Thought For The Week: “You will either step forward into growth or you will step backward into safety.” Abraham Maslow

Thought For The Day | Comment

Big Law Raises and the Impact on Young Lawyers

It is a frenzy, and the lawyer websites are full of it. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Big Law is going crazy with raising salaries for associates and luring lateral hires with Big Money and flexible terms. That includes unprecedented starting salaries and finder’s fees for additional lawyers lateral hires can help lure over. It also includes terms which allow new hires to work exclusively from home or remotely — even from other geographic locations.

Sounds good, right. All that money. All the flexibility. It is very tempting to young lawyers, especially those with huge student loan debt hanging over their heads, and I totally get it. Take advantage of the moment.

But I hope that the young lawyers who are caught up in this hiring frenzy will be strategic once they become firm members. I hope that they will look at firm policies and programs, billable hour requirements, and cultures to determine whether it is a good place to develop a career and also to have a balanced lifestyle. I hope they will remember that a job is different from a career. Careers includes mentoring, leadership training, exposure to clients, reasonable and equitable opportunities for upward mobility, respect for families … and the list goes on and on.

Time will tell how this hiring frenzy pans out in terms of talent retention. My gut tells me that the firms are seizing the day to be competitive and that maybe they are not as committed to creating opportunities and building careers for all these seats they are filling to continue the record profits they reported in 2020.

That is a lot to think about. Keep up your contacts outside the firm for that rainy day that may be in your future. Some times things are not exactly as they first appear.

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

Thought For The Week: “Patience is not simply the ability to wait — it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Joyce Meyer

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Beware of Ransomware

We read about it in the newspapers and on TV, but we think it never can happen to us. But it can. Hackers demanding ransom are not just fishing for big fish like corporations and big businesses. They also are fishing for the little guys, who they can shake down and score on.

It has happened to friends and colleagues, and it has happened to me. The solutions are complicated, anxiety creating and expensive.

Computer thieves come at you in conniving ways, they gain your trust, and they wear you down until you make even the smallest mistake. Then they are into your computer and poised to make your life miserable and put your resources at risk.

Do not give strangers your personal information. Do not share screens with strangers. Do not trust what strangers are telling you in e-mails, on the Internet or in any other way that will allow them access to your personal information. Including your bank accounts. And your investment portfolio. And your credit card accounts. And your Social Security information. And the list goes on and on and on.

Clean up your computer so that, if you do get hacked, you are not as vulnerable as you may be at this time. Paper files worked just fine in the day, and they can work just fine now. You owe it to yourself and all those people you communicate with through your computer who do not want to become part of the problem.

Many of you are in large law firms and government agencies where training on computer security issues is standard, frequent, and required. So it is a little easier for you to be tech savvy. But just as many of you are in small firms and businesses where you do not have the luxury of that kind of training. For you, it is trial and error. And the errors can be very costly.

So, be smart. Be cautious. Be secure.

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

Thought For The Week: “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Boese

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Young Lawyers: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Recently I read a piece which was prepared as advice to young black women lawyers but has a broader application beyond that group. The piece addresses the right questions to ask when interviewing with a firm in this post-pandemic world. Experiences with COVID-19 have changed so much in our society, and that certainly is true when it comes to the post-pandemic practice of law.

You cannot assume that some of what you learned about interviewing pre-pandemic will any longer hold true. One of the most far-reaching changes in law firms, that of remote work, is especially important for firms with offices located in highly-populated urban areas where many of the firm members must rely on overcrowded mass transit for commutes.

Allowing firm members to work from home — or from Starbuck’s — has been the solution for many firms, and also has proven to be very profitable. So, it will be no surprise if remote work continues as at least a partial option into the future. As attractive as the opportunity to work remotely appears to many lawyers, it also presents significant challenges for new hires in terms of integration into a family of lawyers. And those challenges cannot be overlooked.

The essay, which was written for the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, is based on the author’s experiences interviewing during the pandemic when everything, including meeting new colleagues and clients, communication with colleagues, clients, and staff, and developing rapport with members of those cohorts was done remotely. She emphasizes the “two-way” street of responsibility for positive outcomes and the importance of keeping new hires engaged to assure successful assimilation — and, I would add, to retain talent.

This is very sound advice and will continue to be important as “new normals” develop in law firms. So, here are the questions you should be asking (with a bit of editing on my part):

1. How has the firm handled the transition from office to remote work?
2. How are partners maintaining communication with associates?
3. How is the effective communication achieved between lawyers and support staff?
4. What does the firm do to ensure employees stay connected?

Asking questions in advance can alleviate a lot of pain down the road. Be prepared!

Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Week: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure that a few of them are dirt.” John Muir

Career Counselors, Thought For The Day | Comment

When A Benefit Is Not Really a Benefit

A law firm employment benefit is something of value that is conferred on or available to an employee or firm member by an employer and is a term of employment — either at the beginning of employment or added at a later date. It typically is something that the employee or firm member otherwise could only get or would have to pay more for.

Think health insurance. Although the employee or firm member has to pay the health insurance premiums, the employee or firm member typically is part of a large group and, therefore, “benefits” from lower premiums than if that employee or firm member went out and shopped other healthcare plans.

Also think flexible work schedules. No one but your employer can give that to you, and it can confer a huge amount of value to an individual employee or firm member.

An article earlier this year in Above the Law announced a new “benefit” from a top Big Law firm. Here is how the benefit was described:

It’s now easier for those at the firm to save for future education costs. The firm recently announced a new benefit for employees, a 529 College Savings Plan which allows folks to start saving for those educational expenses through automatic payroll deductions.

Sounds good. But wait a minute. Is it really a “benefit”?

529 education savings plans are ubiquitous and are available through many state-sponsored programs. If you are not familiar with these plans, which are named for the section of the IRS code that enables them, you should Google it. People in all walks of life and varied circumstances are able to participate in these plans through their state governments.

So, unless I am mistaken, the “benefit” announced by this Big Law firm, a program that employees and firm members can use to save for their kids’ educations, provides nothing more than what employees and firm members already have available through similar programs. And any “benefit” conferred is simply an automatic payroll deduction. Not much of a benefit in the large scheme of things.

Do your homework. Get savvy. Do not be fooled by things that are labeled “benefits” and do not confer true value to you. And for sure do not accept those things in lieu of compensation. It is not apples for apples.

Labeling things as “benefits” can be a shell game, and you do not want to play.

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