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Why Your Maternity & Paternity Leave Policies Are A Hit & A Miss: Mets Fans Teach Law Firms About Priorities

This April, many Mets baseball fans were more up in arms about paternity leave than the opening day game. It turns out time off for fathers is as much as a hotbed issue for Americans as batting average and runs scored—which is saying a lot for the country’s number one patriotic sport.

In case you were watching the Mets get slaughtered by the Nationals that day, here’s what happened: Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy decided he would take his contractually guaranteed three days of paternity leave to spend time with his wife, Victoria, and newborn baby, born from cesarean section. This meant Murphy missed the season opener and one other game, spurring insensitive comments from two sports radio hosts, Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason.

Among the worst offenders, Esiason said (via Slate), “Quite frankly, I would’ve said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day.”

Esiason would go on to apologize to the many listeners appalled at his lack of taste or common sense (a healthy baby trumps a coach’s first-choice lineup). But, it reminded Americans of the sad fact that dads, by law, are just not prioritized in parenthood.

Outside Father’s Day and the FMLA, dads just can’t catch a break.

This week, Obama spoke out in favor of paid leave for parents. He cited the fact that the United States is the only nation in the industrialized world without paid maternity leave—something Obama is eager to change.

On Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, Obama said, “There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us.”

“And that is not the list you want to be on, on your lonesome.”

Neither is the list for professional sports stars taking advantage of time off. Whereas the Mets’ Murphy was allowed through the Major League Baseball (MLB)’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011 to take up to three days of paternity league, no other professional sports organization allows the same privilege.

The NBA and the NFL have no such agreement, and players who deign to spend time with newborn sons and daughters are often chastised by fans and authorities (Former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo implied recently that he believes he was traded for taking 36 hours of paternity leave, reports Slate).

Nevertheless, although businesses may loathe paid leave, Americans as a unified culture and a workforce do not. And they seem willing to speak out against companies with bad policies. A backlash that forces men like Esiason, radio host, to formally apologize.

Even in the U.S., which rewards the super-macho all-American man, people prefer the stable atomic family to wealth or recreation. Forbes staff admit that alternative work schedules are a must for entrepreneurs and today’s businesses.

“Telecommuting is not the future, it is now,” writes Karsten Strauss for Forbes.

“Across the board, telecommuting increased over 80% since 2005. Over 3.3 million people in the U.S. do it (and that’s not including the self-employed).”

So how can your firm handle changes better than the MLB?

Well, according to SHRM’s FMLA survey, tracking and administering intermittent FMLA leave was identified as the most difficult activity by 80 percent of responding organizations. In fact, some of the most frequently voiced issues were about the administration and abuse of the FMLA, particularly with respect to intermittent leave.

FMLA itself is confusing and difficult to interpret, especially following the recent sweeping changes to the law. Even seasoned HR professionals have difficulty figuring out how to calculate intermittent leaves, how to decide when the 12-month calendar begins, and how to determine if the leave request is actually legitimate.

So, start by reading The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s guide, Managing Intermittent FMLA Leave, a no-fluff, plain-English report that will guide you through this intricate law. Jammed packed with compliance guidelines, this comprehensive, 101 page guide provides easy-to-understand FMLA guidance. Available here.

Next, create a flexible workplace for your law firm professionals valuing (and needing) time with their families.

Learn about the myriad benefits for the employee and employer, as well as strategies for implementation in C4CM’s training guide, Creating the Flexible Workplace. Available here.

Creating a flexible workplace that’s accommodating for moms and dads will lower costs associated with employee absenteeism and improve staff retention. It will decrease healthcare utilization costs and enhance your firm’s reputation as an employer of choice.

Don’t think twice, swing. It’s a homerun.

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Job References: Facts, Fiction & Fair Legal Practices

Why should employers do background checks? Should you outsource them or conduct them in-house? How far in a candidate’s past should you check? What’s legal, what’s not?

These are just some of many important questions law firm managers should ask before hiring new associates or employees. When you dig for dirt, it’s not just the EEOC you have to worry about. In fact, it’s essential that you also follow the rules put forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Title VII, the ADA, and federal and state privacy laws.

And it’s not just employers that make mistakes. Employees should be weary of what references they list, as well.

