Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Planning: Goal Setting & Values Check

Last week I posted how in December I ask my clients to review their past year and acknowledge 100 of their accomplishments. In December I also ask them to write next year's holiday letter - - as if they are looking back at the upcoming year.

When I do this exercise myself (as I had to assure one of my clients that I do), I start with a stream of consciousness or "scribbling" approach and write quickly without contemplation. I usually surprise myself with some of what I write about what happened in the upcoming year.

(A note about writing: one of my college English professors required weekly writings he called "scribbles." They were a page or two about any thought we had related to the novel we were studying. For some reason, calling them scribbles was liberating. I still often use this approach to get started writing.)

If you haven't set some goals yet for next year, or even thought about a New Year's resolution, set down that burden and scribble a 2010 Holiday Letter instead.

I think you will find it is a different way to discover your values and what you really want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Scribble and see what unfolds for you in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Your Year In Review: 100 Accomplishments

We're near year end. It's a time for year end awards like Person of the Year and retrospectives like The Year's Best and Worst [anything]. It's also a good time for the rest of us to review our year and acknowledge ourselves for what we did and who we were this year.

In December I ask my clients to give themselves a gift. I ask them to create a list of 100 things they accomplished during the year. As they make the list, they realize that they accomplished a lot more than they thought they did. And at some point in the list-making process, they usually realize it's not always about the "doing", it's also about the "being".

What does that mean? Make your list of 100 accomplishments and you'll find out.

You'll probably start with easy metrics related to work. At some point you will start thinking about all of the things you did in your personal life as well. Eventually you will get to more of who you were -- perhaps how you remained resilient, persevered, asserted yourself , met new people, were a friend or deepened relationships.

I know this is a hard assignment for people who were raised not to brag about themselves. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself what it is to brag.

You don't have to share your year end list with anyone. But do take the time and acknowledge yourself for what you did and who you were in 2009. A great coach I know calls this "savoring your year."

Give yourself this gift. Notice what happens when you do.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Business Development: George Clooney & Lawyers

No, this post isn't actually about George Clooney, but it is about business development and job search advice that holds true for actors as well as lawyers.

Over the weekend I heard a brief interview with a local actress who has a bit part in George Clooney's new movie, Up In The Air. Apparently she plays an airline ticket agent with a scene with Mr. Clooney. Part of the movie was filmed in the Detroit Metro Airport. When asked what advice she would give to aspiring actors and actresses who want to be in such movies, she said "Put yourself out there, meet people, network." (And she wasn't referring to another way of trying to get to the top.)

So there you have it. Whether you are an aspiring actor or a lawyer trying to develop more business or get a new job, the advice remains the same: extend yourself, meet people and build relationships.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Business Development: Luck Is What Happens When . . .

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." (Seneca, mid-1st Century Roman philosopher.)

I was reminded of this saying this week after I congratulated three lawyers on getting new clients within the last week, and then, when discussing business development, three other lawyers told me that they weren't born into country club families and/or their relatives didn't own businesses.

The second group of lawyers shares a narrow perspective about how lawyers start to develop a book of business. We could name the perspective "I Don't Have a Book of Business Because I Wasn't Lucky Enough to Have Family Connections." I think it's a commonly held perspective about rainmakers and rainmaking. It's often a very strong self-limiting belief for lawyers.

If these lawyers shifted their perspective even slightly to "Having a Book of Business Depends on Luck", they might see some new ways to attack the challenge of getting more clients.

For example, if you believe luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then (1) prepare, and (2) start improving your chances for opportunities.

I'll leave the preparation part alone for now, and focus on how you can increase your number of opportunities, and thus improve your rainmaking.

Are you always eating lunch alone (author Keith Ferrazzi says never do this), avoiding colleagues in embarrassment because of your hours and other statistics, wondering why referral sources have gone dry, letting friendships slide, shunning networking events, procrastinating over writing articles for industry associations, making no new friends (business or otherwise), always sending email but never using the phone, giving up on new marketing efforts after just six months?

Do you talk to strangers in the airport, in line at the grocery store, at your child's soccer game, at networking events? Are you getting involved in issues and organizations that you care about and becoming a leader? Are you letting your world know who you are, what you care about, and what you can do for people and organizations that matter to you?

Or do you assume and hope that people who know you and what you do will come to you when they need a lawyer, and that those who don't know you will somehow find you?

Creating opportunities boils down to putting yourself out there, meeting people and building relationships.

Here are a few recent success stories of lawyers overcoming their own resistance, putting themselves out there and increasing their business opportunities. One of my lawyer coaching clients joined FaceBook in the last two months and this week received a job opportunity through an old friend. Another reached out to reconnect with former colleagues and now is local counsel on a matter. A third befriended a quiet partner last week and now has a strong new champion. Another lawyer recently resisted a last minute urge to skip his law school reunion and now has a new relationship.

So here are my questions for you: What's the name of the perspective you want to have on business development? And what can you start doing to create your own "luck"?

I'll write more about "resistance" in a later post. For now, consider this challenge compiled from real life examples in the last two months, including the reunion one above.

Challenge: If you get a last minute urge not to attend an event you planned to attend, RESIST! Resist that urge. Even if you were always luke warm about attending, resist and attend. Notice what happens. See what business development opportunities are there. You'll never know who you might meet unless you go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping It Simple

I went to a local "Bar" dinner in a nearby city this week at the encouragement of another lawyer. I didn't know if I would know anyone or what the format would be like - - I knew it wasn't a holiday party. I'm not a member, I couldn't find anything about it on the Web, and for several trivial reasons I almost didn't go.

It turned out to be an elegantly simple idea started more than 30 years ago by lawyers in the city who wanted to get together for dinner once a month. There are no dues, no officers, no bylaws, no applications. There is no program, no speaker, no website. The group has dinner at the same place every month. There is no charge. You pay your own drink tab but the dinner is covered. There were about 35 lawyers this month because of the holidays. I'm told it ranges from 15-40.

The only requirement is that when it's your turn every few years, you and two others split the restaurant bill in thirds. The restaurant has your name and bills you.

What a perfectly simple idea: people getting together with no agenda and no obligations. Just pay when it's your turn.

I sent an email to the woman who tells people when it's their turn so that I can go again and know that I'm in the rotation. I met a lot of friendly lawyers who made me feel welcome. I look forward to the next one.

Keeping it simple. Works for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Event Networking Tips & Beyond

'Tis truly the season of holiday parties. I've been to three lawyer related holiday gatherings in the last week, with two more this week. It's not that I've been on the lookout for people violating the basic rules for holiday parties or for event networking, but I've noticed that generally a lot of people seem to be comfortable, meeting new people and having a good time. If you are not yet one of those people, here are some quick suggestions that go beyond the good advice about limiting your alcohol intake and dressing appropriately. That advice and these suggestions apply to all events anytime anywhere.

Before you go:
Identify the returns before you go. Knowing why you are going and what you want will motivate you to make the most of the event.

Practice your self introduction and read up on the day's news. Starting a conversation can be as easy as saying something about the event or the facility or asking what drew the other person to the event.

Put your business cards in your suit pocket or outer pocket of your purse. Always keeps some in your car in case you forget some for your suit or your purse, or you attend an event on the spur of the moment.

Arrive Early:
Scan the name tags on the registration table. Meet the organizers and host. Consider how you can help the event be a success. Put your name tag on your right lapel or to the right of where it would be. This makes it easier for people to read as they extend their hand to shake yours. Meet other people as they arrive, before they start breaking into groups.

During the event:
Focus on others instead of yourself. Try one of the following. Be gracious, act like a host, approach those standing alone and put them at ease. Connect people with others in the room. Have energetic conversations. Ask questions to engage people in something that interests them. This usually includes themselves. "How did you get started in your business? How would I know if I am speaking to a potential client of yours? What is your biggest challenge?" Listen well and twice as much as you speak.

