What Can Women Lawyers Learn from the Fallen Athletes?

Unfortunately, the public recently has been subjected to the beginning of the Mea Culpa Tour by one of the world’s most prominent professional athletes and tales of a virtual and deceased girlfriend by an award-winning college athlete.   This is too much, even in the doldrums of January when we need indoor entertainment in many of the cold climes.  However, give me Downton Abbey reruns any day over these guys.

What can women lawyers learn from the unfortunate actions of these fallen athletes?  Most of it is fundamental, but it bears repeating.  This is especially true for lawyers who are governed by ethical considerations, legal cannons and local bar association rules.  Taking these things lightly can result in disastrous repercussions to careers and reputations.  Keep the following in mind to stay on the straight and narrow.

1.  Always be truthful.  Half truths do not count.

2.  It is not all about you.  The way you treat people always comes back at you.  People know when you are disregarding them and marginalizing their contributions.

3.  Facts are facts.  They are different from wishes and illusions.

4.  You are a role model for someone.  Pay attention to what you put out there to model.

5.  Do not assume that people understand your pressures and motivations.  Overall, they expect good behavior under all circumstances.

6.  Do not hide behind illness and family crises for personal gain.  You are a professional, and you owe your client the best services you can provide at all times.

7.  Do not ever ask people to “go easy” on you.  Be hard on yourself by being truthful and trustworthy.

8.  Skip the mea culpa tour.  No one is going to feel sorry for a cheat and a liar.

9.  Bullying is never acceptable.

10. Being famous, attractive and charming are poor substitutes for being truthful.

Keep this list handy and refer to it often.  When in doubt, check your ego at the door and remember that everything you do in this life is part of your legacy.

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Thought For The Day

Men’s [and women’s] best successes come after their disappointments.

Henry Ward Beecher

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Time for Your New Year’s Resolutions about Networking

It is now the middle of January, and it is time to think of your New Year’s resolutions.  I am happy to give you a grace period because it is common knowledge that Thanksgiving and the December holidays and New Year’s celebrations are WAY too close together and contribute to total craziness at the end of the year.  It has probably taken you the last two weeks to recover, but now it is time.

You undoubtedly will have resolutions in your personal life, and many of them will revolve around weight loss, spending more time with family, and being nice to your in-laws.  But, what about your professional life?  What are your New Year’s resolutions at the office?

For young women lawyers, the list of resolutions to choose from is surprisingly short.  There are really only a handful of essential factors to success  in the law, and you probably should revisit them every year and perfect on them.  One of those is networking, and the value of that skill to the future of your practice cannot be overestimated.  Networking can lead to clients, clients can lead to upward mobility, and upward mobility can result in coveted leadership and management positions.  You are women, and you have natural networking skills.  You love to get together with your girlfriends, and you will listen for hours to the problems of your BFF.  So, apply those same skills to networking in business and watch it pay off.

Follow these tips and resolve to do better.

  • Develop a Strategy.  Will all of your networking be one-on-one meetings or will you also include networking events and other get-togethers?  How often do you want to connect with people in networking sessions?  What people—potential clients in general, colleagues who can be sources of conflicts work or be future sources of employment, industry personnel who can be sources of referrals, or others?
  • Reach Out:  The middle of January is a good time to do that because it is typically a slow time.  People have recovered from the holidays and have spent the first part of the month diving back in.  By mid month, they are ready to meet you for lunch or drinks and reconnect.
  • Be Selective:  You cannot go to everything.  Don’t try to.  You need to have a reason for attending networking events and a strategy in going.  Who do you want to meet?  How will you make the contact?  Pretend it is a dinner party that you are attending with your husband—-you know, the one where you go over the names of attendees in the car on the way to the party and provide background information.  Do a little research on the type of people who belong to the hosting organization and see where your research leads.  This is the perfect time to put your fact finding skills to work.
  • Remember to talk about business at least some of the time.  That is why you are there.  If you have not read my blog about the importance of elevator speeches, do it now.  https://bestfriendsatthebar.com/know-your-elevator-speech-and-practice-it/Be sure that the people you are talking to know who you work for, what you do and that you enjoy doing it.  No one wants to give work to someone who will not enjoy doing it.  AND make sure that you give out business cards and get them from others.
  •  Host a networking event of your own.  It does not have to be formal and fancy.  It can be as simple as getting colleagues together to sample a new cocktail or try out a new restaurant.  Keep the numbers down so that personal relationships can develop.  Take time with your invitation list to assure a good combination of personalities and good conversation.
  • Be convivial and memorable without being too familiar.  There is nothing more annoying than someone you have just met acting like your new best friend.  Take time to help others have a good time by moving the conversation forward, inquiring about others and being gracious.
  • Always follow up.  Follow up with the people you meet by phone call or e-mail.  Tell them that you enjoyed the conversation and that you look forward to continuing it in the future.  This often will require you to make notes on the business cards you collect by the end of the evening and before you forget details.

Networking can be fun, especially when you do your homework and have a plan.  Good luck!

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Thought For The Day

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.


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The New Reality of Law Practice and the Effect on Women Lawyers

Recently I read an article in the Virginia Lawyers Media that interested me.  The title alone was enough to catch my eye:  Thought for the New Year:  ‘Not your father’s legal marketplace’.  I, of course, would have added that it also is not your mother’s legal marketplace.  But, this is, after all, Virginia, the Commonwealth, a place I love but that is not always on the cutting edge when it comes to issues of diversity and political correctness.

The gist of the article was that the changes in law practice in the last ten years have transformed the profession in ways that make it imperative for lawyers to constantly revisit, sharpen and improve their legal skills.  The article identifies four areas that require constant vigilance.  Changes in the areas of pricing, project management, technology and globalization demonstrate and define the new reality of law practice, according to the authors.

Pricing has changed radically.  The billable hour is no longer the predominate way to charge for time.  With the downturn in the economy, alternative fee arrangements became the mantra of corporate clients looking for savings on outside counsel fees.  New models like fixed fees, capped fees, contingency fees and hybrid models became part of the conversation and represented possibilities that had to be addressed.  Learning to analyze legal matters in terms of the best billing model and negotiating the rate have become new skills that lawyers must learn.

Project management is another area that has experienced significant change.  Although project management has always been important in terms of containing costs and tracking work, the new alternate fee arrangements make it even more critical to manage projects well.  Gone are the possibilities of cost overruns that clients will simply understand and absorb.  Today, the risk of cost overruns is often built into the new fee arrangements, and the firm is likely to share in the loss.

The advent of technology has created a paradigm shift like no other.  E-discovery alone is mind boggling and requires a whole new set of skills.  It takes IT gurus to communicate the possibilities of the new systems and to implement them into the existing systems.  Although it is painful for lawyers who are not used to technology and lack comfort with the new systems, it is something that needs to be embraced.  Not only is everyone else doing it, but, as the article points out, the proper use of technology can end up saving on expenses and maximizing profits—-what lawyers live for.

Reading this reminded me of how the fax machine changed things in the 1980’s.  I still remember the trauma that resulted from being told by a client on the West Coast that a document would be faxed to our office on the East Coast at 10 AM and that the client would call at noon that same day for the analysis and advice.  Two hours to read, digest, strategize and advise!  Up until then, it was unheard of and unimagined.

  Globalization also has changed everything.  Expansion into new international markets requires that lawyers have a deep understanding of the client’s global objectives, that the lawyers possess the skills to either perform in those markets or find trustworthy counsel there, and that lawyers understand the problems in the new markets and how to manage and minimize risk.

These changes are not gender specific, but it occurs to me that women may be the most affected by the changes.  On the positive side, advances in technology will make it easier to carry on practice from remote sites.  Women no longer have to be in the office to be doing their jobs.  For the women who need flexible schedules, this will be a real boon.  Women also may benefit from the alternative fee arrangements that are not based on hourly billing.  Women lawyers with family responsibilities tend to be very efficient, and a fixed fee arrangement may render that efficiency of real value.  On the negative side, however, globalization may lead to increased business travel in multiple time zones, and that is always hard for women with significant home and family responsibilities.

So, even though it is not your father’s legal marketplace, there may be opportunities to make it look more like a mother’s legal marketplace.  Time will tell.





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Thought For The Day

Woman’s at best a contradiction still.

Alexander Pope


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Thought For The Day

An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

Charles Dickens

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What Women Lawyers Can Learn from Downton Abbey

Now, thanks to my lawyer daughter, I am addicted to the PBS series Downton Abbey.  I know—most of the population of American women, especially, have been into Downton Abbey for several years, and I am just now getting around to it.  Well, I have been busy writing a book and keeping Best Friends at the Bar going, and that is the best excuse I can offer.  Except, of course, that I lapse into being a workaholic from time to time—-against my own advice.

And, that, ironically—the workaholic lifestyle— is exactly the theme that I was reminded of as I watched one of the first episodes of DA last night.  (Yes, I have to catch up on ALL the episodes of the first seasons before I can enjoy this season.  So, if I fall off on the blogging in the next week, you will know why.  I will be curled up with Netflix and a glass—or two—of wine seeing what The Dowager Countess of Grantham and her flock are up to.)

You may recall the Season One episode where, in response to Lord Crawley’s question, Matthew, the putative heir, states that he will have ample time to devote to upkeep of the estate in the evenings and “on the weekends.”  Whereupon, the inimitable Dowager Countess, asks “What is a weekend?” (I so wish I was able to type with an accent!  Violet, the Dowager Countess, is so unforgettable, as a controlling, meddlesome and entertaining matriarch.  She is my choice for the character that I would most like to have lunch with—-or tea, I suppose!)

I was amused at the implications of her statement in today’s world.  Yes, indeed, what is a weekend?  Clearly the landed gentry in the Edwardian days of DA did not distinguish week days from weekends because they never had to do any real work on any day.  Weekdays just flowed into weekends, with the only possible distinguishing feature being church on Sunday.

The twist in society of today, however, is that too many lawyers do not distinguish week days from weekends because they work all of the time.  Every day is an “at the office” day for them.

This is not good, and I hope you know it.  It can have grave implications for the lawyers themselves and for their families.  If  you need your memory refreshed, read my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012).  You will find a thorough discussion of the downsides of the workaholic lifestyle in the first chapters, and the remainder of the book addresses how to achieve balance in your life that will lead to satisfying and successful profession and personal lives.

As for me, I have to run.  Time for a little balance in my own life.  I must get in at least four more episodes of DA by the end of the day so that I can attack Season Two tomorrow.


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