Tag Archives: associates

Millennial Employees Not Lazy After All? New Study Suggests Firms Should Give More Vacation To Employees

They say millennial employees are lazy—is it true?

As much as forty percent of millennial employees reported feeling guilty for using their vacation time, as opposed to just 18 percent of baby boomers, according to a recent study by Randstad (via Forbes).

So, does this mean baby boomers are lollygagging on the beach? Not really.

In fact, both baby boomer and millennial employees seem to be glued to their phones for work even on vacation. Almost half (42%) of employees reported feeling obligated to check their email during vacation, reports the same study by Randstad.

It seems millennial employees are, actually, concerned about their careers. Unfortunately, all this concern—both in the office and on the beach—is affecting productivity. By not taking a stress-free, work-free vacation, employees do not return to work “refreshed,” implies the Randstad study.

Returning to work “refreshed” is exactly why employers promote time off in the first place. What’s to be done?

“Studies about millennials always say there are four Fs this generation places before all else: fun, family, freedom, and friends,” said Jim Link, Randstad chief HR officer to Forbes.

“But then you look at this information that says these folks are on board more than any other generation, and don’t feel the need to delineate between work and life.”

At least one study seems to imply that millennials do prioritize their work life; in fact, they can’t seem to separate it from their recreational life. With all this talk of a work-life balance, for millennials, at least, this term can be modified to just “balance.”

Should employers, then, help their employees compartmentalize their life? Should managers encourage employees to turn their phones off after work and remain technology-free on vacation?

“Historically, up until the last 10 or 15 years, [work and home life] was much easier to separate. That’s just no longer the case. It’s become harder, technologically speaking, to really build that separation in,” said Link.

One way to return to the “good ole days” is to consider building work-life separation into workplace policies.

For example, lawyers notoriously take little vacation. And, many female attorneys feel pressure to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth.

Firms, as a result, should encourage lengthy maternal and paternal leave. Stress and fatigue are not just dangerous to a person’s health, they’re dangerous to the firm as they affect productivity and increase the likelihood of making mistakes.

Just like falling asleep at the wheel, exhaustion can be equally deadly to your firm’s most important cases.

Consider implementing an “on-call” system not unlike the medical profession. Make a few younger associates “on-call” for certain evenings. Circulate lists of who is available on which nights to senior managers and partners.

The system doesn’t have to be complicated, and maybe instead of “on-call”, your system would give associates just one night a week to be “off-call”.

However you decide to implement such a program, the relief an employee feels at knowing they do not have to answer calls or emails—even for one night alone—can become more relaxing than a week spent listening to ocean waves.

Also, don’t make your employees feel guilty for taking time off.  In this economic climate, reassure your staff that taking vacation time is not a downward spiral toward being laid off with policies that make a certain amount of annual leave mandatory.

Firms with creative and flexible policies regarding mental and physical helath, as well as time off, have happier, more productive, and loyal employees. In the end, that’s the kind of firm that attracts star talent and the most clients.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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10 Behaviors By Summer Associates That Should Make Your Firm Think Twice Before Hiring

Congratulations, you’re a summer associate. With the right attitude and work ethic, you may become a salaried lawyer one day!

Condolences to law firm managers. You have to deal with a bunch of 20-something interns who haven’t a clue (but think they do).

There’s a time for forgive and forget and there’s a time for strict standards. When it comes to your summer associates, pay close attention. With so much competition these days, there’s nor reason your firm shouldn’t have the best that law schools have to offer. The following 10 behaviors by summer associates should make firm partners think twice about hiring:

1. Makes a bad first impression

Some people make bad first impressions. That’s understandable for a cocktail party or date, but not a professional event. If your summer associate can’t make eye contact, circulate the office and shake hands with everybody, or shows up to work in wrinkly or inappropriate attire, imagine the first impression they’ll leave on a judge or jury. The air of incompetence is not in-style this summer.

2. Avoids social events

Most summer interns are afraid of drinking too much and making idiots of themselves in front to firm partners, but that’s no excuse to eschew work events. If your summer associates can’t even attend events mostly designed to make them feel welcome, what are they going to do when you ask them to attend important after-hours events with potential clients, or professional galas that look well on the firm? Avoiding social events may be a sign your intern has no room in his or her priorities for the firm.

3. Is slow to answer your emails or calls

This is a no-brainer. You need associates who are serious, hardworking, creative, and—well—constantly available. That’s the nature of the law, it never sleeps, and your inters (for the first few years, naturally) shouldn’t either.

4. Doesn’t get along with other associates or summer interns

Yes, it is a cut-throat process, getting a job offer. But, it’s probably a bad sign if one summer associate doesn’t seem to get along with all the rest. Sure, the group may have disparate personalities or work styles, but so does the firm. You need a team player, not a lone-wolf in this business.

5. Name’s unknown to the partner

There’s flying under the radar and not getting noticed at all. If none of the partners ever know a summer associate’s name, it’s likely this person either (a) didn’t have any noticeable achievements or accolades from colleagues, or (b) doesn’t know how to network. Either way, it’s not the type of lawyer your firm needs in this do-or-die industry.

6. Doesn’t respect the support staff

Associates shouldn’t just be known by partners, they should be liked by support staff, too. A summer associate is lower on the food chain than support staff. They’ve not been hired, they’re here on trial, and they haven’t earned their place at the firm. Any associate who treats support staff like subordinates has no respect for the food chain—which sometimes means doing nitty-gritty and menial work and certainty not scapegoating support staff.

7. Makes too many mistakes on documents

There should be a learning curve in legal work, especially for summer associates. But, you should start to be concerned when an associate shows too many mistakes. Already, summer interns are given the lowliest jobs, which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. And, mistakes are a sign that an inter was too afraid (or too arrogant) to ask questions of a colleague or classmate. Simple spelling mistakes reflect a carelessness (or lack of technical skills) that your firm just can’t afford. Another thing that’s costly? Constantly re-checking the work of one of your lawyers. You’ve got to have faith that your associates know the answer, know where to look for the answer, or know the right questions to ask to get it from somebody else.

8. Constantly appears frazzled

This is a difficult job. There are long hours. If your associate already feels overwhelmed after a summer, you should question their stamina for the “real world” of the law.

9. Says “no” too often

There is a time and a place to say “no” to work. But, your summer internship is not one of them. Saying “no” too often may be a signal that an associate has eyed another senior attorney or partner and plans on exclusively working for them, which means when hired, it will be more of the same. Or, saying “no” might signal poor organizational skills, where the associate is incapable of multitasking or managing his or her workload. Either way, take note of the person who says “no” too often.

10. Lacks social media or technical skills

Today there’s no excuse for poor PowerPoint skills or lack of Excel knowledge. Even law firms can’t get far without a website or social media presence. These are not skills left to the support staff. Rather, they represent the general willingness to progress and grow with the speed of new technology and a desire, on the part of an associate, to become more efficient and productive at what he or she does. You’d really have to go out of your way these days to lack such technical skills. And, as clients demand more innovative law firms, you can’t afford to hire one more traditionalist who favors to the yellow legal pad to an iPad.

As a manager you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees. In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace.

Take advantage of The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course on Friday, August 1, 2014, 11:00 EST to 12:15 EST, Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to:

  1. Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,
  2. Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, and
  3. Remove common obstacles that prevent productivity.

Whether you’re a new manager, or have been in the trenches for years, this event will get you up to date on the latest productivity enhancement techniques for:

  1. Reaching quick and innovative decisions
  2. Reducing decision-making anxiety for you and your employees
  3. Holding timely meetings that remain true to a core purpose
  4. Making intelligent decisions by battling groupthink
  5. Brainstorming effectively

Plus, you’ll also learn which workplace productivity apps really work and how to get started using them today!

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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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Power In Networks, Not Numbers: The Importance of Social Capital To Law Firms

“It’s not what you know but who you know,” is a common axiom in the marketplace.

Social capital can increase your firm revenue, efficiency, and loyalty of your employees and clients. But, you cannot own social capital, or buy it.

Social capital requires an investment of time and effort to instill trust, expectations, norms, and opportunity at your firm. Social capital has existed as long as small communities formed and people interacted with the expectation of reciprocation and trust.

According to James Coleman’s seminal 1988 work, Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital, social capital is “not a single entity but a variety of different entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social structures, and they facilitate certain actions of actors—whether persons or corporate actors—within the structure.”

Less tangible than human capital, social capital consists of (1) obligations and expectations; (2) information channels; and (3) social norms. In law firms, these three items form between peers as a result of social capital networks and relationships.

In a public school district in the United States, for example, school authorities noticed that numerous Asian immigrant families purchased two copies of each single required textbook for students.

After pursuing the matter, school authorities found that these families were purchasing one textbook for the child and one textbook for the mother, who was charged by the family with helping her child succeed in class.

