What Do Layoffs and Business Development Have in Common?

It’s in the wind, and I cannot ignore it. According to this article, Big Law associates continue to be worried about their jobs. Layoffs have happened to date as a result of the most recent economic downturn, and economic woes are predicted to continue for awhile into the future.

Although there is not a lot that the most vulnerable lawyers, aka associates, can do about the economy, it is no time for them to sit on their hands and hope that the next work assignment to show up on their screens.

Under circumstances like this, associate lawyers need to become proactive. They need to improve their chances for success in the legal field by getting involved in business development. Being proactive in this way for the benefit of the firm also will increase job security and provide some cushion against the next round of layoffs.

It will not be easy. Developing business is hard for all lawyers, and it is especially hard for women lawyers, who typically face challenges related to what remains a male-dominated profession. The relatively few female role models and the lack of comfort with traditional male centric business development strategies make client development particularly daunting for young women lawyers.

But the difficulty does not stop with women lawyers. The transition to being responsible for developing business is hard for all young lawyers. The reality that it is not enough to have achieved superb legal skills can be alarming. It was a steep climb, but it is not the end of the road. More is required to prove yourself.

My best advice for becoming comfortable with what can be a heavy lift is to find excellent instruction in CLE, bar association, and consultant programs to perfect your business development skills. Learn from those who have done it, and stick with the program. If the instructor says make five cold calls a week to prospective clients, make them. If your instructor says send out a helpful business/legal article to five potential clients a week, do it. If your instructor tells you to organize a happy hour with a group of your business friends, do it.

Just do it. Sell, sell, sell. Your effort will be noticed, and you may strike gold. And equally as important, perhaps, you will not be sitting around doing nothing. There is too much of that going on these days, and it is easy for boredom to morph into anxiety and depression.

And anxiety and depression are places you want to avoid most.

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Young Lawyers Should Avoid Personal Comparisons

My friend Jezra Kaye is a consultant and author about all things to improve communications and public speaking. In her recent newsletter, she worte about the dangers of “comparison-itis”. Comparing ourselves to others has become an epidemic. Here’s how Jezra explains it:

How many times today have you compared yourself to somebody else?

Depending on what time of day you’re reading this, the answer might be once, or twice…or way more.

After all, there’s no limit to how often we can put ourselves down by finding people who do something “better” than we do. There’s:

  • The colleague who speaks more fluently than you;
  • The sibling who has more money than you;
  • The friend who’s always been cooler than you;
  • The classmate who’s more “successful” than you.

Then there’s the really tough one: The person you should have been if you’d just been able to meet the “perfectly reasonable” standards of your parents, your school, your social class, even yourself.

Do you recognize yourself in Jezra’s words? You know you do. We all indulge in personal comparisons more than we should. And it is not healthy, and we all should stop it.

Put away Facebook, Instagram and all other social media toys that lead you to the bad place of PERSONAL COMPARISONS. That black hole. The not-gift that keeps on giving.

In my experience, unhealthy personal comparison is especially true for young lawyers. A young associate may be making great money that provides him/her with all that person needs, but SOMEONE is always making more. That same associate lawyer may be on the road to partnership, but SOMEONE just made it a year early. Or that young lawyer may have won a tough case, but the recovery was less than SOMEONE else got. And the list goes on and on, seemingly forever.

Shake off that burden. No one needs pressure like that. Just be your own wonderful self. Have confidence and love the way you look and all that you have accomplished. Know your own unique value and be proud of all that you have done in the past and can look forward to in the future.

It will save you a lot of wasted time. And, last time I checked, an abundance of time to waste is something that most young lawyers do not have.

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Tips For Being A Succesful Woman Lawyer

I have included information about becoming a successful woman lawyer in several books in the Best Friends at the Bar series and in earlier blogs on this website and in the almost 100 programs I have presented on the subject. However, from time to time, I want you to hear it from other sources.

Although it is true that the advice from most senior women lawyers includes common themes, there is often an anecdotal aspect to some writer’s information that is helpful and may resonate best with you. Here is one such source.

Mary Resnik’s approach is to use your skills to stand up for your clients by standing up for yourself. She was not afraid to take on challenges, especially as they related to the Old Boys Clubs. Her advice is straight forward and practical and will help you to prepare yourself for success and avoid the pitfalls that inevitably will stand in your way.

As with any advice, you need to massage it a bit to make it work for you. Tailor it to your own personality, your own professional setting, and your own personal circumstances. One size does not necessarily fit all, but all information is useful. And the more perspectives you consider, the greater the possibility that you will find what works best for YOU.

Good luck in the pursuit of your own special brand of success.

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Is Working From Home Truly What Young Lawyers Want?

I have spent considerable time wondering about this since we entered what is arguably the post pandemic phase. There are benefits to working from home for certain, but there also are benefits to being in the office among colleagues, joining in impromptu conversations that can be important for career development, and observing how seasoned lawyers lead and manage teams and develop clients.

Until now, I did not have any statistical evidence. But now, thanks to my friend Phyllis Weiss Haserot, an expert on multiple generations in the workplace, I have more guidance on what Gen Xers and Gen Zers in the workplace think about that question.

Although it is true that the Dell survey cited in the article below is not specific to young lawyers, I have to believe that the stats for young lawyers would be more in favor of “in person” work because of the limitations to virtual work in a profession like the law where being “seen” in the traditional way holds such high value among managers and decision-makers.

Here is what Ms. Haserot had to say in her recent Practice Development Counsel blog:

News Flash! The Younger Generations DO Want to Be In-Person

Let’s ’s stick a big fat pin in the myth that Gen Z and young Millennials only want to meet on their screens. It’s a split decision and open to change. A recent Dell survey found 29% of Gen Z respondents prefer to be in person. 29% want flexibility, which translates to in-person some days and outside the office space some of the time as expedient and most appropriate to get the work done.

My personal experience is that many ARE interested in being in person and know what they are missing when being only virtual!!! Just not all the time, so they have flexibility to incorporate other important things in their lives.

So, the verdict seems to be that flexibility rules. Which makes me feel very good because I have been preaching flexibility for women lawyers for a very long time and, most recently, for all young lawyers as increasing numbers of male lawyers are participating in childcare and other family responsibilities that depend on flexibility for success at work and at home.

Where do you fall on this question? Deciding whether you are an “all virtual lawyer”, a “one day of the week in the office lawyer” or some combination of the two is likely to be very important to your future. Give it lots of thought, and build your case. It is sure to come up, and you want to be ready for the discussion. Your future may depend on it.

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Keeping Your Eyes on Both Profession and Family

Taking care of yourself, the welfare of your family, and also taking care of your clients and your team — it sound like a very heavy lift. And it can be. But it also is the smart thing to do to enhance your career and future prospects.

Check out this article to find out how one lawyer approaches all that lift. And then riff on it. Situations and circumstances differ, and approaches will differ as well. It is the goals that are consistent.

So if you are a woman lawyer — or a male lawyer with primary childcare responsibilities — and a profession to safeguard, develop your own plan and approach to taking care of business on both ends. Be the example you want to be to others on your team — both at home and at the office.

You CAN do this!

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Women Lawyers and Big Law

The challenges for women lawyers in Big Law have been well chronicled across legal media cites for decades. The obstacles never seem to get significantly fewer, and some of the challenges are not likely to ever disappear. Women are the primary caretakers for their children and their elderly family members (no matter what you hear to the contrary), and women do not define themselves principally by their business accomplishments.

Everyone has an opinion, it seems. But opinions are one thing, and actual experience in the trenches are another. Bloomberg Law reporter Vivia Chen’s interview with Beth Wilkinson is straight from the trenches. Ms. Wilkinson is one of the most prominent litigators in the country today, and she has a lot to say.

Beth Wilkinson rose to fame for successfully prosecuting Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and recently she has served as an investigator of alleged sexual misconduct within a major NFL franchise (the Washington Commanders, formerly the Washington Redskins). In between, she was a partner at Latham & Watkins and general counsel of Fannie Mae. And most recently, she left a partnership at Paul Weiss to start her own DC-based firm.

In short, Beth Wilkinson is a force to be reckoned with, and she has impressive experience in many legal sectors. Most importantly for young women lawyers, she has some interesting perspectives on women in Big Law.

There is a lot to unpack in this interview. Enjoy.

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Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Law Firm

Many law students will be making decisions soon about where to hang their hats for post-graduate employment — or for summer associate positions. It can be very confusing, and you should get whatever help you can in making those decisions. Some law school placement offices are very helpful, but that should not be your only source of information.

This article identifies some of the important considerations in making those decisions and choosing a law firm. Subjects discussed there include:

Practice Area Focus: Identifying Firms with Strong Practice Groups;

Firm Size: Assessing the Work Environment and Opportunities;

Firm Culture: The Importance of Diversity, Inclusion, and Work-Life Balance;

Compensation and Benefits: Evaluating Competitive Law Firm Salaries

Professional Development and Mentorship: The Key to a Successful Legal Career; and

Partnership Prospects: Assessing Your Long-Term Career Trajectory.

Many of these factors are discussed in my recently released book New Lawyer Launch: The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2023). I know how important this kind of information is for you, and I am glad to see others sharing their valuable thoughts with you. My recent article on Law360 also addresses many of those subjects and explores how to find happiness in the law. I hope you have access to it.

Check out these sources to give yourself every advantage in fashioning a successful and satisfactory legal career.

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New Article on Law360: Help for Young Lawyers to Achieve Success and Professional Happiness

My article titled “Practical Skills Young Attorneys Must Master To Be Happier” posted at Law360 yesterday. I hope you can access it through your Law360 subscription service.

The article includes discussion of some of the strategies for success that are included in my new book, New Lawyer Launch: The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2023). Like all the books in the Best Friends at the Bar series, the book is available on Amazon Books.

Do yourself a favor and start your legal career aware of the challenges and how to handle them. Read New Lawyer Launch and recommend it widely. It is truly a game changer.

That is the message that I delivered to a group of law students at GT Law today when I attended an alumni program. Those law students did not miss a beat and rushed to their phones to place book orders. They understand what they need to do to be competitive in summer associate programs and as young lawyers after graduation. You need that, too!

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