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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.

Holiday Choices

Holiday ChoicesPHOTO Emply Egg Type Chairs in loungeWhile I was still in law school and interviewing for a summer associate position, a mid-level associate with a large firm bragged to me that he had been delighted to cancel his July 4th plans with his wife and child during that holiday. His pride stemmed from being considered “crucial” to this client. Since I had no reason to suspect that this person did not care about his family, I reasoned that he was an ambitious lawyer and knew where his priorities lay.

Once I started practicing at a large firm, I viscerally understood that sacrifices like these are always expected, and, with some frequency, required. An important aspect of being an excellent lawyer is one’s availability. Lawyers who get ahead at high-powered firms know that the clients come first. (This is not an absolute, however, and I have heard occasional nightmare stories such as partners asking associates to forego hospital visits to a parent’s deathbed. Fortunately, those are rare).

I realized that that life was not for me. A few years into my practice, I was asked to cancel an out of state visit with my mother to attend a client meeting. I had not seen my mother in several months and chose not to cancel. Of course, someone else jumped in to attend that meeting and I did not remain at that firm for the long haul. Within two years, I switched careers and never looked back. Since then, however, I have had more than one family vacation postponed due to my lawyer husband’s client obligations.

How ambitious you are is up to you but it is clear that to succeed in the upper echelons of law, personal sacrifices must be made. High-powered clients have fascinating, challenging work but that work is demanding and can be relentless about grabbing your time.

Client demands in December can create extremely torn feelings. End of year holidays have dates on the calendar; they also have embedded memories and associations. Unlike most other vacations, they cannot be postponed.

Families gather at particular times. If you have children, they have set winter vacations. Nonetheless, lawyers who love lawyering understand that law is profoundly a service business. Come December, great lawyers adjust and save their clients’ behinds – without resentment.

This month I have spoken with no fewer than three lawyers who were happy to be working on significant projects, but at the same time, sad to miss time away with their families. I believe that both are possible. Just understand that is what it takes.

Posted in Career Success, Client Responsiveness, Practice Habits | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving – Sometimes You Pay It Forward

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantThanksgiving starts the holiday season in which most of us remember, appreciate, and thank the people who have helped us throughout the past year. For lawyers, thinking about who shared or referred business is often easy to remember: the bills you sent are probably good reminders. Gifts may be appreciated, but are seldom crucial. Contact, however, is crucial. Thank your clients and referral sources. Any form of direct contact will do, but don’t forget. Pick up the phone or send an e-mail or note, making explicit reference to what the person did and your gratitude. Continue reading

Posted in Career Happiness, Friends, Referrals | Leave a comment

Referrals Within Your Firm

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantFrom a logical perspective, you would think that your best referrals from other lawyers would come from within your own firm. However, in my experience, firms often leave internal referrals to chance and good will. Therefore, firms that do not organize for or teach the art of internal referrals have lots of “leakage”. Work is sent elsewhere, or is otherwise not captured. Fortunately, such leakage can be prevented. Firms can institutionalize activities that encourage cross-referrals among its lawyers. Continue reading

Posted in Law Firm Management, Networking, Referrals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Referring and Collaborating, Part 2 – Getting Work

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_Concept (1)One hallmark of a contented and mature personal life is that you can help others without expecting a return. Few of us are consistently mature, but many lawyers do give referrals without strings to other lawyers. It is also true that lawyers’ maturity may not be tested much, because lawyers who help their fellows often get helped in return.

In the world of legal referrals and business collaboration, long-lived selfless giving is not expected. Business reciprocity is not about love, or even karma. It is about respect, helping each other’s (or shared) clients, and getting a job done well. You will not, and should not, be sent work for which you are ill-suited, and which you could not do well.

Three key ways to obtain referral work from other lawyers are 1. Having and maintaining technical legal skills and acumen, 2. Having a reputation for the same, as well as for good judgment, and 3. Being trustworthy regarding not stealing another lawyer’s clients. Continue reading

Posted in Legal Specialties, Referral Arrangements, Solo Legal Practice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Referring and Collaborating, Part 1 – Giving

Getting and keeping legal work is how lawyers survive and thrive. But there are frequently circumstances in which it makes sense to give away some or all of a piece of business. Even the best lawyers cannot do everything, or be right for all clients. Therefore lawyers both refer and collaborate, and indeed the English-speaking legal profession has a strong tradition of referral and collaboration. How to choose with whom to “partner”, whom to trust with the care of your clients, whom to trust to not poach your clients, is a decision that should be made with great care. Whether to stay involved in a particular transferred matter, at least in a small way, or to delegate work entirely is typically the threshold question for a lawyer soliciting another lawyer’s help.

Whether it is crucial to stay involved largely depends upon three things: whether you will be doing a substantial part of the work, how bonded you are to the client, and how much you trust the other lawyer who will be working with your client. Continue reading

Posted in Legal Specialties, Referral Arrangements, Solo Legal Practice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment