Women Lawyers Make Good Timekeepers — a MUST!

Timekeeping — I know, a subject that you would rather not discuss.  It is burdensome and annoying and the situation is getting worse.  Now law firms are starting to require timekeeping on a daily basis and penalties for not submitting billable time in a “timely” manner.

UGH!  Daily, really?  Yes, daily.  And you should be glad that you are an organized woman, who is capable of multi-tasking and compartmentalizing effectively.  YOU can do this.  It is going to be a lot harder for lawyers, who do not have those skills.  Think male lawyers, here!  Trust me, it is going to be a lot harder for them.  I have seen it in action.

Above the Law reported recently that the “proper keeping of time for all of those billable hours generated by toiling associates has never been more important.”  Of course, because law firms are struggling to find every possible source of revenue as they recover from a recession that was devastating to the profession.  As a result, law firms are initiating some new “motivational” techniques to get the cooperation of lawyers in reporting billable hours on time.

Fulbright & Jaworski describes its new policy as an effort to “minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry.”  The new policy requires attorneys to record time on a daily basis and includes exemptions for “exceptional circumstances” that are not very liberal.  AND, the kicker is that only time reported in accordance with the new policy will be considered for the purposes of bonuses.  OUCH!

So, how outrageous is this?  After some insinuation that this policy is really harsh for associates seeking bonuses, ATL finally recognizes that there is no problem if associates just follow the rule.  We are surrounded by rules, this is just another one.  AND, in my experience this one is a blessing in disguise.  Here’s why.

I have a little experience with recording billable hours.  I have seen attorneys do it well, and I have seen others struggle to recreate a month of billable time.  That is not only excruciatingly painful, but it is anything but efficient, as the law firms recognize.  Fulbright & Jaworski is not the only firm initiating these new policies.  I am aware of others with similar punitive policies, and I am sure that many other firms will follow suit.

Here’s some advice based on my personal experience.  I always recorded my time at the end of each day.  I kept a running record of time billed during the day and transferred that information to a time sheet or electronic recorder at the end of each day.  Call me obsessive, but it worked then, even without the motivational techniques, and it will work now.

With that small effort, you not only will have a “real time” daily record of your billable time, but you also will have a running tally to compare with your targeted annual billable hours.  It helps a lot when you want to take some time off for a vacation.  You enjoy yourself more when you know that you have “time” to spare.

Got for it.  Do the right thing and make it easier on yourself at the same time — even if your firm does not yet have a policy.  It will pay off.

And be thankful that you are a woman — for whom this kind of thing comes naturally!



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Thought For The Day

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

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Thought For The Day

Don’t wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good; try to use ordinary situations.

Charles Richter

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Networking Tips for Young Women Lawyers

Summertime brings more than just beach time and fancy drinks with little paper umbrellas by the pool.  That’s for relaxation.  Good for you.  You deserve it.

But most of you also have jobs to do in the summer, and that usually includes a fair amount of networking opportunities.  Here are some tips from Diane@EffectiveNetworking.com to help you to become a proficient networker.  It may not start off as your favorite thing to do, but it will get easier over time if you follow this advice.  Some of it is pretty fundamental, but it is all part of a larger package.  Just go with it!

  • Handshake:  Two shakes and let go.  You do not want to become permanently attached to the person or make the person feel uncomfortable;
  • Name Tag:  Put it on the upper right side of your chest.  The eye of the person you are meeting will travel up your right arm as you are shaking hands, and Voila, there will be your name;
  • Networking Supplies:  A pen you can afford to lose; a Sharpie to fill out your name tag so it can be easily read; business cards; and a breath mint for emergencies;
  • Wardrobe:  It is always better to be over dressed than under dressed.  When in doubt, go up a notch;
  • Good Topics of Conversation (Ice Breakers):  Begin with “tell me” which gets any conversation going.  If you ask your conversation partner about himself or herself, the hope is that he or she will turn it around and ask about you.  Be ready to deliver your “elevator speech” followed by more details.  If you do not know what an elevator speech is, see my blog on the subject;
  • Bad Topics of Conversation:  The usual suspects:  Personal stuff like intimate details of relationships; sex; religion; and politics (just what your mother told you!);
  • Length of Conversation:  In general, three to five minutes and move on.  If you are really engaged, up to eight minutes but no more.  Watch for body language and eye contact to know when to end the conversation.  Remember that you want to meet and engage as many people as possible;
  • Eating:  Stick a nutrition bar in your purse or briefcase so you can eat it on the way to the event and do not arrive hungry.  You are not there to hover over the shrimp platter or the guacamole and chips because you forgot to eat lunch.  You are there to meet people.  Also be careful with messy food.  Those mile-high sliders are delicious, but they can be hard to navigate.  Stick to the easy stuff;
  • Drinking:  Know your limits and be a responsible drinker and driver.  If you want to have a glass of wine, follow it with sparkling water for the rest of the night.  That is always my rule, whether it is dinner with a client or a law firm mixer.  You have no idea how “mixed up” you can get at a mixer with too much alcohol.  The results are not pretty and will make you a bad legend in a short time; and
  • Follow Up:  THE most important part.  Send out an e-mail the next day saying something nice about your meeting (You DID get business cards from everyone you talked to, right????) and offering to keep in touch.  If you want to make a really big impression on someone you know will appreciate it (like someone senior who remembers how to lick stamps), send a handwritten note.  You will be surprised at the impact.

And, one last bit of advice from me.  Be prepared to walk up to a group of people or a sole person and introduce yourself.  If it is a group, ask whether you can join their conversation.  They usually will welcome you.  If it is a solo person, that person will probably be grateful for someone to talk to.  Do not spend all of your time in the ladies’ room because you feel awkward initiating conversations.  That is what you are there for.  Just do it!

So, follow this good advice from EffectiveNetworking.com, with a little editorial license from me, and you will become an effective networker.  Who knows, you might just like it!


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Thought For The Day

All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.

James Thurber

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Women Lawyers/Military Spouses Make Progress

As if women lawyers did not face enough challenges.  Now, here is another one.

Can you imagine taking a bar exam in a different state every year or so?  Probably not.  Can you imagine moving to ten different states or countries to follow a spouse’s career moves?  Probably not.  Most of us take only one or two bar exams during our careers, and we do not look forward to even that few.

Military spouses, who also are lawyers, have challenges that most of us do not even think about.  They have faced the multiple bar exam dilemma for years because their active duty military spouses are reassigned a lot, and the entire family has to relocate.  Most of the lawyer/military spouses are women, so this places a huge burden on the women lawyers, who fall into this category.  The choice has been to either take yet another bar exam in a new jurisdiction or to give up practice.

I spoke to women lawyers about this dilemma at the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) meeting last summer, and they reported some progress at that time.  I hope to see these women again at the 2014 NAWL conference later this month to congratulate them. Their hard work is beginning to pay off.

Finally, the burden is being lifted due to the efforts of the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN).  That organization is seeking to change the laws in all fifty states to accommodate military spouse licensing hurdles.  So far, the MSJDN has been successful in nine states, including my home state of Virginia.  I am so pleased that the Old Dominion State, with so much military tradition, has joined the ranks of the enlightened on this issue.  The other eight states are:  Idaho, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Colorado.

Here’s how it works in Virginia.  The Supreme Court of Virginia recently ordered adoption of Rule 1A:8, the “Military Spouse Provisional Admission Rule,” which grants admission on motion to military spouse attorneys who meet the rule’s criteria, including previous admission and practice in another jurisdiction.  It allows a military spouse attorney to practice law in Virginia for the duration of the service member spouse’s military assignment there, as long as the lawyer spouse is associated with an attorney licensed in Virginia.  The rule went into effect on July 1, 2014.  For information on how this issue is handled in other jurisdictions, consult the MSJDN website.

I know first-hand the sacrifice of military personnel and their families.  This is the least the profession can do to keep lawyer/military spouses in the practice of law.  It is just one less thing for them to worry about as they support their spouses serving our country.

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A Big Day for Best Friends at the Bar

Today I completed the final draft manuscript for my new Best Friends at the Bar book.  I am thrilled!  This book has been thrashing around in my head for the last few years, just waiting to get out.  I finally tackled it in 2014, and I hope it will get to all of you some time in 2015.

The book, the third in the Best Friends at the Bar book series, takes a look at the solution to low retention rates for women lawyers from a new perspective.  The first two books were written to advise young women how to plan their legal careers and how to exercise their options to keep their careers alive even through the difficult care taking years when responsibilities of home and family can be the most challenging.  Those books examined Personal Definitions of Success and a New Work-Life Balance, and put the responsibility on the young women lawyers to manage their personal and professional lives in a way that would allow them to meet the demands of both career and family.

This new book takes a different approach.  It is the missing piece in solving the puzzle to make career satisfaction and success possible for more young women lawyers.  It explores what makes effective leaders of young women lawyers and provides the messages that young women lawyers must receive to help them help themselves.  Because most of the law firm leadership today is made up of male lawyers, these things cannot be assumed.  It takes a book like this to engage leadership in the most effective way.

Plugging the talent drain for young women lawyers needs to be a shared responsibility.  It is time that the law firms started “leaning in” just like the young women, and this new book will give law firm leaders all the tools they need to lead and motivate young women lawyers effectively and with the goal of raising the retention rates.

It is the logical extension of the Best Friends of the Bar project., and I am so pleased that it will come your way soon.  Watch for it!!!!!!!!!



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Thought For The Day

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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