Caveat ChatGPT!

This is no joke.  ChatGPT can get you in a lot of trouble unless it is used responsibly.

Ask the federal judge in MD who fined a law firm $5K for including fictitious case references in a brief based on ChatGPT research.  Ask another judge in NY who sanctioned lawyers for the same offense. You do not want to become a case study.

Time is precious. I understand that. Every lawyer would like to cut down on the time it takes to research the law and report that research in memoranda, briefs, opinion letters, etc. It can be very time consuming. Shortcuts like ChatGPT might save you time but can be heavy on costs that definitely are not worth it. Think money and jobs.

So start right here by using your time wisely. Take a few minutes to read this article:

You will come away understanding what ChatGPT is and how to prudently use it and keep yourself out of trouble. For example you will read that:

ChatGPT is NOT a Legal Research Substitute.

But ChatGPT can do a lot of things that can help lawyers responsibly.

Your Ethical Obligations as a lawyer are of paramount concern and must be taken seriously

The author of this article is trying to help you. Be responsible and accept the help!

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Thought For The Week: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Digging Into the Mentorship Relationship

Mentorship in law firms often is interpreted to be guidance from the partner level to the very bottom of the associate ranks. But that is too narrow a definition.

Mentors are present throughout the ranks of law firms and other legal spaces. They are fellow professionals who have valuable legal experience that can benefit others. In law firms, mentors for junior associates can be partners, but they also can be senior associates. Paralegals, who have worked in the same practice areas for years, also can be mentors. And it does not stop at the law firm door. Members of bar associations and other legal organizations also can be very effective mentors.

It is an experience thing, but it is not an age thing. Being willing to accept advice from a variety of fellow professionals, including those who are younger, is something you need to embrace to have access to the best mentors. That can be difficult for some young lawyers, who are caught up in appearances, and you should not allow it to be an impediment for you.

Here is an article about mentorship in small firms that includes some valuable information. Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to personal relationships and professional growth. In fact, bigger firms can make the mentor-mentee relationship more complicated. So reading about how these critical relationships should work in smaller settings may be a good place to start.

You may also want to look at some things I have written about the importance of mentorship in the career development of young lawyers. My most recent book, New Lawyer Launch — The Handbook For Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2022), is a comprehensive mentorship piece that includes mentoring advice from a very impressive group of practicing lawyers and law firm leaders. And my recent article in the DC Bar magazine, Washington Lawyer, is another source available to you.

An effective mentor-mentee relationship can make the difference between success and disappointment in the legal profession. Make sure that you are using all the resources available to you to end up on the right side of that equation.

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Thought For The Week: “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist.” John Steinbeck

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Big Law Is Pulling The Plug on Promises for Blended Approaches to Back-To-Office

All legal news outlets are bursting with the news that Skadden has announced a backtracking of its prior blended model for return to the office in favor of a mandated four days in the office. And, to date, Davis Polk has followed suit.

That is not a huge surprise because when Skadden talks starting salaries, Biglaw often says “how high?” on the way up. It is proven that Skadden sets the bar in that fact setting. But, as pointed out by several reliable legal commenters, approaches to back-to-office differ from salary announcements — because the former is integrally related to law firm culture and involves issues of work-life balance that often attract lawyers to a practice. As a result, changing policies on these issues can have serious backlash effects.

Keep your eyes open for other firms that follow suit with Skadden. My hope is that is will not be many. I am a big supporter of the blend of “in office” and working from home. I know that a certain amount of in office is necessary for effective mentoring and client development, but I also know that commuting at the high cost of mass transit and dedication of time does not make sense in our current professional environment and the advances in technology. When boards of directors are meeting over Zoom, and depositions and hearings are being conducted in similar spaces, it is hard to argue that the business of law cannot effectively use this same technology to successful ends. At least part of the time.

And any talk of a “ding” to profits from a blend that includes working from home is not supported by the facts. Let us not forget that Biglaw INCREASED profits during the pandemic when working from home five days a week was the rule rather than the exception.

Greed should not be driving decisions that are so central to the success of young lawyers in an increasingly complicated world that includes two working parents and very demanding schedules. I have to believe that we can do better.

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Thought For The Week: “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” Albert Camus

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Biglaw Defection: Is This Only the Beginning?

I know young lawyers who have done what you will read about in the link below —— and others who are thinking of doing it.  Their family and personal/professional values no longer align with Biglaw values. Making money for those who already have too much of it — at the risk of fulfilling family values —- does not appeal to many young lawyers today. And family values have never been high on the TO DO lists of Biglaw firms.  

It is a new day —- a very complicated new day for men and women in law practices, especially those with children —- AND law firms are loath to change the way they do business.  The oft-repeated justification for resisting remote practices and demanding 2500 hours or more of billables a year is to increase profits and create new clients.  

There was a time when that may have sufficed as an adequate justification, but then came the pandemic. The pandemic demonstrated that, with the technology available today, those justifications are no longer valid.  Profits in Biglaw did not suffer during the pandemic and, in fact, increased. There was more than enough in the profit pie to keep equity partners in very comfortable lifestyles.

But, as the link below evidences, the importance of profits can be eclipsed.

Case in point is this story of an associate lawyer, who played the Biglaw game for years but turned his back on Biglaw partnership to save his family life.  It is inspiring for me to read this young man’s words.  As a young lawyer/mother, more than 40 years ago, I had no apparent choice. And neither did so many other women lawyers. We took a step back from our professional goals to meet the needs of our families. And it did not end “in the day.” It has been happening to so many women lawyers since.

But, as you will see, decisions like this are no longer gender issues.  They are values issues.  They are family issues. They affect men as well as women. Men also want to spend time with their children. They want to get home in time to kiss their children goodnight. They want to witness as many “growth moments” as possible.

The first word. The first step. Today’s young men understand, just like women have for years, that those moments are precious. Women always have realized that “firsts” are just that and will never be repeated. Thinking that every first can be experienced is unrealistic. But creating a life where experiencing it is more likely than not is, indeed, realistic. It is all about values and tradeoffs.

Here is the link:   

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Thought For The Week: “Never apologize for showing feeling, my friend.” Benjamin Disraeli

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