The Value of the ABA for Young Lawyers Needs to Meet the “I”

The ABA……ugh….an organization of and for old lawyers.  Really?  That’s what I thought, too, when I was your age.

For most of us just starting out in law, the American Bar Association (ABA) represents an organization that holds meetings in desirable locations, rates lawyers (for better or for worse based on sometimes questionable criteria) and approves far too many new law schools for today’s professional needs.  We always are glad if a law firm is paying our annual ABA membership dues because we cannot see how any of what the ABA does benefits us.

However, that is much too limited a view, and here’s why.

In addition to the many other functions of the ABA, it also produces useful publications to assist young lawyers in practice.  I recently read about some of these publications on the ABA web site, and they are important enough to share with you.

Starting with 100-Plus Pointers for New Lawyers on Adjusting to Your Job, which addresses a wide gamut of issues from working with a new boss to quick fixes for the copy machine, these books are worth the read.  One of my favorites is The Marble and the Sculptor, a thoughtful and no-nonsense treatment of the path from law school to law practice.  Just reading about the five basic mistakes in your first job at a law firm—-and how to avoid them—-is definitely worth your time.

For practical and valuable advice on the complexities and demands of law practice, take a look at Thrive:  A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice.  Not only will you find down-to-earth survival advice, but you also will find tips on how to become a law firm leader.

If you are questioning the values of the profession, A Life in the Law:  Advice for Young Lawyers is for you.  Read about what has inspired lawyers in the past, and what can inspire you, as well.  It should remind you of my article on The Law School Decision on the University of Michigan career web site.

Another favorite of mine is Building Your Ladder:  An Associate’s Guide to Success Beyond Partnership.  It addresses the changing profiles of law firms and fills in the mentorship gaps that law firms are experiencing as they hire fewer associates and try to survive the recession.   In addition, there are also some interesting publications that are specific to litigation and other specialties.

Although I understand that you do not have time to devour all of these resources at one time, especially when you are trying to survive law school and the first years of law practice, I want you to know where to find them when you need them.  Most of them can be downloaded from the ABA web site.

So, mark those that appeal to you among your Favorites, and happy reading—when the time is right!  And, when you are finished with all that, check out the Q and A at the ABA web site for law students and new lawyers.  So much to do!

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Thought For The Day

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

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Thought For The Day

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.
Lao Tzu (600-531)

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Where are the Women Lawyers?

Retention of women lawyers is at the heart of Best Friends at the Bar.  However, how to get that retention right is still a much debated question.  A recent article on Forbes/85 Broads gets it about as right as I have seen—except in the Best Friends at the Bar books, of course!  The focus of the article is on female executives in business, but the overlap with women lawyers makes it great food for thought.

The article starts by moving away from the concept of work-life balance as the traditional focus of retention.  Even though I have written a book on the subject of work-life balance, I applaud the broader view.  I also know that true “balance” is not a realistic goal.  As the article suggests and as I have written, it is all about tradeoffs.  Minimizing the impact of the lack of balance is all we can really hope for.

A focus of the article is on finding ways to mitigate senior women retention challenges by examining how decisions are made within organizations and how problem solving and collaboration takes women’s leadership styles into consideration.  Daring to be different is not enough.  The people around us must recognize those differences and embrace them for the sake of best practices.

Some of the important questions posed in the article have to do with why women leave jobs at the top of their careers, at the height of their expertise, and when their networks are honed and most effective, which allows them to attract clients as never before.  This is a quandary for sure, and the answer suggested by the article has to do with inclusion. You know, that “old saw” about how women need to feel that they are part of the group.  Well, it is true. Women leaders often feel like they are isolated, and those feelings of isolation can be exaggerated after return from maternity leave.  However, it also seems to be a fundamental truth that women need to feel integral to the process and measured outcomes of business (and law)  efforts at most times in their careers.

The solution suggested in this article is to have organization leaders listen to what women need and be responsive.  Since the current research shows that organizations, which have women leaders at the senior level, outperform organizations that are male dominated, you would think this would be a no-brainer for organizations.  After all, isn’t it always about the most healthy bottom line?

