As many of you know, each year I take the month of August off from most Best Friends at the Bar activities to concentrate on friends and family. This year I am spending much of that time planning our daughter’s October wedding and getting our son launched to begin law school in August.  All very exciting!

Although I will not be blogging regularly in August, I will continue to send you interesting and relevant content on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.  AND, I will be back full steam ahead and renewed in September with lots of new thoughts on your careers and helping you to make them as successful and satisfying as possible.

Good luck to those of you writing bar exams today (keep the faith!), and I hope that you, my loyal readers, will all enjoy the end of the Summer and an exciting Fall.

See you on the Best Friends at the Bar blog again soon,


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Thought For The Day

Take control of your destiny. Believe in yourself. Ignore those who try to discourage you. Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. Don’t give up and don’t give in.

Wanda Hope Carter

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Are You an Effective Team Leader?

There is a lot of talk about the importance of developing leadership skills and becoming a leader, but what does that mean?  What makes one person an effective team leader and another person a “not so much?”  In order to walk the walk, we must pin that down.

I have been in a position of leadership most of my life in the law—-leadership among my fellow associates in the law firm, leadership on a trial team, leadership as a Chief of Staff in the public sector, and leadership as a partner in a law firm directing junior lawyers.  Leadership can be easily spotted when it is developed and matured, but how you get there is another matter.

In a recent article for Multibriefs, editor Liz Murphy comes about as close to my concept of leadership as I ever could imagine.  For me, she nails it.  It does not matter much whether we are talking about leadership in law or in business, becoming an emotionally intelligent and intuitive leader requires that you:

  • Communicate clear expectations:  Outline what you expect from your team and give team members the structure they need to accomplish your expectations.  Each time you bring on a new team member, review the expectations, and reinforce the expectations at team meetings and in conversations with team members;
  • Lead by example:  Embody the expectations you have for others.  Simply stated, practice what you preach.  If punctuality is important to you, be on time.  If preparation for team meetings is important to you, come prepared;
  • Promote consistent and open dialogue:  Take the time to get to know team members and make yourself accessible and approachable.  Encourage and solicit questions, and let team members know that you are open to new ideas and innovation;
  • Identify and engage “out groups”:  Inevitably, there will be some team members who disengage from the team, either for reasons of performance anxiety, lack of comfort with team members or a variety of other causes.  It is your job as the team leader to engage the out group members, listen to their issues, give them a voice and empower them to re-engage;
  • Avoid “gotcha” moments:  People rarely like surprises, especially when it comes to their performance.  Do not wait for the traditional quarterly reviews to engage people on what they are doing to accomplish team objectives.  Share with your team on a regular basis how the team is performing, and encourage one-on-one conversations about individual performance;
  • Be their champion:  Spotlight the accomplishments of individuals as well as the team as a whole.  Recognizing success is key to continual accomplishment.  Showing your confidence as a team leader will motivate team members to greater excellence; and
  • Let our team take the wheel:  Identify unique skills among your team members, and let them take the lead in those areas.  When the goals are accomplished, get out of the way, and let your team create and innovate.

Leadership is not only necessary to upward mobility, it also is fun and rewarding.  Perfect these leadership skills, and the sky is the limit!

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Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 1 Comment

Thought For The Day

Example has more followers than reason.

Christian Nestell Bovee

Thought For The Day | Comment

Thought For The Day

Example has more followers than reason.

Christian Nestell Bovee

Thought For The Day | Comment

Embarking on Your Judicial Clerkship

These days I am thinking a lot about judicial clerkships—for two reasons.  First, because I wish I had done one so many years ago when I was preparing to graduate from Georgetown Law and hiring women in government was getting a lot of attention.  Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (US Supreme Court, 1978), the seminal affirmative action case, had just been decided, and reverse discrimination and affirmative action issues were very much on the minds of employers–especially government employers.  There were some wonderful new opportunities for women in those days, and I wish I had pursued a federal court clerkship at the time.  There is only one opportunity for this in most legal careers, and you have to grab that brass ring when it comes your way.

The other reason gives hope to the “second chance” theory.  Although it will not be me experiencing a federal court clerkship, it will be my daughter, and for that I am both proud and grateful.  Her clerkship begins in August, and I am very excited for her.  Judicial clerkships are great learning experiences and have benefits throughout a legal career, from skills learned, to salary enhancements, to unparalleled networking and career opportunities.

