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CLE Webinar: The Top 5 Attorney Retention Strategies

JD Bliss is proud to announce a new CLE-accredited webinar series entitled:

Keeping the Troops Loyal: The Top 5 Attorney Retention Strategies

(with guest presenter Lauren Stiller Rikleen, Esq.)

The exodus of young, talented lawyers from private law firms has reached epidemic proportions. Recent surveys by NALP and The American Lawyer show that 37% of associates will leave their firms by the end of the third year, and 55% don't expect to last at their firm longer than five years. Such high turnover rates impose significant costs on law firms, including increased recruiting fees and higher training costs.

This CLE-accredited webcast will discuss strategies to increase attorney retention at your firm. Topics to be covered include:

  • How to distinguish your law firm as a great place to work
  • The top 10 work/life balance initiatives used by firms to increase retention rates
  • How career development programs improve attorney loyalty and morale
  • Why management training is critical to a firm's retention efforts
  • And much more....

Location: Participate remotely from the comfort of your own office or conference room via a webex connection!

Dates: The webinar will be broadcast nationwide on the following 2 convenient dates:

Register for The April 16 2008 Date Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 12:30 pm EST

with guest presenter: Joshua Fruchter, Esq. (presenter bio)

View Webinar Details and Registration

Register for The May 7 2008 Date Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 12:30 pm EST

with guest presenter: Lauren Stiller Rikleen, Esq. (presenter bio)

View Webinar Details and Registration

Special Law Firm Pricing: as you will see, for just $149 per location (or $249 per location for registrations received less than a week before a scheduled broadcast date), a law firm can invite an unlimited number of attorneys and other guests to attend the webinar at a single location at no extra charge (each additional location requires payment of an additional fee). If your firm wishes to sign up several offices simultaneously, we can assist with multiple registrations. Simply contact us at 866-833-6245 or [email protected].

Materials: each attendee will receive a professional e-book reviewing the material covered during the webinar.

CLE Credit: This course is presently CLE accredited in the following States: New York (1.0 credit hour, nontransitional). CLE accreditation is being sought in additional states. In addition to the registration fee above for each location signed up for the webinar, an additional $50 fee will apply for each individual attorney seeking CLE credit for this presentation to cover the cost of processing applicable State-required attendance and certification forms. Our financial hardship policy is available upon request.

Click here to invite a friend
We encourage you to invite your friends and colleagues. There is no attendance limit!

We look forward to greeting you!

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More Lawyers Are Blogging and Realizing the Benefits

A few days ago, law marketing guru Larry Bodine pointed out that about 10% of lawyers now have blogs. While law firms often embrace new technologies more slowly than the rest of the business sector, blogging has been an exception.

Apparently, lawyers have begun to understand that, as legal marketer Joshua Fruchter of eLawMarketing has noted in a recent post on his LawyerCasting blog about best practices for law firm blogs: "blogs are an excellent marketing tool because they deliver exactly what search engines want: targeted content updated on a regular basis that attracts inbound links. The high search engine visibility of blogs, in turn, attracts media visibility, which helps lawyers build their reputations as thought leaders in niche practice areas."

Another blogging pioneer, Kevin O'Keefe, the founder and president of LexBlog, Inc., observes at Real Lawyers Have Blogs, that law firms are using blogs to the same degree as other American businesses.  Citing a report that only about 5% of small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) have blogs, O'Keefe notes that small firms are using blogs in roughly the same numbers as comparably-sized businesses generally.  That's great news for lawyers because, as O'Keefe explains, "Blogs are here to stay.  Lawyers who fail to join the conversation among thought leaders in their niche will be conspicuous by their absence."

Larry Bodine would, no doubt, agree.  He offers 7 compelling reasons to start a professional blog.  I like his reasons and they offer me a reason to continue blogging.  Let me add one that he doesn't mention, but that I consider equally important.  Blogging is a great way to network with other lawyers.  Prospective clients aren't the only people who read blogs.  Lawyers' blogs allow colleagues to communicate with one another about areas of shared interest and can encourage lawyer-to-lawyer referrals.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Celebrating the Lives of Two Lawyers in Their Golden Years

The online ABA Journal recently featured two retired lawyers--one in Chicago, and one in Miami--who are living the good life well into their retirement years. 

In cold and snowy Chicago, in honor of his 100th birthday, a group of friends hosted a humorous mock trial for Leon Despres, a lawyer who has made a career out of rattling the cages of Chicago's politically powerful individuals and institutions.   Among the attendees at the mock trial were federal judges, a former United States Senator, a former U.S. Attorney, and Illinois' attorney general.  The charges against Despres included "heresy" and "sedition" and had resulted from Despres' work in civil rights and politics for more than 50 years.  During his years as an independent alderman of the city's 5th Ward, from 1955 to 1975, Despres fought against the status quo, racial discrimination in city hiring practices, and the taking of bribes by some of the city's aldermen.  He also promoted reforms including landmarks preservation and fair housing laws.

A reformer since his early years as an adult, Despres now lives in an apartment that overlooks Jackson Park in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, home to his undergraduate and law school alma mater, the University of Chicago. Today, as a centenarian, he remains concerned about social issues, including the closing of the Hyde Park Co-op grocery that he helped found.  Now, his "focus is not on past battles but those to be fought."

Meanwhile, far south of Chicago, in sunny Miami, Edna Shalala is enjoying her retirement after having practiced law for 50 years.  (In her first career, she had been a teacher until 1952.)  At 96, Shalala has been retired for only about six years, and she maintains an active schedule.

The educator-turned-lawyer is the mother of Donna Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. She spends half of the year in Cleveland and the other half with her daughter, who is the president of the University of Miami.  Edna Shalala says, "I do everything a young person does--classes, lectures, water exercises, yoga. I used to play tennis. For many years I belonged to a health club in Cleveland. Down here I go the wellness center."

A recently broken wrist is not holding her back. In addition to maintaining two residences, she cooks Mediterranean cuisine and attends classes at UM's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on topics as diverse as art, music, and international politics.  She also recalls fondly her many visits to the White House when her daughter served in President Clinton's cabinet.  She remarked, "It was exciting, everyone dressed up, the decorations, the food and the service. It was very impressive to see everybody walking in behind the president and getting to go in line and meet the president."

Congratulations to Mr. Despres and Ms. Shalala.  May they continue to enjoy their retirement years richly. 

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Smiling at the "Solo" Aspect of Solo Lawyer Practice

In his inimitable style, Rick Georges at Sololawyer has tickled my funny bone with this clever cartoon that captures elegantly, and in my opinion accurately, the rewards and challenges of being a solo lawyer.  In just four frames, that cartoon presents both sides of the coin of practicing as a solo.  Being on my own forces me to do more networking, both to generate new business for my firm and to connect with other lawyers, since I don't have any colleagues in my office.  At the same time, conflicts within the firm are blissfully nonexistent.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Work-life Balance: Helping Law Firms Recruit the Lawyers they Want

Here at the JD Bliss Blog, we often write about work-life balance, usually from the individual lawyers' perspective.  But addressing work-life balance issues benefits law firms, too, in terms of employee satisfaction and retention, as well as during the recruiting process.

A recent survey by Hudson, a worldwide provider of permanent recruitment, contract professionals, and talent management services worldwide, suggests that law firms can benefit by accommodating work-life balance for their lawyers.  The survey showed that 29 percent of workers in the United States consider work-life balance and job flexibility to be the most important factor when they evaluate job offers.  By comparison, compensation was named by 23 percent of the workers as the primary reason they accepted their jobs.

Robert Morgan, co-president of Recruitment and Talent Management at Hudson, is quoted as saying, "As the pool of qualified candidates shrinks, it seems that employers can compete more effectively for talent if they can offer work-life balance to go along with the competitive pay."  While pay is important, work-life balance is becoming more of a priority among job applicants.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Allen & Overy Lets Lawyers Buy and Sell Vacation Time

Consider this scenario.  It's the middle of December and you're starting a trial you expect to last two weeks.  You, your client, and your witnesses are very well prepared and you feel you have the ideal judge for the case.  There's just one problem.  You have five remaining vacation days for the year, but you won't be able to get any time off until after the trial.  Since your firm does not allow you to carry those days over into next year, you're going to lose them.  Wouldn't it be great if you could convert those vacation days into some extra pay?

The lawyers and staff at Allen & Overy can do exactly that.  The firm allows employees to buy and sell vacation days worth a limited portion of their salary.  This creative approach to scheduling vacation time is just the latest innovation in Allen & Overy's effort to address work-life balance issues.  The London-based firm has also been a leader in addressing other issues to improve its employees' career satisfaction and to retain its associates.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Diversity at Kelley Drye & Warren: Law Firm and Corporate Clients Working Together

For the February 2008 edition of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, the publication's Editor interviewed Sarah L. Reid, a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP, on the subject of diversity.  In a fascinating and uplifting interview, Ms. Reid, the first woman partner at Kelley Drye and the head of the firm's diversity committee, discusses how diversity has become a core value for her.  Just how important does she consider diversity in the legal profession?  She stated that she and her partners "believe that encouraging a workplace that embraces and truly understands the value of diversity is critical in providing the highest quality of legal and client services."  Reid explained that her firm's clients are also very interested in the diversity of the lawyers who represent them.  Some clients even require diversity statistics and reports from the firms that serve them.

Explaining her belief that diversity is a broad and flexible concept, Reid detailed the ways her firm promotes diversity in the workplace and in the legal profession as a whole, including the following:

  • working closely with one of its clients, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) to give a diverse group of summer associates the opportunity to spend time working with both inside counsel and outside counsel, providing the firm and its client a diverse pool of future lawyers to work in financial services law; 
  • sponsoring organizations dedicated to increasing diversity in the legal profession;
  • working to help women balance raising families with enjoying long, successful careers;
  • supporting community and professional organizations that serve the needs of persons with widely varying ethnic backgrounds, sexual-orientations, and gender identities;
  • actively encouraging and supporting affinity groups within the firm;
  • developing and maintaining relationships with law school organizations that promote diversity;
  • mentoring minority law students in the greater New York City area and helping them with career guidance through Practicing Attorneys for Law Students ("PALS"), a not-for-profit organization, designed to assist minorities entering the legal profession; and
  • providing internships at the firm that give high school students hands-on work experience.

Reid says that her firm has planned more initiatives for the near future, including inviting more of its clients to meet with the firm's diversity committee to explore ways to work together with clients on diversity issues and to ensure the firm understands and meets the clients' expectations for diversity.  Summing up Kelley Drye's commitment to diversity, Ms. Reid says, "The firm is completely committed to the values of diversity and inclusion and the diversity committee will continue to be very active."  What a positive, inspiring philosophy to hold and to practice as Ms. Reid and her firm do.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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More Fathers Seeking Satisfying Balance Between Family Life and Work

There's a lot of talk these days about the demands of balancing a career and a family.  The problem itself is not new. What's new is the availability of specific legal rights to help workers juggle those demands more successfully.

Last summer we noted that work life balance lawsuits were surging due to the increasing number of Americans that are having trouble balancing the demands of work and family. Initially, it was primarily women who were taking legal action in this area. However, it was recently reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the number of complaints filed by fathers is increasing. Seems men -- and not just women -- are increasingly taking legal action when their federally-guaranteed rights are not accommodated in the workplace, including the right to have time off for childcare purposes and to accrue paid sick leave for the birth of a child.

On the positive side, here's an encouraging success story about Chris Rhee, a father and a lawyer in Washington, DC, who was able to make partner at his firm, Arnold & Porter, on a part-time schedule that leaves time for carpool duty, doctors' visits, and parent-teacher conferences. As noted in a prior post, Arnold & Porter was #19 on Fortune's "Best Places to Work" list.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Some Law Graduates Cheerfully Choose Alternative Careers

Generally speaking, you need a law degree (plus a license) to practice law.  However, having a law degree doesn't mean you must practice law.  While most graduates of U.S.-based law schools enter the private practice of law, a notable number do not, opting for diverse career opportunities that may not even require a law degree or law license, but in which the broad-based education underlying the J.D. proves useful.

Meet four law school graduates who are doing something different with their legal education.   They are in the minority, but these doctors of law are pursuing a diverse array of careers, including:

  • financial planner, 
  • owner of a real estate investment business, 
  • campaign worker for presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, and 
  • consultant for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

The reasons for these mavericks' selections of nontraditional career paths are as varied as the positions they currently hold.  The financial planner cited a weak job market as part of the reason he picked an alternative career.  However, the three other law graduates suggested that they used law school itself as a stepping stone to work that was not centered around practicing law.  One used his legal education to advance his real estate career.  The other two graduates used their law degrees, respectively, as a springboard to enter politics and public policy, and to become a social entrepreneur who works on social justice issues.

Do these deviations indicate a trend moving away from traditional law careers?  It's really too early to tell.  Nevertheless, these four stories about career satisfaction and success suggest that there are many ways to use a J.D. in satisfying work; traditional law practice is just one option.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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ABA Journal and New York Times Highlight Steps Taken By Large Law Firms to Improve Attorney Retention

Today's New York Times had an article by Lisa Belkin documenting the steps being taken at many law firms to improve attorney retention. These include everything from the elimination of billable hour requirements at venerable firms such as Quarles & Brady to flex-time arrangements such as that instituted at Howrey under which associates can opt to work fewer hours for less pay. Associates have been asking for such arrangements for several years now, and firms are finally waking up.

The Times article follows a story in the ABA Journal concerning efforts by some of the nation's biggest and most tradition-bound law firms to help attorneys achieve work-life balance.

All good news for associates.

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5 Law Firms Make It On To Fortune's "Best Places to Work For" List

Congratulations to the 5 law firms that made it on to Fortune Magazine's recently released annual "Best Places to Work For" list. Innovative work-life balance benefits were generally the key:

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How to Survive the Coming Law Firm Crunch

Many lawyers will not know where to turn during a recession... not having seen one before.

We have lived through almost three decades of law-firm hiring and firing cycles and have learned some lessons about lawyer survival. Since lawyers are not recession-proof, they may need help getting through what may be heavy weather -- a stormy new career transition in the next few months.

To help survive an imminent economic downturn, we suggest smart lawyers avoid the following career mistakes:

1. Holding onto an irrational belief that you owe a lifestyle commitment to your current employer or career.

2.  Deferring decisions until you are fired or burned out.

3.  Waiting, especially for opportunities to fall into your lap.

4.  Keeping your feelings of dissatisfaction to yourself, or dumping them on your family, friends, or in angry correspondence.

5.  Burning your bridges behind you.

6.  Believing you'll be hired to do something elsewhere -- only that for which you have been formally trained.

7.  Worrying about what you can't change instead of coping with what you can.

8.  Responding "yes--but" to every positive thought, intention, or bit of good advice; dreaming up improbable rationales to excuse obvious negatives.

9.  Deciding you must earn the same money, or maintain the same level of status, responsibility, or prestige in your next career or job.

Lawyers may need to be reminded that they don’t owe a lifestyle commitment to their legal career, or to a sizable investment in their expertise -- which can be a form of habituation or 'addiction'.

Stephen Rosen & Celia Paul

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Attorney Retention Best Practice: Curbing Lawyers' Email Use on Weekends

The latest attorney retention best practice from the Project for Attorney Retention is instituting policies and technologies to curb email use on weekends. While occasionally there may truly be emergencies that necessitate intruding on an attorney's personal time over the weekend, in most cases email communications can wait until Monday.

As an example from outside legal industry, PAR cited a message displayed to PriceWaterhouse professionals who log in over the weekend urging them to be respectful of their colleague's personal time. encourage attorneys who send e-mails over the weekend to include a deadline.

PAR recommends that firms require attorneys sending emails to colleagues over the weekend specify if an email is an emergency requiring immediate attention. This way recipients can make an educated decision about whether or not to focus on the matter over the weekend.

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Hold Law Firm Partners Accountable for Attorney Retention and Attrition

Another attorney retention best practice identified by the Project for Attorney Retention ("PAR") is holding law firm partners accountable for attrition of associates.

The strategy has worked at companies outside the legal industry such as Ernst & Young where partner compensation is awarded based on, among other criteria, how effective individual partners have been at retaining the firm's talent by creating a flexible work environment. Regardless of the amount of business an individual partner has brought in, if their "People" score is low, their compensation will be reduced. The message is simple: bringing in work without being able to keep talented people on board does neither the client nor the firm any good.

Sidley Austin is one law firm that has gotten the message. In a recent interview with PAR, Maria Melendez, chair of Sidley's diversity commitee, shared that partners at the firm are asked to report on their efforts to retain and advance women (and minority) attorneys.

See further details here.

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Some Boies Schiller Associates May Have Hit the Jackpot

Last November, Boies Schiller announced that Visa Inc. had agreed to pay its client, American Express Co., as much as $2.25 billion to settle an antitrust suit. The firm had earlier announced that it was being compensated partially on contingency. Thus, on a $2.5 billion settlement, the firm's payoff is likely to be huge: a 5 percent fee, for example, would bring in $125 million.

As reported on, what is interesting about Boies Schiller is that it offers associates who work on contingency cases the opportunity to get a percentage of the future contingency fee if and when it's recovered in exchange for accepting a lower year-end bonus. With the American Express case, associates were offered a choice each year at bonus time. They could take the conservative route and have their annual bonus include the hours they devoted to this case. That way they'd be assured of getting some credit for those hours. The downside was that those hours would not be counted toward the contingency fee. The alternative option allowed associates to roll their hours on the case over to the next year. If and when the case paid off, they would receive a share of the contingency fee proportionate to those hours.

According to Boies, between a quarter and a half of the associates assigned to the American Express case chose to roll the dice and count their hours towards a share in the potential contingency fee. Some of those associates could now be looking at bonuses from the case of $1 million.

There are the kinds of innovative compensation arrangements that we think more law firms should be experimenting with.

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Starting Law Firm Associate Salaries Rising Towards $200,000

At the end of 2007, reported that the Washington, D.C. firm of Williams & Connolly is raising pay for starting associates to $180,000 a year. The question is: how soon will a big firm announce a starting salary of $200,000?

Given that Williams & Connolly is a small firm, with a tight litigation focus and a reputation for being one of the most selective firms in the country when it comes to hiring,it seems unlikely that large law firms will follow its lead immediately. But Williams & Connolly has proven to be a bellwether in the past, and it takes only one large firm to pull the trigger before the others quickly fall into line.

This brings us back to a point we've raised numerous times in the past, which is that with major law firms always moving in "lockstep" in terms of compensation, firms need to find creative ways to distinguish themselves from competitors in areas other than compensation when recruiting attorneys.

One area in which firms can easily set themselves apart from the pack is through the quality of their work life balance programs. Benefits such as flextime arrangements, telecommuting, sabbaticals, and job sharing are highly valued by associates and firms that offer them will find that they are an excellent selling point.

Our new, CLE-accredited seminar on attorney retention strategies offers law firms an overview of work life balance programs that have helped attract and retain top legal talent.

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Monitoring Assignment Disparity in Attorney Flextime Arrangements

The Project for Attorney Retention continues to add to its list of attorney retention best practices. An earliest post on PAR's "best practices" list discussed the benefits of attorney job sharing arrangements. More recently, PAR has recommended that firms offering flextime arrangements monitor the quality of assignments being given to part-time attorneys.  PAR shares stories of part-time attorneys being passed over for "plum" assignments, being relegated to tedious document reviews, and being shifted to assignments involving extensive rote work. Such disparity in the quality of work assignments causes frustration, unhappiness and a sense of second-class citizenship among reduced-hours attorneys, and thus seriously undermines the effectiveness of a flextime program as an attorney retention and recruiting tool.

The reasons for the disparity in the quality of work assignments between full time and part-time attorneys varies. Sometimes it's an innocent assumption by partners who believe that part-time attorneys don't want assignments that may, for example, involve tight deadlines, while on other occasions there's a deliberate effort by certain attorneys to make reduced hours arrangements unpalatable.

PAR offers several tips to determine whether work assignment disparity is a problem, and if so, what to do about it. These include checking billing records for the past couple of years to see if the same type of attorneys are always getting the best assignments.

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Lauren Stiller Rikleen Launches New Website for Institute Focused on Helping Laws Firms Attract and Retain Women Attorneys and Other Professionals

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, a leading expert on recruiting and retention issues at law and other professional service firms, has recently announced the launch of a new website for the Bowditch Institute for Women's Success, an organization headed by Lauren that helps professional service firms attract and retain women professionals. We encourage firms to visit the website to learn more about the services offered by Lauren and her team to help individual women attorneys achieve career success and to help law firms maximize the retention and advancement of women attorneys.

Lauren is also the author of Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law, a highly acclaimed book focusing on the challenges and roadblocks women face as they struggle to succeed in law firms, and the steps law firms can take to change the present reality.

