Tag Archives: associates

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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Do Workplace Dating Policies Reduce Risk? An Unorthodox Solution By Philosopher Blaise Pascal.

When Blaise Pascal was just a teenager in seventeenth century France, he invented the first mechanical calculator.

Son of a tax collector in Rouen, perhaps Pascal’s interest in numbers and organization is not that unusual.

But Pascal applied his talent in mathematics in a variety of surprising ways.

At age 16, Pascal had already written a treatise on projective geometry and worked with Pierre de Fermat to develop theories in probability theory. Pascal was also an accomplished physicist.

However, Pascal is most likely remembered for his thoughts (Pensées) as a philosopher and mystic.

This month, albeit roughly 360 years earlier, Pascal had a mystical experience. He wrote down the date and from that point forward, always kept it on his person. The date, November 23, 1654, was found sewn into the coat that he was wearing on his death, writes the Guttenberg Project.

This conversion profoundly influenced Pascal’s future research. And, still with logic and statistics in mind, Pascal started to argue the existence of God.

The argument, called Pascal’s Wager, posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or does not exist—imagine a statistical theory and its counterfactual.

Whether God does or does not exist—and assuming the infinite gain (heaven and reward) associated with the belief in God or infinite loss (hell and damnation) with the disbelief—Pascal claims a rational person should always live as though God exists. In the end, if God does not exist, such a person will risk minimal finite losses (certain pleasures, luxuries, etc.) whereas in the counterfactual case, such a person risks infinite perdition.

So, why are we discussing Pascal’s Wager? Well, lawyers, the same logic can be applied to the question: Do workplace dating policies reduce risk?

Office romances are highly pervasive.

“According to CareerBuilder’s 2012 annual office romance survey, 38 percent of respondents have dated a co-worker at least once in their career, and one-third of them ended up married,” writes a Workforce article.

Unfortunately, these office romances can lead to sexual harassment suits, claims of nepotism, and other liabilities for your firm.

Take a lesson from Above The Law reader whose windshield was smashed in by a colleague he dated (and whose chances of employment after his legal internship are now dubious at best). Define your workplace dating expectations and follow them yourself.

Whether it’s a zero-tolerance fire-able offence policy; a “love contract” where employees sign statements admitting an office relationship is consensual; or confidential disclosure where employees alert firm HR representatives of potential complications, define a policy. Circulate it. Enforce it.

Law firm professionals know best that there are always ways to shirk contractual obligations, terms of agreement, or policy requirements. But, implementing such policies is better than nothing at all and often works as a deterrent to litigation.

Think about Pascal’s Wager. If workplace dating policies don’t reduce legal liability risk, you’ve spent a minimal amount of time and effort implementing one.

However, if the liability does exist and policies deter or reduce this risk, then hammering out dating policies can substantially lower the costs of litigation.

-WB

Gossip about office romances? Learn how to cub this toxic talk with C4CM’s guide Effective Management of Workplace Gossip.

Need help drafting workplace policies? Bonus material includs sample social media politic and case studies.

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How To Sneak Out Of Work Early On Friday (Buy Why Not To)

So you want to leave the office early on Friday. With just a few hours until the weekend, you have created an airtight strategy for leaving early… and unnoticed.

Step 1. Schedule all meetings before 4:00pm. You have to check-in with other associates about the case. And, just to be sure it doesn’t interfere with your date with the exit door at 5:00-sharp, you rearrange meetings for Friday morning.

Step 2. Leave your suit jacket at the office. You entered with a suit jacket, but you’ll exit without one. It’s always nice to have a back-up suit jacket in the office (plus, people will think you’re planning to return when you slip out around 4:59pm).

Step 3. Answer all e-mails that implies you will get back to them in full detail on Monday. In a law firm, urgency is often a misused term. It’s easy to look at every action item as “urgent.” But, you know better. You’ve strategically responded to e-mails with the line, “I am investigating your query and will return with a response on Monday.” That’ll teach those over-urgent e-mailers a lesson.

