Thought For The Day: Turn your wounds into wisdom. OPRAH WINFREY

Career Counselors | Comment

The College Admissions Scandal and the Importance of Values to All Young Lawyers

The current college admissions scandal.  How awful.

Not that we did not suspect lack of fair play in college admissions.  We all are aware of the legacy preferences and how the issues of societal inequities play out in this setting, but the magnitude of the alleged criminal behavior and its impact on applicants nationwide is nothing short of disgusting — and very predictable.  It was only a matter of time before the misplaced motives of helicopter parents reached such a low.

Coincidentally, my new book addresses the erosion of values in the legal profession, specifically the current toxic cultures of many large law firms.  In What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018, I discuss the respectable values that have been lost or seriously ignored in our profession for too long and the resurgence of those values in the most recent generations of lawyers.  I also discuss the destructive behavior of helicopter parents.

This recent scandal confirms my suspicions that the lessons of that book have a larger application beyond the profession of law.  The values discussed in What Millennial Lawyers Want include honor, respect, compassion, and service to others, values that are resurfacing in the Millennial Generation and in millennial lawyers today.  The recent scandal should serve to increase an awareness of the importance of those values.

Fortunately, the behaviors involved in the college admissions scandal are not typical of any generation.  The players in this scandal are from a tiny segment of society that most of us will never know.  They are from a small pocket of elitism and entitlement that most members of society do not identify with and cannot even imagine.  The behaviors are selfish and destructive on multiple levels and have so many offensive and reprehensible layers, including the layer of betrayal of what it means to be compassionate, honorable and responsive to the needs of others.

And now, as if to add insult to injury, students at Stanford and other schools with alleged connections to this scandal, have filed suit claiming that their educational experiences will be devalued by the scandal.  That somehow they are the injured parties instead of opportunists jumping in to take advantage of any benefit they see for themselves.

These new litigants have lost their way and display the same selfish attitudes as those caught up in the scandal.  They are not the harmed, but their attempts to portray themselves in that manner expose the degree to which the values in our society have eroded.

We must reclaim the positive values that once were the bedrock of our society.   We hear that message in the political arena on a daily basis, but too often we feel powerless to do anything about it.  But powerless in the political arena is different from being powerless in our own lives and professions.

So, let the effort to reclaim proven values begin with the lawyers, whose ethical considerations and cannons of behavior once meant something.  Let it begin with the lawyers, who are required to study ethics in law school and are tested on ethical behavior on bar exams because truth and admirable behavior is what we should expect of ourselves.

There is no need in our profession for devising an effective code of behavior.  We already have one.  All we have to do is dust it off and live up to it — and require that same commitment by our law firms and institutions.

Don’t waste your time on the super elite and entitled.  The criminal justice system will take care of them — at least until the next time.

There is plenty of work for all of us right here below the stratosphere.

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

Celebrating Sisterhood

I am a proud member of Delta Gamma sorority, an international fraternity that celebrates its founding on this day each year.  Founded on March 15, 1873 by three visionary students at a women’s college in Mississippi, the mission was identified as “rendering service to others.”

That mission drew me to the group when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin so many years ago.  The Omega chapter at UW was one of the first chapters of Delta Gamma and still is going strong today.

Proof of the lasting effect of sisterhood, I will gather soon with more than 15 of my dearest friends from my Delta Gamma days at UW for our annual “women only” retreat.

Although sororities do not occupy the same place on many college campuses today, that is understandable.  Times change.  Attitudes change.  Needs change.

But support for women by women does not change, and it is not limited to sororities.  It can be found in a variety of settings, and it still is extremely important in our profession and in society at large.  That message is key to my writing and speaking as part of the Best Friends at the Bar project, and I believe it is fundamental to our successes as women in all aspects of our lives.

Quite simply, women supporting women is something we all can and must do.

Here’s to the women of Delta Gamma.  Thanks for the important part you play in my life.

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

Thought For The Day: The first duty of love is to listen. PAUL TILLICH

Career Counselors, Thought For The Day | Comment

How Much Worse Can It Get for Millennial Lawyers?