It’s not your typical myth-busting episode, but background check experts Allison & Taylor Inc. talk about the seven deadly myths of job references in a recent article. Both employees and employers should be weary of confusing the following fiction with fact:

Myth No. 1: Companies are not allowed to say anything negative about a former employee.

According to Allison & Taylor Inc., approximately half of their clients receive a bad reference, despite strict policies in place.

For job candidates, it is important to realize that your chances can be seriously harmed by even one out of three of your references sabotaging your chances. Seriously consider your reference choices.

For employers, you have to take references with a grain of salt. What was this candidate’s previous position compared to the one being offered? How might the personality of this old manager influence his or her opinion about the candidate? Sometimes previous employers are simply bitter about losing a qualified employee—or one they spent time and money to train.

Make sure a bad reference really merits the maligning.

Myth No. 2: If I had any issues with my former boss, I can simply leave him or her off my reference list and nobody will ever know.

The reality is that background checks are incredibly thorough. A “social security check” will determine where a person has worked in the past, and include a number for the human resources department. You cannot be sure HR will omit the names of previous bosses.

Law firm managers should ask a candidate for reasons why they may have left off a place of employment. Not all omissions were made with malicious intent.

Myth No. 3: I sued my former company and they are now not allowed to say anything.

A law firm hiring an litigious employee? Now you’re treading on dangerous ground. Is it proof of an associate’s prowess and passion for legal practices or a liability? That’s for your firm to decide.

For the complete list of myths, click here.

In today’s world, where legal services demand is on the decline, law school graduates are likely to have non-traditional backgrounds. It’s for this reason that law firms may start to see non-standard backgrounds for associates during their reference checks.

Because of reduced on-campus recruitment, candidates may experience higher numbers of videoconference interviews and stronger importance placed on resumes and background checks.

Law firm managers should be sure they understand the most efficient way to cover their bases from afar, without risking compliance issues at home.

To learn more, take The Center For Competitive Management’s course, Background Checks: What’s Legal, What’s Not—a powerful resource you can use to ensure you hire the best candidate for the job and safeguard your organization against negligent hiring claims.

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Supreme Court Rules Against Patent Trolls (Again): What Does This Mean For Your Firm or Clients?

Patent Trolls beware. There’s a Supreme Court-backed knight crossing your bridge, wielding a powerful verdict.

On Thursday, in a unanimous decision in Alice Corp. vs. CLS Bank International, the Supreme Court ruled that ideas are not patentable just because they are performed on a computer. Although the ruling still leaves plenty of ambiguity in the patentability of software, it is one step closer in the recent anti-NPE movement.

Non-practicing entities, or NPEs, have been on the minds of high-tech business owners and the lawyers representing them for decades.

Today, however, the trial court invalidated Alice’s patents, stating they were just concepts, not patentable ideas.

“Viewed as a whole,” wrote Justice Thomas wrote (via New York Times), “petitioner’s method claims simply recite the concept of intermediated settlement as performed by a generic computer.”

“[The methods neither] improve the functioning of the computer [nor] effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field.”

In the recent past, the court was weary of hampering innovation by restricting patenting requirements. Long advocates for protecting intellectual property of both the individual and businesses, courts worry that reigning in patent trolls means restraining creativity and invention.

What do intellectual property experts think?

Dana Rao, Vice President, Intellectual Property and Litigation, Adobe, wrote to Forbes:

“The Supreme Court added another nail in the coffin of patent trolls with a decision that reinforces the common-sense belief that patents can’t be granted for abstract ideas that have been around forever. Importantly, they made a critical distinction between those abstract patents and valid software patents that improve a technological process,” said Rao.

“This ruling supports true innovators while helping rein in the abuse of the system by the patent trolls. We’re pleased to see the judiciary acting where Congress would not. But we still need Congress to act, as only they can meaningfully change the economic incentives that are driving the abuse of the patent litigation system.”

If that happens, patent litigators—like patent trolls—might also find themselves without a job.

According to Bruce Wexler, partner at Paul Hastings, who wrote to Daniel Fisher at Forbes, patent lawyers shouldn’t fret quite yet. In fact, maybe the Supreme Court’s ruling just made their job easier.

