Lawyers, like most professionals, receive little training in how to manage others. But even a junior associate has to know how to manage a secretary and delegate to paralegals. In today’s edition, the WSJ observes (subscription required) that even in corporate America, soft skills training is often simply “trial by fire” or “on the job”. Here are some of the most common mistakes that new managers make when they are suddenly placed in a position of authority. The article suggest that new managers err when they: (1) want to stay pals with former peers (2) assert authority too harshly (3) don’t give a problem employee honest feedback (4) want to keep doing all the work themselves or (5) assume that employees know what they want without giving employees specific direction.
In a law firm partnership, the problem can be particularly bad since partners have limited authority over other partners at the firm. David Maister and Patrick McKenna have written an excellent book on the subject entitled First Among Equals. Here is my book review.
Corporate Counsel magazine has conducted its annual survey of in-house counsel. The findings are consistent with prior years–i.e. that overall, in-house counsel are very happy with their jobs. The survey did find, however, that many in-house counsel do not seem room for advancement in their jobs.
Maybe one weakness of the survey is that it does not include in-house counsel who have lost their jobs and are now in the job market. Obviously, anyone who is unemployed (and wants to be) is not happy with their career. But the risks of losing your job seem far greater for in-house counsel and should be considered in evaluating what path you want your career to take.
Marketing, management and organization are generally not subjects taught in law school. Many lawyers still enter the practice ill-equipped to supervise support staff, manage a lot of paper and deadlines and develop a book of business. Hiring a coach can help to bridge the gap.
Get referrals from other professionals you trust. Make sure the coach knows a lot about the area where you need the help.
What’s the best way to leave a job you don’t like? Hint: don’t say f.u. to your boss even if you are thinking it. You may need him as a reference some day.
For lawyers, the benefits of a graceful exit extend beyond maintaining your references. Lawyers from prior firms can become good referral sources for conflicts work and matters that are not appropriate for the old firm.
My article on ways to develop business relationships was republished in Rain Today.
I often tell candidates that their resume is the least important part of their job search. Of course you want to have a strong resume that accurately reflects your experience (and why it is relevant to the position that interests you.) But many jobs are lost at the interview stage. So if you are in a job search, spend more time preparing for interviews. I would add that an effective job search should include a lot more than sending out resumes in response to job postings. Get out and meet people who may be in a position to give you information about the job market (a/k/a informational interviewing.)
Many successful professionals will tell you that a key to their success was having a good mentor. Catalyst, an organization that promotes the advancement of women in corporations and professional service organizations, has done research on the importance of the mentors in the lives of successful women. Here are some tips for working effectively with your mentor.
Lawyers have been blogging back since the early days of the medium (i.e. 3 years ago). While many lawyers are beginning to embrace the medium as a good marketing tool, opportunities still abound to make a name for yourself in the blogosphere.
Dealing effectively with difficult people requires a high level of emotional intelligence. An article in the Boston Globe suggests that emotional intelligence can be learned.
If you work with other lawyers, then it probably makes sense to invest some time and energy learning these skills.
Burnout is not only something that can occur on your way to success, it is something that can happen after you reach the “top” (for lawyers in a law firm, that means partnership.) Professionals and executives who reach a point in their life where they have accomplished their goals but are now feeling “is this all there is?”, may be experiencing burnout. The Career Journal gives some tips for recognizing the symptoms and offers some constructive advice about how to combat these feelings.