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Australian Government Delays BlackBerry Rollout Over Work-Life Balance Debate

It was recently reported that the Australian government delayed the rollout of new BlackBerries because of concerns voiced by staff that the devices would have a negative impact on their work-life balance. Those objecting to the devices argued that executive staff should rarely be contacted after-hours, and if necessary can be contacted by mobile phone. Other staff argued that a BlackBerry can contribute to work-life balance by facilitating telecommuting and more flexible schedules. According to government sources, the debate became quite heated.

Click here for the full story.

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Professionals Cite Achieving Work Life Balance as Top Goal for 2008

According to a new national survey conducted by Office Depot, achieving work-life balance tops the list of business priorities for 2008 with 53% of professionals surveyed identifying improved work-life balance as a goal in the New Year. See full story here.

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Facing the FACTS: Deborah Epstein Henry Offers a New Model for Work/Life Balance at Law Firms

In a recent article entitled Facing the FACTS: Introducing Work/Life Choices for All Firm Lawyers Within the Billable Hour Model, consultant Deborah Epstein Henry introduces a new approach for helping lawyers achieve work/life balance

Henry begins by highlighting three factors that have led to pervasive dissatisfaction among lawyers with work/life balance:

1. Lawyers are working longer hours than ever before (up from a range of 1,200 to 1,600 hours annually in 1965 to 2,000-2,200 today). A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study entitled Women Lawyers and Obstacles to Leadership found that attorneys cite long hours as an important factor in leaving their firms.

2. While technology has given lawyers flexibility, it has also blurred the lines between work and home by creating expectations of 24/7 availability.

3. Generation "Y" individuals (born between 1980-2000) appear more willing than their parents to make sacrifices in terms of reduced income to achieve other goals they consider valuable such as more time for family responsibilities and personal interests.

Some -- such as celebrity author Scott Turow -- have suggested that firms abandon the "billable hour" model (albeit often for reasons other than its negative impact on work/life balance). Henry apparently finds that option too radical, and therefore unrealistic (to be sure, while it would be ideal for firms to develop alternative methods of charging for their services that eliminate the billable hour, the fact remains that law is a business and alternative methods of billing have to make economic sense given the nature of practice areas such as litigation where one's adversary has the power to determine how much time one will have to spend on a case).

Instead, Henry proposes a new methodology -- FACTS -- to provide better work/life choices for lawyers within the billable hour model.

Continue reading "Facing the FACTS: Deborah Epstein Henry Offers a New Model for Work/Life Balance at Law Firms" »

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The ABA Law Journal Names the JD Bliss Blog Among the Top 100 Law Blogs

The ABA Law Journal recently named the JD Bliss blog among the top 100 law blogs (or "blawgs") in the country.

To vote for the JD Bliss blog as your favorite, click here (or the image below). Thanks for your continued support!!

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Live Webcast: CLE Credit: Wednesday, December 19, 2007: Attorney Retention: Preventing an Exodus of Talent

RegistercircleJoin West Legalworks on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 12:00 PM EST for a live, CLE-accredited, 90-minute webcast entitled: “Attorney Retention: Preventing an Exodus of Talent.

The loss of a talented attorney can be disruptive to any firm’s business, but when lawyers begin leaving in droves, it can affect a firm’s management capabilities, its ability to hire new talent, and its relationship with its clients. Firm managers need to be able to notice the warning signs of a partner or associate’s imminent departure, and prevent their leaving to join a competitor.

Icon_livewebcastIn this 90-minute, CLE-accredited webcast, attorney retention experts Joshua Fruchter of the JD Bliss blog, and Arnie Herz, of the Legal Sanity blog, will discuss:

• Recognizing the signs of an unhappy attorney
• How to keep attorneys from flying the coop
• Incentives to energize an attorney’s productivity
• Creating a meaningful communication flow between attorneys and management

Cost: $165 for 1.5 CLE credits available in the following states: AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, KY, MN, MT, ND, NY, OK, WV.

Register here

Who Should Attend: law firm partners and managers concerned about losing talented partners and associates to the competition and other industries.

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The Ford & Harrison and Strasburger & Price Law Firms Swap Mentoring and Training Time for Billable Hours for New Associates

As law firms become more willing to debate the pros and cons of the billable hour and other fee arrangements with clients, innovative firms are experimenting with alternatives.  A great example are firms like Ford & Harrison in Atlanta and Strasburger & Price in Dallas, which are reducing or eliminating billable-hour requirements for new associates and replacing those quotas with structured training and mentoring.

Supporters of this new method of "on-the-job-training" cite its many benefits, including teaching new lawyers practical skills that they don't acquire in law school such as deposing witnesses and communicating effectively with clients; reducing job stress on new associates and easing their transition from law school to law practice; enhancing lawyers' loyalty to their firms; and allowing associates to assume greater responsibilities earlier in their legal careers.

This new approach does have its costs, including potential losses of thousands of billable hours.  Still, proponents of this change point out that a lot of first-year associate time is written off anyway due to the associates' lack of experience.  Further, some firms expect to make up up that initial loss in the lawyers' second and third years because they will be able to assume more responsibility and bill clients at higher rates, justified by their greater experience.

Building a kind of apprenticeship into the early years of law practice is a novel idea, at least during the last few decades.  It's probably a bit too early to tell how well it work, but the strategy clearly has a commonsense appeal.  If the increased efficiency, loyalty, and productivity generate better results for clients and more revenue for law firms, we may soon see the development of new traditions for training associates, as firms rethink how they use the billable hour and, probably more importantly, quotas for billable hours.

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Are You An Attorney Looking to Change Jobs or Careers? Look Before You Leap

In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn observed that part of human development involves "going into debt of one kind of another (even if only to yourself through bargains that may imprison the soul)."  Might this be especially true for lawyers?  We put ourselves through three or four years of grueling doctoral studies that can fundamentally reshape our views of the world and we often graduate owing tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, needing to find work that pays enough for us to retire that debt, usually many years after graduation.  Many times that work demands long hours and causes us a huge amount of stress.

Are you a lawyer who would love to change jobs (or careers) due to the stress of your work, but feels you can't due to the adverse impact on your checking account such a change would entail? In her recent Fiscally Fit column in the Wall Street Journal, Terri Cullen offers some useful advice to those who may find themselves in such a situation when she recounts the experiences she and her sister had when each of them were deep in debt, working at very stressful jobs, and attempting to find new, well-paying work.  While Ms. Cullen and her sister rebounded successfully from their difficult situations, Cullen acknowledges the difficulties that could face a "newly minted lawyer slogging away at a corporate job to service $100,000 in student-loan debt."

Continue reading "Are You An Attorney Looking to Change Jobs or Careers? Look Before You Leap" »

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Perkins Coie, DLA Piper, Fried Frank, Sullivan & Cromwell, and Other Big Law Firms Offer Innovative Perks to Keep Associates Happy

With attorney turnover at record heights, the New York Times recently reported that large law firms are rolling out a smorgasbord of innovative perks to keep associates happy and reduce the stress of long hours.

A common perk is the concierge service, which offers the services of a personal valet to pick up the dry cleaning, developed film, or theater and sports tickets; take the car to a mechanic; arrange for flower delivery; and make travel arrangements.

Other notable innovative perks include:

  • Milkshakes and candied applies left on lawyers' desks - Perkins Coie (as explained by Lori Anger, client relations manager at Perkins Coie, "it’s random acts of kindness. We have pretty strict hours, so it’s a nice way to surprise people.")
  • Mortgage guarantees up to $100,000 for associates who have been with the firm for at least 6 months- Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Reimbursements of up to $2,000 when buying a hybrid car - DLA Piper (as DLA Piper spokesman Jason Costa explained, "In our business, people are our main asset so our benefits are designed to keep people happy and healthy.")
  • Personal coaching and psychotherapy - Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson (explained Paula Zirinsky, a spokeswoman for Fried Frank, "We want employees to be successful in their personal as well as their work lives.")
  • On-site tailoring and reimbursements to employees who buy a Nissan or General Motors vehicle - Fulbright & Jaworski
  • Yoga classes - O’Melveny & Myers
  • Nap rooms with a reclining chair, sofa and travel alarm clock - Kilpatrick Stockton

Kudos to all these firms for getting creative about keeping associates happy. With differences in annual salaries and bonuses at the larger law firms being minimal, it is creative "lifestyle" benefits that differentiates law firms in the minds of law students and potential laterals. And the good press in leading newspapers like The New York Times certainly doesn't hurt either.

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Jim Karger: Former Labor Lawyer Finds Happiness in Mexico Helping Homeless Dogs and Counseling Businesses

On October 31, 2001, attorney Jim Karger's life changed dramatically.  Tired of his day-to-day stress and the health problems that accompanied it, Karger left his successful labor law law practice.  He and his wife, Kelly, sold their home and most of their possessions as they seriously downscaled their lifestyle and moved from North Arlington, Texas to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a city about 180 miles northwest of Mexico City where many fellow expatriates live.

Jim Karger arrived in Mexico with no backup plan and the ability to speak only a little Spanish.  However, within a year, the couple founded Save a Mexican Mutt (SAMM), a 501(c)(3) charity that helps homeless Mexican dogs find new homes.  The Kargers' work with the dogs began with caring for a litter of puppies who had been abandoned and grew into a successful operation whereby SAMM has now placed 200 Mexican dogs in homes in the United States, and at least 100 more in Mexican homes.  The organization's Web site features a variety of dogs available for adoption and a blog describing the Kargers' work.

Not only is Jim Karger helping dogs, he's helping people, too.  Drawing upon his experience as a labor lawyer, in 2002, he began a successful consulting practice that helps to create "workplace environments where people really want to come to work."  Karger challenges his clients to recognize that employees' earnings do not accurately predict their happiness on the job.  He encourages employers to understand their employees better, and to build solid, meaningful relationships with them as persons, rather than treating them merely as "units of labor."

Karger keeps his law license current and says he earns as much money from his consulting as he used to earn in his law practice, but he and Kelly live simply in a small home they had built.  The door's always open so his eight dogs can enter and exit as they wish. 

And what happens to the money that's left over after living simply?  Karger puts it toward SAMM, other animal charities, and his own retirement.  Jim Karger's story is a tale of success about a lawyer and his wife who left the intensity of big city law practice and have found greater happiness and meaning.  As a lawyer who likes dogs, writing this inspired me so much that I checked the weather in San Miguel de Allende.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Bankruptcy Lawyers at Weil Gotshal Seek to Reschedule Hearings to Accommodate Children's Winter School Breaks

Lawyers who practice with civility typically won't serve their adversaries with papers on Thanksgiving eve. However should an attorney accommodate opposing counsel when there's a conflict with winter school break?

We recently read on The Juggle blog that bankrupcy lawyers at Weil Gotshal representing M&T Bank in a major Chapter 11 case recently asked the judge in the case to reschedule a series of hearings so they could spend time with their children.  The hearings were set for December 18-20, and 27, and the bank's lawyers wrote in their motion to reschedule, “These dates are smack in the middle of our children’s winter breaks, which are sometimes the only times to be with our children.”

Is the opportunity to spend time with his or her children good cause for a lawyer to seek to reschedule court hearings?  On the surface, one might be tempted to say "yes," particularly when the dates of those hearings coincide with the children's vacation time from school.  However, the debtor's response helps to put this request in perspective.

"While M&T Bank seeks to extend the hearing because of their children’s winter break schedules, M&T Bank ignores that the Debtors’ witnesses and representatives also have school-age children and the same is probably true for many parties. The Debtors are cognizant of the burdens a late December hearing places on the families of all stakeholders involved, but all parties were aware of those burdens when the schedule was proposed and approved by this Court." (emphasis added)

Lawyers can, do, and ought to be accommodating to opposing counsel when such accommodations do not prejudice their client and it is reasonable to do so.  After all, a certain collegiality among members of the bar helps cases move through the courts more quickly and more smoothly.  In this case, however, it is unclear whether the request for rescheduling is reasonable under the circumstances; the judge will have to decide that.  Regardless of the merits of this particular motion, it is encouraging to see lawyers talking about the importance of family time and bringing it to the court's attention, even in an $8 billion bankruptcy matter.

While this story is primarily about accommodation and work-life balance, reading the comments to the blog entries here and here offers an object lesson about how far our profession must still go to promote civility among its members.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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What's Your Motivation as a Lawyer?

Why do we practice law?  What moves us to do it?  At idealawg, Stephanie West Allen explores the possible motivations that drive lawyers and some of the theory behind those motivations.

West Allen points out that motivation defies an easy explanation and can be very complex.  She cites the work of researcher Steven Reiss at the Ohio State University who has identified 16 different motivations for humans behavior:

"power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility."

That's quite a list.  While Stephanie continues her discussion by pondering the motivation of the "work-life balance people" who look for "violations" of work-life balance, I want to consider her suggestion that we examine ourselves, rather than others, to see what propels us in our practice. 

As lawyers do we seek power and control?  Do we enjoy professional independence and the responsibility that goes with it?  Do we like living in an orderly world, and want to do our part to preserve that order?  Can all of these motivations explain our being lawyers, or just a subset of them?  How do vengeance, eating, and physical exercise play a part in our professional lives?  And is it possible to find tranquility in the practice of law.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen's provocative blog post, I am going to use the list of 16 motivations to reflect my own reasons for being a lawyer, including my areas of practice (Internet, blogging, and e-commerce law) and my status as a sole practitioner.  I invite you to do the same and post in the comments any insights you would like to share.  Thanks.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Paul Hempel: Moving Beyond Life as a General Counsel

Hempel In 2005, when Paul Hempel was diagnosed with cancer, he decided that it was time to take stock in his career. He had already been a partner at a regional firm in Massachusetts (starting in litigation and switching over to corporate) and a partner in his own small firm. As general counsel to a medical devices, diagnostics and services company, Inverness Medical Technologies, he had already built a law department from the ground up (the law department now has over 25 employees including IP, M&A and securities lawyers and lawyers on the ground in China, Germany and England.) He had taken the company through numerous acquisitions and reorganizations and the company had increased it’s sales by 400%. It had been a great run; but with all the uncertainty surrounding his health, Paul decided that he was ready to try something outside of the practice of law.

Today, Paul is living the next phase of his professional life and he even has a clean bill of health from his doctor. In April 2006, he became Senior Vice President in charge of Leadership Development for Inverness Medical Innovations (the successor to Inverness Medical Technologies). For about a year, he retained his role in overseeing the legal affairs of the company. Three months ago, he divested himself of all legal responsibilities and is now fully devoted to helping develop the senior management team.

Paul is excited about this new phase in his career. He plays a key strategic role in helping to shape the future of the company. The job involves a lot of interviewing of top leadership. He also advises the President on top level hiring decisions. While his goal in life had always been to become a General Counsel, after seven years on the job, he realized that he had skills that he could apply to non-legal problems. Today he is enjoying helping to build leadership in the company so that it can continue it’s highly successful run.

By Stephen Seckler, guest blogger.

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Taking Time to Reflect on Your Legal Career

I always find this time of year to be very energizing. The weather is great in New England, and frankly, I have never gotten the start of the school year out of my blood.  I also find myself in a more reflective mood after Labor Day because of the Jewish New Year.

It is in this spirit that I recently published an article on the importance periodic career assessments. The article, which appeared in appeared in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, discusses why it is important to take a step back every so often and ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you like the environment at your law firm?
  • Do you respect your fellow attorneys?
  • Are you getting legal work that you enjoy?
  • Are you building the "right" skills?
  • What are your long-term career goals (e.g., general counsel at a technology startup? partner at your firm?)? Do you have a vision of how you'll get there?

To help you with this process, the article includes a link to my on-line career audit tool.

If you are a regular reader of the JD Bliss blog, then you are already ahead of the game (i.e. you are not simply sticking your head in the sand and meeting your billable hour requirements.) But don’t be afraid to take the next step and think more actively about what is working and what might need improvement in your work life. If you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to get there!

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2007 Wisconsin Solo Attorney & Small Law Firm Conference (November 29 and 30)

On November 29 and 30, 2007, the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Bar Association will host the 2007 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The theme of the conference is "Practice Law.  Manage Business.  Enjoy Life."

The two-day event will offer four tracks of programming:

  • Substantive Law
  • Practice Management
  • Technology
  • Ethics/Quality of Life

The organizers of the conference are applying for CLE credit in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota to help attendees meet their CLE and Professionalism requirements.  Registration is available online.  Audio recordings of several sessions from last year's conference are available in MP3 format.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Billable Hours Aren't Everything: One Group of Lawyers Takes Back Their Weekends

For some of us, Sundays can be filled with anxiety as we scramble to accomplish various tasks and and do various errands to make the coming week go more easily.  For some lawyers working at big firms, Sundays also trigger a sense of dread about the coming week, what some attorneys call "Sunday stomach."  Tired of the pain of "Sunday stomach," Kevin Broyles and James Fisher jumped off the merry-go-round of large firm life, with its 60-hour workweeks and endless pressure to bill hours, and built FSB Corporate Counsel, a firm filled with "lawyers who say there's more to life than billing clients."

The change in attitude has given attorneys at the firm more time to spend with their families.  Broyles takes his son to school at 8:30 in the morning, and coaches Pee Wee football at 6:30 in the evening.  Broyles says, "It's a matter of getting your priorities in order," and notes that he rarely has to work past 5 or 6 o'clock.  Similarly, Fisher finishes his workday early enough to pick up his daughter from preschool at 4:30 p.m.  Kimberly Verska, another FSB lawyer, appreciates the flexibility.  She now bills 15 hours a week.  She also gets to keep more of what she bills than she would at a large firm.  And Verska, a mother of two, gets to see her daughters every afternoon.

The success of FSB Corporate Counsel may indicate a new trend in how we practice law.  As more lawyers become increasingly disenchanted with the traditional law firm model, quality of life will receive greater weight when making career choices.  A greater emphasis on career satisfaction and quality of life, at the firm level, will likely result in happier lawyers.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Pending California Legislation Would Add New Protections for Employees With "Family Care Responsibilities" - What's Your Take?

Opendoor California Senate Bill 836, which recently passed the California Senate and the Assembly, would amend California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to add "familial status" as a new protected classification under the state’s job bias statute. Essentially, the new law would require businesses with more than five employees to reasonably accommodate caregivers that need time away from work to "care for or support" a "family member" (defined to include a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent or grandchild).

The phrase “caring for or supporting a family member,” which is at the heart of the new legislation, is defined broadly to mean any one of the following acts: “providing supervision or transportation; providing psychological or emotional comfort or support; addressing medical, educational, nutritional, hygienic or safety need; or attending to an illness, injury, or mental or physical disability of a family member."

There is alot of controversy surrounding the bill with many arguing that its expansive definitions will wreak havoc in the workplace and lead to frivolous litigation (see some arguments for and against here). For example, one critic points out that "providing transportation to a child" would arguably cover cutting out of work early to drive a child to soccer practice.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that HR policies promoting work life balance help improve loyalty and retention.

The question is whether legislating such policies is the best answer. Time will tell.

Any thoughts, JD Bliss readers?

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Kevin Baxter: Bringing the Gift of Sports to Underprivileged Children

Sportsgift California business lawyer Kevin Baxter grew up in an affluent family, which meant whatever the sport, he had the latest gear. As an adult, Baxter got involved with humanitarian relief and took trips to Mexico to deliver food, clothing and toiletries to orphanages. It was then he noticed none of the kids had any sports equipment.

Baxter believes that sports help youth build morale and character. It also helps distract poor kids from their difficult conditions. Finding no nonprofit providing sports equipment to needy communities, Baxter moved to fill the void and Sports Gift was born.

Sports Gift collects balls, cleats, uniforms and other equipment from high schools, churches, sports camps and leagues, and distributes them to poor communities overseas. The smiles on the kids' faces receiving these gifts makes it clear that Baxter has struck a chord.

Read more about Baxter's organization.

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Lawyer Dads Cite Onsite Day Care as Key Work Life Balance Benefit

They're not just lawyers, they're fathers of young children, trying to juggle the demands of a busy law practice and family life.  If you think that's easy, just ask Brian Koide and James L. Cooper.  They can tell you.  They're two men, working at two major law firms, both in Washington, DC.  Both men have two small children.  Both have used the onsite daycare services their law firms offer.

Yes, you read that right: onsite (or almost onsite) daycare at law firms.  For Brian Koide, a lawyer in the intellectual property group at Crowell & Moring, it means a safe place where his twin 2-year-old sons, Ian and Simon, can stay and play and nap while he and his wife are working.  Koide's office is just a block away from the Bright Horizons center where the boys spend their weekdays.  He and his wife have coordinated their work schedules to allow one parent to take the children to the daycare center in the morning, while the other parent picks them up and takes them home in the late afternoon. 

James L. Cooper, a partner at Arnold & Porter, has two daughters, aged 6 and 3, who stay at the day care center his firm provides.  He says that benefit is one of the reasons he has stayed at the firm.

Law firms often see providing convenient daycare as a good business decision.  Providing day care facilities for working parents evinces a firm's dedication to issues like lawyer retention, well-being, quality of life, and opportunities for part-time lawyers.  It's too early to tell just how effective onsite day care will be for retaining lawyers, but the experiences of Brian Koide and James L. Cooper suggest many working-dad (and working-mom) lawyers will appreciate the added benefit.

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Turning A Passion Into a Career Blurs the Line Between Work and Play

Alboher_2 It's been said that "when you love your work, it's not work, it's play." Echoing this theme is a recent article by Marci Alboher (one of our past attorney success stories) in the New York Times which discusses how the boundary between work and play is blurred for people who are able to turn a personal passion into a career. As an example, she tells the story of Anthony Sandberg who leveraged his love for boating into one of the leading sailing schools in San Francisco.

Alboher also cites this bit of related advice from Maggie Mistal, a career coach:

When people do something they enjoy, it gives them energy. They start living in a way that has meaning and purpose . . . If your passions don’t exactly lead to a career choice, the personality traits and skills surrounding those passions should, and you should use those to craft a career choice.

This is an important point for unhappy lawyers. Career disillusionment often results from a mismatch between personality and work environment. For example, an individual who enjoys collaboration will be miserable working in litigation where there is constant confrontation. Or a naturally gregarious person will feel stymied in a specialty that involves extensive research and little face-time with clients (like tax work).

Not everyone can turn their passion into career. But if you follow Mistal's advice and look for work that matches your core personality traits and skills, work will soon start to feel less burdensome, and more meaningful. Not easy to do, but certainly something to strive for.

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23 Leading Law Firms Demonstrate Commitment to Work Life Balance by Joining the Project for Attorney Retention

As many of our readers may know, the Project for Attorney Retention ("PAR") is a nonprofit initiative that undertakes research and develops resources to help law firms reduce attrition rates.

Last week, PAR announced that it was offering founding memberships to law firms, and that 23 firms had already signed up. In addition to supporting PARs on-going work, law firm members will receive special benefits such as a review of their part-time policies and a teleconference for their attorneys who work reduced hours about how to advance professionally. See further details on the Project for Attorney Retention website.

Here's a list of the founding members:

Sustaining Members

  • Arnold & Porter
  • Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass
  • Fenwick & West
  • Fulbright & Jaworski
  • Howrey
  • Powell Goldstein
  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  • Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal
  • Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice

Supporting Members

  • Andrews Kurth
  • Arent Fox
  • Crowell & Moring
  • Dickstein Shapiro
  • Farella Braun + Martel
  • Hogan & Hartson
  • Jackson Lewis
  • Mayer Brown
  • McCarter & English
  • Miller Law Group
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Outten & Golden
  • Schiff Hardin
  • Sidley Austin

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Solo Lawyer Offers Some Advice About Taking Vacations

Labor Day weekend has just ended.  Is it too early to be talking about vacations?  No, and here's why.  Lawyers comprise a profession filled with a disproportionate share of workaholics.  Vacations may be infrequent and, often, we feel guilty for taking them.

Nathan Dosch, a solo attorney in Appleton, Wisconsin, has faced that guilt.  At The Dreams of a Solo, Dosch recently blogged about the internal conflict he faced when he decided to leave his solo law firm for 4 business days, just 6 weeks after he began his solo practice.  Although he was happy to be getting away, spending time with his family, and relaxing, he was somewhat worried because he knew he would not be making any money while he was gone.  Happily, he decided to take the vacation and enjoyed himself.

Dosch explains that taking the vacation taught him several lessons. 

  • He was able to pick up right where he had left his work before the brief holiday.  In other words, there was work waiting for him when he returned.
  • Focusing on the positive aspects of a vacation--the benefits of taking some time off--allowed him to get away, even when he still had some stress about leaving for a few days.
  • Communicating with clients, office mates, and contacts makes it easier to take a vacation, and they appreciate being informed of our plans.
  • The desire for flexibility that drives many lawyers into solo practice can be realized.

Apparently very happy that he took his vacation, Dosch sums up the situation fairly simply.  He left.  He enjoyed himself.  He returned.  After a successful break from work, Dosch offers this advice: "take a vacation and leave the office behind for a few days. It will still be there when you get back."  Following Nathan Dosch's example would likely reduce the stress that many lawyers experience and make their professional and personal lives more enjoyable.

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Book: Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life

Spirituality and law practice may sound like an oxymoron, but a quiet quest to find deeper meaning in lawyering is well underway in the legal profession. Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life was one of the first books to explore the process of bringing one's soul to the practice of law and approaching lawyering from a healing perspective, rather than an adversarial one.

According to one reader, "if every lawyer in America read this book carefully, perhaps the high rate of job dissatisfaction in this profession would change."

Another reviewer, a career counselor who often works with disillusioned and unhappy attorneys, remarked, "I really appreciated Steve Keeva's book for its understanding of the inherent difficulties in practicing law and its wise and compassionate solution."

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Book: The Lawyer's Career Change Handbook: More Than 300 Things You Can Do With a Law Degree

Hindi Greenberg has written an indispensable guidebook for lawyers considering a career change. Chock full of helpful advice, exercises, listings of resources and real-life stories, The Lawyer's Career Change Handbook provides all the tools needed to help the many unsatisfied lawyers who are either considering a new career or actively pursuing one.

This one-of-a-kind volume can help legal professionals identify, target, and get new jobs that best suit their abilities, background, personality and interests, while offering them ways to cope with the inevitable stress of changing fields.

And those who wish to remain in the law world will discover invaluable methods for creating more satisfaction in their current fields, for exploring other areas of the law that they may not have previously considered, and for determining if a solo or small practice is the right way to go.

Buy on Amazon.

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Law Firm Associate Dichotomy: Mega Salary vs. Pay Cut for Fewer Hours

As law students approach interview season, I have been keeping up with Above the Law's "open threads" on the Vault 100 law firms. Each day, Above the Law invites open commentary on these firms, in groups of five at a time, to give law students and associates an opportunity for anonymous, candid discussions about each firm’s pay, recruiting, lifestyle, reputation, etc. Maybe there are a few partners also posting anonymously to keep things interesting, but that’s the idea anyway.

From the open thread comments on Above the Law (see, e.g., here), word of mouth sources, and ongoing articles in the mainstream media about law firms that are raising salaries to $160k for first year associates (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here on (as well as some firms that are not meeting the competition, see here), it appears that law firms are still using increasing salaries as the primary tool to attract top talent even though many law firm associates say they would gladly take pay cuts to work fewer hours

In short, there appears to be a dichotomy among law students and associates – those who want ultra-mega-salaries and those who are willing to exchange some level of salary for more time outside the office.

How about this for a probably unoriginal, but underutilized, idea: What if we could match up the big salary firms with the associates who want more money, and the lifestyle firms with the associates who want lifestyle? It is not hard to imagine law firms eventually deciding to be either a money and big hours firm, or a lifestyle firm, and recruiting accordingly. Maybe then, law firms and associates can be honest with each other in interviews about what their expectations are, and we can stop having this tired exchange: “We’re a collegial firm, like a family,” followed by, “Don’t worry, I don’t need collegial. I’m here to bill hours.”

By Ashley Brewer, Lawyer/Life Coach, The Balanced Life Spa

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U.S. News & World Report Headline: "The New Mommy Track"

Usnews Attention lawyer moms: we recommend picking up a copy of the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report (September 3, 2007), which features Rachel Thebault, a working mom, and her 2-year old daughter, Marin, on the cover with the headline: "The New Mommy Track: More mothers are finding smart ways to blend work and family. How you can too."

For lawyer moms, there's a profile of Lindsay Androski Kelly, a 30-year old lawyer with a newborn daughter and two-year old son on track to become a partner at her law firm, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington D.C. Kelly reports that when she asked the firm about flex-time arrangements during her interview, she was told there was no face-time requirements, as long as the work got done and clients' needs were met. The firm was true to its word: even after Kelly returns to full time work from maternity leave, she will still be permitted to log significant hours working from home.

Other profiles in the article feature women who started their own businesses after being unable to balance work and family at corporate jobs. This suggests that one solution for lawyer moms unable to make a go of it at a large law firm might be to start up their own solo practice.

Reference is also made to several books on the subject of work life balance that readers may find helpful.

There's also information about two work life balance programs instituted at major consulting firms - Pricewaterhouse Coopers' Full Circle program (which enables parents to temporarily stop working but stay in touch with colleagues through networking and training events - the program is credited with dropping the firm's turnover rate from 24% to 15%), and Deloitte & Touche's Mass Career Customization program (which allows employees to personalize their careers to fit their changing lifestyles - for example, young 20-somethings might have few travel restrictions, but then add limitations during child bearing years).  Large law firms with attorney retention issues may want to take a look at these programs.

One interesting finding reported by work/life balance author and researcher Pamela Stone: sometimes just small differences, such as being able to work from home just 1-2 days a month, can make a difference between whether a woman stays at her job, or leaves the workforce. Again, food for thought for large law firms struggling with high turnover.

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Some New York Lawyers Now Bill at $1,000 Per Hour. So What?

There has been considerable discussion about the news that some lawyers at major New York firms are billing their services at $1,000 per hour or more

Robert Rosenberg, a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, concedes that the four-figure rate has symbolic significance, but adds, "like the year 2000, it's just a number."  Also, at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Peter Lattman points out that the increased rates are due in part to increased costs, such as the $160,000 salaries that many large firms are now paying to first-year associates

Continue reading "Some New York Lawyers Now Bill at $1,000 Per Hour. So What?" »

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Edward Ripley: Seasoned Bankruptcy Lawyer Doubles as Youth Soccer Referee

Edripley Edward Ripley, a partner in the Houston office of Baker & Hostetler, is an experienced bankruptcy lawyer having represented debtors and creditors in reorganization proceedings since 1985. However, according to the Houston Lawyer, Ripley is also a seasoned youth soccer referee, having called games for youth soccer clubs for the past seven years.

Ripley contends that officiating at soccer games "is a pretty good fit for lawyers," he says, "because we do not enforce rules of the game; we apply the 'laws of the game'." He shares that several of the referees that have officiated at World Cup soccer matches were practicing attorneys.

Ripley's interest in refereeing originated out of a desire to understand the rules he saw officials apply during his young son’s soccer matches. After taking a referee training course, he began calling games for very young children, and then worked himself up to higher levels of competition. He says he's now hooked on the sport, and estimates that he has refereed over 100 games for players of all ages.

Ripley admits that managing parents on the sidelines can be quite challenging. Most are polite, but he observes that "competition sometimes brings out lots of frustration, especially if it is not going well for your team." Since much the same can be said for litigation, Ripley's referee career must surely provide him with good training to remain calm in courtroom settings as well.

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Attorney Career Question: Seeking Advice on How to Launch an Adoption and Mediation Practice

Attorney Career Question: I'm  an associate at a family law firm that does not do adoptions. I'd like to carve out a niche for myself, doing adoptions amd mediation, but am wary since the partner informed me that adoptions are not a money maker for the firm. We already have an active mediation practice. Divorces are starting to wear me down...any thoughts?

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Attorney Career Question: 55 Year Old Recent Law School Graduate Seeking Strategies to Transition Into Real Estate Law

Attorney Career Question: Are there any resources for persons who are transitioning into the practice of law in midlife? I'm 55, graduated from Loyola Law School in 1998, and have been a real estate executive/broker for the past 17 years. I now find that I want to get my bar card and practice real estate law. I have a book of business of about 150 clients. Yet, since I've been out of school for almost 10 years and am not a member of the California bar, I'm frustrated in trying to transition into legal work. I'm overqualified for the usual Law Clerk positions and am an unattractive candidate to firms because of my age. How can I find a mentor or internship that will help me develop fresh writing samples and update my legal reasoning skills? Thanks! Meredith

Click here for a response from Stephen Seckler, who runs the Boston Office of BCG Attorney Search, a leading attorney search firm.

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Work Life Winner: Ford & Harrison Kills Billable Hours for First Year Associates

No More Billable Hours We've previously blogged about Scott Turow's cry to kill the billable hour, and it seems at least one mid-size firm is heeding his call - at least for first year associates. Ford & Harrison, a 190-attorney labor and employment firm with 18 offices, has eliminated billable hour requirements for first-year associates under its new "Year One" program - a unique 15-month regimen that emphasizes on-the-job training for first year associates through mentoring, hands-on work assignments and direct observation of client matters such as depositions, hearings and negotiations. The firm says it is modeled after the medical school’s resident approach.

In a recent article on, Ford & Harrison's managing partner said the program aims to close the practical-skills gap of law school education and increase value to clients, and hopefully enable associates to handle meatier matters more quickly. Better attorney retention was also cited as a factor.

While the pressing issue of work life balance for lawyers certainly extends to associates beyond the first year, we salute Ford & Harrison for taking a step in the right direction and annoint the firm a "Work Life Balance Winner."

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Balanced Living Is About The Dash, Not The Slash

When I see references to work/life balance, it usually looks like this: work/life balance. I am committing to replace the slash with a dash, like this: work-life balance. Why? Because of Linda Ellis’s The Dash, which asks us to consider how we spend our dash – the one that will appear on our headstone between our date of birth and date of death. The dash represents our life in between.

“Work/life balance,” with a slash, suggests a wall between work and life, where we worry about how much time we spend on each side of the wall. “Work-life balance,” with a dash, suggests truer balance, not determined solely by the time spent on each side. With the dash, there is a synergy between work and life, and we move easily between the two.

Here’s to work-life balance.

By Ashley Brewer, Lawyer/Life Coach, The Balanced Life Spa

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Book: The Lure of the Law: Why People Become Lawyers, and What the Profession Does to Them

In The Lure of the Law, author Richard Moll surveys attorneys of diverse specialties about their attitudes toward the law and their colleagues. Some complain of "treadmill careers," while others say that if they could live their life all over again, they would never go to law school. Yet some attorneys interviewed profess to love legal practice.  The diversity of perspectives led one reader to comment:

There are a great many interesting perspectives given by the attorneys as to their motivations and general feelings about the law, as well as a little bit about how they got to where they are. It's like a book full of informational interviews. I urge prospective law students to read this, and the rest of society might also enjoy learning what makes lawyers tick.

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