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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Set Your Sights on a Fulfilling Legal Career

Have you ever had a moment in your career where you wanted to run screaming from the building? When you entered the office on a Monday took a look at the work piled on the table and shuddered? I know that all of us at times do work that at best we can tolerate and at worst we despise. While many of us have experienced these moments in our careers, when they become a daily occurrence it is crucial to recognise what they represent: Flashing red lights indicating that action is required to shift your professional practice into more satisfying . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

All Good Things. . .

“Eighty percent of the poor in the United States are unable to afford a lawyer or find pro bono help for their civil legal problems, according to the American Bar Association.” That sentence, from an American Lawyer article last month, is not only embarrassing. It’s also an omen.

The article in question, titled “Unmet Needs,” was part of a special series on pro bono in the United States, including the top 100 pro bono-friendly law firms and a powerful critique of big-firm pro bono by Deborah Rhode. The latter piece highlighted how pro bono at too many . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Tyranny of Performance

Work-life balance. We want it. There’s now a CBABC committee dedicated to it. Yet what does it mean and how exactly do we get it?

The word balance is misleading. It seems to indicate a quantity goal, with a focus on the amount of time being spent on either side of the work-life equation. I hold a different view, that it is not so much a question of quantity but rather the overall quality of our entire life that is important.

What is the quality of our work life? What is the quality of our personal life? When both activities . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Canary in Our Coal Mine

The legal profession is on the verge of an extremely serious problem. If you want to see what it looks like, check out what Chicago-based firm Mayer Brown has just done. According to the Chicago Tribune, the firm has offered its new associates a deal: take a $100,000 pay cut (to $60,000) and go work in-house for one of the firm’s large clients like Kraft or United Airlines. The job is guaranteed for one year and not a day more — after that, if the company doesn’t keep the associate, she’s on her own.

It tells you something about . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Email Survival Tips for the Busy Professional

Lately I have been imagining what it was like to work in those halcyon PMS (Pre Microsoft) days before we were subject to the tyranny of the Outlook chirp – the modern day equivalent of the Mash “incoming” call. What was it like when news arrived in the paper and work came in via in-person meetings, fax, letters and telephone calls?

The Harvard Business Blog in April featured an email-related post from David Silverman “How to Revise an Email So That People Will Read It” that attracted a global outpouring of kudos and an exchange of best email . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

To the Class of 2012

….and so once again, best wishes from all of us on the faculty to you, the class of 2012, as your journey through law school begins.

Before I yield the microphone, I have some news to share both with you and with my colleagues: that little lottery ticket I bought on a lark at the corner store last month turned out to be the sole winner of the $6.7 million jackpot. When the dean returns to her office, she’ll find my graceful letter of retirement on her desk.

And so, as this is my last official function here, and as . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Leadership Is an Action, Not a Position

As we move deeper into 2009 one thing I know for sure is that many lawyers, law firm staff members and clients are facing deep uncertainty. So many of us feel we have lost control; that larger forces are at work. At this time more then ever it is important to come to grips with what we can influence and impact.

We all have a leadership role to play in our organizations. When we catch ourselves complaining about the system, about how decisions are made and how things are done it is a good time to come to grips with . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What the Recession Will Bring

“Are we looking at a second Depression? I don’t think so,” said Paul Krugman, NewYork Times columnist and Nobel-Prize-winning economist, during his luncheon address to the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association’s World Summit [PDF] last week in Vancouver. Then he added: “A month ago, I would’ve said, ‘Absolutely not.’ But today, I’m going to say, ‘I don’t think so.'”

That was the standout quote for me from an economic assessment so pessimistic that at its end, Krugman admitted: “I wish I had some positive things to tell you.” But aside from, as he said, having “people in Washington I can now . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Living the New Plentiful in 2009

Enough doom and gloom already! The New Year had barely started when the business section of my local newspaper offered readers a cynical New Year’s message: “The good news is that 2009 is only 12 months long.”

Many of my friends and colleagues have been remarking that the recession and ensuing panic is only being made worse by the media’s endless barrage of negative messages and news stories.

I have been searching for a positive spin to this negativity and found the answer in a blog post by Marshall Goldsmith, business coach: “We all need to think like entrepreneurs.”

I . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Re-Engineering Law Schools

Considering that it has the potential to profoundly reshape the nature of American legal education, I’m a little surprised that the Interim Report of the Outcome Measures Committee of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar hasn’t received more attention since its release in June. Aside from brief mentions at the places you’d expect — Best Practices for Legal Education and the Law Professors Blog Network — I haven’t seen the report and its implications discussed in much detail. So I thought I might take a crack at it.

What follows isn’t really a summary of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Rise Up Against the Tyranny of the Urgent

Cough, hack, snort. If you are anywhere near my office these days the sounds can be pretty gruesome. When my body collapsed into illness and exhaustion last week I had several days in bed to contemplate what had gone wrong.

How did I get so run down? The usual suspects were behind it: Over work and long hours in service of the tyranny of the urgent. And I ask you, as a business coach shouldn’t I know better?

The tyranny of the urgent – you likely have experienced it yourself: An email in-box that fills up as soon as it . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Future of Law Firm Branding

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the ascendance of individual lawyer brands. Today, I want to write about the corresponding decline of law firm brands. And there’s no better place to start that discussion than with the fate of Heller Ehrman.

Heller Ehrman, if you’re not familiar with it, is a century-old California law firm that dissolved last week. You can find detailed coverage here, here and here. The lasting impression you take away from these reports is that Heller was neither evil nor incompetent. Its rivals were sad to see it fall, and many . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law