Be Aware of Warning Signs of Instability in Young Lawyers

The facts shared this week via an open letter from the widow of a Sidley lawyer were shocking and heartbreaking.  The suicide of a 42-year-old partner in the LA office raised many issues of our responsibilities as lawyers to our colleagues.

It was discovered too late that this suicide victim suffered from a form of perfectionism that created so much pressure, anxiety and insecurity that the only way out seemed to be to take his own life.  If those facts came as a complete shock to everyone around him, that would give those of us in the profession some relief.  It would give us comfort to know that no one could have known.

But, that does not appear to be the case.  It has been reported that his behavior at the office had changed.  He had stopped laughing, he became more isolated, and he was showing outward signs of extreme stress.  Yet, no one looked further than to wonder about his behavior.  No one brought it to the attention of management to get him the help he needed.  No one understood the gravity of the situation.

And that is not to blame them.  It is just to say that they did not understand that it could end so badly.

We all must keep our antennae up for changes in behavior that could evidence deep-seeded and potentially harmful problems among those we work with and those we live with.  Ours is a stressful profession, at best, and most of us learn to deal with the stress. But that is not the way it works for some people, particularly young lawyers, who view getting help with issues of mental health and addiction as shameful and threatening to job security.  Stress is an insidious actor that brings out the worst in people.  We all need to be aware of our own well-being and the well-being of those we value.

It is because cases like this have become more common in our legal spaces that the American Bar Association recently identified an initiative centered on addressing mental health and addiction issues in our profession.  All law firms and law organizations should take advantage of the research and resources to raise awareness and be prepared to help those at risk among us to the greatest extent possible. 

We need to work together for a time when finding out too late is not the only option.

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

Thank You to all the Veterans!

Thank you for the sacrifice.  Thank you for the example.  Thank you for the leadership.  Thank you for loving our country enough to put your lives at risk.

Thank you to my father.  Thank you to my husband.  Thank you to my friends.

Thank you to your fathers, your husbands, your brothers, your friends.  And thank you to many of you who served.

We never will forget.

Career Counselors | Comment

Women Lawyers and Millennials Among Big Winners in November 2018 Election

Women and millennials were some of the big winners in congressional and gubernatorial elections yesterday.  Record numbers of both women and millennials participated at the grass roots of campaigns and added energy to the political process that has not been seen in recent elections.  They organized, they knocked on doors, they canvased, and they showed up at the polls.  It was exciting — no matter what side of the aisle you support.

And at least 30 women were elected to congressional seats for the first time.  Similar to millennials, the newly-elected women lawmakers, display very diverse backgrounds.  There are women of color, women of varying religious and cultural backgrounds, a native American woman, the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, and at least one lesbian.  In addition to these future congresswomen, women made historic strides in gaining governorships throughout the country.

In all, more than 115 women won their races out of the 276 women on ballots handed out to voters at polling stations yesterday.  Ninety-five of those 115 will be seated in the House of Representatives in January 2019.  Eleven of those women won seats in the Senate, and nine of them won gubernatorial races.  That is a lot of woman power!

And some of these newly-elected women also are lawyers.  Jennifer Wexton gained a seat in the House of Representatives in my own district in Virginia and was joined by other first-time lawyer/congresswomen in Michigan, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  They will add to the approximate 38% and 57% of the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, who also are lawyers. And women/lawyers also were elected governors in Michigan, Maine and New Mexico.

A legal education is an excellent foundation for lawmakers.  Not only do lawyers understand the legislative process, but they also are very effective advocates for the less fortunate and the wronged.

That is why women lawyers make great leaders in Congress and in Governor’s mansions and in state legislatures.  Bravo to all of these women.

And bravo to the millennials, young people who have discovered that they can make a difference — and are doing it.

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Thought For The Day: GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!

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The Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter was Mailed Today!

My September/October 2018 Best Friends at the Bar newsletter gives you a lot to think about.  It was mailed today to my mailing list.  If you are not on that list, you can sign up on my website.  Or you can read it at on the Best Friends at the Bar Facebook page or on Twitter at ssmithblakely.  Lots of options.