As a result of this way of thinking, it becomes a business and strategic imperative to retain senior women—-not a gender issue.  How refreshing.

If you are interested in the specific advice to organizations for improving the female retention issues, read the article.  Most of the solutions involve men listening to women.

That may prove harder than we think, but hope springs eternal.

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 1 Comment

Thought For The Day

Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

Mary Anne Radmacher

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Words of Wisdom from a World Leader

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde appeared as a guest on Meet the Press on Sunday, October 13, to discuss the impact on global financial markets of a possible US default on its debt   Her remarks on that subject were very interesting and prescient because she is a giant as a world leader.  Although her predictions of massive disruption in financial markets all over the world presented serious cause for concern, I expected to hear that.  As a result, it was not those remarks that got my attention as much as her additional remarks about her experiences as a woman in business.

Christine Lagarde is a woman for all of you to watch and to model.  In spite of her significant star power, she is a woman, who has faced many of the same challenges that lie ahead for many of you.  She is a lawyer, specializing in labor and antitrust, and she was the first female chairman of the international law firm Baker & McKenzie.  She has two sons, and she knows a little bit about the work-life challenge.

I was particularly pleased when Meet the Press host, David Gregory, turned the discussion to Ms. Lagarde’s view of the challenges for women in the workplace.  Here is what she identified as the three most important things for young women to remember as they climb the ladder of success in business:

  • Be competent;
  • Rally support from both men and women; and
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Have a sense of humor and grit your teeth and bare some of the challenges you encounter.

This is excellent advice and completely consistent with the messages of Best Friends at the Bar.  Being the best lawyer you can be, including men in the solutions to work-life challenges, choosing your battles on gender issues, and not taking yourself too seriously are core values of the Best Friends at the Bar program.

It is encouraging to be in such impressive company—–for even a fleeting moment in time.  But, I will take what I can get!

You also should take what you can get from the example of Christine Lagarde.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Lifestyle, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

African Proverb

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Endings and Beginnings

Endings and beginnings have been on my mind a lot this week.  As some of you know, our daughter was married last Saturday, and it all came into focus for me.  After 14 months of planning, it was over too quickly.  Every aspect of the preparation came together to create a magical evening, and it was so satisfying to see and to experience.  My inclination was to freeze it in time and to never let it go.  I reluctantly walked away as the table settings were dismantled, the breathtakingly beautiful flowers carted away, the fairy lights removed from the trees and the tent, and the band instruments packed up and made ready for the next gig.  It seemed so sad…..until I remembered that every ending creates a new beginning.

In the context of the wedding, the courtship ended and the engagement began.  The engagement ended and deferred to this glorious wedding.  All in good time, all in its season…..all for good reason.

We need to remember not to be afraid of endings and beginnings.  We need to accept the end of things that either were not meant to be or have lived out their usefulness and reach for new opportunities.  I believe in what the theists say about a door closing and a window opening.  Embrace change and become the master of it.  Make it work to your benefit and always keep an open mind.  New possibilities lie right around the corner.

So, I am trying to remember that today, as I wax nostalgic about a perfect ending and a perfect beginning.  I am lucky because the new beginnings for my family are so comforting and positive.  We could not ask for more.  As parents, we always worry about our children, but we have so very little to worry about. I am blessed, and I know it.  I do not take it for granted.

However, I also have undertaken change that caused me great concern and anxiety.  I know the other side of things……and you will too.  But, take the leap, know when the time is right and do not hesitate to stretch to the next level of your competency and life experience.

On the career side, it may be a change in schools.  It may be a change in practice.  It may be a change in profession.  On the personal side, it may be a change in friends, a change in mates, a change in locations or a change in politics or religion.  These are all doable choices, and change is not the enemy.  Change is what helps you to become what you always were meant to be.

So, know when the time is right and JUST DO IT!  Make a change and savor the possibilities.

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment