More than 10 years ago, I organized a seminar for MCLE on alternatives to hourly billing. The panelists pognositcated that value billing would slowly begin to replace hourly billing. But as In-House Counsel notes, the shift has been glacial and hourly billing still rules.
Click here for a quick history of hourly billing and some predictions about the future.
An article in CareerJournal.Com is a reminder that it is important to do a good job on your assignments–even if they are mundane. Junior associates can be tasked with some pretty uninspiring work. Most of us did not go to law school in hopes that someday we would be placed on a large due dilligence project. There is nothing glamerous about spending two weeks reviewing documents for a large anti-trust litigation. But it is still important to do your best on these assignments because senior associates and partners will be judging you and forming lasting first impressions. Do a good job and you will be rewarded with more interesting and challenging work; show a lot of attitude and you may soon be shown the door!
A law firm consultant argues that fast law firm growth in the U.K. is unsustainable. He predicts that U.S. firms will continue to outcompete U.K. firms for a variety of reasons including: a preference by multinational corporations for using American legal structures, cherry picking of lucrative M&A deals in Europe by U.S. law firms, a lack of growth of U.S. style litigation in Europe, etc.
A marketing consultant suggests that handwritten notes remain an excellent way to stay connected with clients and professional contacts. I think she overstates the case (e.g. I think certain clients appreciate getting articles by e-mail so they can quickly forward them to others.) Also, some people’s handwriting is so poor that there is little likelihood that a handwritten note will be appreciated (I speak with authority on this subject.) But there is no question that handwritten notes will stand out in our increasingly impersonal world.
One way to achieve the same result is to write a brief handwritten note on an otherwise printed letter. Using this technique, you can customize your direct mail marketing with less effort and still achieve the “personal” touch.
Ellen Ostrow talks about why it is difficult for women to advocate for themselves in the workplace (and why it is critical to do so.) She offers some good tips for being assertive without becoming hostile.
Here is the link from my earlier post on how to supervise former peers. You don’t need a WSJ subscription to read this version.
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.