If no one is standing alone, look for groups of 3 or more to join. People tend to pair up. A group with an odd number can be easier to join. Does someone appear to be disengaged in the conversation? Introduce yourself to that person. If you feel uncomfortable, move on and find ways to help other people.

Start conversations with people while in line for the food or bar. Smile and say hello, even if you are just passing someone. Spend time getting to know new people. You can talk with your friends and colleagues another time. Keep in mind your purposes for attending the event. Get the business cards of the people with whom you feel a strong connection. You do not have to get cards from everyone.

After the event:
Congratulate yourself for going, for arriving early and for what you did well. Consider how you can do things differently next time. Record notes and contact information for those people with whom you felt a connection. Follow up with them in timely, appropriate ways.

Best wishes for your holiday events!

Friday, December 4, 2009

What Color Is Your Success?

As I entered recurring lawyer coaching appointments in Outlook well into 2010 for three new clients this week, I used my coaching color. In designer speak, it's a "warm" color. To me, it's a "happy" color. (Perhaps also a "hoppy" color.) It's also prevalent in my home.

As I see my calendar continue to fill with this color, I can easily assess the growth in my coaching practice over the past year. I can also easily compare it against the amount of green entries - - for obvious reasons - - for business development activities. The green quickly shows me when I spent a lot of time on business development, when there were lulls, and what lies ahead in 2010. Of course, because I enjoy these activities, they could be the happy color as well, or the coaching calls could be green. But systems help us stay organized and on track, and this one works for me. As these colors expand in my calendar, I see the benefits of what I've been doing and I keep moving forward.

So here are my questions for you: What colors do you want in your 2010 calendar? When will you start coloring?

Another good question comes from a discussion I had with one of my non-lawyer clients this week. She is a young engineer in a management position and we talked about delegation and developing a key direct report. Working with him on his role, she advised him to "do [this] and it will set you up for success the rest of the day." This struck me as so simple and yet so powerful that it felt like an absolute guarantee. I turned it around and asked what would set her up for success on her challenges every day. Since that conversation, I've used this process every morning myself. How about you? What thing can you do that will set you up for success the rest of the day?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Releasing Your Inner Writer

Secretly harboring a creative writer? Actually a frustrated journalist? Always dreaming of the day you'll start writing your book? You're not alone amongst lawyers. Carpe diem. Take a cue from this blogger who credits a sibling for getting him going. It's about basketball and life. What's YOUR story?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Practical Tips for Networking in a Job Search

A practical article from the WSJ on networking to find a job.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Moms-In-Law: A Kitchen Table Discussion...

I'm facilitating an event in Detroit on December 1st called "Moms-In-Law: A Kitchen Table Discussion. Negotiating and Succeeding With a New Work Schedule."

Co-sponsored by the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan - Wayne Region.

December 1st
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

For more information:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who's That? Self-Introductions At Meetings

I went to two different bar association related events this week. One before work and the other at lunchtime. They both had 20 or so lawyers present. One was a collaborative meeting of various bar groups on diversity issues. The other had a speaker. At the start of the diversity meeting everyone was asked to introduce themselves to the group. When people came in later, they were asked to introduce themselves.

The speaker lunch program started without self-introductions. I know the reason was related to time - - that it would take time away from the hour available for the program for everyone to introduce themselves to the group. However, the difference in the effect on the subsequent discussions was palpable.

Introductions help people connect and relate to each other better. Even when you can't remember the person's name or position, it still helps that you heard it. You know that someone down at the other end of the table does some kind of municipal finance work. Or you've listened and perhaps realized someone else is the person you've been wanting to meet. You've listened and perhaps realized this is the person you've exchanged emails with or read about in the paper. Now you can put a face to a name.

Introductions at this sized event can take as little as 7-8 minutes total with as much as 20 seconds per person. Yet the effect on the membership present can be huge. People will start to get to know more people. A community feeling will develop more quickly. Using greeters or hosts ensures that new members will feel welcome and acknowledged. Then they'll be more likely to return, get active, bring other potential members, etc.

