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Mitigating (& Embracing) Mistakes: A Law Firm’s Guide To Trial & Error

Scientists admit “we were wrong,” this summer about “inert” Pluto, which they now know to be a “very active” dwarf planet, reports The Independent.

Some might wonder why this even makes headlines. Scientists are wrong all the time. In the 19th century, Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, was the first person to use physics to calculate the ages of the Earth and sun–and he was only off by about a multiple of 50.

Chemist Linus Pauling was confident that the structure of DNA was a triple heliz. Unfortunately for him, Francis Crick and James D. Watson discovered the double helix structure of DNA that same year in 1953.

And, among the many famous equations created by Einstein was one called the the cosmological constant, which he introduced because he thought the universe was static. We now know the universe is expanding and Einstein called the cosmological constant his “greatest blunder.

Nevertheless, some of science’s greatest blunders have actually resulted in even bigger breakthroughs. In the ase of Kelvin, the calculations themselves were ground-breaking.

For Einstein, the cosmological constant was eventually re-introduced by scientists once they realized the universe was expanding at an accelerated pace. Finally, for Pauling, his triple-helix structure may have been malconceived, but the two-time Nobel Prize winner contributed so much to science already, the incident reminds us that mistakes, well, they make us human.

Lawyers are only human, too. Sure, law firms are lush with Type A personalities, perfectionists, and over-achievers, but to achieve anything novel requires taking a long road paved with mistakes.

A law firm’s first-years are often afraid to speak up, act up, or go home for that matter; instead, they reread every brief, every motion until it’s flawless and they’re blameless. Nowadays, in the legal profession, associates get little experience in the courtroom where there’s a trial, but no room for error.

However, managers in every field agree, it’s vital for rising stars to gain first-hand experience. There will, of course, be mistakes. Attorneys are known for having tempers in these moments.

But Kathryn Schulz—expert on being wrong (no, seriously)—would have us believe that a series of cultural and learned behavior has led society to believe “rightness” equals “goodness” and that this is a huge social and practical problem.

Embracing being wrong is, in fact, a key to how our businesses and people thrive.

According to Schulz, here’s why.

“Do you remember that Loony Tunes cartoon where there’s this pathetic coyote who’s always chasing and never catching a roadrunner? In pretty much every episode of this cartoon there’s a moment where the coyote is chasing the roadrunner and the roadrunner runs off a cliff, which s fine, he’s a bird, he can fly. But the thing is that the coyote’s fine too. He just keeps running—right up until the moment that he looks down and realizes that he’s in mid-air. That’s when we’re wrong about something…we’re already wrong, we’re already in trouble, but we feel like we’re on solid ground… [the feeling of being wrong] feels like being right.”

We’ve all had instances when we are over confident about our rightness.

For example, we’ve discovered the best defense, the best argument for the case based on the facts. In these moments, generally, we assume anybody who disagrees with us is ignorant of the evidence or of the logic to which we ourselves are privy. As soon as we become aware that these same opponents—either our adversary on the opposite bench or sometimes our own second chair—do have access to the same information, we assume it’s still a deficiency on their part. Correct puzzle pieces, wrong combination. If, in the end, these people still disagree, our last assumption is that they’re enemies, distorting the truth “for their own malevolent purposes.”

It is this attachment to our rightness that leads to the mistreatment of colleagues and other unprofessional behavior in the office, but, just as important, it prevents us from making mistakes that can lead to breakthroughs.

Students attend law school because they are united in the same desires to problem solve. When presented with a case and facts in that case, attorneys must decide what is the best combination of arguments to convince a judge or jury to award a desirable verdict. Law students should be the first to admit cases are not always won by “rightness.” So why the obsession with being right?

While it’s no goal to be wrong, an incorrect answer by a risk-taking associate or naïve first-year should not be a punishable offense. Instead, turn it around. Some of the most interesting products and innovative concepts have emerged from trial and error (Also read, Duly Noted)–a process you should consider rewarding at your firm.

For Schulz’s entire presentation, watch the video here.

Just because your firm embraces trial and error, doesn’t mean its mistakes must be costly. The loss of trade secrets–ranging from proprietary formulas to confidential information to production methodologies–can have devastating impacts for a company. Whether a formula for a product, a unique method of conducting business, or another type of sensitive material, companies want to ensure that their investments in products, employees, and processes do not fall into a competitor’s hands and cause damage.

Take C4CM’s audio course “Counsel’s Guide to Trade Secret Protection: Preventing and Avoiding Costly Errors and Penalties,” on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

This information-packed CLE webinar explores best practices for preventing and avoiding costly errors and penalties when dealing with trade secrets, third parties and litigation. You will also gain legal insights on how to ensure compliance and keep trade secrets a secret.

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Is The Future Bright For Non-Blogging Law Firms?

Your firm may think that it’s above e-gossip or online blogging. But, that’s also what renown law firm K&L Gates thought before its dispute with online reporter, Law360.

Above The Law writer, David Lat, describes the incident with an excerpt from the Law360 piece in his article, “Barbarians at the K&L Gates.”

“Flat profits and spreading concern about the firm’s ability to keep talent are among the reasons more than 80 partners have K&L Gates LLP since the beginning of the year, an exodus that includes many up-and-coming leaders who had been seen as key to the firm’s future, according to some partners who recently left and other experts,” quotes Lat on July 23, 2015.

“Those leaving the 2,000-lawyer firm include rising partners in prized corporate and financial practices and a number of high-profile veterans, including intellectual property litigation heavyweight Michael Bettinger [who moved to Sidley in San Francisco]. Litigators Greg Jackson and Danny Ashby joined veteran Steve Korotash, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission associate director, in a jump to Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP’s white-collar group in Dallas in March.”

Although K&L Gates Chair Peter Kalis was quickly ready to refute this depiction of his business—a depiction that also made its way into a Blomberg article—Kalis lacked an online presence. He and his firm were at a disadvantage in spreading their side of the story.

Notorious legal blogger Kevin O’Keefe followed up with his own Above The Law post titled, “Non-Blogging Law Firm Managing Partners And CEOs Playing With Fire?” in which he writes, “[a] memo leaked to Above The Law and Kalis spoke to Bloomberg on July 29th for a July 30th piece reporting that the partner departures were a natural result of the firm’s strategy.”

“I can’t help but see the irony in Kalis calling for everyone at K&L to take a stand in the media when neither he nor they have an effective media presence. Where’s their voice?”

And that’s the problem with being a Luddite in law. The most efficient and effective way to defend your firm’s image and, by proxy, your clients is the world wide web. After all, it’s in the name, the audience is world-wide.

Perhaps you already host a law firm blog but your posts don’t seem to go anywhere. Delivery mechanisms are equally important to social media.

Here are a few tips on how to get your content shared. But, beware, with every benefit to technology comes certain pitfalls of which your firm should be weary.

1. Publish your posts on media aggregators.

Websites like Reddit, Shoutwire, and Digg allow individuals to submit links to websites, blog posts, or any Internet-based page. The community of readers then votes up (or down) the link based on a review of its content. Create flashy titles and you’ll likely see in a flash the rise of your readership.

Beware: Comments by readers can be harsh. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to write down criticisms (NSFW) that may end up permanently cached on the World Wide Web.

2. Add website sharing buttons.

Your firm’s website should have links to all of your social media accounts, as well as ways to share your posts. Programs like “Click to Tweet” make this easy.

Beware: Your firm may need a small amount of Internet savvy to create buttons on your website and restore broken links.

3. Create interesting content.

This is so obvious your firm is likely already doing it! Nevertheless, remember to write thoughtful arguments accompanied with eye-catching photos. There’s so much competition already when it comes to online content, your firm’s additions must stand out.

Beware: Yes, this requires a little more time and thought to write captivating posts and tweets.

4. Do your research.

If you know what time your readers are log on then you’ll know the best time to publish your posts. Maybe you’re getting a lot of hits first thing in the morning. People are remiss to start work at 8am and decide to read legal news or browse the web. With this knowledge, you can now set your social media to publish at certain times to target your audience.

Beware: Due diligence on your casework is no longer enough. Time to do due diligence on your business development, too.

5. Crossover multiple social media platforms.

Happy you finally mastered the art of blogging for your firm? Time to summarize that blog post on your LinkedIn and Facebook page and compile a 140-character hook for your Twitter account. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same ideas on different mediums.

Beware: Now you’ll have to memorize more usernames and passwords. More social media means more potential backlash.

In the end, it’s possible to circulate your firm’s strategy about hiring, firing, and work ethic before a biased, and certainly less-informed secondary source scoops you.

Start small by using the above tips to get your firm’s content shared on social media.

Last tip: proofread, never post when emotional or angry, and generally be sure it’s content that your firm truly wants shared.

The question for organizations is how do you use these tools to open up communications with your workers, candidates and customers, while protecting your reputation as an organization?

Attend C4CM’s course, “Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: Developing a Successful Social Media Employer Branding Strategy.“

If you’re looking for tips on communication practices in the workplace, read C4CM’s guide “Communication Skills for Managers: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practice Strategies to Communicate More Effectively.“

Applying successful communication techniques gives you two important advantages: (1) You’ll create a harder-working and more productive employee workforce, and (2) you’ll be less likely to fall into the clutches of employee lawsuits.

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The Fin To Fine Print? New Compliance Policies Needed For Law Firms & Employees

Is this finally the end of the fine print?

As if most people didn’t already know, consumer data is at risk. With so many mobile devices today, data privacy compliance—and the “check here if you agree” box—has become almost impossible for companies to legitimately sustain.

Fine print can hardly be called “compliance” or “protection” anymore. At least, that’s what a subtly-released report would have you believe.

WIK-Consult released a report after being commissioned by regulators to review existing research on the “effectiveness of different approaches to informing consumers about proposed uses of their data, and securing their engagement and consent,” writes Out-Law.com. The report notes that there are many legitimate reasons why personal data from consumers is needed to process certain transactions online, from shopping to banking. While these online services use privacy policies to confirm consumer consent, the majority of people—the report finds—do not actually read the fine print.

Furthermore, as smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers abound, so do the many chances to lose control over consent or even confidentiality of private data.

“Although data flows in the [Internet of Things] do not differ fundamentally from the data flows observed in any connected environment, the sheer increase in the number of connected devices multiplies the data that becomes accessible and analysable,” quotes Out-Law.com of WIK-Consult.

“If expectations about the take-up of such connected devices are correct, online tracking of personal data is likely to become seamless across all areas of people’s lives.”

The report concluded rather bleakly that this problem of the de-privatization of personal information on the Internet is only likely to get worse as consumers become increasingly unaware of the dangers of multiple mobile devices.

“Besides the increase in the amount of data, one may also expect that data gathering, aggregation and analysis will become even more subtle as machines talk to machines without (almost) any human intervention. Thus, consumers have even less opportunity to learn about data-gathering practices. In some cases, they may not even be aware that the device they are currently using is actually connected to the internet,” continued the WIK-Consult report.

In the end, WIK-Consult offers no solutions to what is perceives as a problem of (1) legitimate compliance with privacy policies, as consumers rarely know what clicking the box “yes” refers to; and (2) lack of general knowledge of how to protect personal information online and across multiple technologies.

Luckily, law firms specialize in compliance and knowledge-empowerment.

In fact, about 20 to 25 percent of U.S. law schools already offer a course in information privacy law (via LinkedIn).

And, according to some experts like Daniel J. Solove, John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School, more schools should follow suit.

Law firms are expanding their services in this area as more and more businesses need help crafting their compliance policies (as previously mentioned). In addition, more and more individual consumers need protecting from breaches (think, the Walmart and Sony hack).

Is your firm prepared to branch out in this area or train its associates appropriately?

If you haven’t already, now is a good time of year for your firm to reevaluate its own compliance policies—not just information protection, but also employment and wellness program compliance.

In fact, all eyes are focused on the latter with the EEOC filing suit against multiple employers over their wellness programs, a new EEOC proposed rule on how the ADA applies to wellness plans, and critical compliance issues surrounding the ACA and the rules for wellness.

All this legislative attention makes it more crucial than ever that you check every aspect of the wellness plan of your firm and its clients to assure that they’re on the right side of the law.

Wellness plans offer obvious benefits to the employee—better health—and benefits to the employer—lower costs and reduced absenteeism. It seems like a win-win for everyone. But there are a host of legal issues to be aware of:

1. Privacy rights
2. Discrimination liability
3. Tax surprises
4. Federal regulations; ADA, ACA, HIPAA, ERISA, GINA, FMLA and FLSA

So take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar “Wellness Programs and the Law: Your HIPAA / ACA / ADA / EEOC Compliance Checkup,” on Thursday, July 30, 2015 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern time.

In just 75 minutes, you will learn:

  • Why use Wellness Programs?
    • Improved Employee Health and Productivity
    • Can Wellness Programs help avoid the Cadillac Tax?
  • Wellness Programs and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Wellness Programs and the ACA Regulatory Framework from HHS, IRS and Labor
  • Structuring Wellness Programs for effectiveness and to maintain “voluntary” participation
    • EEOC Litigations Challenging Wellness Programs
    • What you need to know about the ADA and wellness programs
    • Does a penalty make a wellness program non voluntary?
    • What you need to know about GINA and wellness programs
  • Recent Congressional Wellness Program Hearings and Legislation
  • Other state and federal laws that may have an impact, such as FMLA and workers’ compensation

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Why Young Associates Need Mentorship & How To Develop A Program

Young associates need a lot of guidance. Whether it’s tempering an overzealous associate or instilling confidence in a quiet one, law firm managers will need to develop a mentoring relationship with their first- and second-year associates to teach best practices and behaviors.

Take, for example, meeting with the client for the first time. You’d be surprised what a young associate doesn’t know.

Rule #1: Dress appropriately.

New clients may stop by the office at any time. Associates don’t want to be caught in casual Friday attire when an important CEO is considering switching firms. Make sure your associates understand the difference between business casual and just, well, casual.

Create a clear policy regarding dress. Sometimes the transition from law student to legal professional is a rumpled one.

Rule #2: Be on time.

Punctuality is a must when filing legal briefs or showing up to court. Law firm partners would not likely accept a first-year associate being late to a meeting. So, the everyday environment of a law office should not be any different.

Communicate to your younger associates the expectations for timeliness of the firm. If the managing partners show up around 9:30 each morning, then everybody else should be working by 9:00. It’s an unspoken rule that whomever shows up ready to work first gets the best assignments (and the worm). Those who aren’t around to answer the phone may find their value to the firm is forgotten rather quickly.

Rule #3: Be prepared.

If ten-year-old boy scouts are always prepared, so you should be. Whatever the situation, young associates should start to get in the habit of doing due diligence. Meeting with senior partners or simply office vendors requires lawyers to bring a clear agenda and always deliver results for the firm.

Rule #4: Focus.

“Unfortunately, your office is a trap with all types of distractions,” writes Rebeca Mosquera in “Ten Tips to a Successful First Client Meeting” for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.

Among some of the above rules, Mosquera hopes to impart tips she developed early on in her career for having a successful first meeting with clients.

“When you meet with the client for the first time (or any time) you need to be engaged and focused. If you have the meeting in your office you will hear or see emails pop up on your screen, your phone might ring one or several times, people will sneak their heads in to tell you that you have another meeting in fifteen minutes. You don’t want that and the client will get the impression he or she is not your top priority.”

Fortunately, Mosquera’s advice holds true for training young associates, as much as client meetings. More experienced lawyers should always remind young associates to stay focused on a single, billable activity. Whether it’s meeting with a client or even working on a case, keep distractions—like personal calls or emails—to a minimum. Try working in 15-20 minute uninterupted increments before checking work email. You will work more efficiently and make fewer mistakes when you’re 100% dedicated to the task at hand. 

So turn off that cell phone and turn on that mentorship program at your firm. Your program should address:

  • Methods to manage mentor expectations/requirements for mentee’s professional development (taking associates to meet clients, attend bar association meetings, etc.)
  • Developing a culture of mentorship where the firm recognizes and rewards mentors
  • Why a first day introduction is not enough
  • How to establish better mentor-mentee pairs
  • Ways to build mentoring into the lawyer professional development process
  • Best practices for setting and adhering to mutually appropriate, time-commitments for mentoring
  • Best practices for facilitating open communication between mentor and mentee
  • How to assess your program, get “honest” feedback from associates 

If you don’t already know how to put this type of program in place, look to the Center For Competitive Management’s audio conference on Thursday, July 9, 2015, from 2PM to 3:15PM EST (here).

The course, “Mentoring More Than a Handshake: Integrating Legal Mentoring With Law Practice Management,” will explain why many formal mentoring programs fail to work as advertised, but how your firm can restructure programs to get it working again.

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Same-Sex Marriage Legal In 50 States & How To Open Dialogue About It At Your Firm

States must recognize unions of same-sex couples, the Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who was considered the pivotal swing vote in the case. In the end, he wrote the majority opinion (via NPR).

The four justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito—who voted against the ruling each wrote dissenting opinions.

Keep in mind, before today’s landmark ruling, gay marriage was already legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia by legislative or voter action; or by federal courts that overturned state’ bans (see a chart on NPR.org).

Summarizing our legal process, the courts explained:

“Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law.”

In polls, support for same-sex marriage is at an all time high.

Interestingly, about three-quarters (73%) of those who say they personally know a lot of gays and lesbians favor same-sex marriage; whereas a majority (59%) of those who know no gays or lesbians oppose same-sex marriage, according to Pew Research Center.

One of the leading factors in determining support for same-sex marriage (outside religious beliefs) is political alignment. According to the same polls, 65% of Democrats and an identical percentage of independents favor gay marriage. However, only about one third (34%) of Republicans favor it, reports Pew.

Therefore, depending on where your law firm is located, and the political composition of your employees, this might become a point of contention or at least conversation.

Maintaining a positive and supportive culture within your firm is just as important as being prepared for the transition of your workplace and human resources policies given this ruling.

Control workplace gossip and negative opinion, if there is any. While Justice Roberts has the right to speak out in dissent, it’ll likely breed resentment and hostility inside your firm.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course “Managing the Most Difficult People at Work: 15 Cornerstones for Handling Constructive Confrontations” to gain tips and tricks for knowing what to say on a potentially divisive subject.

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What Law Firms Can Learn From A Career In Software Development About Retaining Employees

According to one attorney-turned-developer’s calculations, after 43 year of employment, at age 65, the software developer will have saved $2,102,010 by investing in a fourth of his take home pay minus student loans.

What’s the figure for an attorney? Almost a million dollars less than the software developer ($1,268,404).

So how did William Ha, former civil litigator, come to this conclusion?

First, an attorney starts his career later and with higher student debt—a lot higher. As a result, the take-home pay that an attorney is able to invest over the next 40 years is both lower and delayed.

Of course, Ha acknowledges that each job has an “X Factor” that accounts for non-monetary yields. For example:

“The lawyer can make partner at a rather large, making a base pay of say $1,000,000 a year, and the software developer can take a company public as an earlier employee if not CEO, cashing in on his own millions,” writes Ha.

There are a variety of unknowns that affect this calculation, but Ha believes that the software engineer still wins out. A software engineer gets paid a pretty penny for any side work she completes (and a lawyer is not allowed to offer the same services).

In addition, law firms cannot go public based on ABA Professional Rules. Furthermore, to maintain the professional independence of a lawyer, no lawyer or law firm can share legal fees with a non-lawyer, explains Ha in “Economics of Software Development v. The Practice of Law – A Rough Look at the Professions”.

So, whereas law firm behemoth, Baker and McKenzie, brings in $2.54 billion in revenue in 2014, with over 11,500 employees (roughly $173,000 per employee—if they can shares these legal fees), Facebook for the same year, brings in 12.466 billion with 6,337 employees, creating $1,700,000 per employee.

In software development, it certainly pays to work for “the man.” For lawyers, it pays to be partner.

Ha moved to Los Angeles after leaving civil litigation and worked for an iOS app developer (via ATL).

“There, I saw young people my age and younger 1) making a good salary, 2) having fun at work, 3) leaving on the dot at 5pm, and 4) not having to deal with a brutal job market. This was the first exposure to software development (aside from my preconceived notions). Is this real life? I wanted to be part of this somehow…”

He converted.

As a law firm manager, does that mean you should quit (and encourage young associates to quit) to join the ranks of Facebook employees?

No, not necessarily. What Ha points out is that so much of what makes a career “worthwhile” is (1) passion and interest in the field; and (2) lifestyle.

To retain your law firm associates, it’s important to remind them why they decided to become lawyers in the first place. Perhaps it was passion for the law. If so, allow your young associates to take on pro-bono cases that they’re passionate about.

If your young associates are keen on making partner, enroll them in business development courses. Encourage them to network at professional events or join legal associations. Host dinners for your community businesses and mentor your young associates in the art of wining and dining potential new clients.

Finally, if your associates are starting to burn out—much like Ha—provide more flexible hours or a more comfortable workplace. There are a variety of innovative workplace practices that your firm can implement that don’t cost a dime, but improve the morale and the retention rates of employees (read about some suggestions here).

When interviewing potential new associates, hiring partners asks hard questions about why these law school grads what to join the firm. But, it’s equally valuable to investigate why young talent is leaving.

A growing number of firms have created non-partnership/career associate tracks to address client’ demands for value. These associates work fewer hours, and are paid lower salaries than partner-track lawyers. So how then does the firm incentivize these lawyers?