Step 4. You worked late on Thursday. Everybody saw that you worked late on Thursday. And, just to be sure, you complained on Friday morning about how late you worked Thursday evening. Obviously the hours will cancel out.

Step 5. You have a family, friends, and a life—no excuses needed! There’s no need to glance up and down the hallway to ensure a clean getaway. No need to scale the fire escape just to avoid the stare of your secretary. Throw away that pencil-drawn map of the office. Clandestine exits are a thing of the past. Today, professionals are expected to maintain a work-life balance. So, you can forget the stigma involved and just announce your early departure, right?

So, you managed to successfully sneak out of the office early on Friday. But, while you were frantically distracting the lobby attendant and thinking about your golf swing, you forgot about the many reasons why you should have stayed.

First, law firm partners are also thinking about their weekend plans. And, in doing so, they’ve thought up dozens of tasks that still need completing. When they found your office empty, they asked your colleague. When raises and bonuses are being discussed, you’ll find the partners no longer find your work indispensible.

Second, everybody wants to leave early on Friday. You’re not the only one with plans. But, people grunt out the day as required. So, when you leave early (and it will likely not go unnoticed) you’ll be at the center of angsty boardroom gossip. It’s hard to press “undo” on the resentment felt by your colleagues after they had to work over the weekend to type up that brief you so elegantly avoided doing yourself.

Third, the economy is still tight. There are hundreds of unemployed lawyers looking to replace you. Unfortunately law is the profession of over-supply and under-demand.

Finally, if you’re looking to escape the office every Friday, perhaps you should reevaluate the firm at which you work or the cases that you’ve taken. In the ideal world, a career should be intellectually and personally fulfilling. If you’re increasingly dissatisfied at work, it’s probably time to reevaluate your life ambitions. Instead of planning for the short-term (a sneaky weekend getaway) talk to a career counselor about your long-term goals.

If you’re bored, unchallenged, or personally unfulfilled by the cases your firm handles, ask your law firm manager to take on a more interesting pro-bono case. Propose a budget and business plan for a non-profit that can boost the profile of your law firm.

Once in awhile, leaving the office early on a Friday is necessary for your mental health. However, if it becomes a chronic issue or desire, the solution for this problem is most likely found inside yourself (and not outside the office).

-WB

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How To Successfully Negotiate Anything (When You Play To Your Strengths)

Many associates start out by gaining experience in litigation. Nothing like the fast-paced, unpredictable arm of the law to guide naïve first-years.

However, after a few years of sleeping in the office and canceling vacations, many young associates start to dream of the sunnier skies of transactional work or, better yet, getting in-house.

Of course, it’s necessary to have some experience in the practice areas of securities, patents, and compliance, but—otherwise—the basic needs of transactional firms are the same as those in trial law.

“I have said it before, and will continue to advise, that litigators negotiate their way through the day, every day, and are therefore quite possibly better suited to negotiate deals than a transactional lawyer will ever be. Not to say that there are not some transactional folks who could sell you a pile of dung and make you think you got the better of the bargain, but my experience is what it is,” writes David Mowry for Above the Law.

In his post “Play To Your Strengths,” Mowry answers the basic question: How do you convince transactional firms that your litigation experience is applicable?

“The argument is not difficult; you negotiate for a living, you shred contracts in order to zealously represent your institutional clients, and you are damned good at what you do.”

However, the title of his post has larger, loftier applications to lawyers and law firm managers.

Whether you are an associate or law firm partner, to successfully conclude a negotiation, it’s important to play to your strengths in and out of the courtroom. Whether debating a raise or a courtroom settlement, law firm professionals must understand the strengths of their character and of their case.

In Negotiation 101, if you catch a person off guard, they are in no position to negotiate. So, when your boss stops by your office to hear about the progress of a case or to discuss your career, you best be prepared.

So, for cases, keep an accessible list of tasks you’ve completed, but also put these tasks in order of importance. That way, when your boss asks for a status update you can quickly lead with your biggest achievement—the biggest strength of the case—first. In all likelihood, you won’t need to go further into the minutia.