These suggestions aren't new and the benefits aren't limited to association type events. A few years ago self-introductions were used for the first time to start a meeting of partners from multiple offices who were all in the same good sized practice group in a firm. Not surprisingly, this new twist loosened everyone up and set a good tone for an open discussion of strategies for the group. It took a few minutes and perhaps seemed unnecessary to some, but it definitely made a difference to those people who didn't know everyone.

Ms. JD's 3rd Annual Conference on Women In The Law

Check out for information on Avenues to Advancement, Ms. JD's Third Annual Conference on Women in the Law at Northwestern Law School. It includes more than 20 different panels on Saturday featuring lawyers and other professionals from across the country. Friday's student-only workshops on presentation and self-promotion had limited space and sold out.

The conference is co-sponsored by Ms. JD, the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession and Young Lawyers Division, the Chicago Bar Association, NAWL and the Women and Law Committee of the Illinois State Bar.

And now here's the blatant plug for the Successful Interviewing Techniques panel . . . women from Baker & McKenzie, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Latham & Watkins and yours truly, moderated by Northwestern Law School's Assistant Dean for Career Services.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Associates: Who Do You See In the Mirror?

I coach a number of lawyers in the mid to senior associate category. Despite success as associates, they often realize that they still hold themselves back by thinking of themselves first as associates, rather than as lawyers or, more specifically, as someone's lawyer. This self image affects how they interact with more senior lawyers and partners, and with clients and potential clients. It also often influences how those people see them and treat them.

I've seen miraculous things start to happen when these associates make the conceptual shift to a bigger vision for themselves. I've seen it happening again this week. When they start to act more like lawyers than associates, they've started to receive more responsibility and get more respect. They've gotten better work. They've started developing ideas and working towards a focus in their practice. They're strengthening relationships with their colleagues and clients, and building relationships with potential clients.

When you step into a bigger vision for yourself, you start taking control of your career. What's there not to like about that?

I talked with another potential client in this demographic this week. I hope he looks in the mirror and sees what I see for him.

Powerful Questions

This week, in a non-coaching context, I experienced the power of coaching questions to diffuse tension and start a productive discussion about an employee's performance. You don't have to be a coach to ask these types of questions.
  • What will help you do your job?
  • What do you need to get this [task accomplished]?
  • What do you need from us?
  • What can we do to help you to . . . ?

If these kinds of questions diffuse tension and open up discussions at work, how can they help your other relationships? What if you asked your spouse:

  • What can I do to help you . . . this week?
  • What do you need from the rest of us [to keep your sanity over the Thanksgiving holiday]?

Thoughtful questions to potential and current clients will elicit the same kind of information. You'll find out their pain and you'll realize what you can do to help them.

You don't have to be a lawyer coach to ask powerful questions, and you don't always have to wear your lawyer hat.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Networking 101 For Law Students, Part Two

Establishing and Maintaining Relationships: What do you do after you have identified lawyers you want to talk to as part of your job search? First, remember that your networking is still about building relationships.

Therefore, regardless of how you contact the lawyer, instead of starting by asking whether the law firm or company is hiring, consider what will produce a longer conversation. Get to know the lawyer and the law firm, and let them get to know you. Doesn't this sound like getting your foot in the door? If you start by saying you are looking for a job and then asking whether the law firm is hiring, the conversation may end with a quick "no".

Your preparation helps you again. Think of ways to ask for advice and information, rather than asking immediately for a job. Tell lawyers why you are interested in talking with them and ask if they would be willing to talk to you. Let them know how long it will take. Thinking of this as information gathering and relationship building will build your confidence and also help you excel later when you have real job interviews. You can learn a lot if you are curious during informational interviews. And since it is flattering, people are more likely to respond to this approach and give you some of their time.

At the end of any conversation, ask if the person can suggest other lawyers for you to contact. This question can be more effective than asking to be kept in mind, or simply asking whether they know of any openings. By consistently asking for additional names, you can quickly build a list of lawyers to contact. Doesn't that sound a lot more promising, proactive and effective than waiting for job postings to appear?

I am a believer in hand written notes to thank contacts for their time and advice. If your goal is to set yourself apart, this will help. At a bar association board meeting last year, a member commented about the board writing thank you notes to our corporate sponsors: "I didn't think people did that anymore." My point exactly.

Stay in touch with your contacts with periodic follow up on the status of your information gathering and job search, and later, after you get a legal job. You can send short emails updating them. If it makes you more comfortable, you can make it clear that no response is required. Since no response is required, and people like to know that they invested their time well, there is little downside and much to be gained by staying in touch. You want to be in their thoughts if they later learn of an opportunity that would be right for you.

A law student asked me the other day about staying in touch with a lawyer in a law firm from which the student ultimately did not get an offer. The same approach can be used in this kind of situation. When you connect with people, you can follow up, tell them why you are interested in talking to them again and go forward from there.

Of course, you will use your own words and find a way that works for you. Networking for job purposes (and most purposes) takes time. Like public speaking and many other skills, the more you do, the better you become. Why not start building some relationships today?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Networking 101 For Law Students, Part One

Today I gave a lunchtime presentation on networking to about 45 first and second year law students at the University of Michigan Law School. The term "networking" didn't even exist when I graduated from there 20 years ago. The event was called "Networking Without Fear!"

So how do you network without fear, or at least reduce your fear to an acceptable level of anxiety? I believe that the key lies in the words of legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler when talking to his players about the only way they will defeat the opposing team whose players they must assume are just as big, strong and talented: "Preparation, preparation, preparation." Two of my former partners were players under Bo, and they use exactly the same mindset and approach in their cases to defeat their legal opponents. I believe that when something works for sports, it often works very well in other aspects of our lives as well.

What does preparation mean in terms of networking for law students? First, know yourself. Do a self assessment just like you would to prepare for actual job interviews. Identify your strengths, interests, values, unique attributes and the value you offer. Second, know what you are looking for. Something as broad as a job doing anything law related anywhere in the country? Or can you be more specific as to location, type of employer, area of practice? Do you want to work for a firm, a corporation, the government, a non-profit organization?

Know the purpose of your networking -- to find a job now and/or in the future. Short term and/or long term. Remember that networking is about establishing relationships. People do business with, and hire, people they know, like and trust. Be known, be liked, be trusted. Make friends. When you connect with people, you will know it. Don't just collect business cards. Remember that sometimes it takes time to make friends, to build relationships. Stick with it. (A bonus from this networking is that when you maintain these contacts after you get a job, you have a large network of people who already like you and may send you business someday- - business referral sources. Don't go to all this effort networking to find a job and then let the relationships lapse once you land one. You never know when your network may help you again. You may want or need a new job someday, perhaps sooner than you think. Getting business referred to you will always make your day.)

Third, conduct purposeful networking. Establish relationships with people in or near what you are looking for in terms of the type of employer, a particular firm or company, location, a practice area or specialty, etc. Review your existing personal network to see who you already know who fit those criteria. Your existing personal network includes your family, relatives, friends, classmates, family's friends, neighbors, colleagues at previous jobs, teachers, professors, people from your extra curricular activities, church, your kids' friends' families, etc. Then look at the next level of your network - - your law school's alumni. They are probably everywhere in every kind of position imaginable. Use your career services office & website, alumni office & website, LinkedIn, FaceBook,, and any kind of search available on the Internet to find them. Include your college alumni network and career services office and website resources. Look at the websites of the firms, companies, organizations, offices, in which you are interested. Do they include alumni from your law school or undergraduate institution? Identify those people.

If you are open to different kinds of employers in a certain city, and you don't know anyone, or want to get to know more people there, keep in mind that local bar associations are excellent ways to meet lawyers. There are city, county, women's, specialty, etc. bar associations everywhere. People in leadership roles within them tend to be particularly receptive to inquiries and interest displayed by aspiring, enthusiastic law students.

Next time - - Part Two of Networking 101: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships.