makes you ponder how much control you have in shaping your own brain. Our brains develop new connections with every choice we make. If you let others make those choices for you, you may end up with a brain shaped by your clients, co-workers, relatives, friends, even strangers in a grocery store. It makes me wonder about the challenges the legal profession faces when it comes to the brain neuroplasticity. How do you stay compassionate and empathetic without letting your clients’ problems get to you? Can you use combative trial tactics without harming your own brain and the brains of others who come in contact with you? Do you feel more responsibility now that you know that your actions may affect somebody else’s brain? When does the adversarial turn into adversity?
Want to know what happens to your brain in law school? Read “Law Students: Create A Well-rounded Life” by Stephanie West Allen and Jeffrey M. Schwartz in The Complete Lawyer.
You are interning away, doing the best job you can and hope that your efforts, the economic trends and the Universe will produce the coveted offer to return to the firm as a permanent employee. Let’s say you receive that offer. Now what? You will feel the pressure to accept it proportional to the amount of debt you have accumulated and the good intentions of friends, family and career services. Does it mean you should take the plunge? Even if you have one of “The Ultimate Summer Internships” described by Tara Weiss for Forbes.com, don’t let the “outrageous summer internship perks” cloud your judgment. What makes you happy during your summer gig may not be the key to your long-term happiness. Here are a few things to pay attention to as you continue your internship and questions to ponder when you decide on an offer:
What benefits do you get from working for that particular firm? Consider expertise, types of cases or deals, networking opportunities, training, mentorship, career advancement, future employability, resume enhancements, paycheck.
What are the costs or downsides? How much control will you have over your lifestyle? Will this work allow you to express all your talents and offer the best you have to the world?
Will working for this firm bring you closer to where you want to be in your life 5, 10 or 15 years from now? Consider the long-term implications of your decision. Will this workplace help you become the person you want to be?
How do you like the work itself? Does it fuel your passions? Can you see yourself doing this work day in and day out?
Are you comfortable in the culture of this place? Do you fit in? Can you be who you are when you interact with your co-workers? Will you have to compromise on your own values and attitudes if you take this job?
How do you like the partners or “bosses” you are going to work for? Will they care about your professional growth? How much will you be able to learn from them? Do you respect the way they practice law and deal with clients?
Have you noticed any red flags? The support staff gets no respect. The clients’ phone calls don’t get answered promptly. Yelling is an acceptable form of communication. You can’t get straight answers to your own questions. People who work there seem to harbor a sense of bitterness and resentment about the place. Different groups engage in hush-hush conversations. There is a big turnover. Take notice of such behaviors because they may signal trouble.
Last but not least, once you have made a decision to accept an offer, sleep on it. Wear it for a couple of days before you communicate it to the firm. It’s a big decision to make, so take your time. See how it feels.
Law School Innovation blog alerts to this new study that attempts to explain the negative effects of legal education on law students. Kennon M. Sheldon and Lawrence S. Krieger report in "Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory" on the previous findings suggesting that “law school has a corrosive effect on the well-being, values, and motivation of students, ostensibly because of its problematic institutional culture.” It sounds like the psychological distress frequently experienced by lawyers in practice may originate in law school. Interestingly, this new study shows that student autonomy may lead to better well-being in the 3rd year, better grades, better bar exam results and more motivation on the job. All the more reasons to be proactive and take control of your learning.
I had a classmate in law school who first passed the New York bar exam and then entered the JD program. Not your usual order. He topped off his study with a license from one more state. He was able to sit for the New York bar because he was already a licensed attorney in China.
3,571 foreign-educated lawyers took the bar exam in the United States in 2005, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). Foreign attorneys may have more options in the future for limited practice in the U.S. “U.S. States Review Licenses for Foreign Attorneys: Temporary practice and 'legal consultant' status may be expanded,” reports Vesna Jaksic for Law.com:
“Twenty-six states license foreign legal consultants, who are attorneys from other countries permitted to practice in a limited matter, such as only being allowed to advise on their home country's laws, instead of U.S. state or federal laws.”
Nine more states are currently considering the licensing of foreign legal consultants. 21 states are deciding whether they should permit foreign lawyers to practice temporarily.
On the other hand, the U.S. lawyers also actively seek to enter foreign legal markets. To learn more about the efforts to liberalize trade in legal services, read “U.S. Pushes For Open Legal Markets At GATS Talks” by Julius Melnitzer in Inside Counsel:
“The United States exported $3.38 billion in legal advice in 2003, almost four times the $879 million it imported, according to the most recently available statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
The proponents of the exchange of legal services argue that “in today’s increasingly global market, lawyers need to follow their clients to the countries where they operate and give them advice on the laws of their home country and international law.” There is also a wider benefit: “Liberalization promotes the spread of legal skills to places where those skills might be wanting….Liberalization also promotes economic development within the rule of law.”
LawyerExpress, “designed by a busy lawyer for busy lawyers,” brings you a lot of information in a convenient and customizable format: Here’s how they define their objective:
“Our primary goal at LawyerExpress is to make the Internet worth your while. Toward that end, we've developed great tools to find the "20%" that would be valuable to attorneys. LawyerExpress transforms what can be an inefficient, unruly morass of information into a format that works smarter and faster for busy people.”
Georgetown Law Library connects summer associates to various legal resources. Check out their State Research Guides and Online Tutorials, covering research in statutes, cases, administrative law, secondary sources, and other areas.
With the approach of the summer, many of you are heading to your first legal internships. Do you remember the first time you looked at the blue ocean glistening in the sun? You are thrilled and mesmerized by its power and magnitude. It’s alluring on a sunny day and frightening when the skies turn dark. The waters are treacherous if you don’t know how to swim, and what you don’t see can hurt you, but swimming in the ocean is exhilarating. Are you ready to swim with the big fish? Here’s is your survival kit.
Kathleen J. Wu offers her insights in the article "Rules Summer Associates Should Live By":
“Even if the firm isn't ladling work on your plate, try to find some way to get something substantive out of your time at the office. Everybody knows that law school teaches you next to nothing about the everyday reality of being a lawyer. We learned the law in school, not lawyering. So spend your summer watching lawyers.”
Finally, here's “Law Blog News You Can Use: An Associate Etiquette Lesson” with the focus on table manners.
Recently, the legal blogosphere has been actively discussing the work-life issues in the legal profession. The Dreams of a Solo blog offers insights on how baby boomers and Gen X and Y differ in their approaches to work-life balance. Natasha Sarkisian writes about the “new legal lifestyle” and “the attitudes of a generation that isn’t willing to sacrifice itself on the altar of work” in the article “Who says being a lawyer has to suck?” for San Francisco magazine. What would baby boomers say of “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss? Visit his site to find out your LQ (Lifestyle Quotient).
In light of this debate, you may want to listen to the podcast “Engaging the Generations” Pt 1 and Pt 2 from The Engaging Brand. This podcast contains a two-part interview with Tamara Erickson, the co-author of “Workforce Crisis.” She talks about the characteristics of various generations of workers and the challenges that the management faces in attracting talented employees who want different things from their work environment. Younger people, for example, are more comfortable with project-based engagements similar to the Hollywood model where actors, writers, directors come together to create a movie for a limited period of time and then move on to new projects with a new team. This model offers a variety of experiences and a greater degree of flexibility.
As a lawyer, I would ponder the following questions: What types of clients will I have in 3, 5, 10 years? How their lifestyle design will affect mine? How can I be better positioned to serve their unique needs? Clients are the puppeteers of lawyers’ work habits. Who will be writing your scripts?
In the summer time, many students pursue internship opportunities, study abroad programs and other activities outside the traditional law school curriculum. It’s a good time for self-directed learning. You can read about the characteristics of self-directed learners in the article “Learner, Direct Thyself” by Gerry Sexton, M.D. at LiNE Zine.
One of the tools for more effective learning is a personal learning portfolio. When you hear the word “portfolio,” you may think of artists or designers creating a representative sample of their works. A learning portfolio, however, is a record of your personal learning experience, and it can be created by anybody. What are the benefits of a learning portfolio?
It’s up to you to decide how you want to structure your learning portfolio, but here is a simple format to get your started:
Have you ever used learning portfolios? How did they work for you? Let me know.