Balancing compensation in a firm that embraces multiple associate tracks is tricky. Keeping non-partner and partner tier associates happy and committed to the firm requires a compensation plan that fairly reflects the efforts, hours and status of each.

Learn more about attracting, retaining and compensating career associates with an eye towards loyalty, fairness, and firm profitability in C4CM’s webinar “Re-inventing Associate Compensation: Pay Structures that Incentivize, Reward & Retain Non-Partner Track Attorneys” on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

You will learn how to:

  • Use creativity, rather than conformity as a criteria for non-salary rewards
  • Utilize proven methods leading firms are using to create firm-building bonus structures for these associates
  • Build associate loyalty and reduce turnover
  • Increase associate awareness of firm business when they are not tasked as rainmakers
  • Evaluate career associate performance in addition to hours

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Why Two NY Fugitives Are On The Loose & How To Avoid The Blame Game Through Mentorship At Your Law Firm

All eyes in New York State are furtively glancing behind them, after two murders escaped an upstate prison.

And while authorities are conducting a thorough and widespread manhunt for Richard Matt and David Sweat, there appears to be just one good lead—the woman who allegedly helped the two fugitives escape (read more at CNN).

Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee, sits (rather ironically) in jail, accused of assisting two felons to flee; but the real question should be, how could one employee be a weak enough chink in the chain for two prisoners to break free?

It’s unclear at this point who and how many will be held accountable. What is clear, however, is that authorities have yet to locate the escapees after ten long days. Where did all go wrong—with the felons, prison employee, prison authorities, or just the authorities?

At law firms, partners are always complaining about the level of effort and sense of accountability of their young associates. Google a few phrases like “What Drives Partners Nuts,” or “4 Ways Associates Screw Up” and you’ll find myriad articles, old and new, addressing the subject.

Yes, there are also articles about “how partners screw up,” or “how secretaries screw up,” but those columns always address one faction of people, as opposed to targeting team failures.

At a law firm, people work as a team. If the hierarchy works correctly, a strict power structure and job description divvies out roles and responsibilities, as well as names the people in charge to enforce them.

No single person should be in a position to bring down the practice.

This is why associate reporting schemes are devised and mentorship programs enacted.

So, let’s say, for example, your majoir complain as a partner is that “associates don’t fret the details.

“Asked to look at an issue, associates don’t read all of the cases, so we get blind-sided by a horrifying case that our opponent cites in an opposition brief. Or associates don’t read the whole case, so we cite a snippet from footnote 3 that sounds good, and our opponent notes that the actual holding of the case is that we should lose. Or associates don’t read the whole deposition transcript, or contract, or whatever,” writes Mark Herrmann for Above The Law blog.

How can you fix it?

First, explain to associates what you expect. Even if it seems belittling, for young associates, it’s important to outline your expectations. When you ask them to write a draft, explain that you expect it to be flawless (or, don’t call it a draft at all).

When you ask an associate to look at an issue, tell them to also prepare a summary of every case that they cite. Better yet, tell them the law firm name partners will expect a short verbal summary of every case cited in the brief. You will probably stop getting blind-sided by case details an associate didn’t bother to read.

Think associates, “blow stuff off”? Create incentives for them to get work done. A reward system or bonus system that is linked to deadlines may increase productivity.

Think this is babying your associates? Well, the habits you instill in your first-years from day one will stick with them for their entire tenure at your firm. The amount of time and mentorship you invest now is exactly what you get back later.

Learn more about establishing formal mentorship programs on the Center For Competitive Management’s audio course, “Mentoring More Than a Handshake: Integrating Legal Mentoring With Law Practice Management,” Thursday, July 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

In this audio conference, expert faculty will give you real-life advice on how to improve the structure of your existing mentoring program, including:

  • Methods to manage mentor expectations/requirements for mentee’s professional development (take associates to meet clients, attend bar association meetings, etc.)
  • How to develop a culture of mentorship where the firm recognizes and rewards mentors
  • Why a first day introduction is not enough
  • How to establish better mentor-mentee pairs
  • Ways to build mentoring into the lawyer professional development process
  • Best practices for setting and adhering to mutually appropriate, time-commitments for mentoring
  • Best practices for facilitating open communication between mentor and mentee
  • How to assess your program, get “honest” feedback from associates

Because enough with the blame game. We all make mistakes. Create a law firm culture that is equally invested in law firm success and tangible results, from the ground up.

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