Browsing Category 'career success in the law’ RSS

Documenting Your Networking

Date October 11, 2017 Comment Comments Off on Documenting Your Networking

Documenting Your Networking

business-cardWhile social media has become an important tool in building business and personal relationships, nothing can substitute for the bonds that are created through in person interactions.  Going to networking functions is still important whether you are looking for a new job or trying to build your law practice.  But how do you make the most of your interactions at a networking meeting?  What should you do with the business card that someone hands you?

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Just Say “Not Right Now”

Date January 3, 2017 Comment Comments Off on Just Say “Not Right Now”

justsaynoIt’s the New Year and if you are like many successful professionals, expect the headhunter calls to increase in the coming weeks.  Simply put, we in the recruiting business know that this is a good time of year to connect with talent.  Many people take stock in their careers around January 1. Read more…

Getting Beyond Industry Barriers-Part II (law firm edition)

Date November 21, 2016 Comment Comments Off on Getting Beyond Industry Barriers-Part II (law firm edition)

Getting Beyond Industry Barriers-Part II (law firm edition)

In my last post, I suggested that changing industries is easier said than done for many professionals.  I also suggested 2 ways to overcome industry bias:  1) find opportunities through networking and 2) when it is feasible, accept positions on a contract basis.

For attorneys who work in a law firm environment, there are several additional options to consider.

If you have established yourself as one of the “keepers”, then it may be possible to shift your work assignments within your firm.  If you are more interested in biotechnology than financial services, for example, see if you can be proactive about getting work from partners who service those clients.  If your firm serves both industries and partners serving the biotechnology clients are busy, your firm may let you make an internal move rather than lose you.

I’ve even seen law firm associates make complete practice area changes (i.e. not just a change in the industries that the associate is serving).  During the dot.com boom, for example, I counseled an environmental associate to ask to be moved into the corporate department at his firm.  The firm was happy to keep this individual and he was able to retool, despite his lack of corporate experience.

If making a change internally is not feasible (either because your firm is not busy enough in that department or the firm doesn’t have clients in the industry that interests you, then it may be time to consider a lateral move.  Mid-level  corporate and real estate associates with large law firm experience are in great demand right now so take advantage of the market conditions to get your career moving in the direction you want.  It will only get harder as you get more senior.

Second Thoughts on Winning the In-house Lottery

Date July 3, 2015 Comment Comments Off on Second Thoughts on Winning the In-house Lottery

Second Thoughts on Winning the In-house Lottery

In the past 18 years, I have spoken to thousands of law firm associates about their career concerns.  While there are a number of themes that are common (long and unpredictable hours, difficult clients, concerns about not making partner), one thing I have heard over and over again is the desire to go in-house.   Simply put, many of these associates have a strong belief that life in a corporate law department is better.  Getting one of these coveted jobs would be like winning the legal lottery.

In the 25+ years since I graduated law school, I have also spoken to many in-house attorneys and it is apparent to me that there is a gap between perception and reality when it comes to in-house jobs. While life can be great from the inside, there is hardly a universal feeling of utter career satisfaction amongst lawyers who work in a corporate environment.  In fact, there are some real tradeoffs when leaving the law firm environment.

Lawyers who pursue the in-house route like the notion that they can get away from the billable hour.  There is a perception that hours are better and because you are now acting as the client, you have fewer unexpected emergencies.  There is also the belief that being on the inside is a chance to build ongoing relationships with your internal clients and an opportunity to become part of the “team”.

There is some truth to these perceptions.  From my observations, in-house lawyers do tend to enjoy better hours and fewer unexpected emergencies (though there are many exceptions to this.)  In-house lawyers are often freed of the burden of having to record hours and by living with one client, there is an opportunity to really get to know the business.

From speaking with many in-house lawyers, I also know that getting off the law firm track does involve some compromise.

First, unless you are doing licensing deals for your company, moving in-house means moving from the income side of a business to the expense side of the business.  With this can come a loss of professional status.  In a law firm, the partners rule.  In a corporation, lawyers are viewed as a cost of doing business. In considering an in-house role, look at the status of the law department in that company.  Does the GC report to the CEO?  Or the CFO?  Is the GC considered part of the senior management team?  If there are several attorneys in the law department, what do they say about how they are viewed by the business team?  Is their opinion respected?  Are they brought in at an early stage before deals are made?  Or do lawyers simply come in at the end to make sure everything is documented properly?

While many in-house lawyers do not track their hours, the reality is that this is not a given.  In some corporations, you still need to track your hours so that the legal expense can be properly allocated to the appropriate business unit.

In a law firm, you generally have a broad mix of clients.  In a corporation, you are dependent on one client.  This means that you are putting more of  your eggs in one basket.  In other words, going in-house can be more risky because you only have one client.  If that client is acquired or if the business gets into financial trouble, your job may be at risk. And since in-house jobs are not so easy to find, it may be hard to find the next job.  Furthermore, once you go in-house, getting back to a law firm can be challenging because as you get more senior, law firms will want to know what business you can bring with you.  As an in-house lawyer, you may not be well positioned to bring any work.

Finally, if you care about the level of sophistication of your work or maximizing salary, then consider whether in-house is the right place for you to practice.  In-house lawyers certainly get their share of sophisticated work, but  it is more likely that challenging or novel legal problems will be sent to outside counsel who see the same problems across a range of clients.  Similarly, unless you get lucky with stock options, in all likelihood, if you leave a major law firm to go in-house, you will probably leave salary on the table.

None of this is to say that lawyers should avoid in-house jobs.  There is some evidence that the there is a trend towards companies increasing the size of their law departments.  There are also many happy in-house lawyers who do not miss the billable hour.  But consider the tradeoffs before you make the move.  It may just be that law firm life is a better career option for you.  It may just be that  you need to find a firm that offers you the right mix of work, billing rates, opportunity to build your own practice and culture.

Sobering Article in NYTimes re:Attending Law School

Date January 10, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Sobering Article in NYTimes re:Attending Law School

Earning a law degree has become a riskier proposition.  A feature article in the New York Times highlights how law school tuition may be a cash cow for universities; but law school debt is a huge burden for many law school graduates and may actually be a “bad deal” for many.  It is a pretty sobering assessment of the whole system of legal education.

I actually wrote a brief post about this before the start of the Great Recession so I don’t think this is new news.  But the rise in unemployment has made the problem worse.

Earning a law degree is still the right career decision for many.  But now more than ever, it is important to understand what a law degree can and cannot do for you.

Don’t Sit Out December

Date December 16, 2010 Comment Comments Off on Don’t Sit Out December

It is tempting to stop all your marketing or job hunting activities during the month of December; but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, use the holiday season to connect with people who have helped you in the last year.  That and other tips in a webcast I presented last week (sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association).

The Serendipity of it All

Date July 9, 2010 Comment Comments Off on The Serendipity of it All

I picked up a new law firm client yesterday with the help of Google.  I know a number of the lawyers at the firm and I even have a relationship with the Managing Partner.  I communicate with him on a regular basis and he is on my mailing list.

When I met with the marketing director who hired me, I asked him how he had gotten my name.  I assumed that the managing partner had recommended me; but as it turns out, the marketing director had not even spoken with the MP.

In the end, the marketing director identified me as someone who might be able to coach partners simply by doing a Google search.

The moral of the story:  make a plan and stick to it.  But understand that in the end, there is a lot of luck involved in generating new clients so make sure you are using a multi-media approach which includes live networking and social networking.

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While Waiting Out the Storm

Date March 15, 2010 Comment Comments Off on While Waiting Out the Storm

If anyone in the Northeast has been feeling depressed about the economy lately, the weather for the past three days has not helped. I’m not sure of the exact number but since Friday, we’ve had over 6 inches of rain in the Boston area. Under these circumstances, I forgive anyone who hasn’t been feeling very motivated.

We all know that the economic storm will eventually pass (and the weather forecast is for 60 and sunny later this week). While I’m definitely hearing anecdotal evidence that law firms are getting busier, there are still many lawyers with time on their hands.

So what’s a “not so busy” lawyer to do? Why not brush up on some continuing education? And if you are feeling like it wouldn’t hurt to increase your understanding of basic business principals (and you have no intention of getting an MBA), how about a CLE series being presented by Advanced Legal Studies at Suffolk Law School? It sounds like a pretty good program and a former colleague of mine put it together. So make use of that down time. And maybe both storms will soon end.

The Sweet Smell of Success

Date February 28, 2010 Comment Comments Off on The Sweet Smell of Success


Even in good times (and by most measures, these are not good times) it is difficult to execute a long term marketing strategy. We are not wired as humans for delayed gratification. We want what we want now; no one wants to voluntarily postpone rewards for months or years.

But success in marketing professional services can take a lot of time. And bad economic conditions can further delay our success (e.g. you may have great relationships with real estate developers who want to hire you, but if few projects are being financed or built, then you are not going to get work from these clients.)

Lately, I’ve run up a string of successes and I can say with certainty that being successful in the here and now can help to build future success. I am feeling more confident and less desperate when speaking with prospects. Every conversation I have now is an investment rather than an opportunity to sell.

This is not to say that you need to be successful in order to succeed. That would be a Catch-22. Instead, find smaller ways to succeed on your path to success (I’ve written about this many times including here.) If you can feel good about things you are doing outside of your professional life (e.g. from doing volunteer work, playing basketball to participating in your town’s chorus), your work will benefit.