“Chief Judge Archer’s dissent in In re Alappat some 20 years ago is now the majority rule,” writes Wexler.

“The mere recitation of some structure ‎in a patent claim is not the dispositive test for patent eligibility. Patent law demands more. The invention must reside in the application of an idea. While this can raise grey areas, the argument cannot simply be about whether or not structure appears in a patent claim.”

If anything, the Supreme Court ruling is one more reason innovators should contact patent experts about what is, and is not, patentable. Law firm managers should keep their clients apprised of changes in patent law. Between the America Invents Act and recent rulings against NPEs, intellectual property practice areas will have their hands full.

If you haven’t done it already, consider alerting implicated clients of recent court decisions affecting their operations. A monthly newsletter to clients helps assure them you’re there and cross-sell your services.

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The 2015 Vault Law Firm 100 Ranking & What It Takes To Get To The Top

The 2015 Vault Law Firm 100 rankings are in. Considering this economy, it’s not surprising that litigation powerhouses are taking the lead.

Still fighting for the No. 1 and No. 2 spot, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz takes the lead with Cravath, Swaine & Moore following suit. Although both firms excel at far more practice areas than litigation—including corporate, tax, and trusts and estates—lawsuits seem to be driving America or, at the very least, this list of top ranking firms.

Take, for example, Quinn Emanuel and Boies Schiller, who continued to ascend in the Vault Law 100 this year.

Quinn Emanuel first reached the Top 40 ranks in 2009, Top 25 in 2010. This year it is No. 15 this year. Renowned for its trial skills and ranked No. 1 for General Commercial Litigation in Vault’s 2014 rankings, survey respondents called the firm “innovative,” “intense,” “feared” and the “best litigation firm in the U.S.,” according to Above The Law Blog (ATL).

Quinn Emanuel’s litigation expertise is diverse, taking on all areas of litigation: products liability, appellate litigation, all types of class actions, clients can take their pick.

And, with lawsuits on the rise—patents, securities, employees, class action suits—there’s no wonder litigation firms are leaders of the pack.

All this just to say that even one-trick ponies aren’t just one-trick ponies; they have two, three, four practice areas up their sleeve.

And while the major New York-based firms continue to dominate, smaller firms can still make a name for themselves via innovation.

According to the Vault (and ATL), here are the Top 15 firms for 2015:

  1. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  2. Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  3. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  4. Sullivan & Cromwell
  5. Davis Polk & Wardwell
  6. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  7. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  8. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  9. Kirkland & Ellis
  10. Latham & Watkins
  11. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
  12. Covington & Burling
  13. Boies, Schiller & Flexner
  14. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  15. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

The full list is available here.

As litigants are increasingly in demand, it is no surprise that litigation support is increasingly desirable, as well.

A recent survey by ALM Legal Intelligence reveals that the hourly base pay for paralegals continues to rise. Salaries for paralegals, litigation support and docketing workers at both law firms and law departments, according to the ALM/IPMA Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals and Managers, 2014 Edition, released yesterday, are all implicated.

Conducted annually since 2002, the 2014 survey included 298 law firms and law departments reporting on over 9,500 paralegal, litigation support, and docketing positions.

According to their findings, at law firms, the highest hourly-pay positions are Litigation Support/Technology/eDiscovery Manager at $79.66 and Paralegal Director at $76.42. Among law departments, Paralegal Supervisor was the highest paid position at $70.32, followed by Litigation Support/Technology/eDiscovery Director/ Manager at $65.35, reports the ALM.

Law firm paralegals, the largest group reported, increased average hourly base pay to $36.57 from $35.98 in 2013, while law department paralegal pay jumped to $34.30 from $31.46.

Law firm bonuses on average increased most noticeably for Paralegal Directors at $18,421, compared to $16,149 the prior year.

Specialists/Industry Analysts bonuses rose to $6,939 from $5,749. Law firm billing rates for paralegal positions increased an average of 4 percent.

If you’re a law firm manager, should you care?

Well, it may be that the salaries of your first-year associates look a lot more attractive as litigation support than ever before. And, your first “innovative” act as a climbing-the-ranks firm might be reevaluating traditional legal positions and finding alternative arrangements, instead.

Competition to the top has never been fiercer. Pony up!

Are all your employees accurately classified as exempt or non-exempt? How can you be sure?

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are being forced to pay out big bucks for misclassifying employees and failing to pay proper overtime. In fact, the number of FLSA-related lawsuits in federal courts has spiked by 250% in the past decade.

Is your company at risk? The DOL estimates that nearly 70 percent of employers are not in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)!

Introducing FLSA Compliance: Your Practical Guide to Overtime Exemptions and Wage and Hour Law – a no-fluff, plain-English report you can to master the ins and outs of this complex law.

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The Key To Cross-Selling Initiatives For Law Firms (What Your Firm Has Forgotten!)

You’ll nod your head in agreement that it must be done right before you list a couple of excuses for why your law firm doesn’t successfully cross-sell its services.

The average client has 4 major practice needs and 5 minor—yet measurable—needs. Nevertheless, on average, a primary provider delivers only 1.8 practices to a single client, meaning most law firms deliver one, and a handful service 2 practice areas.

There are several reasons why law firms fail at cross-selling multiple practice areas to the same client. And, there are multiple solutions geared toward success. Here are three common reasons firms fail to cross-sell:

1. Your associates aren’t encouraged to do so.

First, to cross-sell your practice areas, you need to tell your associates to do it!

Law firms assume that lawyers understand the need to push other practice areas on their current clients. But, few—if any—lawyers are trained marketing or sales aficionados.

Not only that, your employees may not be incentivized to cross-sell services. What does your divorce attorney get for pushing client hours toward your IP division? What does your first-year attorney gain by mentioning your in-house litigation consulting service?

An attorney will simply increase his billable hours if there’s no incentive to cross-sell. However, when the reward is compensation during his quarterly review, he may jump at opportunities to help.

So, to cross-sell your services to clients, first consider selling the idea to your attorneys.

2. Nobody knows what services you offer.

Clients don’t know who in your partner practice does what. Neither do your own attorneys. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left is up to, this becomes a real problem.

New clients should always be introduced to the firm as a whole—the variety of its services, the expertise of its lawyers, and the breadth of successful case wins. Never assume a client understands what a “litigation department” does. By standardizing each new client introduction to the firm, you have a better chance to cross-sell them services later.

Similarly, never assume your associates understand the full capacity of your firm’s services. Attorneys, especially new eager ones, may not know the full extent of your case history—your strengths (and weaknesses).

It becomes difficult to cross-sell when you—as an attorney—don’t truly know what size case or level of technicality his firm is equipped to handle.

3. You’re afraid to cross-sell.

Finally, the thing holding most people back from cross-selling legal services is fear. Fear of losing clients, fear of not knowing how.

A firm must have full faith in his own or his partner’s practice in order to successfully cross-sell. If you are reticent to recommend a fellow lawyer or partner, it may be time to cut ties with that person altogether.

As for fear of lack of know-how, there are a few sources to help.

The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) offers a powerful resource, Law Firm Origination and Cross-Selling Credits: A Guide to Your Firm’s Future Success, which looks at the key to successful cross-selling initiatives—how to turn selling into a team sport, and manage the origination that ensues.

This comprehensive guide also explores the problems firms encounter before, during, and after implementing origination and cross-selling credits within the compensation system. It includes such sections as: Challenges for Modern Day Law Firms, Developing Your Compensation System, Cross-Selling Credits Within the Compensation of a Law Firm, and How to Teach Your Attorneys to Cross-Sell (and more!).

Now there are no more excuses to achieving success and boosting your law firm business today.

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Most Law Firms Share This Dirty Little Secret… Does Yours?

There’s a dirty little secret among law firms. Nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to admit to it. There are no figures to confirm it. But, we all know it’s there.

Flexible schedules for law firm professionals.

Flextime, reduced-hours schedules, job sharing, or Take-As-You-Need vacation policies, sure, they’re great for young start-ups. But law firms can’t afford to operate in the same way. Clients would see it as a sign of weakness…. Wouldn’t they?

Hardly. Alternative scheduling options remain a reality within law firms. Although consultants remain close-lipped about which law firms are signing on to flexible work arrangements, they admit the demand is surging, reports the American Bar Association.

Nevertheless, employees remain hesitant to take advantage.