What are the chances that in your practice, you will represent a transnational corporation, take an assignment at a foreign office of the U.S. law firm, advise international clients on the U.S. law, outsource legal work to lawyers in India, help American retirees to settle down in Mexico, or devise an estate plan for foreign nationals with assets in the U.S.? You may think that you have a local practice, but in today’s economy, more and more of your business and individual clients choose to trot the globe. Are you ready to travel with them? If you need help, the following resources can be your guide across cultures:
Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation gives advice on "How not to be a cultural knucklehead in a global business world."
Lynn Gaertner-Johnston of Business Writing addresses pitfalls of cross-cultural communication in her post “Do You Like My Dressing?”
Janet Moore offers great advice to lawyers across borders at her International Lawyer Coach Blog. If you are considering a study abroad program, read the post “Study Abroad Opportunities for Law Students,” which has a list of helpful websites. The blog also has useful information for foreign lawyers in the U.S.
I always look forward to Anne Fox and Dr. Laurent Borgmann’s podcast ‘absolutely intercultural!’ which deals with intercultural issues in creative and engaging ways.
The current edition of Law Practice is online now. It covers many important topics for young associates. Here are some of the articles:
“The Smartest Marketer Around: What New Associates Should Know About Marketing” by Allison Wolf. If you want to be a partner one day, start developing the business owner mindset from the start. Do you know what it takes to run a successful legal business?
“Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch” by Catherine Alman MacDonagh and Beth Marie Cuzzone. Will your “elevator pitch” pass the "so what?" test? Learn how to make it succinct, memorable and unique.
“Being a Good Boss: Dos and Don'ts for Working with Your First Assistant” by Paul McLaughlin. Should you introduce your assistant to your clients? Can you share your personal problems with your team? How often should you give feedback to your assistant? The article answers these questions and many more.
“The Art of Making Rain: Seven Steps That Give Associates an Edge” by Lawrence M. Kohn and Jill Rose Kohn. You didn’t think you were going into sales when you graduated from law school, did you? The sooner you start building a foundation for rainmaking, the better your chances are to become one of those powerful connectors that everybody wants to know.
“The Culturally Savvy Associate: Top Three Tips for Moving Up in a Global Economy” by Janet H. Moore. These days, even if you don’t want to practice international law, chances are that your practice is going to be affected by it. Can you spot international issues? Are you comfortable working in multinational teams?
“Associate Technology Challenges: A Snapshot of Need-to-Know Applications” by Browning Marean. There's life beyond LexisNexis and Westlaw. What decision analysis tools would you like to use? Are you ready for electronic discovery?
Law Career Blog offers job hunting advice for 3Ls and recent grads. I like the suggestion of being proactive, flexible and creative in your job search. Some students buy into others’ vision of how things should be and adopt the victim’s mentality when things don’t turn out that way. How do you make the best with what you have? It takes courage, creativity and consistent work. You begin by valuing what you have to offer because if you don’t value yourself, you can’t show your worth to others. Take the challenge and write your own life story, don’t let others write it for you. The upside is that you can learn so much more about yourself and your true aspirations in the process. I suggest you sit down and make a list titled "Here's why I am so awesome!" Place this list where you can see and read it often. Strive to add new things to it each day as you go about your search for business.
Do you want to know nine essential characteristics for making partner? Inside Practice offers an excerpt from "Making Partner: A Guide for Law Firm Associates" by John R. Sapp. Among those characteristics are “Maturity: You are in control of your life” and “Entrepreneurial attitude: You think like an owner rather than an employee.” Now is the time to start working on those skills. And if you already possess them, maybe you don’t need an employer. Build A Solo Practice, LLC will help your to plan your own business venture.
Here are a few nuts and bolts of networking. Business Writing teaches you How to Ask a Stranger for a Favor and offers Great Tips for Email. If you want advice on phone networking, listen to Escape from Cubicle Nation podcast Networking tip: Use the phone! Finally, is your body language congruent with the words you speak? Read about 18 ways to improve your body language from The Positivity Blog.
Happy hunting and gathering!
