Thursday, December 30, 2010

Visualize Success: More Examples of 2010 Successes

I share a few more of this year's real life successes to help lawyers visualize their own definition of success for 2011 and how they can get there. (As always, I've used fictional names for privacy purposes.)

Charles' solo practice grew steadily this first year after he left the firm. By providing excellent legal advice and services and expanding his contacts, he continues to get more referrals, to be hired by other firms for specialty work, and to get repeat business from happy, satisfied clients.

Tamra's niche work continues to increase as she finds ways to let people know what she focuses on and of her accumulating successes. Despite the economy, she had record setting months financially this fall after many years of practice.

By achieving a very challenging personal goal this year, Ally realized that with the right plan she can also take on significant professional challenges that she never would have tried before. And just as she formed new habits to achieve her personal goal, she is creating new habits that help her more efficiently manage her case load.

Matthew created procedures to streamline his work and have more control over it. He focused on building his own practice and set boundaries for when and what he would do to service his partners' work. He raised his visibility and increased his credibility. As a result he took a worry free vacation and brought in more new business and more revenue than ever before after many years in his firm.

Samantha overcame a paralyzing fear of public speaking this year. She now even almost looks forward to her next presentation. Her tremendous growth in this area spills over to her professional presence and confidence within her firm as well. Her value as a partner is being acknowledged more than ever.

Hannah interviewed and was hired for her dream job this year. She overcame an unexpected rough start by focusing on what was most important. Now, thanks to her intelligence, humor, common sense and work ethic, her star is rising at a record setting pace.

If you would like to make changes in 2011 and reach your own definition of success, please contact me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Listen Up, Lawyers: 5 Rules For Really Listening (per David Winter)

Communicating includes listening. Communicating with your clients, partners, other colleagues, other lawyers, potential clients etc., includes listening to them. Since communicating is a relationship skill, when you improve your listening, you will improve your professional and personal relationships. How does that sound?

David Winter, a successful plaintiff's lawyer in metropolitan Detroit and a friend of mine, shared some of his advice on listening this week. Like the #1 rule for losing weight, Dave's 5 rules for listening are simple but not easy.

"Let’s get one thing straight, listening isn’t waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can provide a rebuttal. Listening is understanding, interpreting, and paying attention to what is said. The pathway to successful listening is outlined by five rules. Learn and practice them and your career as a lawyer will become a much more rewarding experience, professionally, personally and financially.

The rules I follow are:

  • Listen to why something is important to the speaker.

  • Confirm you understand the speaker’s true meaning.

  • Ask for explanations, don’t assume.

  • Don’t offer opinions.

  • Edit out internal responses."

Learn and use these rules in 2011. Notice what happens.

If you would like coaching on your professional relationships, please contact me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your Year In Review and 2011 Preview

What are you most proud of from 2010?

When I asked my lawyer clients this question last week and this week, almost all of them said they are most proud of how they have taken more control of their practice, career or work day this year. And almost all of them say they did this by developing better business practices, asserting themselves more and raising their profile within and/or outside of their firm. To start making changes, they had to be brave, step outside their comfort zone and stop doing what wasn't working.

Take time this week or weekend to list 100 accomplishments (yes 100!) from 2010 - - large, small, professional, personal, events, actions, tangibles and intangibles, whatever. No one but you needs to see your list. This is a time to be proud of yourself and who you were this year.

So acknowledge yourself and your year. You will see that you accomplished more than you realize and more than you give yourself credit for. You will also more clearly see what you want to accomplish in 2011, who and how you want to be, and how you will make it happen.

Congratulations on 2010 and best wishes for 2011.

If you are ready for coaching to make 2011 your best year yet, please contact me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Associates in Law Firms: Year 1 Business Development Plan

"People do business with people they know, like and trust." Successful franchises survive on this maxim because they are known to consistently provide a good quality product or service. In fact, most successful businesses depend on this principle, including successful lawyers, financial advisors and pediatricians, barbers, hair colorists and babysitters.

Last week I worked with new associates in law firms about how to use this principle to form a basic business development plan for their first year as a lawyer. We talked about the following elements of a plan:

1. Your Reputation (in marketing terms a.k.a. your "brand"): decide now what you want your reputation to be inside and outside of your firm by the end of 2011 and what specific steps you will take to develop that reputation. Be as specific as possible when defining your ideal reputation for your first year and how you will achieve it.

2. Your Network: identify ways to strengthen your existing relationships, rekindle former relationships and establish new ones - - inside and outside of your firm, personal as well as professional.

3. Marketing: learn ways to appropriately let people know what you do as a lawyer. This can include in person, on your business card, through your profile and status bars on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media, your bio on the firm website, your email signature block, information at the end of your articles, etc. For example, even as a brand new associate, you should practice a brief self-introduction, a.k.a. an elevator speech. Know what services you and/or your firm offer and the types of clients with whom you work. In other words, know how you and your firm help and who benefits.

Just as you should with respect to developing your legal knowledge and substantive skills as a lawyer, watch and learn about business development from lawyers you admire.

You will probably hear and learn that there is no secret formula or a sure thing when it comes to getting clients and developing business. But credibility and visibility are two keys to generating business. So start taking steps to become known, liked and trusted inside and outside of your firm. It's a great time to start.

If you are interested in coaching to get started now, please contact me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Parties: Go With a Purpose and a Plan Even If . . .

Networking Survival Tip for Lawyers this Holiday Season: go with a purpose and a plan even if it is a purely social and non work related party.

If you just want to relax, have a good time and talk with your friends, that is your purpose and your plan. Permit yourself to do just that and you will. You will be guilt-free and relaxed.

Similarly, if you are going to a work-related party that you will log as business development time, know your purpose for attending and how you will achieve it. Maybe you want to catch up with five people you haven't seen in a while. Perhaps you want to meet three potential referral sources. How about a new client as a result of attending this party? By going with a purpose and a plan, you will spend your time more effectively and you will be that much closer to getting what you want.

Another word of advice - - only ask for a business card from people you actually connected with and enjoyed meeting. If you can't imagine ever having coffee with someone, sending them an email, or putting them together with someone else, save yourself time and angst afterwards. You don't have to get their card.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Business Development for Lawyers: Real Life Examples of Successful Behaviors

Lawyer Patrick provides value first every day. He does this for clients, prospective clients, referral sources and potential referral sources. He doesn't keep score and he doesn't expect anything in return. He goes out of his way to help people. This practice philosophy took time to begin paying off but now it always pays off in engagements, referrals, information or other opportunities. Sooner or later it always pays off.

Lawyer Anya engages with her target market at least twice a week. She has coffee or lunch with people in her target market and attends other events for them. She provides information and puts people together for their own benefit. She looks for and creates opportunities to help her target market. She is increasing her visibility and building her credibility in that market. It took well over a year but now she regularly gets new clients from her efforts, and she can track the clients to those efforts.

Lawyer Karla approaches every day with a business development attitude and belief that she can succeed in getting more clients. She is in court several times a week. She always sees and looks forward to the opportunity to be a great lawyer for her clients in the courtroom. She always sees and looks forward to the effect that has on her reputation in the courthouse. She always looks forward to meeting new people while she is there. She has the same philosophy in situations beyond the courthouse. Her confidence and success attitude, combined with her open, friendly way with people, create opportunities for people to approach her, seek her help or at least want to get to know her. She gets referrals from her clients and from other people who meet and see her in action in the court. She also gets referrals from other professionals and friends who know of her client relationship skills and her courtroom skills.

Of course, these lawyers have other components in their marketing and business development plans. But these three examples demonstrate how choosing and commiting to a behavior, and doing it over and over and over again, leads to success.

What new behavior would you like to establish? What will lead to your success? If you would like coaching to get you there faster, please contact me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Public Speaking: Examples From the Field

This past week a first year associate, a senior associate, an experienced partner and my fifth grade niece demonstrated four basic skills of all good public speakers:

1. They calmed and focused themselves by taking a deep breath before they began.
2. They spoke conversationally, varying their tone and using emphasis where appropriate.
3. They smiled and made eye contact with the audience as much as possible instead of looking down at their notes.
4. They engaged the audience with their own enthusiasm for the subject.

None of the four are Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie instructors. They aren't graduates of those groups or similar ones. Some of them used to be very reluctant public speakers. At least three of them have recently spent time focused on improving their public speaking skills. They spent that time well and it shows.

People paid them compliments about their various presentations and their ability to convey information naturally and simply. People acknowledged the speakers' knowledge level as well as their ability to relate to the audience. People acknowledged their organization. People approached them afterwards to ask follow up questions and to thank them. People singled them out to acknowledge them as being good speakers.

One of the formerly very reluctant ones even surprised herself this week with her own idea for a follow up presentation to a niche group of potential clients. "Holy cow!"

Two lessons:
1. You can and will become a better public speaker by working on it.
2. You can stand out by being a good public speaker.

Bonus: you may even start to enjoy public speaking. Imagine that.

When do you want to get started?

If you would like coaching to start being a better public speaker, please contact me.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Public Speaking Tips: Presenting Awards

In the last several months I've seen numerous lawyers present awards at various events. Simply put, we can all improve. For some people, improvement starts with these basic do's and don'ts.

How to Present an Award:
  1. Do prepare by researching the award and the recipient. If possible, talk with the recipient ahead of time, even if it's only a few minutes before the presentation. The audience can tell from your remarks and body language whether you've met the recipient. Isn't it nicer when you can tell that the presenter has personally met the recipient and knows more than how to pronounce the person's name? Don't admit that you just met the person for the first time a minute beforehand.
  2. Do state the significance of the award, even if it's an award that you think is obvious such as the Pro Bono Spirit Award. Also, if the person after whom the award is named is present, acknowledge his or her presence. I saw a lawyer forget to do this earlier this year - - at least one good reason to have a written outline no matter how familiar you are with the award and the winner.
  3. Do state the criteria for the award.
  4. Do describe how the recipient met the criteria and how he or she was chosen.
  5. Do say you are [fill in the blank] to present the [XYZ] Award to [recipient's name] as you gesture warmly toward the recipient to welcome him or her up to receive the award.
  6. Do know where the award is and have it ready. Don't hunt for it on the table behind you. It's not an afterthought.
  7. Do handle the award as if it is valuable.
  8. Do smile and make eye contact with the recipient as you hand him or her the award.
  9. Don't read verbatim from the recipient's list of accomplishments. Choose highlights relevant to the award, tell a story or be conversational in other ways.
  10. Don't call the recipient to the podium before you make your remarks. We've all sympathized with award winners standing awkwardly at the front of a room while they are praised. Don't impose that on anyone!

Last, if you are nervous, stay focused on the award and the deserving recipient instead of yourself. Put your energy into honoring him or her!

If you would like coaching to start being a better public speaker, please contact me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Elevator Speeches & Lawyers

What is an elevator speech and why do you need one as a lawyer? Never mind why it's called an elevator speech, just remember two things:
  • It is a short, memorable description of what you do and who you do it for.
  • It is a marketing tool.

You need to have it ready for any time you meet someone new and they ask what you do. You also use it when you introduce yourself in front of a group.

Focus on the benefits you provide. To preclude snap judgments about lawyers and generate interest, focus on the benefits or results you provide and for whom. For example, when asked what you do, you could say "I am a tax lawyer". A more meaningful answer might be "I help small businesses reduce their taxes and be more profitable. I am a tax lawyer."

Connect with your audience. To be more memorable, take your listeners into account and, if applicable, adapt your description to them. For example, "I help small businesses like yours reduce their taxes and be more profitable." An estate planning lawyer could say to a new parent "I help new parents get at least a little more sleep by getting plans in place and having peace of mind. I am an estate planning lawyer."

Have energy. If you are bored with your own introduction, your audience will be too. If you don't believe in what you do, your audience won't either. Find the words that work for you, practice them with other people, and then try them. It's natural to keep revising your introduction until you are really comfortable. To keep from trailing off and keep your energy up, keep it short.

Hint: to find your energy and the words that work best for you, consider what you like most about what you do for your clients.

The keys are keeping it short, simple and descriptive - the benefits of what you do and for whom.

Contact me for a single coaching call to develop and practice your self-introduction. or 734-663-7905.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marketing 101 For Lawyers Without a Marketing Plan

Here are marketing basics I discussed with a group of 12 mediators-in-training today. The group was a mix of lawyers, educators, accountants, business people and others, all of whom had loosely formed ideas about how they want to use their mediator skills. Our time was limited to one hour. As we talked they filled out their worksheet with information that made sense to them personally.

If you keep meaning to put together a marketing plan, but never get around to it, limit yourself to 15 minutes right now and use this outline. The bullet points are just ideas to get you thinking.

Even if you are way beyond Marketing 101, take a fresh look at who you want as clients and ask yourself how you can sharpen your focus. Take a fresh look at your tactics and your tools and ask yourself how you can be more effective.

I. Your Target Market - Who Do You Want To Reach?
  • Who needs your services?
  • What kinds of people or situations do you like to service?
  • Where do you already have opportunities, a lot of connections, a knowledge base, or a reputation? (i.e. Based on your work history, education, extra curricular activities, family, etc.)

II. Your Marketing Tactics - How Will You Reach Your Market?

  • Networking through personal contacts, associations, etc. related to your target market?
  • Referral sources (list them by name and/or by occupation)?
  • Online technology (website, blog, email, e-newsletters, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)?
  • Writing and/or public speaking?
  • Advertising?
  • Low tech, low cost placement of marketing material (community bulletin boards, etc.)?

III. Your Marketing Tools - What Will You Use?

  • Register your name as a domain name. Even if you don't use it, no one else can.
  • Create a Google profile for yourself.
  • Business cards.
  • LinkedIn - a simple, no cost way to start a professional presence on the web.
  • Prepare a 30 second elevator speech.
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Brochures
  • Twitter

Choose marketing tactics and marketing tools that fit you. Put your plan in writing. It's not a plan unless it's in writing. Go with your strengths, stay focused on your target market, and get started by taking one small action step and then another and another . . . . The key is to stay focused on your target market.

If you would like coaching to develop a marketing plan that works for you, please contact me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October is Pro Bono Month

October has been designated Pro Bono Month by the ABA, the State Bar of Michigan and many other states to highlight the need for and importance of pro bono legal assistance.

As a result of a pledge by the Board members of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, I've signed up for training at the end of the month in order to take on a pro bono domestic violence case. I'm looking forward to dusting off my litigation skills but I expect that a d.v. case will be very challenging in many ways. It's a way to stretch my comfort zone, learn something new and hopefully do something important legally and personally for someone else. I'll report back as this goes along.

If you want help finding or taking on a pro bono case, contact the State Bar, the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, or your state bar, local legal aid office or local bar association. Many law schools have students available to work on a matter with you through their pro bono programs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Job Searches: Stand Out From The Crowd

Writer Mike Scott interviewed me for today's Detroit Legal News article for law students and new lawyers about standing out in today's tight job market. When he called me, I thought of all the law students and recent graduates who spend most of their job search time and effort looking for and responding to postings online, and/or sending out hundreds of unsolicited resumes to employers where they know no one. I wanted to share my advice that this isn't the most effective way to spend all of your time and energy.

Law students and recent graduates should assume that if they are doing this, then hundreds of other law students and recent graduates, if not more, are responding to the same postings and sending out unsolicited resumes to every firm in their city or county. Thousands are doing the same in every state and part of the country.

Develop A Strategic Plan.

If you don't think your chance of getting a summer or permanent job through on-campus interviews or job postings is very likely, regardless of the reason, you need to develop a strategic plan for your job search. It should be a strategic plan similar to the business development plans that lawyers should create and implement to get new clients and more business from existing clients.

1. Figure out the market you will target, whether you know anyone in that market and why you are a good fit for that market.

2. Know yourself. Know what strengths you bring to an employer, and your unique attributes and experiences. If you aren't sure of your unique attributes and experiences and/or true demonstrable strengths, ask for help from people you trust and people who love you. Get their input on who you are when you are at your best.

3. Build on your strengths. If you are a leader and organizer type, find a way to get involved leading or organizing something related to your target market. If you are introverted and a great writer, let your target market get to know you through your writing. Bar associations and legal newspapers are frequently looking for more articles - submit yours without waiting for an invitation. If you like to volunteer, pull yourself away from searching for job postings online and allocate time each week to volunteering within your target market. ie. volunteer to help in some way at legal aid clinics, local or state bar association offices or events, fundraisers held within the legal community, law related golf outings, etc.

4. Be yourself and let others get to know you. In this tight job market, it is very important to get to know people who do what you want to do and/or who can refer you to others. And the most important part of this is to let them get to know you. You want to stand out in their minds.

Sitting at your computer responding to online postings or stuffing envelopes with cover letters and resumes isn't the most effective way to let people get to know you. Be honest with yourself. When you look at your cover letters and resume, what makes you stand out?

People do business with people they know, like and trust. They refer people they know, like and trust. And they hire people they know, like and trust. If you dedicate time during your job search doing things within the legal profession that you enjoy and that you are really good at, you will develop professional relationships with people who can help you now and throughout your career. You will stand out in their minds.

By building on your strengths, you'll also be gaining unique experiences and attributes that make you stand out. Think of the effect on your self-confidence, your resume and your reputation. You'll be building a great foundation for your career.

I've met hundreds, probably even thousands, of law students and recent graduates through my years of private practice, my coaching practice and all of my bar association activities. The law students and recent graduates who stand out in my mind are relatively few.

They stand out for various reasons, none of which are grades. Rather, essentially they stand out because they did things that let me get to know them. They are the ones who took initiative, asked me questions, talked with me after presentations, volunteered, took on responsibilities, got involved, asked me for help, showed up and mattered, and/or took advantage of opportunities or created opportunities for themselves and/or others.

They had different confidence levels and personalities. Not every one was a Type A, an extrovert, a leader or even a joiner. Even if I had only a few conversations or contacts with them, I got to know much more about them and their abilities than the hundreds or thousands of others who blended in because they didn't do anything to make themselves stand out in my mind.

What can you do to make yourself stand out to people who can help you in your own job search?

Here is a link to the interviews in today's Detroit Legal News by writer Mike Scott.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Effective Use of Social Media by Lawyers

Here is a link to Cherie Curry's article in the Detroit Legal News today on lawyers' use of social media. It includes a bit of advice and some common sense reminders, including a few comments from me and lawyers I know.

Detroit Legal News Article

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Business Development for Lawyers: Why Pick a Niche?

Many of my lawyer clients are either working on identifying and selecting a niche practice or really developing and capitalizing on the one or two specialties and related target markets that already form a part of their legal practice. Some of the broad legal areas in which they practice include business litigation, estate planning, business tax, criminal defense, health law, family law, employee benefits, employment law, construction, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution, business transactions, corporate work, bankruptcy, insurance defense, banking, real estate, etc. But within those practice areas are specialties and niches where they can see, and are seizing, opportunities to develop a client base or expand their book of business.

I have found and witnessed that by developing a niche you can maximize your marketing efforts and resources. You can aim at and organize your marketing around the clients you really want and the services you most want to offer. You will use your time, money and energy much more efficiently and effectively than a haphazard, generalized and exhausting approach that makes you blend in rather than stand out.

Rather than going to numerous random, unrelated, interesting sounding yet ultimately unproductive networking events, spend your time at events involving the target market for your niche. Spend your time identifying and talking to people who are most likely to be good potential clients or good potential referral sources for your niche. Unless you are working on beefing up your credentials, or you get or believe you can get a lot of referrals from other lawyers, don't spend time educating other lawyers through articles or presentations. Focus your efforts and resources on your market niche. Write for and speak to your market.

I know the idea of selecting and developing a niche scares some lawyers, especially newer ones. They think they will lose out on business that might otherwise come to them. But by targeting the specific market niche you want to serve, you are focusing yourself to develop business and you are building a name - a brand - for yourself. If clients outside your niche show up on your doorstep, you can still decide whether to work with them.

If you would like coaching to pick and start developing a niche law practice, please contact me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leadership & Management Lessons For Lawyers From a Corporate CEO

Here is a link to an interesting interview with Dan Rosensweig, President and CEO of Chegg, texbook rental online & via mail, which appeared in the NY Times' Sunday Corner Office column by Adam Bryant on July 8, 2010.

Rosensweig talks about how he uses management teams to set priorities for the company and create a clear definition of success, how he runs meetings, how he acknowledges star performers, what he looks for when interviewing and hiring, and how he approaches difficult conversations with employees who are not doing the things they need to do to succeed in their jobs.

Take a look and see whether you might apply some of Rosensweig's leadership and management practices to your law firm or company or even simply to managing your legal career.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Career Advice For Lawyers From LeBron James

Hate it or love it, it seems that NBA superstar LeBron James' decision yesterday to leave the Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat boils down to positioning himself to win NBA championships. He knows what he wants to achieve in his career and he knows he needs help to achieve his goal. He looked for teammates and an organization that he thinks will provide the best opportunity to succeed. He made a tough and controversial decision about his own career.

My theme here is not to encourage you to leave your place of employment. Rather, I encourage you to look at how you can best position yourself to get what you want in your career and then have the courage to take the actions to achieve your goals.

If you want to develop a specialty within your practice or firm, what do you have to do first (and then next and then after that), and whose support do you need?

If you want to work with more than just a handful of lawyers within your firm, what can you do about this and who can help you make it happen? If you have tried and failed, what can you do differently next time? How can you match your needs and interests with the firm's needs and interests?

If you want more referrals, how can you expand your network into more meaningful relationships? How can you first provide value to people who are in the best position to give you referrals? How can you make it easier for other people to think of you and remember what you do when they have an opportunity to make a referral?

If you want more clients, who is in your target market and how can you best position yourself in front of your target market? How can you let more potential clients know what legal services you offer? What can be your unique niche? How can you differentiate your legal services from other lawyers' services?

Instead of sitting in your office wishing your phone would ring, or attending numerous yet random and unproductive networking events, figure out what you want, make some decisions, and take action.

As a client of mine said the other day, you're not going to get a hit if you're not in the batter's box. And you won't even get near the plate if you're not in the game. Or, as some say in golf, never up never in.

So take charge of your own practice and career. Make decisions about what you want and start positioning yourself to get what you want.

Get in the game. Step into the batter's box. Give the putt a good roll. Circling back to basketball, be your own point guard. No one else will.

If you would like help figuring out what you want, making an effective plan and/or taking actions, let's set up some coaching. You'll be glad you did, especially since you still have six months left in the year to make this one your best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Control What You Can

A common theme among some of my lawyer clients is the frustrating and stressful feeling that much of what goes on at work is out of their control.

For example, new or young associates are often given assignments verbally and quickly by partners who need to put out a fire on their way to the next fire. They aren't given clear instructions or enough facts to create a context to properly research the legal question and anticipate related questions and issues. Yet the partners are too busy to properly organize their thoughts before giving the assignment or they later change their mind about what they want researched.

Mid-level or senior associates are so busy billing hours on client matters assigned to them that they have no time to develop a book of business. They are told not to worry about developing a book and that it will come with staying in touch with people and doing good work. Yet they also know that to become a partner, they must have a book of business of at least a certain dollar amount.

Non-equity or "service" partners are called upon by their equity partners for their expertise but aren't given the authority and/or respect to make the final recommendation and decision on the best course of action under the law to serve the client's interests. Or the service partners are called upon too late and are used to put out fires, rather than to prevent fires.

Some equity partners feel subject to every whim of their largest clients and so dependent on those clients' business that they can't create balance in their work week, have time to develop a more diversified client base or have any peace of mind.

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, know that you are not alone. Here is a very basic outline of what some of my clients have done and are doing to have and feel more in control of their days and their careers.
  1. Accept that you can't control other people.
  2. Identify what you can control. ie. How you respond to others, how you react in situations, how you communicate, what you can do proactively, how you deal with distractions, etc.
  3. Make a plan. Write down what actions you can take, and when you will take them, to have more effective control over the things you can control.

For example, stop ceding control over your time management to other people when they interrupt your concentration and commandeer your time by coming into your office while you are working. I have a sense this happens to a lot of lawyers, regardless of the stage of their career. Keeping your door shut all day is one technique but it doesn't stop everyone and it can be isolating and not as pleasant. So try something else. Instead of stopping your work every time someone steps in without asking if you are busy and/or without waiting for an answer, have an answer or question ready.

  • "Yes, I'm working on something right now. Can we talk [in 30 minutes, at 11:30, this afternoon at 1:00?]"
  • "Can this wait until this afternoon? I want to finish what I am working on."
  • "Yes, I would like to work with you on this project and we should talk about when you need me so that we allocate enough time. I have four matters to finish by Wednesday and I don't want to hold up your project if you need it sooner."

If you wish that an assigning lawyer would give you clearer instructions about a research project or motion and brief so that you don't spin your wheels or head off in the wrong direction, or the assigning lawyer doesn't change course on you, consider what you can do to get clarification without asking the assigning lawyer to do more work. How about summarizing the assignment in an email, even like a question presented, and asking for confirmation to make sure that you understand and don't waste time or the client's money?

If you wish to be involved in matters from the start, or you want to handle cases in a more organized way as you move through pleading, discovery, motion and pre-trial stages, consider whether and how to define and communicate what your role will be on the team. Instead of simply reacting to others, think about where and how you can be proactive to create order and have more control over what you do and your role in the bigger picture.

If you would like coaching to start having more control over your work day, practice and career, please contact me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Different Job Ideas for New Lawyers?

I saw these supposedly real life examples for new lawyers in a comment to an posting. The article doesn't tell us anything new but I thought the comment's examples of treating your law degree like some other kind of advanced degree in this economy are worth sharing.

* "Interested in business: One of my classmates got a job as a closing agent with an escrow company, worked her way up to part-time in-house counsel, then CEO, then owner, now retired with a lakefront home. Treat your law degree like an MBA and apply for the same type of jobs."

* "Interested in government: One of my classmates got a job as a clerk in the county assessor’s office, then a manager, then ran for the state legislature and served a term, then into private practice with a mid-sized firm with a land use and government relations focus. Treat your law degree like a Masters in Public Administration and apply accordingly."

Most careers now, in the law and elsewhere, are more like marathons than sprints. They require endurance for the long haul.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tools for Women Lawyers Seeking a Raise

Following is a link to and points from a New York Times article that track a panel discussion at the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan state annual meeting and conference focusing on pay equity and compensation for women lawyers on May 15.

I received this news link this morning from Dave Winter, senior shareholder and former managing shareholder of Sommers Schwartz, who was a panelist at the WLAM state annual meeting and conference. Thank you, Dave.

The "toolkit" in the article includes the following advice for women seeking a raise. I've added a few pieces of information from our panel discussion for women lawyers on increasing your compensation and obtaining creative work arrangements.

Be Proactive. If you think you deserve a raise, don't just sit there and assume someone will notice and give you one.

Be Prepared. Have clear information about how much to ask for.

Specifically, gather information from the Internet, from NALP forms at law schools, possibly from your State Bar's economic survey results which may give you general demographic-based information, from peers, not just from women peers, from mentors within your firm and elsewhere, and experienced lawyers outside your place of employment, etc.

Tailor Negotiations. The article suggests that you state why your request for a promotion or raise is appropriate and also how it makes sense for the organization. Focus on the organization.

Anticipate. Envision your boss' objections and your responses.

Negotiate at home. Think about how the raise or promotion will affect your personal life and resolve those issues.

Be Creative. Consider alternatives like flexible work schedules.

As one panelist discussed at the annual meeting Saturday, consider negotiating to be paid on an hourly basis, based on your billable hours, rather than on some reduced schedule like 80% hours for 80% pay. This frees you up from working full time some weeks while only receiving 80% of a full time employee's pay, and it allows you to bill fewer hours some weeks without feeling guilty and behind on your hours. You are compensated for the hours that you bill. This was the first time that many lawyers present had heard of this idea and that it has worked successfully.

If you have thoughts and other ideas to share, please do so.

If you would like coaching to help you make more money, please contact me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Job Posting: Bankruptcy Court, ED MI - Staff Attorney

A vacancy announcement for a Staff Attorney has been posted on the Bankruptcy Court (ED MI) website (link below). The announcement is open to all qualified candidates and closes Monday, May 31, 2010.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Do As Your Mother Says

On this beautiful Mother's Day, consider how the most basic habits you learned from your mother as a young child serve you today in your professional life as a lawyer. This list is in addition to obvious wisdom like work hard, apply yourself and always do your best.

1. Make your bed every morning.
2. Pick up after yourself.
3. Tell the truth and own up to your mistakes.
4. Stand up straight, speak up & look people in the eye.
5. Don't disparage other people.
6. Finish what you start.
7. Be helpful.

Perhaps there is a place for "put on a sweater" (said when she was cold) and "zip up your coat" on this list as well.

Have a little fun today thinking about these as actual habits in your career or as metaphors for elements of your daily practice. Consider renewing your commitment to them professionally and personally. Your mother would be proud.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Women Litigators - Opinions from One Panel of Women Judges

Here is a May 3 article from The Legal Intelligencer about a panel discussion by women judges at the ABA's Women In Law Leadership Academy last week.

I don't agree with some of the opinions and generalizations about women litigators. Do you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Event Networking - Another Example of What Works & Why

I spoke about event networking yesterday to lawyers in the Macomb County Bar Association. Before the lunch started one of the lawyers asked me a question about my blog post "Elevator Speak: What Not To Say". Yet as I began the event networking discussion, that lawyer, and others, admitted she is reluctant to start talking with strangers and that she doesn't like going to networking events. When I showed surprise because she had been very direct in starting a conversation with me, she said she had had no problem because she was curious. I couldn't have planned a better answer and segue.

CURIOUS. CURIOSITY. Being curious about other people is a key to talking with complete strangers. This lawyer was curious about me so she started reading my blog. Because she was curious about a post, she asked me a question. I was curious about the group and their networking challenges, so I asked them questions. They asked each other questions. Several of them kept talking with each other afterwards. It's curious. . . pretty effective networking at a lunch & learn about event networking.

If would like coaching to help you be more comfortable and effective during event networking, please contact me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

2 Job Postings - USDC, ED MI

One full time and one part time staff attorney position at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Posted May 3. Close June 2.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Elevator Speak - - What Not To Say.

Riding in an elevator this week I ran into a lawyer I used to know a little bit. In the space of about 25 seconds of small talk he made two thoughtless remarks. His second remark left me at a loss for words.

Afterwards I realized that his carelessness came from his own current state of mind and could have landed on anyone. I just happened to be the one in the elevator with him at that moment.

Some marketing people focus on elements like elevator speeches. When coaching lawyers about marketing and business development, I keep coming back to the importance of building relationships and using relationship skills. This incident made me think again not about elevator speeches but about relationship skills.

Take a look at your personal interactions and your relationship skills, regardless of whether you are talking with someone on an elevator or elsewhere. Are your interactions positive or negative? Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?

For more on the power of positive interactions, see Rath & Clifton's classic How Full is Your Bucket?

I wonder how that lawyer's relationship skills are serving him in his effort to rebuild a book of business.

If you would like coaching to work on your relationship skills, or your 15 second self-introduction/elevator speech, please contact me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lucky Charms? Really?

A Wall Street Journal article yesterday on new research that suggests how lucky charms help people perform better:

Doesn't this just boil down to how lucky charms boost some people's confidence, and increased confidence helps improve personal performance?

Instead of, or in addition to, believing in luck, what can you do to boost your confidence?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Be More Machiavellian, Less Altruistic?

This NY Times article considers how traits like Machiavellianism and aggressiveness may have a direct impact on compensation and play a role in pay disparities between genders.

I don't advocate becoming Machiavellian but I do urge you to consider your own personality traits and strengths, and whether and how you can become a better advocate for yourself , regardless of your gender.

For example, I recently coached a lawyer client on how she always shines the light on other lawyers she works with and away from herself. As she talked about her preference to stay out of the light, she realized that by so doing, she actually reinforces for others and herself the impression that she is insignificant. Like other lawyers and other people, she is beginning to learn that appropriately sharing success stories does directly affect how others view her.

Try out a few different ways of projecting more of an image of success in the next few weeks and notice what happens. See if you notice a difference by June.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Of Bucket Lists and Bucket Brigades

Last night a lawyer friend of mine crossed an item off her bucket list. The diva, aka "Rachel Rules", channeled Aretha and others for an hour at a birthday party for herself. R-E-S-P-E-C-T....

Rewind. The idea started to take shape where many things do -- in a bar. During the afterglow of a bar association dinner two months ago, Rachel shared with a handful of friends that she has always wanted to sing live with a band at least once. The second anniversary of her 50th birthday was fast approaching and her years of karaoke were not going to count.

Among those of us present was a multi-talented lawyer on whom Energizer modeled its bunny. He got going bright & early the next morning, calling Rachel with a list of suggested lawyer musicians just as she lay wondering why she had revealed this particular item on her bucket list of things to do. That afternoon he showed up at her office with a potential playlist of songs. American Idol fans volunteered their availability as potential backup singers and musicians. The Ann Arbor legal community was abuzz.

Fast forward to last night. The club's lights spun, the dry ice drifted, the band rocked and Rachel ruled. Rachel had a great time. We all did. You can't go wrong when you open with Mustang Sally and work in a costume change.

Take a look at your own bucket list. What's on it? Who's in your brigade? When will you get started?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Personal Wellness on Earth Day: Headsets, Standing & Tungling

Odds and ends to contemplate for your own wellness on Earth Day.

Headsets & earpieces: I recently coached a lawyer client a tiny bit around headsets and earpieces. Her back problem isn't helped by holding a telephone to her ear with her hand or shoulder for long periods of time. Her consideration for her colleagues on either side of her office keeps her from using the speakerphone, even with the door closed.

Many people dislike looking as if they are taking an order at a drive-through. Others dislike wireless earpieces in public because all of a sudden the man next to you is either talking to himself, to you or is on his phone. It's annoying.

I use a headset I bought at RadioShack for about $30. It plugs easily into my land line handset and my cell phone. It works well and I haven't even seen any gawkers when I wear it occasionally in the car. It works much more reliably and without the static and other noise that I experienced with various wireless type earpieces.

Try a headset or an earpiece in your office if you are concerned about your back or posture. But by "in your office", I mean within the walls that form the working space that contains your individual desk and telephone. Don't walk around in the halls or stand over your trusty administrative assistant while talking on the phone. You will drive people crazy. This reminds me of one of my former partners who had a reeeeeeeeeally long telephone cord on his phone so that he could be on his phone and stand out in the hall at his secretary's desk at the same time. It drove her crazy.

Standing: I read something last week about how people who stand on the job burn more calories than those who sit. I don't think I'll make standing the key component of an exercise plan, but this bit of information did make me question why I always sit while coaching my lawyer clients on the phone. I can't recall where I read the article, but I just Googled the topic and the results include a suggestion by the Mayo Clinic. So stand while talking on the phone sometime. Improved posture, better circulation, burnt calories. What's not to like?

Tungling: I learned about this morning from a lawyer I know in town. It's a free online scheduling tool for making appointments and avoiding doublebooking and email tag with your clients and other people. The website doesn't reveal what "tungle" means (!), but it does have a short video demonstrating how the tool works. I haven't used it or tried it, but it looks easy and my lawyer friend likes it. Check it out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Don't Let The Clock Run Out.

Where does business come from and how soon will it come? How long does it take to build a practice?

I don't know the specific answer for you to these questions. But I do know that business comes from picking just a few marketing activities for your niche, and doing them consistently, over and over again. It comes from developing name recognition and a solid reputation. It comes from developing credibility and trust. A sustainable practice does not come without these elements.