So, where the human capital of the parent may have been low, the mother’s lack of familiarity with the course material or inherent intellect, the social capital of the child, a willing mother to assimilate the same course material to help her child study, was shown to be quite high.

High social capital leads to success, especially in cases where people or companies are looking to make up for a lacking human capital. For associates, recent research from the University of Iowa reveal the significance of professional social capital networks in obtaining a higher salaries for attorneys in private firms, as well as in bolstering mentor-protégé relationships.

For firms, these same research results show that social capital plays a role in acquiring new clients in small private firms.

To attract new clients, researchers conclude that attorneys in small firms should focus on increasing the size and status range of their overall social networks including, professional, non-professional, family, and volunteer organizations. By expanding the size of their social networks, firms will increase their attorneys’ ability to obtain clients, particularly attorneys with less experience.

However, attorneys in large firms, according to this research, should focus predominantly on the status range of their professional social capital networks—attracting higher-status employees and clients in terms of experience, reputation, or pedigree—in order to gain access to the “important” partners.

So how can your firm increase its social capital?

First, your firm can promote formal networks of trust. Your firm can create value statements that include trust and mutual promotion. Organize a mentor-mentee program. Offer free lunches in the office to encourage social interaction among departments and ranks. Don’t reward the blame game when you lose cases and praise teams for case matter success.

Formal social capital networks include friends from professional organizations or legal associates, former classmates, neighbors, or friends. Make sure your employees have adequate time to cultivate these relationships.

Second, your firm can promote informal networks of trust. Organic and natural formation of networks of trust—for example, inter-office friendships—are stronger than ones that are forced. So, encourage those after-office happy hours. Give your employees time off to attend weddings and family events. These are all occasions where your employee expand and solidify their social capital.

Social capital relies highly on information channels, or communication.

To more effectively master communication methods in the workplace, attend C4CM’s audio conference (or purchase their informational CD) Delivering Highly Effective Feedback: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practice Strategies to Communicate More Effectively on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 from 2:00 Pm to 3:15 Pm Eastern time.

You’ll explore the key skills of delivering and receiving effective feedback:

  • Specific methods to communicate in a more personal and interactive manner
  • Crucial communication steps to take before and after every employee interaction
  • How to make sure an employee understands the feedback you have delivered
  • Rules for feedback frequency, specificity and follow up
  • Listening skills to help you receive as much feedback as you give

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Negotiation Tactics: #1 Don’t Get Caught By Surprise

From salary negotiations to severance to sick days, don’t get caught by surprise when negotiating benefits. When law firm manager or law firm employee, there’s much to be gained by constant preparation. Here’s how you do it.

For employees:

1. Know your true value

First, it’s important to know your true value. That means the market value for your current position in your current industry. Whether it’s via websites like glassdoor.com or information from your recruiter, find out whether your current salary is above or below your true value.

2. Know your relative value

Next, take into account your previous experience or unique skills. Are you bilingual? Do you have a second degree outside a JD, say a MBA or CPA? Did you previously work at the USPTO so that your patent experience exceeds that of much more tenured lawyers?

Make a list of these skills and experiences. This is your value added to the job in general.

Then, make another list of on-the-job training or tasks successfully accomplished at your current firm. This is your value added to the specific position you currently hold. These accomplishments are tangible benefits you’ve provided your employer.

“It’s all about demonstrating that you are the best person to help the employer address any challenges that may exist,” Roy Cohen, veteran career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, said to Forbes, “that you are going to change the course of history at the organization.”

3. Keep a hardcopy of this list accessible

In today’s day and age, you never know when you might be laid off. Or, when your boss wants you to move from say, the New York office, to the Sacramento one.

If you keep this list up-to-date and accessible, then next time a manager calls you into his office, you’re prepared for anything—negotiating a new, higher salary or, in the worst case, a better severance package.

If you don’t have this list ready, or you need more time to prepare for negotiating, keep some delay-tactic phrases handy, like “I need some time to see if there’s an opportunity to advance in that office [or division].” Or, “My kids go to private school, so I’ll have to review the options and prices for similar schools in said-location.”

Don’t get caught by surprise. Stay calm. And, be well-informed when you negotiate.

For employers:

1. Know who is undervalued or overvalued at the firm

Just like your employees, managers should keep track of the range of salaries offered at the firm. It will help at the end of the year for raises and bonuses, but it will also keep you from being surprised by requests for salary increases.

Keep a ranking of your same-level associates. This ranking can remain unofficial, but it will help you answer key questions, such as: Do I play favorites? How can I assemble a balanced team of professionals for this case? Who deserves the biggest bonus? Who can this firm not afford to lose?

2. Reward ability, not ego

If a potential employee comes into your office with hardball demands and an over-inflated sense of self, this may not be the best employee or team member.

At the same, realize that employees with confidence in their abilities or value-add will be prepared to negotiate. Be clear and upfront with them about what you are personally allowed, or not allowed, to offer at this time.

Don’t lie to employees about compensation or advancement. In the end, employees will quickly figure out that bonuses are not as large as you let on, or advancement opportunities are not as they seemed. Not to mention, lying or exaggerating often transforms into a legal headache for firms.

3. Be brief

Whether you are caught by surprise by an employee or well prepared for difficult compensation discussions be brief. Negotiation, from the employer’s side, is best accomplished when the employee has to wait—anxiously anticipate—the outcome.

For your turn, in this economy, there are likely plenty of fish in the pond. The best match for any position after both sides negotiate is a win-win, where the person who gets what he or she wants in terms of compensation and benefits, and—in return—adds fair and longstanding value to your clients and firm.

Learn more in The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Mastering Difficult Conversations: Tips and Tools from an FBI Hostage Negotiation Trainer.

The course explores:

  • Best practices for handling tough conversations about behavior and performance
  • What techniques work best when dealing with emotional employees – and how to keep yours in check
  • Methods for dealing with sticky issues like discrimination, gossip or pay
  • Which laws and regulations you must comply with in order to reduce legal risk
  • How to decrease your fear of confrontations How to tame a tense conversation before it gets out of hand
  • Ways to respond to employee pushback
  • And more!

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Should You Go Long? Super Bowl Preparations & Superior Law Firm Performance

This season’s Super Bowl has already proved controversial.

The Super Bowl Committee is already warning fans that tailgating will not be tolerated at the New Jersey MetLife stadium in February. And, this will be the first Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in cold weather in several decades.

Of course, snow is predicted.

But, as much as you prepare (or don’t prepare) for events like the Super Bowl, there are always unanticipated outcomes.

Take, for example, Super Bowl XLV held in Dallas, Texas. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, had almost four years to prepare, during which time he built a $1.2 billion stadium, complete with a closed roof.

Despite unexpected amounts of snow and sleet, transportation issues, and general chaos, the Packers and Steelers game went off without a hitch. Well, almost.

The Packers had fifteen players on the injured reserve list at game start and two more out by halftime. Nevertheless, with the leadership of Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, the Packers won.

Even more surprising than the events leading up to the Super Bowl is perhaps the events leading up to Aaron Rodgers’ position. Rodgers was attending Butte Community College when he had a lucky break—a Cal recruiter spotted him while recruiting one of Rodgers’ teammates. Rodgers was twenty-fourth in the 2005 draft, and sat for three years as Green Bay’s back up to Brett Favre.

By all numerical accounts, Rodgers should not have been a champion. But, as Rodgers modestly said on the David Letterman Show, “The things you can’t measure give people the most success.”

Law firm managers—like MVPs and sports stars—can’t always rely on rankings and outcomes. In fact, many times intuition about a person’s performance, potential, or aptitude is as important as checking the stats.

In hiring, promotions to leadership positions, or football draft picks, there are multiple factors and features that add up to success that are—literally—impossible to add up.

“The idea of measurement may seem obvious as a point of view, but in the innovation world there is a complication waiting to trip the unwary.  That complication is the need to focus on measuring features of the innovation ecosystem, rather than outputs of the innovation ecosystem,” explains Henry Doss, venture capitalist and contributor to Forbes.

“And the science of measuring features—things such as normative trust, win-win value systems, diversity of point of view, and so on—is not as fully developed as our ability to measure output.”

Basically, we trust numbers more than normative ideas, like reputation or reliability.

Why? When you think about it, who is more valuable to your law firm—the 4.0-GPA recent law school grad with book smarts or the mid-to-average law school grad who can think on his feet and hold his own in front of a judge?

In terms of motivation, would your employees become more productive with a monetary incentive or a simple “thank-you” note? Many studies believe that the latter proves more powerful.

Doss would ask law firm managers to answer the following three questions about the incentive system at your firm:

  1. To what extent does the incentive system create trust?
  2. To what extent does the incentive system create collaboration?
  3. To what extent does the incentive system create a “win-win” culture?

It’s time your law firm prioritizes and reinforces some its valuable, but non-measurable assets: a strong corporate culture or identity, loyalty of clients, or trust among its employees.

Although it is important to embrace non-measurable values like trust, reputation, or respect, Doss warns, “Never let the absence of measurement be an excuse to rely solely on judgment.”

So, seek to inspire, innovate, and incentivize normative values at your firm. But, in the long-term, also track your productivity, clients, IT systems, and revenue in numbers.

In American football, like law, the risks you take are both calculated… and not.

-WB

 

Teamwork on and off the football field is also about delegation. Give your law firm professionals C4CM’s guide “Effective Delegation: Strategies to Improve Performance and Productivity” to learn more. Available here.

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Alternatives To “Big Law” For Recent Grads & “Out Of The Box” Law Firm Strategies

The good news is, this week Forbes reports, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the U.S. Economy added 203,000 jobs in November, bringing unemployment down to a shockingly low 7 percent.

In addition to a lower unemployment rate, this week, the labor force participation rate was stronger, up to 63 percent from 62.8 percent last month, reports the same statistics.

So, in sum, the government is back in business and—better yet—reporting optimistic numbers for our employment outlook.

What’s the bad news?

The bad news is, employment for lawyers is still low. It has been difficult for the legal industry to efficiently match demand for low-cost legal services with the overabundant supply of highly educated (and thus enormously-expensive) legal professionals.

Law firms are still struggling to find the right combination of partners and associates.

And, the new generation of graduates is unlikely to see a return of the old BigLaw system offering stable, well-paying jobs. Of the 2012 law school graduates in private practice, just under half—43 percent—landed jobs at firms with between two and 10 layers, according to the National Association for Law Placement, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“Looking for other ways to practice law successfully is something people ought to be focusing on more,” said New York City Bar President, Carey R. Dunne, a former prosecutor and partner at law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, to the WSJ.

According to Mr. Dunne, the pool of well-paid jobs at big law firms is shrinking as clients push back on price and lower-cost alternatives, like outsourcing to foreign or in-house counsel.

Luckily, new programs are cropping up to solve this crisis.

The New York Bar Association is trying out a variety of alternatives to law firm placement for recent grads, such as placing novice lawyers in apprenticeships with big banks or other employers. They are also starting a new law firm that will test whether young attorneys can make a decent living while helping Americans who can’t doll out market rate.

Brooklyn Law School, in another attempt to match legal supply with demand, is launching a program that will place students in government and nonprofit organizations, which then hire them for at least one year after graduation, reports the WSJ.

Finally, Cisco Systems Inc. is planning to team up with the University of Colorado Law School on a program where students will be paid to work full time in the company’s legal department for around seven months, take classes to make up missed course work, and then receive a semester in free tuition.

“My goal is to develop a significant number of companies and law firms that are willing to take two or three students per year and do this, and create a really robust national program,” said Cisco’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, to the WSJ.

“I’m hoping that this is just one idea of many that will blossom.”

And, with the right education or private partnerships, your law firm can also create innovative training programs for their young associates.

It take a lot of effort to step outside that box, but—once you’re there—a world of opportunity (and efficiency) awaits.

-WB 

Still need some creative inspiration? Read C4CM’s guide on Creating The Flexible Workplace.

You’ll find tips and tricks on how to:

  • 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

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Five Ways To Be Your Firm’s Next Rising Star

A hot new article on Forbes today is “Five Ways To Be Amazing At Work,” by Steve Siebold, a corporate consultant and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.

It’s hard to resist a title like that!

First, we’re told to be obsessed with productivity. Well, on a Friday, it’s easy to be obsessed with productivity. Every wasted minute at work is one less for leisure during the weekend.

But, what can we do specifically at law firms to improve productivity? Set the mood. Shut the door. Play calming music. Set a timer and work in 15-minute increments to keep totally focused.

Productivity is often about time management. Allocate a certain amount of time to a task and then disconnect. Unplug the phone and put “do not disturb” on your office door. The fewer interruptions the better the creative flow.

The second step to being amazing at work is to solve problems says Siehold.

This is an easy one. At work, keep a running tally of problems at the firm and within case matters. Create a two-column page with one side “problems” and the other “solutions.” It’s amazing how such a short exercise can go a long way in solving problems with law firm management practices or with cases in particular.

Third, take risks. For law firms, this isn’t necessarily the best advice. Of course, risk taking can pay off. But, it can also backfire. Luckily, there’s a simple adjective that can solve this problem. Take calculated risks.

And, take calculated risks on people. Give young associates a chance to shine.

