The Importance of Team Play for All Lawyers

My most recent column in the ABA Journal was published this week and says it all. Read this article for all you need to know about team play. It is essential for success in the practice of law today, and you need to learn to be a team player.

Businesses know this. MBA programs are designed with the team approach in mind. But the law profession has been reluctant to follow suit. However, many of the clients today have C-suites full of young MBAs, and THEY know how effective organizations should be run in this multi-faceted and global business environments. So, it is time that the law profession got with it to do the most effective work and to keep the clients who know better.

Happy reading!

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The Joys of Conservation

Tomorrow is Earth Day. It is always celebrated on April 22nd and has its roots in the student protests surrounding the US involvement in the Vietnam Conflict in the late 1960’s. It was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the great state of my birth, and it led to important US environmental legislation and a global recognition of Earth Day in the 1990’s.

Here are some Earth Day facts to share with your friends:

Senator Nelson founded Earth Day after witnessing a massive oil spill that leaked millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969.

The very first Earth Day sparked an environmental movement and led to the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later that year.

The observation of Earth Day was also influential in passing environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Education Act, and more.

In 2009, the UN designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day.

And it is estimated that over a billion people participate in Earth Day every year, making it the largest secular observance in the world.

Earth Day has become a special day of celebration for me. My family respected the environment and contributed to environmental causes like recycling and water conservation long before it was popular. As children we were taught the importance of these commitments and our responsibilities to get involved.

And concerns for the environment and protection of nature are still very important to me today. The volunteer work that I do as a board member of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust has become a passion, and every acre of land that we protect with tools like conservation easements and fee acquisitions of pristine lands is a cause for celebration. Sometimes it is preservation of a large parcel of land in the Shenandoah Valley, often a farm that has been in a family for generations, and other times it is only a few acres that add to the enjoyment of nature in urban settings in the communities of Northern Virginia bordering Washington, DC. All of these opportunities improve the quality of life for residents of those areas and help reduce the effects of climate change.

Did you know that tree canopies reduce the carbon footprint? Did you know that trees take in carbon and emit oxygen. So every acre of natural forest that is saved is a benefit to climate control. Natural forests also benefit water quality, reduce erosion and provide homes for wild animals.

There is so much that all of us can do in the fight to preserve green spaces and reduce the effects of climate change. Lawyers are naturals for this work because of their advocacy training, knowledge of the legislative process, and understanding of land use issues. So, I encourage you to get involved!

Check out this link to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust to see how your talents can be used there and in similar organizations throughout the country.

Happy Earth Day!

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Thought For The Week: “All things are bound together. All things connect. Whatever happens to the Earth, happens to the children of the Earth.” Chief Seattle

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Young Lawyers, Listen Up! What You Say About Yourself Defines You

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most influential leadership trainers in the country. I have taken his course and am a certified leadership counselor through his organization. I based my book Top Down Leadership for Women Lawyers on much of what I had learned from Marshall.

Below are excerpts from one of his recent blogs on his website. The gist of it is that what you say about yourself through your behaviors and your speech determines whether you receive positive or negative recognition and how successful you will be.

Here is a summary of what Marshall has to say:

My mission is simple. I want to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams. I want to help you make your life a little better.

Start by refusing to define yourself as a jerk. Here’s how it happens.

We all have that relative who is always late. She comes in and says, “Oh I am so sorry, I am always late.” Or, we hear another relative who always makes embarrassing gaffes. He excuses himself saying, “I always say the wrong thing.

In reality, these people who “admit” their mistakes are setting themselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, they are giving themselves permission to always say or do the wrong thing.

The fact is that what we say about ourselves, both positive and negative, defines who we are.

How about the boss who, on the positive side, says things like… “I am usually able to figure these things out,” or “I am dedicated to outworking the competition.”

On the negative side, the boss may say things like…”I am a bad listener” or “I am not detail oriented.”

These little sayings add up to your definition of who you are. They are a group of behaviors that you define as “me.” The more we talk, the more we define our unalterable essence.

Well. Let me alter your perspective.

If we buy into our behavior definition of “me,” which most humans do, we can learn to excuse almost any annoying action by saying, “That’s just the way I am!”

As you read this column, think about your own behavior. How many times does your “need to be me” get in the way of building positive relationships with the important people in your life? How many times have you rationalized inappropriate behavior by saying, “That’s just the way I am!”?

There comes a moment for all of us when change becomes possible, when we realize that stern allegiance to our chosen behavior is pointless vanity. We realize that we are hurting our chances for success.

Shedding the “excessive need to be me” is a defining moment. It’s an interesting equation: less me + more them = more success as a leader.

Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself resisting change because you are clinging to a false, and/or probably pointless, notion of “me.” Free yourself from those behaviors to reach your full potential.

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Thought For The Week: “With so many things coming back in style, I can’t wait until morals, respect and intelligence become a trend again.” – Denzel Washington

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What’s Happening in Law Firms Today?

Law firms are changing. The pandemic has changed just about everything in business, and law firms are no exception. So what are the big changes that law firms and their members are experiencing these days?

The biggest news involves bonuses. The Internet is jumping on an almost daily basis with news of the ongoing bonus war and one more BigLaw firm added to the big bonus list. Even big signing bonuses for associates, sometimes up to six figures.

All of this bonus activity has caused me to wonder what is driving it. After all, the law business has just come through a difficult year where most everyone is working remotely and the brick and mortar offices are sitting empty but very expensive for those firms with long-term leases. On the other hand, most firms are finding that there is no diminution of the quality of the work and profits look good. So it is a bad news, good news analysis.

The answer to this bonus activity appears to lie in the increased lateral movement in large law firms these days. The lateral movement is particularly significant among corporate transactions attorneys, and bonuses are a mechanism that firms use to retain talent and keep clients in place. According to one legal recruiter, “I definitely feel like corporate associate recruiting is the busiest I’ve seen since I’ve started my business.” Another source describes the lateral activity right now as “absolutely absurd.”

So there is that. But it’s hardly a panacea for the increase in mental health issues, stress and burnout in the legal profession during these trying pandemic times. The question will be whether money will solve these problems. My guess is that it will not, but it will keep people in place for the near future and it will be a significant factor in the competition for market leadership.

And there also are other changes in law firms related to the pandemic. With the success of remote practice in terms of law firm profitability and the convenience of working from home for many practicing lawyers, the next challenge I expect is whether the five-day-work-week at the office will survive. According to some sources, law firms are beginning to address the benefits of bringing everyone back to the office full-time. One source reports that offices are being reconfigured with the concept of telecommuting in mind and with a reduction in personal office space in lieu of more collaborative spaces.

And this is likely to create yet another bidding war. One that is about lifestyle not money.

Only time will tell.

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Thought For The Week: Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to. Henry van Dyke

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