Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

Hello my friends.  Happy New Year!   We all know that 2008 was a difficult time in the legal market.  Things changed drastically -- gone are the days when associates could just keep screaming on the blogs "raise the salaries," "raise the bonuses."  Well, they could keep screaming but if it were me, I'd prefer a job over a bonus.  While I hate to see firms like Heller and Thelen erupt, I do think that greed had gotten out of hand, both at the partner level and at the associate level.  Clients shouldn't be gouged just so you can meet your targets - this applies to both partners and associates.  And, my experience with many of the millenials was that they were obsessed with the money, and less obsessed with learning how to be a good lawyer and doing good legal work.  I don't like to witness good lawyers laid off suddenly, but I also think that the new legal economy will bring things back into perspective, and where people work hard, get paid well, and do a solid job.

Now, since it is the new year, I guess we should have some resolutions.  I would encourage each of you to do something at least once a week to further your career.  This may be small steps, or bigger steps.  You've heard me say this before, and I will say it again:  you need to own your career.  No one is going to guide it for you.  Here's some suggestions for things we can all do:

1. Start to learn a new specialty or sub-specialty.  There's tons of new laws and regulations out there at the federal and state levels.  This is a huge opportunity for younger as well as more experienced lawyers.  You can become well-versed in something new and perhaps be heard as the "expert" -- remember, someone practicing in the general area for 20 years also has to learn the new law or go ahead and jump right in.   You may love the fact that you know X inside and out.  But what if the need for knowledge of X goes away?  Don't get stuck in a very limited knowledge base.  I've stayed busy (and employed!) by being able to adapt. 

2. Continue to build your network. Do not just lunch with your office mates.  Get out there.  Call up old law school friends, people you met through bar activities, etc.  You never know when these people will, say, move in house -- and it does happen.  In addition to getting out of the office and clearing your head for a little while, you are expanding your base.

3. Don't forget to tend to your existing network.  Did you see an Internet article or blurb that might be of interest to a contact, forward it with a short note; go ahead and wish them a Happy New Year; perhaps invite them to lunch or to an event your firm or organization is hosting (assuming you are allowed)

4. At the end of each week -- ask yourself -- what have I done to further my career this week?  Make some notes about what you will do the following week.

3. If you are thinking of making a move, let your close friends (outside of firm or organization) who are discreet know that you may be open to opportunities.  I know so many people who have found great positions through referrals from friends.

2. If you can help a friend, former colleague, etc., who may be "on the street" with suggestions for new situations, go ahead.  Send them job listings you see, if you know of an opening at a client that may be right for your friend, let your friend know.  

1. Don't burn bridges.  If you act like an a-hole, people will not help you. This seems pretty obvious but you would be shocked at some of the behavior. Stay away from office cliques, treat all people with common courtesy and respect, deliver what you promise, be tough, but be fair.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In my limited experience (1 firm only) associates are not nearly as big a problem when it comes to greed as partners. The partnership protects its own and allows a partner to continually undercut associates that are more valuable to the firm than the partner. The result? These associates leave and the firm's most important asset, human capital, is diminished. Meanwhile, do the firms ever look at the highest salaries that are adding the least amount of value to the firm first when it comes to layoffs? Nope. Never.

You can say that that's the advantage of being a partner, but that's simply admitting that firms are built on a terrible business model that is against the firm's interest as a whole.

I'm sure there are associates that are part of the problem, but on an institutional level it is pretty clear to me that the problems stem from outdated models of how a partnership should function.