“The stigma is still greater for men than women,” says Deborah Epstein Henry, president of the national consulting firm Flextime Lawyers, LLC (via ABA). Female lawyers are afraid that taking Flextime will label them less-committed to the firm, or lower their chances at advancement.

But offering flexible work arrangements helps law firms retain talented women and men looking to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, studies show that flexible work arrangements increase employee job satisfaction and productivity.

As a firm, you can create a flexible workplace. In fact, the demands of today’s workplace and the effects of the economic downturn have forced employers to work smarter and improve workplace practices more than ever before.

More and more employers in many different sectors are gaining tangible business results from making alternative work patterns widely available to employees. Research shows employers that embrace the value of workplace flexibility as a strategic business tool experience:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improved staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximized employee productivity and performance
  • Improved quality and effectiveness of employee work and personal lives
  • Decreased health care utilization costs
  • Reduced organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhanced reputation as an employer of choice

“When it comes to crafting formal flex- or part-time policies, Flextime’s Henry suggests keeping them consistent with other company policies. For instance, if a firm tends toward explicitly written policies, it should specify very clearly what the partnership criteria, eligibility, and restrictions are; how part- time work will affect compensation and advancement; what the nonbillable hours expectations will be; benchmarks; etc,” reports the ABA.

So, don’t waste any more time. Read C4CM’s guide, Creating the Flexible Workplace, for ideas on how to improve efficiency at your firm.

It’s time that this dirty little law firm secret is released from its unwarranted stigma. Embrace modern management techniques today.

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Hacked! Ebay Shows Law Firms How To Prevent Data Security Breaches

While Ebay is being lambasted for its recent security breach, it’s a good moment for law firms to reevaluate their own measures of private client information protection.

And while your firm is asking its employees to reset their passwords, consider this: Software developer and blogger Troy Hunt investigated Ebay’s recommended password lengths only to discover that a password with 20 random characters, with at least four lowercase, four uppercase, four numbers and four symbols was considered “medium strength.” Just how difficult does your password have to be to prevent hacking?

Gmail users have a two-factor format of protection. That means if a hacker does get through the first line of defense, your pssword of $uperlawyer25, then he still needs access to your cell phone to receive a secure text from Google verifying your identity.

This is great, provided your not Forbes writer Kashmir Hill’s roommate, locked out of the house without wallet or phone, and none of his secondary codes to access his online phonebook to call his roommates.

No self-respecting Millennial memorizes phone numbers anymore, and with a kettle on the stove, anybody would be frustrate with the irony of security measures that locks you out of your own house. Good thing bricks still break windows.

What is, then, the proper amount of security without succumbing to Fort Knox-like bars on the digital doors?

For Ebay, the breach did not bleed into credit card information by users. Likely because it uses a different system to access this type of data. However, for a law firm, any breach of personal client or case information is a crisis and its consequences costly.

A study by the Ponemon Institute found that the breach of data in 2012 cost $5.5 million. The same study found companies with a chief information security officer with firm-wide responsibility can reduce the cost of data breaches by as much as 35 percent.

“In 2011, it came to light that several Canadian law firms were targeted by Chinese hackers and breached in order to gain information about impending mergers and acquisitions. A Pittsburgh law firm was breached by someone claiming to be from the hacking group Anonymous. Virginia-based security firm, Mandiant, identified four other US law firms attacked, also from a Chinese source,” writes Jeffrey Brandt for Firmex.

“Many firms are unaware they’ve been breached and once they realize it, few firms are willing to admit it. The evidence of law firms under direct attack is getting harder and harder to ignore.”

So how do you know if your firm needs help?

  1. Ask your internal IT staff to brief you on current data protection and online security measures at your firm.
  2. Consider hiring outside consultants to evaluate your internal audit.
  3. Create a password policy for ALL employees. Require employees to reset their passwords periodically throughout the year.
  4. Require Blackberry or smartphone users to have a password on any cell phone used for work.
  5. Prepare a plan, including reaching out to clients, in the event of a breach.

Attend C4CM’s CLE webinar on Friday, June 20, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15 EST: “Mitigating Cyber Risk: Strategies for Legal Counsel to Reduce Exposure and Avoid a Data Breach Devastation.”

This comprehensive webinar will help you to mitigate risk by fine tuning or putting into place key procedures and policies for cyber protection. You will also learn what to do once a data breach is revealed.

The course will highlight:

  • Data breach response tactics and notification obligations
  • Practical and essential first steps to take if a breach occurs
  • What to include in your Incident Response Plan
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure obligations related to cyber risks and data breaches
  • How cyber-insurance coverage acts a risk mitigation tool, and what to look for in your policy
  • Key individuals that your organization should be developing relationships with and why
  • Practical protocols for reviewing and including cyber clauses in vendor and client contracts
  • Much more… 

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Lady Liberty: How Law Firms Can Retain Female Talent

It’s a fact that law firms struggle with gender bias issues. A dual sex workplace inevitably yields questions concerning harassment, wage gaps, and equal paths to partnership.

Within the gender debate, women dominate. After all, it’s the woman who bears offspring, takes maternity leave, and then has years left of biologically-intertwined medical needs with her children.

Law firms worry about hiring young women—aspiring mothers—and, they’re not in the wrong. Female lawyers are often the first to give up their post in favor of family. Naturally, having children brings with it a set of new demands and time constraints that certain jobs can’t afford. Plus, being a stay-at-home mom is still a highly respected profession in America.

Julie Turaj speaks out proudly for those former attorneys turned mothers, saying to Parents Magazine, “A job will always be there, but kids grow up in the blink of an eye.”

“I had a demanding job. In one year, I pulled 16 all-nighters and often worked entire weekends. It wasn’t just the long hours that got to me-the pressure was enormous too. I was planning on going part-time after Kaitlyn was born, but I knew even that would be hard to manage.”

As a female attorney, does the story sound familiar?

Of course, Mrs. Turaj expects to work again. But, when she does, it won’t be back in her former corporate office.

She says, “I’d like to practice a more emotionally satisfying kind of law, such as being a victims’ advocate or working at a nonprofit agency.”

“My goal is to leave the world a better place—and I’m starting with my children.”

An admirable goal that many women share. Although these parents seem quite satisfied in their choices, law firms decidedly are not.

Firms lose valuable employees year after year in a time when training and rehiring comes at a significant cost. In addition, senior attorneys spend time and effort to mentor and shape associates into future leaders only to discover female attorneys are quitting to do the same (for the next generation).

The idea that the glass roof hasn’t shattered or that women still face difficult career choices is evident in articles like Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent piece in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and rejoinders like Froma Harrop’s “News Flash: No One Can Have It All”.

Yet, men and women are still opting to give two-career marriages a try. In fact, the percentage of two-income married couples rose 31% in the U.S. from 1996 to 2006. Now, 47.5% of all American married couples are dual-career couples, cites the Harvard Business Review Blog.

Ultimately, female attorneys—like all women in high-powered positions—would like to have their cake and eat it, too. But it’s a team effort. In marriage, articles like Jackie Coleman and John Coleman’s piece for the HBR Blog, “How Two-Career Couples Stay Happy,” explain how spouses can manage the expectations of their partners when it comes to communication, children, and work.

However, creating a successful work-life balance that accommodates family is not the sole responsibility of married couples. Law firms and corporations play a role in keeping their employees happy because retaining the firm’s most productive associates is a sound business strategy, not just a social service.

Countless studies reveal that great places to work are also the most productive places to work. While this should not come as a surprise, it’s quite surprising that companies and law firms are still slow to adjust to the aforementioned, famous gender issue.

So, here are four simple steps to help retain your female lawyers. It’s not about changing their minds, asking them to raise billable hours and not children. The idea is that mothers—and fathers—can, actually, have it all with your help. Here’s how.

1. Employ Flex Time

Stop fighting the trend. Flex time has been proven again and again to be both an asset to the employee and to the firm.

The 2011 Best Law Firms for Women looked at firms with written reduced hour policies and firms who offered full-time telecommuting. In addition to mentoring circles specifically for women, the working mother’s stated need is flexible schedules. There you have it.

Where Flex time fails is the uneven enforcement and one-size-fits-all policy. Develop a policy that is as elastic as the hours you keep.

The written policy should, however, include parameters for making partner while on the telecommuting path; a coordinator who becomes the point of contact between flex-lawyers and the firm; and a method for tracking and monitoring work product, billable hours, and client satisfaction for those telecommuting attorneys.

2. Give Summer Vacation

Children have summer vacation, so why not parents? It’s important that families spend time together during the holidays, so consider giving extra time off during the summer to all your employees.

Not only does summer vacation correspond with school schedules for kids, but also any lawyer would enjoy (and benefit from) an annual break. Employees will come back refreshed and refocused on casework.

Plus, you’ll find parents trying to take off early anyhow—this way, your firm can preempt the problem and balance the work schedules of its associates to ensure clients are fully covered.

3. Create A Kid Space In The Office

Some firms offer childcare services. But, if your firm is not prepared for this option, or can’t afford it, consider creating a kid space, instead. A kid space can be a place where older children do homework, play games, or hang out safely while their parents finish up work.

A kid space allows working parents to drop by and actually visit with their children before bedtime without leaving the office.

Having an area and even a single room devoted to children also sends the message to female (and male) employees that your firm is family-friendly.

4. Embrace Short-Term Losses For Long-Term Gain

Finally, the reality of working parents means law firms often sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gain. An absence of a senior attorney for six-months to a year on maternity leave may cost your firm, but losing a valuable employee totally—their potential for partnership or bringing in new clients in the future—is far more catastrophic.

Or, allowing an important associate a few years of part-time status to gain their full-time return later may seem costly now. But, it will certainly redouble in benefits when the individual’s loyalty and appreciation for your firm’s flexibility shows up in superior work product and case knowledge in the future.

Don’t forget that each time an employee leaves and another’s rehired, salaries tend to jump. Retention keeps costs low, employee satisfaction high, and parenting attorneys happy.

In the end, if you make families a priority, your firm will become one.

Read The Center For Competitive Management’s Guide “Create A Flexible Workplace” to learn more.

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Increase Your Friday Afternoon Productivity In 5 Different Ways

Spring weather is upon us. Now there’s one more hour of beautiful daylight to remind law firm professionals of their tortuous billable hours indoors.

But, here are five ways you can make those last few workweek tasks go by quickly and efficiently.

#1: Change your seating position.

It’s amazing how the monotony of sitting at the same desk in the same chair can slow down your thinking speed. At first you didn’t realize it. Between the occasional stretching and bathroom breaks, you didn’t think you were any less productive.

Unfortunately, what you don’t realize is that while your body fights the aches and agony of your uncomfortable sitting position, you brain is shifting focus, too. It’s needing more and more coffee breaks or other excuses to get up and about.

Humans are no meant to be sedentary. But, if we have to, take a moment to adjust your working arrangement.

Instead of sitting at your desk, throw a pillow on the floor and lean back on your office wall. Try to work like that for one hour.

If that’s not possible. Stand up. You’ll be amazed at what a little bit of blood flow can do to reanimate your voice on a conference call, or rejuvenate your energy levels to read (and eventually respond to) that brief.

#2: Go outside.

Most associates realize that going outside the office during your 9 to 5 work window is taboo. But, if your productivity is waning, why not work outdoors.

Sit on a park bench for thirty minutes while you read emails or go through your to-do list. If you’re waiting to talk a colleague, forward your calls to your cell phone. A breath of fresh air will literally breathe life back into your stagnating work.

#3: Separate your afternoon in 15-minute intervals.

When you’re short of focus, start separating your tasks into quarters of an hour. Fifteen minutes to read discover. Fifteen minutes to start writing that brief. Fifteen minutes to respond to email. And, finally, you’ll find that it’s suddenly just fifteen minutes until your can go home.

#4: Give yourself rewards.

It’s Friday afternoon and you can’t wait to coordinate your dinner plans or evening activity. Maybe you’ve been meaning to call home. Or, make a grocery list for dinner.

At the same time, you feel guilty that your mind is already wandering away from work and the day isn’t quite over.

This is a problem easily solved. Identify a task—it can be small—that must be completed before you leave. Maybe you need to read at least 10 more pages. Perhaps you’ve put off writing a one-page memo.

Make a manageable task more enjoyable by creating a reward for completing it. Say, five minutes of facebook time per thirty minutes of uninterrupted reading? If you create two or three reward-based tasks, you’ll be surprised at how much your work pace picks up so you can take personal calls guilt-free.

#5: Delegate!

The hidden truth to productivity is allocating resources where they’re best fit to serve your firm. So, if you’ve been juggling to work done, evaluate who in the office has a more open schedule. Identify which associates have the skill sets to best complete your assignment.

The problem with most managers is they don’t understand how to effectively delegate. Therefore, they don’t do it. This is just adding more paper to the pile. Delegation can be hard work, but pays off in productivity in the end.

So, this Friday afternoon, maybe you should be reading The Center For Competitive Management’s guide: Effective Delegation: Strategies to Improve Performance and Productivity.

This essential tool provides process-driven delegation techniques, skills, and ideas that will give you more time to dedicate to strategic goals, and expand your achievements beyond what you personally can accomplish.

The only culprit keeping you in the office this afternoon is you.

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Hiring At Law Firms: Do’s & Don’ts For Finding The Right Fit

Despite the seemingly low employment rate for lawyers, law firms do a lot of hiring. From expert witnesses to consultants to legal interns, there are quite a few positions to fill at law firms. And, it’s not always easy—amid the myriad of candidates—to weed out superb from scallywag.

Here are a few tips for finding the right applicant for the job.

1. Conduct blind CV reviews

On paper, it’s hard not to be biased by certain traits. Sometimes firms are biased toward certain institutions—a local university or an Ivy League one. Or, as a reviewer, you may not realize you favor candidates with certain extracurricular traits.

It’s even possible to cross-off a qualified candidate for, say, an expert witness because of an idiosyncrasy that happens to bother you (but not the rest of the firm!).

During the preliminary stages of hiring, one way to avoid these prejudices is to conduct blind reviews of CVs. In fact, one of the UK’s leading law firms, Clifford Chance, has done just that.

Clifford Chance, in an effort to stop hiring biases toward Oxbridge and other leading independent schools, is adopting “CV blind” policies for hiring. The overall object is to make sure we never lose out on talent, wherever it comes from,” said explains Laura Yeates, graduate recruitment and development manager at the firm, to the Independent.

“We need to make sure we have the very best people spread out across the whole of the UK in terms of institutions.”

Another way to identify the best candidate for the position is through additional written assignments outside a typical CV and cover letter.

Ask the candidtes to write a 250 to 500-word essay on a topic important to the firm. You’ll be surprised how many candidates won’t bother with the extra work, which is a great way to weed out non-serious applications. In addition, it will give a glimpse at their writing style as well as beliefs regarding the law, which may help identify those candidates who fit in with your current corporate culture.

2. Skip the phone interview

Lawyers often live on the phone. Whether it’s phone calls to clients or the courthouse, you’ll often find a lawyer’s life tied to his or her cell.

Telephones are certainly an efficient tool to conduct business, but interviewing candidates is probably not among its best applications. It’s difficult for both parties—the interviewer and interviewee—to really sound energized oor engaged over the phone.

How many times have you answered the phone at home in the middle of your morning routine and the voice on the other line asks you, “did you just wake up?” In most of these instances it’s embarrassing to admit, no, you haven’t. Your voice just doesn’t have the same tone as it does in person.

If you must interview over the phone, The Muse offers some advice to keep up your enthusiasm for the job. Although geared toward the candidate, the advice holds true for law firm managers interviewing candidates. For example, don’t forget to smile. Smiling can actually alter your voice to sound more enthusiastic.

In addition, try standing up as if you were speaking at a conference during your call. It will keep you “on your toes” in more way than one.

For more tips on phone interviews, read here.

3. Conduct 2 rounds of in-person interviews

Finally, consider shortening your interviews but offering two different ones. Most interviewees will make their mind up about a candidate within 15 minutes of talking. So, why bother going further?

Instead of conducting one hour-long interview, schedule each candidate with two hiring managers or lawyers for 15-20 minutes each. Take only those candidates with unanimous approval.

Try getting two interviewees with different interviewing styles—maybe one who is formal and the other more relaxed. Make sure at least one of them will ask questions that address whether or not the candidate shares corporate culture values with your firm.

In the end, the best candidate for a job fills the requirements of a position, not preconceptions about the requirements of a CV.

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