In court, if you keep a short list of your case’s strengths, it will help you gear the conversation back on track—“on track” meaning back to the best points of your case.

Next, for your career, keep a list of professional achievements. Again, put them in order of importance (unless, of course, your last major achievement was long ago!). Furthermore, create a list of your value-add to the firm, i.e., your strengths. Every time you are assigned to a new case, browse your list of personal strengths. This will help you figure out the best way to make an immediate and worthy contribution.

“The first task in the exercise is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside work. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself than you can from a standard performance evaluation,” adds the authors of “How to Play to Your Strengths,” for the January 2005 HBR Magazine.

Forget your flaws. Don’t be modest.

“It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better.”

People underestimate the power of a list and the power of confidence. A list of “strengths” may seem juvenile or even boastful. But, when you’re caught off guard, or even when you’re not, a list is the best way to negotiate your way to the top.

Statistically women underestimate their value in the workplace. Everything is communication. Are you communicating in the most positive, effective, and engaging way possible to build your career?

Learn to overcome this gender obstacle with “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Powerful and Effective Communication,” from the Center For Competitive Management’s extensive law firm management resources and training materials.

-WB

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How To Successfully Negotiate Anything (When You Play To Your Strengths)

Many associates start out by gaining experience in litigation. Nothing like the fast-paced, unpredictable arm of the law to guide naïve first-years.

However, after a few years of sleeping in the office and canceling vacations, many young associates start to dream of the sunnier skies of transactional work or, better yet, getting in-house.

Of course, it’s necessary to have some experience in the practice areas of securities, patents, and compliance, but—otherwise—the basic needs of transactional firms are the same as those in trial law.

“I have said it before, and will continue to advise, that litigators negotiate their way through the day, every day, and are therefore quite possibly better suited to negotiate deals than a transactional lawyer will ever be. Not to say that there are not some transactional folks who could sell you a pile of dung and make you think you got the better of the bargain, but my experience is what it is,” writes David Mowry for Above the Law.

 

In his post “Play To Your Strengths,” Mowry answers the basic question: How do you convince transactional firms that your litigation experience is applicable?

“The argument is not difficult; you negotiate for a living, you shred contracts in order to zealously represent your institutional clients, and you are damned good at what you do.”

However, the title of his post has larger, loftier applications to lawyers and law firm managers.

Whether you are an associate or law firm partner, to successfully conclude a negotiation, it’s important to play to your strengths in and out of the courtroom. Whether debating a raise or a courtroom settlement, law firm professionals must understand the strengths of their character and of their case.

In Negotiation 101, if you catch a person off guard, they are in no position to negotiate. So, when your boss stops by your office to hear about the progress of a case or to discuss your career, you best be prepared.

So, for cases, keep an accessible list of tasks you’ve completed, but also put these tasks in order of importance. That way, when your boss asks for a status update you can quickly lead with your biggest achievement—the biggest strength of the case—first. In all likelihood, you won’t need to go further into the minutia.

In court, if you keep a short list of your case’s strengths, it will help you gear the conversation back on track—“on track” meaning back to the best points of your case.

Next, for your career, keep a list of professional achievements. Again, put them in order of importance (unless, of course, your last major achievement was long ago!). Furthermore, create a list of your value-add to the firm, i.e., your strengths. Every time you are assigned to a new case, browse your list of personal strengths. This will help you figure out the best way to make an immediate and worthy contribution.

“The first task in the exercise is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside work. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself than you can from a standard performance evaluation,” adds the authors of “How to Play to Your Strengths,” for the January 2005 HBR Magazine.

Forget your flaws. Don’t be modest.

“It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better.”

People underestimate the power of a list and the power of confidence. A list of “strengths” may seem juvenile or even boastful. But, when you’re caught off guard, or even when you’re not, a list is the best way to negotiate your way to the top.

Statistically women underestimate their value in the workplace. Everything is communication. Are you communicating in the most positive, effective, and engaging way possible to build your career?

Learn to overcome this gender obstacle with “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Powerful and Effective Communication,” from the Center For Competitive Management’s extensive law firm management resources and training materials.

-WB

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