From information about my new book for and about millennial lawyers, to a discussion of gender issues, to the importance of mentoring, you will find something of interest in this most recent edition.  I just heard from a Big Law partner friend of mine who particularly liked, “Be who you needed when you were younger” in the discussion about mentoring.

It seems that too many senior lawyers have forgotten what it was like when they started practicing.  This particular friend and I were colleagues in our first law firm, and we tried our first case together in the early 1980’s.  He reminded me recently how lucky we were to have senior lawyers who mentored us, had interest in our careers, and had enough confidence in us to give us access to clients and interesting and challenging work.

Times were different then.  The was no Internet and no West Law or similar services available on line.  We read hard-backed legal reporters, treatises and hornbooks, and we hung out in the law firm library doing it.  We were not confined to small offices and cubicles, isolated and forgotten and staring at computer screens.  There was a camaraderie among young lawyers that helped them to stem the tide.  We talked to each other about our challenges, and we helped each other to overcome them.

I am not yearning for yesteryear.  I know better than that.  I also understand that we did not have word processors at the beginning of my practice, we had no computers, there was no FAX, and cell phones were years away from the market.  But what we lacked in technology, we made up in human interaction.  There is a lot to be said for that.

It does not have to be an all or nothing.  I embrace the technology, but I also would like to see us return to the values that were the underpinnings for the kind of human interaction that demonstrated itself as respect, caring, and an interest in collegiality and community spirit.  Those values should not be mutually exclusive with technological advances and global practice.  They are basic — or at least they should be.  My bet is that we are going to find returning to them the only way to save us from the negative effects of money, power and greed that have overtaken our profession and choked out the goodness.

If any of this resonates with you, do yourself a favor and get a copy of What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018).  The stories I tell there might be a call to action for you and others.  At least I hope so.





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Review of My New Book in Virginia Lawyer Magazine

See the review of my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers) in the October edition of the Virginia Lawyer magazine.  The review, on page 52, states:

“Blakely offers advice on retaining millennial lawyers, improving outdated firm cultures, and how millennials might best fit into current environments.” 

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Thought For the Day: Never, never, never give up. SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL

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LSAT Haters: Listen Up

Everyone hates the LSAT, and that is the way we like it.  Hating people is not good — in fact it is very, very bad — but hating tests is OK.  So many former LSAT takers are very happy hating this ridiculous test (which only predicts success in the first semester of law school), and we want our bad memories left in tact.

But, now we are told that the LSAT has a benefit beyond giving some people an edge toward law school acceptance.  The benefit approach is just plain not fair or productive in the hating process.

Here’s the scoop.  A recent article cites research to support that the LSAT can actually make you smarter.  Yes.  You read that right.  Smarter.  Apparently neurons start firing better and more effectively when studying for and taking the LSAT, and response times are reduced while answering the many annoying questions during the test and test review.

You would think it would be just the opposite and that the neurons would just doze off and try to sleep through the entire miserable experience.  These researchers must be looking at some really tough or really bored neurons.

So, all you LSAT haters need to listen up.  You may need to mend your hating ways.  In fact, if you want to get really smart, study for and take an LSAT several times each year.  Even if you are already through law school and practicing law.  You either want to get smarter or you don’t.  No pain, no gain.

Study those fact patterns 24-7, and see how smart you get.  The results will be so impressive.  You will walk taller, talk smarter, and feel superior to almost everyone.  You may even want to have a t-shirt made with your highest LSAT score and your IQ printed on both the front and the back.  That way, no one will miss this important message.

Of course, be ready for the dark side.  Really smart people are not that much fun to hang with.  So, your friends, who do not want to indulge in deductive reasoning while sitting at a jazz bar, will abandon you.  You no longer will be invited to join the gang at sporting events because they will remember you screaming “The answer is definitely the inverse” the last time when everyone else was cheering “Go Bears.”

And, it does not stop there.  Your family will forget the “family first” policy, and there will be no chair for you at Thanksgiving dinner.  And the people at the office … well, they thought you were weird to begin with, so no hope there.

Or you could be satisfied to be an LSAT hater.  For ever and ever.  The percs are great.  Fun people.  Fun times.  Fun life.

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