Tag Archives: employment

Don’t Be The Best, Just Better: Lessons From Obama To Law Firms About Measures Of Success

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows unemployment at just 6.1 percent—the lowest since 2007. This means President Obama outperformed Reagan on jobs growth and investing, reports Forbes.

This is great news. But in a way you may not expect.

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University found that money only makes people happier when they perceive this money as being higher than their friends and colleagues. In a nutshell, people are only happy when they’re doing better than others.

“Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect,” said lead researcher Chris Boyce about his findings in the paper “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction” published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

So when it comes to unemployment numbers, Americans are less satisfied to know that an additional 2.5 million new jobs will be created in 2014, or that 142,000 jobs were created last month alone. These are just numbers, not statistics.

Americans are only happy if they discover this year is better than the year before it. And, while this decade will never outperform the last, the 2000s-2010s could have the 1970s-1980s beat.

In the 1980s, President Reagan dealt with a recession much like the one President Obama is grappling with today, which is why the two are so often compared.

“President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’” said Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners and author of Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box, to Adam Hartung for Forbes.

And what did the comparison show? President Obama’s job creation prevented unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, pushing people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

“President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his sixth year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.”

Which is great news for those who are keeping score—and studies show, we are all, consciously or not, keeping score.

Taking the lesson of comparative gains into account, law firm managers might consider reassessing some of their policies of business practices. For example, you may not be able to offer bonuses to employees this year, but perhaps you can offer comparatively better benefits (that cost your firm less to offer).

Clients may not care as much about the price per hour for your legal expertise as much as the fact that it is comparatively lower than your closest competitor.

Last year, two-thirds of law firm revenue involved flat rates and other “alternative fee arrangements” or pre-negotiated discounts to billable hours. What are these discounts, and can your firm offer comparatively better ones?

The Center for Competitive Management offers a webinar that explores the latest tools and approaches that law firms are using to set prices that are fair, collaborative, and align firm pricing with client-defined value.

This means providing a comparative advantage when you can’t provide an absolute one.

Sign up for the webinar titled “Law Firm Pricing: Developing a Pricing Capability, Negotiating Fees, and Locking in Clients,here. It takes place from 2:00pm to 3:15pm EST on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

During this interactive session, you will learn real-life strategies as employed by top pricing managers/directors in the field, including:

  • What clients really want from firms in terms of value and pricing (and how to deliver)
  • The latest pricing practices at top firms and how they might work for you
  • How to assure that pricing and overall firm strategy intersect (and make fiscal sense)
  • Why project management data is essential for developing successful pricing
  • Latest Alternative Fee Arrangements trends in 2014, and how legal AFAs have changed in the last five years
  • Factors to consider before your firm brings in a pricing director/manager (and what to do with them once they arrive)
  • A day in the life of a pricing manager: responsibilities, who they should report to, etc.
  • Getting Started: steps your firm can take today to begin a pricing culture reinvention
  • Top five pricing mistakes and how your firm can avoid them
  • Much more…

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Five Questions Law Firm Professionals Should Ask When Hired

If “getting a new job” was a 2012 resolution come true already, be sure to look before you leap into the New Year.

As a law firm professional, you should consider asking the following five questions before accepting any new offer of employment.

1. Is this a base figure?

After you are presented with an offer, find out more about the compensation structure.

Law firms range in their compensation packages. Some offer hiring bonuses, semi-annual bonuses, stock options, or percentages for any new business brought in.

The question also provides your future employer with an opportunity to boast about the monetary and intrinsic benefits of working for the firm. All other variables alike, a free gym membership may end up becoming your deciding factor (especially in places like Manhattan).

Based on a complete understanding of the compensation package, you will also be able to make an informed decision—and even have a leveraging position—when choosing between firms.

2. When should I expect to receive this offer in writing?

It’s easy to forget in the moment to ask this very simple question. But, be sure all the details of your negotiation are written down on paper.

In any negotiation, a written contract is a must-have. So, phrase the question rhetorically—don’t take no for an answer.

As a lawyer, you know best how employment contracts and salary negotiations mean little without signed evidence of the exact conversation and figure.

3. Will you please send me a copy of the job description?

For obvious reasons, a law firm wants to present itself in the best possible light. As a result, sometimes the position described to a candidate during the interview sounds too good to be true.

Sometimes this is even the case.

Ask for the job description before accepting a job offer. Not only should you examine the list of day-to-day responsibilities to evaluate whether or not the position is still appealing, but you should also ensure that you are adequately prepared for the skill and experience requirements.

When possible, ask for a copy of the management hierarchy or firm organizational chart. It’s helpful to understand the possibilities for promotion and the chain of (reporting) command.

4. When and how often are your firm’s performance evaluations, and will an increase in salary be commensurate with a positive review at that time?

All law firms should have periodic evaluations. Find out when your performance will be evaluated by your manager.

In addition, ask about the firm’s bonus structure and salary increases. Sometimes these performance-based actions are related to the review period, but sometimes not.

All employees should know from day one how and when their work will be reviewed and also how any superior work performance will be rewarded.

If you are being offered a job in close proximity to the evaluation period, ask whether or not your future raise or bonus will be affected. Depending on the response, you may want to negotiate a higher base salary now.

These days, don’t expect performance reviews or the month of January to automatically result in increased pay.

5. When is the start date?

Be clear about your expected timeline for decision-making and start of employment. This date may affect other personal calendar items, like health insurance or childcare.

When changing firms or careers, don’t forget to take advantage of a delayed start date. You can take your family on an impromptu vacation or sign up for that 3-week woodworking class you always wanted to take.

Finally, expect a conversation about compensation to be difficult for both you and the firm’s hiring partner.

Most managers have not been adequately trained to discuss compensation. And, they have not been the sole party responsible for making salary decision, which makes it difficult to discuss compensation with any conviction or ownership. Be understanding in the event a hiring partner cannot answer all of your questions.

The process of compensation negotiation is nerve wracking, but—clearly—exciting. Congrats!

-WB 

For law firms looking to streamline the hiring process, check out C4CM’s course “Communicating Compensation to Employees,” which gives firm administrators clear communication guidelines to manage difficult conversations and improve existing systems.

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Need to Know How Law Firms Are Holding Up Across The Globe?

If an administrator, lawyer or client wishes to examine the top-tier firms in say, Germany, where she or he will be travelling for business, there’s a good chance she or he will eventually check out the 20-year old Legal 500, in either print or online form.  This compilation in capsule formula—the UK’s invention—is good for a quick perusal of firms’ capabilities world-wide and is pretty exhaustive. It seems to keep readers up-to-the-minute on the local happenings in each region.

One imagines that this sort of data can come in handy when, for example, one is headed for a never-before-been-to part of the world. Or, if your firm is planning on setting up shop a far distance from home turf, you’ll want to examine the new territory by putting out feelers as to where firms have been successful in this new venue, and where they haven’t.

So what does this birds-eye-view series—the company also puts out e-books per region and industry (downloadable on Kindle, iPhone, iPad etc.)–have to say about each country, per practice area?

Let’s look at a few representative examples.  If we  examine the reportable launches and leavings of firms in, say, Thailand, we learn that politics have affected investments and tourism but that the economy is robust, due to the Thai bank’s closed door policy to derivatives and the like.  Baker & McKenzie is the largest firm of note.

On to Scotland, which seems to have four big firms dominating. These are listed as  Dundas & Wilson LLP, Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, McGrigors LLP and Shepherd and Wedderburn. We read, too, that Edinburgh’s reliance on financial services has made it susceptible to the downturn.

As to Scottish trends; there is a sense of Londoncentricity in the air, and there are lateral hires aplenty.

In China, although M&A activity increased, private equity funds didn’t do well.  Many practices underwent serious downsizing.  However, it’s expected that, as soon as US and European markets recover, there will be a lot of incoming activity in the months to come.

And guess which firms reported upstepped momentum? Those firms housing “strong” litigation and employment practices.   Additionally, there is what has come to be termed a great deal of “internationalization” (or, as the British say, “internationalisation”) of local firms.  In that arena, rainmaker Rupert Li left Clifford Chance LLP for King & Wood.

In Germany, antitrust experts are being wooed in the aftermath of the global recession.  In particular, they are being sought for advice in the areas of summary proceedings and compensation claims.  There is also a great deal of that oft-used phrase, now, “cautious optimism” about the possibilities around the corner.  Another word that is tossed about much is “transparency”.

There was a notable lack of activity in areas such as private equity; this affected many German firms’ bottom line.   Also, Germany is learning from the West: “Firms have increasingly looked towards Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the US to learn what may be adapted…for German or European insolvency legislation,” we read.  “As a result, the criteria by which German judges choose insolvency administrators for particular cases is increasingly becoming a subject of discussion.”

It’s not inconceivable to think that, if your firm is not already so structured, in the years to come you’ll be doing business in quite a few of the 90 countries represented here. No one lives or works in a bubble anymore.  In fact, we’re all closer to other parts of the world than we think and a site like Legal500 seems to lessen the distance ever so slightly with these snapshot views.

To read more, go here:  http://www.legal500.com/

-ERM

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Counteroffers – What Administrators Need to Know

There are many occasions these days in which lawyers will find themselves weighing their employment options and, as an administrator, you can only benefit from learning how associates might react to counteroffers.  Above the Law takes on the challenge of presenting a several-series piece on the topic of the tangible and not-so-tangible reasons that attorneys jump ship—even after their current firm has made a counteroffer.  (Law.com also has something to say on the matter. See the end of this blog for both sources.)


So, essentially, what you need to know is: when an attorney is wondering: “should I stay or should I go?”, what are the reasons and what, if anything, will change their mind?  

At a time when most firms are trimming the fat, as ATL puts it, attorneys are well aware that it still costs a firm more to hire (and “break in”) a new employee than it does to keep the status quo. This is especially true for firms operating on a reduced staff where perhaps an increased workload has been projected for the coming year.  

So while associates are putting in a record number of billable hours, they will be testing the waters…and even looking for and finding employment at other firms.  These attorneys will sometimes expect their current employer to reach out—and, in fact, their employers may be very willing to do so.

“For the first time since the recession began,” says ATL, “firms may actually be disappointed when one of their associates gets hired and they are most likely going to present these associates with tempting counteroffers.”  

If these associates speak to a career counselor, they are likely to be advised to look at the big picture in the following manner:  

  • Take stock of the situation and examine tangibles.  Reassess the current job scenario. What were the decisions that led to the decision to leave?  How likely is it that such a situation will change, now?  It helps to name the issues so that you can bring them up at either the exit interview or the counteroffer meeting. 
  • Some issues that often come up are: salary/bonuses; work load and quality of assignments; growth and partnership potential and your relationship with coworkers and partners.  
  • Look at the not-so-tangibles.  Are you feeling valued at work?  Do you think you have a good work/life balance?  Do you fit into the firm’s culture? 
  • These things can’t always be remedied by a counteroffer.  For instance, if you are an autonomous worker who enjoys making unique, individual contributions to a project, you might not mesh with a large firm where team work is the norm. On the other hand, if you prefer a firm that rewards group-centered performance and your employer hones in on high-achievers, it’s best to find a better fit. As ATL says, “You’d be kidding yourself if you think your firm is going to change its culture to retain you.”  

Bottom line: there are many reasons why associates decide their personality and/or preferences might not dovetail with their present position.  The most level-headed job-seekers will weigh all such considerations in totality, so as not to be “blinded by the dollar figure or… perks of a counteroffer.”   Read more at: http://bit.ly/dHJMM4 and see, also, a related item at Law.com: http://bit.ly/gAOGq9

-EM

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