I expect that many of you are in this same situation, and I applaud your choices and your hard work in getting chosen for these highly coveted clerkships.  Go in with your eyes wide open and be hungry for information.  Learn everything you can because, in most cases, you only will have one year to learn it.  That year will go by very fast, and you want to make the most of it.

This is what you can expect.  You will start out in a Training Program of some sort, where you, as the incoming clerk, will overlap with the outgoing clerk.  The objective of these training programs is to provide the judge with the smoothest transition possible between law clerks.  The length of these training sessions will vary and often are dependent on the court’s financial resources, but a week shadowing the outgoing clerk is pretty standard.  Be aware that the outgoing clerk has a lot on his or her mind, like getting ready for the new job, finding the new apartment, salvaging some beach time before the new start date, etc.  So, you will have to listen carefully and not waste the outgoing clerk’s time.  Too many unnecessary questions will probably sour the conversation and gain you a not-so-glorious reputation in chambers early on.

Some things you should hope will be addressed during your training program are:

  • The ethical responsibilities of your position;
  • Familiarity with the local rules;
  • Drafting general orders; and
  • Accessing legal definitions, frequently referenced judicial standards, and often-cited opinions through the on-line service available to the court.  These and other issues related to training judicial law clerks are discussed in a recent Ms. JD blog that you may find interesting and helpful.

August and September, and even part of October, can be times of great learning for you.  Act like Sponge Bob—or Sponge Betty— and soak up everything you can before you get preoccupied with interviewing for jobs following your clerkship.  It will become a difficult and demanding schedule as you go further into the fall recruiting period, and you will be challenged to keep up with the responsibilities of the court and plan your next career move simultaneously.  But, you are the best of the best, and you can do it.  That is why you were selected for these prestigious positions.

Good luck to all of you who are about to embark on judicial clerkships.  You chose well and you did well.  So did the judge in choosing you.

Remember that as your confidence wanes as you encounter new and unfamiliar tasks.  Nothing in law school prepared you for much of this.  That is why they call it a learning curve—because, like a curve on the highway, it can be hard to negotiate.  But you are up to the task!

Career Counselors, Law Students, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | 1 Comment

Thought For The Day

When you have a sense of your own identity and a vision of where you want to go in your life, you then have the basis for reaching out to the world and going after your dreams for a better life.

Stedman Graham

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You ARE Ready for the Bar Exam—Break a Leg!

Many of you will be taking the bar exam next week, and you probably are involved in last week drills and not reading this blog.  That would be the appropriate choice!

However, those of you, who are not sitting for the bar exam, have plenty of time to send a message of encouragement to your friends who are facing that challenge next week.  Just a text message or a brief voice mail message can mean a lot and will be appreciated.  If you have been in their shoes, you will identify with them and remember that a positive attitude goes a long way.

Remind them of all their past successes and tell them that you have great confidence in them.  Most of all, tell them that you will be thinking of them.  The bar exam will be over soon, and it is nice to remind your friends that you are looking forward to spending time with them again.  The best part of summer is left, and it will help them to know that good times will begin to roll for them again.

Here is my best advice to pass on to them if you have the opportunity:

  •   Get a good night’s sleep each night before the exam, and be confident.  A positive attitude goes a long way;
  • It is a marathon and not a sprint.  Treat it like one.  Clear your head, be steady, keep up the pace, and round that next corner with confidence;
  • Do not second guess all of your answers and obsess about them after the exam.  First of all, it is hard to recall just exactly how the question was phrased—especially on the multi-state exam—and that kind of obsessing can seriously erode your confidence.  Over analyzing is rarely a good idea, and it is certainly not a good idea when you have to keep up your spirits and energy for another day of testing;
  • Don’t discuss the exam with others who are taking it.  Most of them will not give you candid responses about how they feel or how they think they are doing.  They are trying to hide their fears just like you are; and
  • Do something that will relax you after each day of testing.  Take a walk, get an ice cream cone, sit by the water.  Take deep breaths and remember that you did well in law school and you know a lot of stuff.  You worked hard to prepare for this exam, and your job is to give it your best shot.  Don’t let anxiety get in the way of that goal.

Loved ones deal with the bar exam ordeal differently.  My mother tied a quilt each time one of her children wrote a bar exam, thinking of them continuously throughout her stitching.  I prayed and sent positive mental energy each hour on the hour when my daughter was writing both the New York and the New Jersey bar exams.  The good news is that these very different approaches worked just fine.  Everyone passed.  Different strokes for different folks, and I hardly can imagine myself tying a quilt!

So, tell your friends to break a leg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am pulling for them and for you—- if you are listening!

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