Thought For The Week: “One of the keys to longevity is staying away from toxic people.” Maria Branyas Morera, the world’s oldest living person

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Male Law Students Still Objectifying Female Law Students — WHAT!!!!!!!!!

This article should make you wonder what century we are living in. Male law students at one of the top-ranked US law schools rate female law students based on their attractiveness and detract points if the female is deemed too ambitious or too smart. Yes, you read that right. Too ambitious or too smart. All I can say is YUK.

The ranking took place at the University of Texas Law School, which is ranked 17th on the latest US News &World Report. As stated by the partner of one of the female students at UT Law, “It is scary to think that these boys might be future leaders in our judicial system. What an embarrassment.” Hear, hear.

Apparently the spokesperson for UT Law has no comment. No kidding.

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Let’s Not Let Praise Linger Too Long

Rarely do I see a bio of a woman lawyer like this. Yes, there are the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs and the Sandra Day O’Connors and others of their visibility and accomplishments, but none quite like this. None that is as down to earth and yet as lofty at the same time.

To read about a woman who practiced law into her 90’s and became a criminal defense lawyer because she ” thought that facing the unknown and having to think on her feet was heaven” is nothing short of inspiring.

I hope you will take the time to read about Eleanor Jackson Piel. It is true that she lived in a different time and that accomplishing what she did might not be as easy today. My guess is that electronic filing would get a little challenging for a ninety-some year old lawyer today. But the true grit and determination of this woman are timeless.

But, as the article asks, why should someone like Eleanor Jackson Piel have to die for her accomplishments to be heralded far and wide? Why shouldn’t those threads of greatness be celebrated while she is alive and can appreciate the value others see in her accomplishments?

Although there is nothing we can do about the slow recognition in the case of Ms. Piel, we can do something about the senior lawyers with great accomplishments under their belts who we interface with every day. We can let them know how appreciated they are and how grateful we are to breathe their same air and learn from them. We can acknowledge their value to the young lawyers who, too often, wander the halls clueless and afraid to ask for help until that salient moment when a lawyer like Eleanor Jackson Piel approaches to say, “Can I help you?”

I hope you have such a salient moment, and I hope you handle it well by taking advice and returning praise and thanks.

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Some Good News/Bad News on Friday The Thirteenth

It’s Friday the Thirteenth today. Although I am not a superstitious person, I also am not into avoiding the obvious. And the obvious to me is that some good news is a good thing on Friday the Thirteenth. Even if it comes with some bad news as well.

According to Above The Law and based on a Thomson Reuters’ 2023 Report on the State of the Legal Market, “the average number of hours worked per month YTD across all lawyers last year” has tanked. Thomson Reuters does its annual state of the legal market review in January of each year as a look-back on the previous year, and that means that the study addresses the average number of hours worked per month by all lawyers across the profession in 2022. That number was at a two-decade low. 119 hours worked per month to be exact.

The report states that “In the latter part of 2022 and continuing into the new year, multiple challenges have emerged to threaten law firm profitability, including falling demand and productivity, rising expenses, changing client preferences, and economic turmoil.” That is a lot to unwrap.

Especially interesting is the decline in 2022 in profits per equity partner (PPEP), something that is VERY important to law firm management and leadership. The explanation is that the decline is related to the reduction in transactional work, which had become the driver of demand throughout 2021 and the early part of 2022.

What was not addressed at any length in the report is that many law firms continued to add new lawyers at sometimes unprecedented rates during that same time frame. So the additional bad news for associate lawyers is that layoffs may increase as firms struggle with budgetary constraints.

But there also is some good news hidden in all of this. The good news is that law firms may be forced to adjust to more realistic billable hour requirements to protect the talent they have and be prepared for the economic upsurge and increased demand for legal services which, predictably, is in the future.

For example, if a firm has become accustomed to requiring 2200 billable hours a year from associates, that computes to approximately 183 billable hours per month. And that is billable hours, not hours worked as addressed in the Thomson Reuters report. There is a very big difference between 119 hours worked and 183 hours billed.

Any serious adjustments to those billable hour requirements, based on realistic economic expectations, could help bring firms into healthier workplace balances. Such improved workplace balances would enhance the health and well being, both physically and mentally, of the talented young lawyers at the bottom of the leveraging models. And firms might finally understand how important that kind of healthy balance is to maintaining a satisfied and successful workforce.

I would like to think that there is some opportunity for these kinds of adjustments and improvements that have been deemed necessary in the past by many law profession observers. But such an end result would require equity partners and other law firm leaders to take the long view and protect talent at the risk of the huge PPEs they have become accustomed to. That would be a major leap forward for the profession.

Waiting and seeing is all we can do. There is a lot on the line.

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Thought For The Week: “Exuberance is beauty.” William Blake

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How About Those New Year’s Resolutions?

The truth is that I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Most of them go by way of the dinosaurs and no one seems to care whether you keep them or not.

What I do care about is focusing on what matters to you as a person, as a professional and as a lawyer as we turn the page on yet another year. There is a lot to be said about reflection. Although I am not hung up on legacies, I do believe in identifying goals and objectives and making a difference in whatever arena you choose.

If you are having trouble focusing and identifying goals and objectives, let me offer you a role model to help you get there. Read about this woman lawyer, who bucked the odds and proved all the naysayers wrong. Read about her remarkable career and life that ended recently. If it does not inspire you, I do not know what will.

And you don’t have to be a woman lawyer to identify with some of the challenges faced by Eleanor Jackson Piel. Male lawyers today are facing challenges of their own as they find themselves outside the diversity pushes and in the minority of law school entering classes. All has not gone their way, either.

So take a page out of Ms. Piel’s book. At least read a page out of the book of her life and her legal career that lasted into her 90’s. Here’s the link.

Happy reading. And Happy New Year.

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The New Book is Out!

My new book, New Lawyer Launch: The Handbook for Young Lawyers, was released earlier this week by Full Court Press, an imprint of Fastcase. According to those familiar with the content, it is a must read for recent law school grads, young associates, and senior lawyers who act as mentors.

The subjects covered include a candid explanation of what you can and cannot expect from law practice, an expansive discussion of the do’s and don’ts for entry level lawyers, information on making transitions within and outside law practice, and much more. With a very strong group of contributors, including law firm leaders as well as millennial lawyers, the content is rich and reads like a self help book by people who really care about your success.

Check it out. To purchase the electronic version of the book and to pre-order the print version direct from the publisher, click this link: https://www.fastcase.com/product/new-lawyer-launch-the-handbook-for-young-lawyers/.  It is that easy.

The electronic version will make a great holiday present, and the print version, which will be released in early January, will make a great new year’s present. If you are purchasing it as a gift, be assured that it will instantly convey the message that you care about the professional future of a young lawyer.

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Thought For The Week: Happy Holidays! Cherish your family and friends as you celebrate.

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