“The great ones never play it safe when it comes to leading their teams through change, knowing their job is to serve as a guide and coach,” writes Siehold.

Fourth, have a strong work ethic.

For lawyers, it’s important to have a strong ethic in general. Don’t forget the right and wrong of cases you’re trying to win. Dedication to your work and believing in its ethic will go a long way to increasing your passion and productivity.

Finally, find a coach. For law firms, a coach should be a mentor, whether it’s a senior associate or law firm partner. Mentorship is an important part of the law.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

In any business, it pays to let people make mistakes. And, if you establish a mentorship program, it’s likely your firm will gradually see less and less of them.

With proper training, your employees can learn to communicate and cope–with confidence–during moments of both success and failure. Not to mention that, in the future, your firm will gain good leaders and good lawyers.

For more ideas about how to increase productivity at your firm, read C4CM’s 69-page guide Creating a Flexible Workplace,” a powerful how-to resource on developing a workforce flexibility initiative that not only helps your employees manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively, but also boosts productivity and your company’s performance.

Some of its guidance includes how to:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improve staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximize employee productivity and performance
  • Improve quality and effectiveness of employee work and personal lives
  • Decrease health care utilization costs
  • Reduce organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhance reputation as an employer of choice

-WB

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How Much Is A Law Firm Associate Worth? Here’s One Calculation.

If you like quick and dirty calculations, you’ll enjoy reading Samuel Blatchford’s back-of-the-envelope breakdown of the cost (and benefit) of associates to law firms (read his blog Ramblings on Appeal).

Billing a conservative 2,000 hours annually, associates bring as much as $640,000 in revenue for the firm per year, while costing a mere $340,000 in compensation, capital, and training, according to Blatchford.

Blatchford concludes in his Law Firm Economics that, “On this model, a partner in a leveraged firm (i.e., four associates per partner), could make $1.2 million in a year without billing an hour.”

Does this mark-up seem reasonable? Fair? Depending on your perspective, somebody might be getting the short end of the gavel.

Blatchford uses the Cravath Scale to first calculate average base salary and bonus for associates at first to sixth year levels.

Then, he makes a few necessary assumptions, like estimating the total expenses of an associate in real estate, technology, staff compensation, marketing, recruiting and training, charity, bar dues, retreats, and library expenses.

Finally, Blatchford uses the low-end of attorney’s fees ($400/hour) with an 80 percent realization rate for first-year associates.

So, by the end, we arrive at a surplus of $300,000 per year per associate for the firm.

If this is not the case for you firm, managers must be certainly wondering—where is all this surplus leaking to?

If your firm is not seeing enough value added by its attorneys, are your fixed costs or expenses too high? Are your billables too low?

It’s time for your firm’s own back-of-of-the-envelope calculations.

If your firm is not raking in the cash, maybe it’s because your clients are unaware of the true value of young associates.

In a recent survey for the WSJ by the Association of Corporate Counsel, a bar association for in-house lawyers, more than 20 percent of 366 in-house legal departments polled refused to pay for the work of first- or second-year attorneys, in at least some matters.

This survey demonstrates a rising trend where clients and the heads of law firms no longer want to pay high hourly fees to newly employed law school graduates.

It’s time both sides—clients and law firm managers—learn to invest in first and second year associates because they’re worth it.

If your clients are still concerned, consider posting more complete bios of your attorneys online. That way, their expertise and pedigree is clearly visible.

Also, before every new case, communicate to your clients exactly who will be working on the matter—and why. Even young associates have their advantage (knowledge of a new technology, new legal procedure, or even modern language).

Meanwhile, if your firm is, in fact, earning such a surplus, it’s possible you’re underpaying your associates. At least, that’s what Blatchford would have you believe. How about you?

-WB

Still having trouble assigning fair associate compensation?

Take C4CM’s course “Rethinking Associate Compensation: What’s Killing Lockstep?”

What do firms like Orrick, Flaster Greenberg, Fenwick & West, and Hastings know about making associates happy, committed and profitable? Turns out it’s quite a lot. In fact, these and many other firms responded to the recession by ditching traditional lockstep compensation in favor of a compensation system based in whole or part on associate performance.

So far it seems to be working. How are these firms using merit/performance based compensation to retain associates? Especially in a period when so many associates are being lost to in-house counsel positions with clients?

During this comprehensive audio conference, you will discover how many firms are making merit-based associate compensation work, along with the good, bad, and ugly lessons learned when making the transition.

Other practice management and associate compensation training materials available here.

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