A newer lawyer I know is closing her practice. She got to the end of her financial resources just as she decided to pick a subniche, identify her ideal client base and start to learn how to reach it through focused networking and marketing. Smart, energetic and passionate, she ran out of time too soon.

If you don't have any idea how to start doing and developing these things, contact me or another lawyer coach. I give complimentary 30 minute coaching calls so that you can experience the benefits of coaching. We can get you going. I don't want you to run out of time.

Do You Know?

"Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to? Do you know?"

"Do you get what you're hoping for?
When you look behind you there's no open door.
What are you hoping for? Do you know?"

-Diana Ross

Law students, recent graduates and other young or newer lawyers often tell me that they are too new to pick a practice area, they don't know what kind of law they want to practice and they don't know where they are going. They just want a job, or to open a practice, or to start getting more clients.

They have no idea what they want, what to get into or how or why to choose an area or two for practice. Like many lawyers, new ones and experienced ones, they are afraid to pick one or two practice areas and say no to other areas and other potential clients because they may be turning down an opportunity to get paid. They know this can lead to a serious juggling act trying to be a jack of all trades and providing an answer to everyone, but they are young, energetic, eager and in need of money. It often leads to unfocused marketing, wasted time and money, exhaustion, frustration and burnout. It doesn't lead to top of mind awareness with potential clients or referral sources.

In contrast, a lawyer I met last week at the sports law conference said that she thinks the key question to ask yourself is not what kind of law you want to practice, but who do you want calling you? Who do you want to work with? I think it's a more personal way of asking yourself who you want to represent.

Yes, this question may lead to the same answer as what kind of law do you want to practice, but it may get you to the answer a lot sooner and with a better understanding of why. You may not know enough about practice areas to know which to choose, where there is going to be growth and opportunity and which area is well suited for you. But from your life experience, you probably have some idea about how you relate with people and with whom who you might like to work.

If you are already established as a lawyer in a practice area, I think it's also a very good question to use to develop a niche within your area of practice. The answer can help you refine and really focus your marketing efforts and resources.

If you are an estate planning lawyer, what demographic do you want to call you? If you are a business transactions lawyer, what type of business owner do you want to call you? Small, medium, large, startup, fairly new or established? If you are a divorce lawyer, who do you want calling you? Young marrieds, older couples, established and wealthy, up and comers? If you are a criminal defense lawyer, do you want to represent everyone, or do you want to work with young defendants, only defendant charged with felonies, juveniles, all in one county or across multiple counties, etc.? Even think about who you want calling you and working with you as referral sources.

Who do you want to work with? Who do you want calling you?

If you would like coaching to start identifying your ideal potential clients and develop more business, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Learning a New Game

"It's a different ball game out there now." "The rules of the game have changed."

These cliches apply to how some lawyers perceive marketing and business development in the last few years. Some lawyers might be thinking things like "I've never had to play this game before." "I don't know how to play." "I don't want to play." "Why do I have to play?"

Learning a new game can be harder now than it was when we were younger. As children, learning a new game was relatively easy. Our minds were still relatively empty, uncluttered by a long life of experience and accumulated knowledge. Free from a history of successes and failures. We were willing to take chances because we didn't know we were taking a chance. We were unhampered by "what if's" and "yeah, but's". Now as adults we know more. We are cluttered, hampered and often unwilling or reluctant because taking chances and making changes are hard things to do. As lawyers we are used to doing familiar things and doing them well. We don't like the idea of doing something new at which we are not yet skilled. We might fail. We might look foolish or incompetent.

So what can we do to help ourselves learn a new game, take a chance, make a change? Although it's not always easy, here's a basic game plan that works for many of my lawyer clients and other people, including myself:

1. Know what you want to change and why.
2. Identify the benefits and rewards.
3. Make the commitment to change, to learn the new game.
4. Learn the rules. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Then prepare some more.
5. Join the game. Take the plunge. Start.
6. Self-assess and evaluate as you go along and afterwards.
7. Congratulate yourself for joining the game, taking the plunge, doing something new.
8. Identify what you did well and congratulate yourself.
9. Identify what you will do differently next time.
10. Rinse and repeat.

Recently I had an uncomfortable evening playing euchre at a friend's euchre tournament. (The party was lovely and the players were friendly. The discomfort was my own. ) Another friend had taught me the basics in the last two weeks so that I could participate. I was tense and quiet doing something new in which I had no real skill. I knew I was the only rookie. I had to concentrate so much that I couldn't do the things that come more naturally to me like getting to know new people. That internal conflict made me even more uncomfortable. I made several mistakes during the evening. But of course by the end I had learned a lot, and after the cards were over I relaxed and had a good time.

My sister asked me if I'll do it again. Even though the idea still makes me physically uncomfortable, I will. I can use my game plan. I know I'll get better only with practice and by playing.

For now, I hope that this experience makes me a better coach and a better friend. I appreciate again how hard it is to take a chance and do something new with the fear that we could fail or look foolish.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Communication Spring Tune-Up

Give your communication skills a spring tune-up. Check out the advice toward the end of this article to help you with common stereotypes, perceptions and the fine line that women leaders and managers often have to walk. Although this article focuses on women, it can apply to anyone.

Tune up your communication skills and you will tune up your relationship skills. Better relationship skills lead to business development success, as well as more effective teamwork, management and leadership. Of course, they work in your personal life as well. I know this firsthand from the lawyers I coach!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top Five Lawyers Who Were Great College Hoopsters

I saw a reference to this posting tonight and checked it out. Being a Michigan Wolverine and having routed for Butler last night, I skipped #1 and went straight to #2. Make sure to watch the video. Fortunately and/or unfortunately I was at that championship game in 1993.

Top Five Lawyers Who Were Great College Hoopsters

Speaking of sports law related careers, don't forget about the Sports Law Conference on April 16 in Ann Arbor about sports law related practices and careers. See my March 13 post for more information.

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Six Thinking Hats": Using Different Perspectives To Make Better Decisions

As a lawyer coach, I often ask my clients who are feeling stuck or particularly challenged to look at their challenges from various perspectives to find one that fits and gives them opportunities and ways to move forward. By using different perspectives, my clients have found fresh ways to tackle various challenges. These have included discomfort with networking events such as chamber or business association gatherings, with marketing themselves and describing what they do, with billing all of their time, with developing a peer relationship with their more senior colleagues, with telling success stories, etc. Some of this perspective work includes metaphorically putting on different hats and thinking like an entrepreneur, a partner, a rainmaker, a leader, etc.

A lawyer reminded me this morning of another use of perspectives called "Six Thinking Hats". This is a decision making technique developed by Edward de Bono in his book "6 Thinking Hats." See also ttp:// The "hats" are a tool for looking at a decision from all points of view in order to make a better decision. Much like the perspective work my clients use, using the perspectives embodied by the Six Thinking Hats pushes people outside their habitual ways of thinking. Taking more perspectives into account results in better, sounder decision making.

You can "wear" these hats yourself when you are making an individual decision, and you can actually distribute colored hats to be worn by people in your group during a decision making discussion.

Here's a very quick snapshot of the perspective and thinking represented by each hat.
White Hat: focuses on the data available.
Red Hat: focuses on intuition, emotion, gut reaction.
Black Hat: focuses on negativity, pessimism, caution, worst case scenario.
Yellow Hat: focuses on positivity.
Green Hat; focuses on creativity.
Blue Hat: focuses on process control. The leader of a group making a decision might wear this hat.

Lawyers are trained to think logically and rationally, making decisions based on facts and the law. The challenge: take off your purely lawyer hat and put on these six hats the next time you face a big decision individually or as a group. Notice what happens to the quality of your decision making and/or also the effect on the group dynamics.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Sports Law Conference on Sports Related Practices & Alternative Careers

A lawyer/lecturer friend of mine at the University of Michigan's Division of Kinesiology has put together a terrific lineup of presenters at the 2010 Sports Law Conference on sports law careers. Open to lawyers, law students and all interested persons....

Registration is now open for the 2010 Sports Law Conference: “Recent Developments in Sports Law Careers and Practice.” The Conference will be held Friday, April 16, 2010, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm, at the Marriott Courtyard, Park Place Ballroom, in Ann Arbor. MI.

Presenters include expert practitioners in all aspects of Sports Law, including agents, in-house league counsel, front office management, NCAA rules compliance, Title IX litigation, and sports law teaching.

A cocktail reception will follow for all presenters and attendees @ 4:30 pm.

Discounted fees are available for all early registrants through March 19. Online registration is immediately available at the following website:

For a copy of the brochure and further information, please contact 2010 Sports Law Conference Program Coordinator Marissa Pollick at

You can also contact me for a copy of the brochure.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Resisting The Urge": Today's Real Life Lesson in Networking

On December 18th I posted a challenge to resist your last minute urge to skip an event you had planned to attend. I adhered to this challenge again today and am glad I did.

Late this afternoon I almost didn't go to a get-together of the local new lawyers & criminal law sections. No rsvp had been necessary and I hadn't told anyone I was going. I had a coaching call at 7:00 p.m. I needed to be back for and I knew I could attend for only less than an hour. However, I had a couple of suits ready to contribute to the event's "suits for success" drive and I knew I could get there, be there and be back in plenty of time. So I went.

As it turns out, a free lance reporter for the local online paper was covering the event and interviewing people who brought in suit donations. One of the organizers directed him my way. Fortunately, or at least hopefully, between the two of us we managed to come up with something a little snappier than "I got a notice from the county bar association so I brought some suits."

In addition, I learned some helpful information from the reporter that I can use in coaching my lawyer clients who are enhancing their marketing efforts. I also had a bite to eat for dinner, met a few new people and caught up with a few I already know. A nice and useful forty minutes.

My comments may end up on the virtual editing room floor, but if I hadn't resisted my last minute urge not to attend, I wouldn't have even met the reporter or learned information I can share in my lawyer coaching.

p.s. As it turns out, I made the cut....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Networking 101 for Law Students & Lawyers, Part Three, Specific Concerns cont'd

Ending a conversation & moving on. While speaking with a group of three law students for several minutes recently during a women lawyers happy hour, one of them looked me in the eye, smiled, extended her hand and in a confident voice said something like "Thank you for sharing your networking advice. It's been fun talking with you." I laughed and acknowledged her directness as she stepped away to talk with other people. The rest of the group shook my hand and moved on as well. The law students had learned how to end a conversation so that they could meet more lawyers at the event.

Until they practice it, a lot of people are uncomfortable being this direct. For some people it at least feels better to offer an excuse to end a conversation. But many people never gather the courage to disengage from conversations at all. Instead they forgo circulating, meeting and getting to know other people even though that is often the purpose of the event or at least standard behavior during the networking time or cocktail hour at an event.

At the other extreme, some lawyers I know take a very direct route and simply say "excuse me" and leave the conversation. People have said this to me and personally I find it a little jolting. Therefore, I prefer to acknowledge the other person with whom I have been speaking. It feels polite and like something my mother would approve.

Tips for exiting a conversation.
  1. After you, not the other person, finish saying something -
  2. Smile
  3. Shake the other person's hand
  4. Look the other person in the eye
  5. Say something like "It was nice to meet you. I enjoyed learning/hearing about . . . . Thank you." You are acknowledging and thanking the other person.
  6. Move away confidently.

Be confident and direct. Be pleasant. Be gracious. But above all, be yourself. Therefore, if it was not nice to meet this person, follow steps 1-4, tell them you hope they enjoy the rest of the event, and then move away confidently. Say hello to start talking to someone standing alone or join a group where someone steps back to make room for you.

Exiting a conversation can feel unusual and it takes practice. But like other aspects of networking, and like public speaking, it gets easier with practice.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Networking 101 for Law Students (& Lawyers), Part Three, Specific Concerns

Last week I spoke to law students again at the University of Michigan Law School. This time the topic was event networking. A few specific concerns came up that I'd like to share here in a few posts. This advice applies to lawyers as well as law students. I coach some of my lawyer clients on similar kinds of networking challenges, even those who have been practicing law for many years.

Is it okay to ask a lawyer for her card? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Yes, yes, yes.

The student who asked this question was concerned about bothering the lawyer, and thought that perhaps a better thing to do would be to look up the lawyer's contact information later on the Internet. That strategy might fail if the student forgets the lawyer's name or doesn't have the correct spelling. That strategy also doesn't alter the student's belief that he may be bothering the lawyer by contacting the lawyer later. Keep in mind that you are talking with business people. This is ordinary behavior that is anticipated at business events and even at social events. (Don't be dissuaded by the surprising reality that many lawyers forget to carry their cards or carry just a few. They're just not savvy yet.)

Also, keep in mind that many people are flattered if you ask for their card. Even though they may know that you are looking for a job and they have none to offer you, they can still feel flattered that you value their advice or experience. And who knows, maybe you, a law student, will have business to refer to them now or later, or perhaps you will provide value in some other way. We never know. Networking is about building relationships.

Monday, February 8, 2010

LinkedIn for Lawyers - A Few Personal Tips

Here are a few thoughts I have every time I get a LinkedIn invitation:

1. List your area of practice, rather than just associate, partner or lawyer at ABC Firm, in the "headline" space below your name. It will appear whenever your name appears. Let people know what you do as a lawyer. Make it easy for them to see and remember your practice area. This is marketing. This is developing name recognition for something specific as a lawyer. If you are afraid to list a specialty because you believe it will close the door to other potential legal work, consider how many other generic "lawyers" you are competing with in the same geographic region on LinkedIn. Are you willing to miss out on the legal work you really want to do in order to take anything that might come your way? Do you want to stand out or blend in?

2. When you send or accept a LinkedIn invitation to/from someone you know, consider the value of personalizing it with a few more sentences. Notes like that are easy, fast and free. Notes like that help you maintain relationships. At a minimum they say "I'm thinking about you personally rather than as just another name to add to my list." To me it's like the difference between an annual holiday card from a lawyer with (a) just a signature (and who knows who actually signed it) and (b) a signature plus a few sentences or even a single sentence as simple as "Elizabeth, I hope all is well with you" or "Elizabeth, I look forward to working with you again soon", etc.

3. If you send a LinkedIn invitation to someone you don't know, personalize the invitation. I don't accept all LinkedIn invitations and I don't accept invitations from people I don't know who don't even introduce themselves and say why they'd like to connect, where they saw me speak, where they met me, or if they know someone I know, etc. Imagine an in-person "networking" event where no one is allowed to speak. It's simply a business card exchange. How would that event serve you in terms of building relationships?

Remember that networking is about building relationships. Use your relationship skills.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time Management: Procrastination, Part I

I coach several of my lawyer clients on various time management challenges. For some, this includes procrastination. I have a few clients who are sure they are the biggest procrastinator in the world. I assure them they are not in the Top 10 but they are probably close. I believe there is an endless universe of procrastinators clustered just below the Top 10 worst ones.

You are not alone. Does that make you feel any better? Perhaps not. You know you procrastinate and you haven't broken the cycle.

People procrastinate for thousands of different reasons. I am not convinced it matters why you procrastinate. I believe that what matters is recognizing that you have a choice. You have free will. You can choose to do now what needs to be done.

A friend recently gave me a little book by Steven Pressfield entitled "The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles." Copyright 2002. Pressfield, a fiction writer, wrote this book to show how he and we can identify, defeat and unlock our inner barriers to creativity.

Of procrastination, Pressfield writes:

"The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work."

We can win the battle. This second, we can sit down and do our work.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Business Development: Clients Can Come From Unexpected Places

Yesterday I spoke as part of a panel discussion about rainmaking for lawyers. We gave advice and shared examples of the ways we and other lawyers we know have developed business.

Among other things, we talked about how clients can come from unexpected places and sources.

Although we strongly recommend focusing your efforts on your target market and your niche, realize that business can and many times does come from somewhere else. You can't rely on this phenomena as a steady source of business, but it can supplement the results you get from your focused efforts and activities. Keep this in mind as you are out and about in your world, stay open to the possibilities and you'll experience this phenomena. This can happen regardless of whether you are a new lawyer or a seasoned one.

Here are a few examples of unexpected business opportunities from my career and the careers of lawyers I have known as colleagues, clients, co-counsel and opposing counsel.

1. A referral from someone who was the opposing party in a piece of litigation. The opposing party was so impressed with the skill and professionalism of his opponent's lawyer that he recommended that lawyer, not his company's own lawyer, to another company after the lawsuit concluded.

2. Referrals from associates at out of state firms. A young lawyer who joined the law department of a corporation asked her former firm for the name of the Michigan counsel the firm used as local counsel. While at the firm she had never worked on those matters or with the Michigan counsel, but she trusted her former colleague, an associate, who gave her the name of a junior partner in the Michigan firm. The inhouse counsel ended up hiring that lawyer and the lawyer got credit for bringing in that corporate client. The young Michigan lawyer's relationship with and service for the associate in the national firm led to this referral and origination. The inhouse counsel used the Michigan firm for all of her cases in the state and the Michigan lawyer received the origination credit for those cases.

3. Judges who leave the bench and take positions elsewhere have become clients of and referral sources for lawyers who have appeared before them and/or with whom they have become friends. This is because people, including former judges, do business with people they know, like and trust. Less well known is that former and active judges do get privately asked to recommend lawyers for matters that will not be before them. Whether active judges make such recommendations may depend on the judge and the jurisdiction.

4. Referral sources become clients themselves. Again, this is because people do business with people they know, like and trust.

5. Helping someone find a job. Many people who have done this naturally and without any ulterior motive have then found that they have a friend for life who never forgets how they helped in a time of need. The people you help in this way often do become excellent referral sources not just because they are grateful, but because they believe in you and they know you to be a high caliber individual.

6. Striking up conversations with people in the airport or on an airplane. A lawyer made a firm presentation to inhouse counsel at a major corporation as a result of offering cookies to a man who seemed to be listening to her conversation with her colleague in the airport. It turned out he was a lawyer and was inhouse counsel facing similar legal issues. He was also interested in the cookies being shared. The woman's ease in talking with strangers and her natural interaction with her colleague made a positive impression on the inhouse counsel.

Feel free to share your stories.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Common Sense in Conference Calls: Etiquette & Other Tips

I'm no Miss Manners when it comes to etiquette, but a couple of conference calls with groups of lawyers today reminded me that "common sense isn't common." (Will Rogers)

1. Identity Issues. Say your name before you speak. Say it every time until you are certain that everyone recognizes your voice. "This is Elizabeth. I understand that . . . . " "This is Elizabeth again. My question is . . . . "

2. Identity Issues II. If you welcome someone else to the call by saying "Hi Kathy!" be thoughtful. Identify yourself. "Hi Kathy! This is Scott. How is your new year?" If "Hi Kathy!" is followed by a pause then a "Hi", it's a sure bet Kathy didn't recognize your voice or wasn't certain.

3. Breathing Space. Give others on the call room to speak. Think of it as breathing space after they speak. Listen when others are speaking and don't jump in while they are still talking. You certainly notice when other people do that to each other. If you are actively listening, you'll hear what they are saying and know when they are done. You'll acknowledge what they said, add your thoughts and move the discussion forward. If you jump in the second someone finishes, you can be sure they know you weren't listening. Instead you were thinking ahead to what you want to say.

4. Noise. Put your phone on mute when you are not speaking, especially if there is background noise at your end. Be sure to do this if you can't break your habit of allegedly "multitasking".

5. Connection. Call from a land line whenever possible.

6. It's a Meeting. Treat the conference call like a meeting. Start on time. Sign in on time. Introduce yourself. Be gracious and professional with others. Assist the organizer and the note taker. At the end, if appropriate, be clear about who is going to do what by when. Thank people. End on time.

A tip for setting up conference calls: I like to use I don't have any affiliation with this company. I started using it a few years ago and it works for me. It doesn't cost me a thing. The call-in number and my access code always remain the same. I give out the numbers when I organize calls. No reservations are necessary. There is no charge other than each caller pays whatever cost, if any, their carrier charges them for the call. Since most lawyers and groups I work with have monthly calling plans that don't charge for individual calls, there is no separate charge for the call. I or the groups I'm part of don't have to pay an expensive conference calling service fee.

A tip for scheduling conference calls or other events: try or I've used and it has worked well to get lawyers to provide their availability for various potential event dates. As the event organizer, you state the potential dates and poll the participants on the dates. As the participants respond, they can see who is available on which dates and you can all identify the best date more quickly. It's easy, I promise.

Good luck with your conference calls.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year & A Recurring Challenge - Time Tracking

It's almost the close of business on the first business day of the new year and the new decade. My question for you is: Have you entered your time yet or are you behind already?

If you find yourself behind or you know you will be soon, instead of the same old same old, choose to start the year by learning to use and/or actually using time tracking software.

By making this choice, you will say yes to capturing and billing more of your time. You won't be as likely to lose track of how long you worked on something or what you did. You will have more accurate descriptions of the legal services you provided. You will use time productively instead of struggling days later to enter it or write it coherently for your secretary to submit into the system.

As with most decisions to make a change, you will also have to say no to some things in order to make the change. Consider what you will have to say no to in order to start using the time tracking software. Think about what obstacles are likely to stop you from making this change. Decide whether you can say no to those things.

Last, figure out who and what can help you get started and help you stick with this commitment to change.

The time tracking software is pretty user friendly now. Besides helping you bill more effectively, and thus make more money, it will actually save you time and frustration. Don't those sound like good reasons to make this change this year, right now?