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I am a lawyer. I am married to a lawyer. I am the friend of hundreds of lawyers and hold thousands more in great regard. If you're a lawyer (or love them), welcome. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in this space.

The Long Run

I typically blog once or twice a month, and, over the last few years, have developed an appreciative following. People expect my blogs, and they have been useful in steadily building my business. Nonetheless, even with encouraging readers and a light blog schedule, I lapsed in my production.

What happened? In preparing for an overseas vacation, I was absorbed with clients. Then I went on vacation and shortly after I returned there were two nearly day-long power outages in my office, promptly followed by an illness of a few days. When I did return to a full work schedule, I felt like my day-to-day work, the work that pays promptly, took precedence. I fell into the trap I warn my clients about – not seeing the big forest picture for the seemingly important trees in the foreground.

Ironically, it was reflections on my trip, to India, that helped me again focus on the long-term, and return to activities like blogging that don’t usually have an immediate, short-term reward. Any tourist in India who pays attention to its historical context (and this is neither an abstruse nor subtle matter) must be impressed by the seemingly endless period during which much of the vast land area of modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh was controlled by one or more distant powers, in a continuous period beginning with the Mughals in the early 16th century, through the collapse of the British Raj in the middle of the 20th century. And during most of that period, although there was much cooperation with the foreign rulers, the idea of Indian self-determination was never entirely abandoned. Upon my return to Los Angeles, as I absorbed this remarkable accomplishment by Indian culture, I thought about what resilience and determination it took for generations to live through those centuries and not lose sight of their own separate identity and national vision.

As a late, and culminating, example, take the remarkable vision of Gandhi. His march to the sea (the so-called “Salt March”, and did not immediately alter much of anything about the British rule of India. It was, however, an important action, one of a series during Gandhi’s campaign for Indian independence, all of which served to dramatically illustrate for Indians the reality of British rule and to dramatically illustrate for the British the inevitability of losing that rule to a determined and overwhelmingly popular struggle. Even the Salt March, dramatic and useful as it was, did not result in Indian independence — that took another seventeen years.

Okay, I understand that you are not trying to overturn an empire. But you are engaged in a long-term struggle of establishing and strengthening your presence in the business community and your career. In order to do that, you need to have a plan that includes many elements for which there is not an immediate reward but that over time should bring good results. The alternative is that you spend all your time reacting to the needs of the moment, and not paying attention to the big picture — to where you want your business and your career to actually be in the long run.

Successful rainmakers should usually have a conscious schedule of activities to which they adhere. Being actively out in the world attracts clients. Typical rainmaking activities include participating in conferences and seminars, taking people to meals and coffees, attending parties (even those you may not enjoy), going the extra mile to personally help clients and potential clients, and, yes, blogging and writing articles. However, sometimes routines slip. We have plans that get delayed or go wrong, and sometimes we just get discouraged. It is what you do when things slip that separates the ultimately successful professionals from the defeated ones. Pick yourself up, and if you miss a month, get the next one.

If you have let some of this slip, I encourage you to make plans for at least one good rainmaking action you have not done lately. Do the footwork as soon and as well as you can.

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Routine, But Effective

By the end of January, lawyers who understand rainmaking, the ones who care about keeping their current clients happy and obtaining new ones, are asking themselves what they can do “new, better, different” in the new year. New can be good (and should be tried), but new is not always better.

I encourage those of you who have clients about whom you care to also remember that “old, reliable, effective” is a great way to go. Do you have a client who is a poor golfer or skier who, nevertheless, loves to do those things, and particularly wants to hang with you at the links or slopes? By the end of those less-than-high-level sports activities have you generally been given a new piece of work? If so, now is the time to make a first golf or ski date with them for this new year. Especially if your work cannot be seen as dramatically better than your competitors, it is time to repeat the things that have, over time, united you and your client. Continue reading

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“Working” Holiday Parties

The holiday party season is almost over, and if you are like most lawyers I know, you have been invited to a variety of parties. As this season of entertaining closes, I have found time to reflect on what business parties are about, and what, as professionals, we can contribute to them — and get from them.

Let’s start with internal office parties, where all or almost all of the people in attendance work in your office. These parties have the chance of being intimate, warm gatherings of people who feel like family. More often, however, you will spend a few hours in a room full of people you like, but don’t love, and with whom it would be inappropriate to discuss the joys and sorrows of your heart. So what do you do at such events? First, do not over-imbibe. If you do, it is hard to put words back in your mouth or pretend actions did not happen. It is appropriate to exchange information that goes beyond normal office talk, including family stories and personal backgrounds, travel plans, and even professional wishes and foibles. Don’t be self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing, and have a good time. Continue reading

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Dinner, With You?

I regularly work with lawyers looking to leave their current jobs. A number of these lawyers plan to practice solo or start a small firm. Primarily I help these ambitious, adventurous lawyers with their rainmaking – how to port over, obtain and maintain a large enough client following to have success in their new venture. When they need additional advice about real estate, technology, employees or other issues, I also help with that.

Over the years, much more often than not, by the time an individual lawyer or small group approaches me about starting a new practice, it makes sense. With consideration and planning, these lawyers get their new venture running, and frequently, eventually, running quite well. Continue reading

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Anita Hill Redux

You are an ambitious and talented lawyer. Your professional life is generally going well, except you have one major, somewhat horrifying, work issue. Your boss or someone else in a position of power has started to make unwanted passes at you.

After many years of speaking with and counseling lawyers who have been sexually harassed at the workplace, I want to address this issue not in terms of the moral thing to do, but in terms of career advancement and ambition. When combined with career, sexual harassment presents an ugly, thorny, and complicated set of decisions for victims.

October 11, 2013 was the 22nd anniversary of the most public accusation a lawyer ever made about sexual harassment. Professor Anita Hill and others have made deciding to publicize harassment a bit more comfortable, but it is still not easy. Continue reading

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