What Do Women Lawyers Really Need?

Read this article about one of the world’s largest law firms and efforts to advance women lawyers. Sounds good, right? Mentoring, shadowing, helping them gain the skills to climb the ladder and generate profits. That’s the way to help women professionals — or so it seems.

Another way to look at it is that programs like this are missing the point — if that is all the firms have to offer. And too often it is. What about flexible hours? What about on-site childcare? What about equal pay for equal work? What about all of the things that help to make the lives of women lawyers, who also continue to be the primary caretakers of their children, easier? So that their brains are not fried and they can excel at being mentors and shadows.

It is not that mentoring and shadowing is not important. It is. But it also is one of the easiest things for employers to provide and does not cost them a lot of money.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see law firms and other legal employers put their money where their mouths are. The truth is that there continues to be a huge talent drain for women lawyers because they are exhausted, strung out, burned out. There is simply not enough time in the work week to manage childcare, respond to the demands of the office, travel for client needs, be responsive to schools and homework … and the list goes on and on and on.

Women lawyers need REAL HELP. Let’s get serious about what that help is.

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New Lawyer Launch is OUT!

My new book, New Lawyer Launch:  The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2022), is out!  New Lawyer Launch is available in paperback, PDF, ebook and Kindle on Amazon and on the publisher’s book page at https://www.fastcase.com/product/new-lawyer-launch-the-handbook-for-young-lawyers/ where you can view the book and see inside.  It is the support young lawyers need to help them  succeed.  

New Lawyer Launch is a tutorial on practical skills, stress management, and achieving the job satisfaction that is very much at risk for young lawyers today.  It will reduce the guess work and give entry-level lawyers the confidence they need to do the job they have chosen.

I am joined in the book by more than 15 Book Contributors, including leaders of Biglaw, who shared their best advice for young lawyers. In addition to “Strategies for Success and Survival,” the book includes information about law practice settings, legal specialties, and related careers.

Topics addressed in the book include:

  • What it means to be a professional and what kind of behavior is expected of lawyers, including a plea for civil discourse;
  • Making a strong first impression and getting off to a positive start;
  • Being respectful to the staff;
  • Being sensitive to office politics;
  • Mastering the art of billing hours and tracking business expenses;
  • Being careful with social media;
  • Controlling tempers;
  • Protecting work product;
  • Steering clear of toxic colleagues;
  • Respecting deadlines and setting boundaries;
  • Being effective team members;
  • Being competent at self-advocacy and networking and understanding the concepts behind business development;
  • Developing leadership skills;
  • Learning law firm economics;
  • Paying attention to work-life balance and wellness; and
  • Avoiding overspending to keep options open.

Everything that young lawyers and law students need to know —- that is not taught in law school — is in this book.  It also can be used effectively by senior lawyers to develop successful mentoring programs.

Order your copies today to support the young lawyers in your life.  Make it required reading for law school Professional Responsibility classes, include it in the welcome baskets for new associates, and make it available to mentors.

EVERYBODY WINS with this book.  Young lawyers do their jobs better and to greater satisfaction, and senior lawyers spend less time complaining and more time mentoring effectively.

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Is It Time To Put Self Aside in Biglaw?

Don’t shoot the messenger when you read this article on Above the Law. The tension was inevitable.

The gist of the article is that Biglaw associates have become a bit too set in their ways on the WFH issue and will have to flex up to get back to the office to meet the requirements of employers. That firms wants more in-office presence now that the pandemic seems behind us should have been expected, but returning to in-office practice is not being met with a lot of real world perspective by young lawyers. The risk from such inflexible attitudes is to be “left behind.” And in the current hiring market, that is not a good place to be.

According to an associate recruiter from Major, Lindsey & Africa: “We, as society and the legal industry, are in the position where we need to commit to change and endure some of the tougher, more inconvenient parts. That is, if [associates] want to maintain a sense of community that brought them to the firm.”

Hopefully firm managers will not become too selfish either. Some of the blended programs for return-to-the-office, which require a part-time presence, appear reasonable and workable. There is not much argument that America has gone overboard with expanding work hours and the work week, too, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

And for Biglaw, there is no time like the present.

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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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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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What’s Up with USNWR Law School Rankings?

I admit to using the US News & World Report rankings for purposes from time to time. I think I am a member of a big club because using those rankings is easy and convenient. However, I also understand the weaknesses of rankings that weigh certain factors arbitrarily, and that seems to be what has gone on.

The objection of some law schools, which recently has led them to boycott the US News & World Report rankings, is that the rankings give too much value to the percentage of graduates in a given year who choose private practice settings over public service. And I can identify with those objections. Although I went straight to private practice after graduation, I also spent almost a third of my practice years in public service. The result for me was that the public service experience was some of the best and most satisfying of my career and led me to some very meaningful work.

So I am in favor of the message that some law schools, including mine, are sending to the ranking czars. I always have thought that the folks at USNWR have too much sway over where prospective law students apply and attend law school, and I have been happy to see some alternative rankings take hold in recent years. And there is always the possibility that USNWR will take the criticism as positive and change its ways.

To date, the schools to opt out of submission of data to USNWR and inclusion in the USNWR rankings are: Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Columbia, Stanford, Michigan, Northwestern, Duke, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis, University of Washington, UPenn, NYU, and UVA. In a twist on that theme, Washington University Law seems to agree with the issues identified by other law schools but will continue to submit information to US News. If you are confused by that, so am I.

For more perspective about what this means for the future of law school rankings, here is a podcast that may interest you.

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Taking Risks Can Be Important For Young Lawyers

Throughout my project for young lawyers, I have stressed the concept of getting out of comfort zones to increase competency and assure positive professional careers. I learned it during my practice years, and it just makes sense to me. But I also recognize that venturing beyond comfort zones involves taking risks, and risk taking can be stress inducing. Or so we thought.

Now someone, an executive, leadership, and life coach to impressive business leaders, is telling us that you can achieve less stress, more success, and more joy by embracing risk taking. In her new book, BET ON YOU: How to Win with Risk, Angie Morgan Witkowski shares the following insights about risk:

  • Daydreaming is important. Ask yourself what your professional kaleidoscope looks like, what’s worth pursuing, where is the starting point, whether you have the necessary resources for the journey, and whether the challenges can be enjoyable.
  • The right guides and mentors are imperative to success while taking risks. These guides and mentors need to include people who have experiences that reflect goals you’d like to achieve.
  • Both planning and doing are essential; and
  • Fear is your enemy. Fear stifles accomplishment by creating illusions of safety that crush healthy risk taking and run counter to increased job satisfaction and happiness.

Check out the author and the book. It is a perspective you need to explore.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comments Off on Taking Risks Can Be Important For Young Lawyers