Yes, we expect a lot of millennial lawyers.  And we should.  They are paid high salaries, and they need to accept that the early years of practice at law firms are taxing.  New job.  New specialization.  New culture.

But, millennial lawyers also should expect a lot of law firm leaders.  Career development.  Mentoring.  Inclusion as part of the team.  In other words, these young lawyers have a right to expect behavior with more than a touch of humanity.

My new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen, 2018)  is all about these concepts.  I explore questions that center around whether the law firm leadership or the millennials lawyers are responsible for the generation divide in law firms today.  So, after all the research I have done, I thought I had heard it all.

Until I read in this article that a law firm is suing an associate, who departed after one year, for breach of contract and damages that amount to at least $10,000.  Although it appears to be true that the associate had signed a three-year contract, this action by the law firm is still astounding.  I hope she has some strong defenses.

In the speeches I give about the millennial generation and millennial lawyers, I typically tell audiences of senior lawyers, “We are better than this,” in describing the way that law firms are failing young lawyers today.  So, I say here, “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS.”

It is hard to imagine what lack of wisdom went into the decision to put an associate lawyer under contract in the first place and then to sue a departed associate for breach of that contract.   It is hard to imagine how the law firm could not understand that, no matter the outcome, the law firm will lose in the court of public opinion.  It is hard to imagine how the law firm thought this would end well.

This is not professional behavior.  This is not compassionate behavior.  This is not honorable behavior.  This is behavior that lends to the reputations of greed that abound in the profession. 

This is stupid.  Some times you just have to call it what it is.

Young lawyers beware.  There are predators lurking in the weeds.  I hope those predators have the good sense to put more money into the recruiting budget for future years.  Sounds like they’ll need it.

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

All Lawyers Need to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.  I hope you are celebrating being a woman or having a wonderful woman at your side.

Today we remember that we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go in terms of equal opportunity, equal pay, implicit bias, and respect.  Even equal protection comes to mind as we are reminded of the recent disclosures by Senator Martha McSally — women are not protected adequately within the military ranks any more than they are protected in society at large.  Sexism is still baked in the cake of our culture, and we must keep our eyes on the prize of eliminating it.

Equal Pay is an important part of the goals for advancement of women.  It is key to women taking their places in the top levels of leadership and management.  Women at the top of organizations have a lot more opportunity than women at lower echelons to have significant influence on improving policies for women at law firms and in the public sector, as well.

And women must prove to be supportive of each other and push for the changes that are necessary.  Women cannot afford to be competitive and envious of each other.  We all must join together for the changes that are needed to take our profession forward and to bring about the equality that women deserve — no matter what our individual experiences have been.  Women supporting women is the only way it will happen.

We also must be careful not to make our male colleagues the enemies.  We must understand that it gets us nowhere.  We cannot do to them what they did to us, and we cannot assume that they did it intentionally.  But we will know that, if we discriminate against them today, we will be doing it intentionally — because we have benefited from years of education about discrimination and bias that many of them did not have.  I have written about this recently in the ABA Journal, and I recommend that article to you.

And, we need to be practical.  As the leaders at the top of most law firms and law organizations, our male colleagues are still in control of our opportunities and upward mobility.  We will gain nothing by playing into our desires to win the battle without caring about winning the war.

As we hope for greater advancement for women lawyers, we also must have perspective.  We must understand that we are part of a historical narrative that goes back a long way.  Those of us who entered the law profession as long ago as 40 and 50 years past, have needed to keep perspective to survive.  We are happy that women lawyers today are not forced to forfeit opportunities because male lawyers do not want to travel with them.  We are happy that women lawyers today do not forfeit partnership because they want to take time off to spend with a newborn, and we are happy that women lawyers today are not called “little girls” by judges at all levels of the judiciary.  That happen to many of us.  We do not forget it, but we also know that it was part of a historical narrative.

So, I hope you will celebrate women today and remember that we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.  Keep your eyes on the prize.

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

Young Lawyers: Beware of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Mental illness and substance abuse are big problems in our profession today.  I call attention to these issues whenever I get the opportunity to speak to lawyers, young and older.  I did it at the event for the launch of my new book at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago on February 4th and also two days later at a program for law students in Michigan.  I implored them to be careful personally and to be vigilant on behalf of colleagues.

I noted at both events that the American Bar Association (ABA) has identified an initiative to address these issues and that studies show that these problems often start as early as law school.  They are issues that all of us in the legal profession need to take very seriously.

Consider these findings from the 2016 National Study of Lawyer Well-Being released by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation:

  • 25 percent of law students are at risk for alcoholism;
  • 17 percent of law students suffer from depression;
  • 37 percent of law students report mild to severe anxiety;
  • 6 percent of law students report having suicidal thoughts in the year of the study;
  • 28 percent lawyers suffered from depression;
  • 19 percent of lawyers had severe anxiety; and
  • 11.4 percent of lawyers had suicidal thoughts in the previous year.

And this additional remarkable and sad finding:  That law students will not ask for help because they are terrified of somebody finding out that they have a problem, which will result in not being admitted to the bar or not being able to get a job.

Recently, on January 26th, representatives from state and local bar associations and law schools joined ABA members in Las Vegas for an interactive program, “Getting on the Path to Lawyer Well-Being,” to discuss risk management and professional responsibility issues for legal employers and bar associations.   So, the focus on these problems continues, and efforts to reach as many lawyers and law students are on-going.

Please forward this to all of the lawyers you care about.  Protect yourselves and your colleagues.  Do not assume that the lawyers you love and admire do not need to see it.  Do not be deterred by stigmas.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for the help you need.  It is an act of bravery.

 

 

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

Young Lawyers: Help In Transitioning to a New Firm

The legal field is very dynamic these days and has been that way for awhile.   Most lawyers change practice venues multiple times in their careers, and research shows that millennials will change jobs four times in their first decade out of college.

Up until the 1990’s, lawyers often stayed with one — or possibly two — firms most of their careers.  Sounds hard to believe now, but it’s true.  However, the boom economic days of the 90’s saw law firms grow in size and spheres of influence exponentially, and lawyers started moving around like bees in a hive to follow the money and the power.

So, you should not be afraid to change law firms or practice settings if you are not satisfied with what you are experiencing.  Sure, it is a big pain to research job openings and alternative settings, revise your resume, contact a headhunter, and to be “on” for one interview after another.  Exhausting, really.

But it is far better than staying at a job that makes you miserable.  And, I think more of you are miserable than want to admit it.

I heard a law firm partner quoted recently saying, “I would not want to be an associate lawyer today.”  There is a reason for that.  The practice has become so specialized that entry level law jobs too often consist of being tethered to a computer reviewing complex regulations and documents and little else — until eyes begin to bleed.  It bares little resemblance to what recent law school graduates thought “acting like a lawyer” was going to be like.  It can be a huge disappointment after paying a fortune to become one.

Law firms should not let this happen to their employees, but they do.  Somebody has to do that work, and most law firms do not care enough to add variety and interest to those boring and tedious tasks.  Too often they treat entry level lawyers as fungible goods.  The result it that lawyers leave for what they hope are greener pastures.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it does not.

And sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  If a job starts changing who you are, get out.  No job is worth changing your personality and using coping mechanism that are not good for you.  Move on.  Save yourself.

If you fall into any of these categories, get busy.  Research shows that February to April are the best hiring months for law firms.  So, if you are thinking of making a change, it might be time to dust off that resume and get started.

Once you transition to that new job, you will need some help in adjusting to new leadership and a new culture.  This article will help you get through the first critical weeks.  Some highlights are:

  • Be Friendly/Make the Effort;
  • Be Open to New Procedures;
  • Ask Questions and Get Advice;
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Give Your Opinion; and
  • Be Confident.

And, most important, understand that transitions take time.  Don’t judge the job by the first few weeks.

The aging process works great for wine and cheese.  It may be the same for new jobs.

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