Whether we like it or not, fear is part of our life, and it is often part of the learning process. When we learn new things, we challenge ourselves, we venture outside our comfort zone, we grow, change, and redefine who we are. That’s when we become scared. What if I am not smart and capable enough to do it? What would others think of me if I fail? What would they say if I follow my gut instinct and not what everybody else says I should do? How will I handle rejection? Can I be financially secure? How we respond to those fears has a huge impact on our success in life, happiness, and peace of mind. So how do you deal with fear?
Do you feel that you must overcome your fear? Is it stopping you from achieving more in life? If so, read 5 life-changing keys to overcoming your fear at the Positivity Blog.
“Can We Control Our Fears?” Sevil Duvarci and Denis Paré tackle this question from the neuroscientists’ perspective. A recently published study suggests that “the expression of learned fear is flexible and subject to modulation by the prelimbic cortex, depending on the circumstances; our expression of learned fears is less rigid and less automatic than the expression of innate fears, which are beyond the reach of the cortex.”
Perhaps, you welcome fear. You may even believe that if you don’t feel fear, you are not doing enough. Fear may propel you to action. Is Fear Actually An Asset? It may well be according to Success from the Nest. Get to know your fear and learn from it.
Do you share your fear with others or do you hide it? Executive Coach Doug Sundheim believes that revealing our vulnerabilities to others may strengthen our relationships and generate good energy. He shares his 5-step approach at Fast Company Expert Blogs. Interestingly, neuroscientists also tell us that social contact reduces the brain response to threat.
Would you agree that fear is in the fabric of the law practice? Lawyers work with people’s fears. Sometimes, they alleviate fears, for example, when they do a title search for the clients who want to purchase a home. Other times, they seem to generate more fears: just read the "default" language in a promissory note. And then, there are circumstances when they have to say to their clients that it’s OK to be afraid and help them through their fears. Do you acknowledge your clients’ fears? Or would you rather shun the emotions and stick to business only? What role does fear play in your practice?
The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center created The Legal Research Jumpstation with links to various legal resources under categories such as federal resources, state resources, international resources, legal associations, legal education, legal employment, Continuing Legal Education (CLE), law practice technology, ethics, legal representation, future of the legal profession, surveys and statistics, legal news sources, legal research resources, business and reference resources, electronic discovery resources.
For example, you can visit the sites of the State and Local Bar Associations, check out various statistics about lawyers and the legal profession, read employment trend data compiled by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), find the wealth of information at the Legal Information Institute hosted by Cornell University's School of Law, search online law journals courtesy of the University Law Review Project, or browse through The Virtual Law Library hosted by the University of Indiana's School of Law. [Via Your ABA]
To continue with my “Thought-Full Series”, I though I would highlight a few examples of analytical, practical and creative thinking in action.
You have heard of Tupperware parties. How about using the same business model in the practice of law? In the article “Where There’s a Will…”appearing in the April issue of the ABA Journal, Jill Schachner Chanen profiles Massachusetts attorney James Haroutunian, who launched “Have Kids, Will Party” after watching his wife successfully selling jewelry at the home-based jewelry parties. Just like with other home-based parties, the "Have Kids, Will Party" host invites a group of young parents with basic estate planning needs. Before the party, they fill out the questionnaire, have phone conversations with the attorney, who then drafts the legal documents and sends them to the clients for review. As the party goes on, the attorney meets with each client in private and executes the documents. With the growing interest, James Haroutunian is considering a franchise for the will-signing party.
Think you can’t have it all? Think again. In the April issue of the Young Lawyer, Colin T. Darke talks about how to “Feed Your Creative Side.” The recipe comes from young attorney Marie Hejl who hosts a broadcast cooking show that airs on over 70 stations around the world. And you thought you were busy. In her interview, she reveals that her “passion outside of the law” helps to advance her communication skills and meet many different people in business and legal communities. And that’s good for business.
As these stories show, you don’t have to follow the beaten path. Be passionate, be creative, be smart, and you can create your own recipe for success. Do you agree?
The E-Guide to Public Service at America's Law Schools is a free interactive online resource that provides a broad range of information about public interest programs and curricula at 116 law schools. Equal Justice Works, a Washington-based nonprofit public interest law organization, created The E-Guide to fill the void in existing commercial publications by providing information about public service in law schools and about factors many consider essential to a quality legal education.
Learning has the potential to change people. As people change, so do their relationships with others. Sometimes these relationships change for the better and sometimes for the worse. Today’s round-up is about the emotional intelligence and people skills that we all need to master our relationships.
The first people to notice the changes in you are the people closest to you: your spouse, significant other, your kids, your close friends. Even if they want to be supportive, the change can be hard for them to accept. Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation offers great insights about relationship transitions in the article When you change, all your relationships change. One of her tips is to “communicate clearly and frequently with those around you about the changes that are going on in your life.”
Maybe, you sense that something is amiss in your relationship, but you can’t quite figure out what is going on with the other person. Would you like to learn how to read people? Life Training – Online offers the series on How to Read People. It will show you how to develop the mental mindset of the “effective people reader,” how to master the techniques and how to determine if somebody is lying to you.
You can’t read people unless you listen actively to what they are saying. Inside Practice offers the excerpt on how to “Connect with Your Client through Active Listening” from The Successful Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Transforming Your Practice by Gerald A. Riskin. You must be able to hear not only the facts, but the emotions as well.
What if you hear anger? Can you deal with it? Here’s a piece of advice from a Buddhist monk at ProBlogger.
What do you do if somebody tries to put up barriers to your progress? Listen to John H. Johnson’s lesson of success: “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” Belief in yourself and perseverance are the best answers to those who doubt you.
There comes a time in our career and personal life when we need to apologize to others. It may not be an easy thing to do for a lawyer. We are trained to assign blame, not to accept it. Cheryl Stephens of Building Rapport shares the results of her research on the subject of apology in Apology – the Unknown Universe. Brad Shorr of Word Sell offers tips About Writing Letters of Apology.
Finally, Dr. Tammy Lenski talks about a neat mood-visualization tool – MoodJam. It is a free service provided by the MoodJam Research Group in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. It allows you to visualize your moods in color strips. You can then share your moods with those around you to let them know when you are safe to approach and when they should stay away.
Are you looking for a summer internship or a job? Do you contemplate a career transition? If so, here is a round-up of some tips and tools that can help you in the process.
Each of you has had a variety of experiences in you life that have helped you to develop certain skills that are valuable to your potential employer. But when time comes to prepare your resume or answer questions at a job interview, you may not remember this valuable information. This inventory list will ensure you give yourself credit for all the wonderful things you have accomplished in life. It has two parts: Part I discusses “Sources of Evidence That You May Possess Skills, Experiences, and Attributes of Interest to Employers” and Part II lists “Skills, Experiences, and Attributes You Have That Might Be of Interest to Employers.” It’s a good check list to go through and make sure you are not forgetting anything important. And you may be surprised at how much you already know. Also, if you need to add some action to your resume, check out Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs.
Do you need help with job interviews? Lifehack discusses a new tool – InterviewTrue - which allows you to practice your interviewing skills virtually. You can customize your interview by choosing from the database of 1000 questions from the leading companies. You record yourself with your own webcam as a virtual interviewer asks you questions. After the interviewing session is over, you receive a transcript of your interview. You can watch the recording to evaluate your body language and analyze your responses in a transcript. The InterviewTrue site has a demo and a free trial option.
Here’s another interesting way to play out your interview scenario. It comes from the area of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). As you do the exercise, you visualize the desired behavior and build confidence.
As you network for success, don’t make The Ten Biggest Networking Mistakes, described by Harvey Mackay. Instead, focus on developing the Seven Habits of Successful Rainmakers, shared by Sara Holtz in The Complete Lawyer.
If you have ten minutes to spare and want to find out how savvy you are about networking, take a free 30-question quiz called Networking Quotient. This assessment tool was developed by Thom Singer, who is the author of Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships. He also writes a business development and networking blog.
While it’s neat to see how you score compared to others in your demographic group, I think, you can learn more from the questions themselves because they indicate what you should be thinking about and doing. Once you complete the quiz, you are given an option of retaking it. You can click on that link to go back to the questions and use them to evaluate your own networking plan, if you have one. If you don’t, it may be useful to ponder those questions a little longer and create one.
Do you have a mentor? If not, maybe, it is time to add the task of finding one to your list of New Year’s resolutions. Your relationship with a mentor can be instrumental to building a successful and satisfying career. A young attorney faces many choices. Asking the right questions is a prerequisite for making good decisions. How do I choose a practice area or a niche? How can I get more work to fulfill my requirement for billable hours? How can I prioritize my personal and professional obligations? What is the best way to stay current in my field and gain expertise? These are examples of questions you can ask your mentor. “OK, I get it, it is a good idea to have a mentor, but how do I find one?” Here are a few things you can do:
Good luck and let me know if these tips work for you.
* This post is part of the Networking Carnival hosted by Legal Andrew, where you can find many more great tips on networking.
Lawsagna: Congratulations on your new book “Happy Hour Is 9 to 5”. Have you met many happy lawyers?
Alexander Kjerulf: I've actually worked with lawyers to make them happier at work - and I have to say they often don't seem very happy. Law professionals face some tough challenges including rigid, old school management, a demanding, stressful work ethic and what I call "The Cult of Overwork" - the irrational belief that the more you work the better.
L: Law firms in the US are notorious for the somber and often stressful work environment. What are the downsides of the work unhappiness?
AK: Studies show that people who are unhappy at work are:
More prone to workplace stress and to various diseases
Less happy outside of work also
But the most important reason to be happy is this: As a working professional you'll be spending more time on your job than on your family, friends and hobbies combined. Do you really want to spend that much of your life on something that doesn't make you happy?
L: Why do you think lawyers should read your book?
AK: Lawyers should read the book in order to become insanely happy at work. To wake up every Monday morning saying "YES! It's Monday! I get to go to work." Not only will that make them enjoy work more and life more - studies also show that happy people are more successful.
Lawyers should also read the book in order to create law firms that are fun, inspiring, meaningful and energizing. In my experience, many law firms exhibit a complete disregard for how people feel at work. They care only about productivity and billable hours. This is a huge mistake for one simple reason: Happy companies make more money! Lawyers who read the book will come away with the knowledge that happiness at work is the way to a more fulfilling work life AND to higher profits.
L: Is it possible to stay happy while dealing with the unhappy aspects of life?
AK: It is possible - and it's also difficult. And remember: You can't be happy every single day. No matter how much you love your job, there's still going to be bad days once in a while. That's as it should be.
L: Is the work unhappiness a personal or an institutional problem?
AK: Both! Companies must provide a mood where it's easy for employees to be happy at work, and today many companies fail miserably at this.
On the other hand, it's also up to each of us to take responsibility for our own work situation. If you're not happy at work, you can't just sit on your butt and wait for your manager, your co-workers or the company to fix it. You must take charge and do something.
L: What is the best approach to instilling the value of happiness at work: top-down or bottom-up?
AK: Both at the same time is by far the best. When management and employees work together to create a happier work environment the sky is the limit.
If I can only pick one, it's top-down, because one unhappy top executive can ruin the good mood in an entire organization, whereas one determinedly happy person in the top ranks can positively affect the whole company.
L: What are your secret ingredients for happy hours at work?
AK: The secret is this: Happiness at work starts with a choice. You must choose to be happy at work and to do what it takes to get there. If you don't make that choice, nothing is likely to happen.
What can an individual worker start doing now to become happier at work?
Happiness at work is something you and I create here and now. It's about doing something every day to make yourself and others happier at work. Here are some simple ideas:
1: Perform a random act of workplace kindness. Bring a co-worker a cup of coffee without them asking. Pay someone a compliment. Pass out candy at a meeting.
2: Praise someone. Praise is a great way to make others happier at work
3: Write a log. Every day, before you leave work, make a list of 5 things that made you happy at work today.
L: What’s your favorite happy hour drink?
AK: I usually go with a good Danish beer from a small, local brewery.
Alexander, thank you very much for you time.
Many of us spend most of our awaking hours at work. How do you know if you are in the right place? Here are 5 questions to consider when you are evaluating job options:
Any questions you would like to add to the list? Please leave a comment.