There comes a time in the career of every law-firm lawyer when she realizes that her bosses are acting like idiots, that “they’re doing it wrong,” and that she could do a better job if she were running her own law firm. Most of the time, that idea goes no further: the lawyer rattles off a few choice curse words, ignores the partners’ shortcomings, gets the work done the way they want it, and lives to fight another day.
But for a small minority, this outburst becomes an epiphany, and then turns into a dream (kind of like Inception, but in reverse), then an obsession, then finally a reality. Others, like me, always knew that they they were going to start their own law firms, and it didn’t take frustration with partners for that idea to form.
So when’s the perfect time to start your own firm? The answer is the same as for the question of when’s the perfect time to start having kids:
But forget the “perfect” time. When’s the best time to start your own firm?
That might surprise people who know me casually, like my professional acquaintances. I work hard to keep it in check. Over the past 17 years as an employment litigator (representing companies), I’ve gotten better at controlling my anger. But it hasn’t always been easy.
Because lawyers can be pretty adept at pissing people off.
In fact, I know many people who left litigation — even left practicing law altogether — primarily because they were sick of dealing with obnoxious opposing lawyers. And I’m not talking about thin-skinned, confrontation-avoiding types. I’m talking about solid, talented litigators who just stopped finding it fun to fight with douchebags all the time.
And this is more of an issue for newer small-firm lawyers, who are much more likely to deal with opposing counsel early in their careers than their Biglaw counterparts. (Maybe someone else here can write a post on dealing with obnoxious document reviews.)
So to help you deal with the toolbags that all litigators face from time to time, here are five tips that I’ve picked up along the way….
My first job out of law school was at a five-lawyer employment-law boutique: two partners, two other associates, and me. (OK, it was my only job out of law school; I started my firm after four years at this boutique.) The other two associates were third-years when I started. To be sure, they were both excellent lawyers and had already gained much experience working in a small firm with top-quality partners.
(I’ve often said that I’d take a third-year small-firm associate over a Biglaw third-year any day. The Biglaw associates have spent two years reading cases and writing memos; the small-firm lawyers have actually been doing, you know, lawyer work.)
I got along well with both associates, but one of them had more of a hierarchical view of the firm. One day, after I’d been there a couple months, that associate said to me, “I have an assignment for you.”
Being the new kid at the firm, the proper and deferential response might have been “Great. Thanks. Happy to help.” But my answer was less proper and by no means deferential.
And even though it ruffled some feathers, I’d recommend it to any new associate at a small firm. What I said was …
In the first part of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on helping you to achieve a work-life balance in your daily schedule, we provided tips aimed at managing your work to help free up time for your personal life. Today, we feature tips aimed at helping you maintain your personal life. Striking the right balance between your personal life, professional life and social life is essential to leading a successful and comfortable life.
On to the tips for maintaining your personal life…
Coming off a successful year in which some firms even saw record-setting revenues and profits, many Biglaw associates are now the busiest they have been in recent memory. While this uptick in work may initially be a welcome relief for some, in the long run associates often find themselves struggling to balance an increased workload with life outside the firm.
Today’s Career Center “Tip of the Day” features advice on maintaining work-life balance. Despite what you may have heard, work-life balance isn’t just a program for new mothers. Sure, many law firms aim their work-life policies — like parental leave, reduced hours schedules, and flexible working arrangements — at parents. But the fact is that everyone needs to balance work and life, regardless of whether or not you have kids and whether or not you work at a firm that promotes work-life balance, if you plan to make a career out of Biglaw while staying relatively happy and sane.
We collaborated with Biglaw associates to provide practical tips for helping you to achieve a work-life balance in your daily schedule. The first set of tips is aimed at managing your work to help free up time for your personal life. Next week, we will feature tips aimed at helping you maintain your personal life. Of course, these tips come with the caveat that the nature of Biglaw means that at times the “life” portion of the equation can be non-existent. For example, if you are on trial or closing a deal, you may be expected to work around the clock. But eventually your trial will end or you will complete your deal, and you will have the opportunity to regain some semblance of a life. These tips are geared toward helping you do that.
In the first four parts of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how to evaluate a counteroffer, we covered the importance of re-evaluating your current employment situation, assessing what the new firm is offering, analyzing the counteroffer of your current firm, and considering the ramifications (both tangible and intangible) of accepting the counteroffer and reneging on the new firm. Our final tip focuses on recognizing buyer’s remorse for what it actually is: fear of the unknown.
Law firms, and in-house law departments, should be outer-directed.
I realize that I just invented the word “outer-directed,” and sensible people might choose to call this concept being “client-focused.” But “outer-directedness” is broader than mere client focus — and I invented the word, so it’ll mean what I want it to mean.
At a firm, lawyers should naturally be client-focused, in the sense that client work comes first and most internal matters come second. “Outer-directedness” implies not just client focus, but a more general external focus — devoting efforts to impressing the world, rather than to impressing others within the firm.
We should naturally spend our professional time serving our clients. And, in a law firm setting, we should spend our semi-professional time gazing out through our office windows, not peering inwardly down our own corridors. If a case just settled and you have some free time, spend that time impressing the world, not your colleagues. Join a non-profit board, work for a bar or trade association, write an article, give a talk. Raise both your personal and your firm’s profile. That benefits the world and serves institutional purposes. Don’t spend your spare time impressing your colleagues.
We should of course be nice to each other, but that’s civility, not having an undue inner focus. I’m opposed only to the stuff that goes beyond civility, which I’ll delicately call “office politics”….
In the first and second parts of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how to evaluate a counteroffer, we covered the importance of re-evaluating your current employment situation and assessing what the new firm is offering you, to determine whether it addresses the issues/shortfalls of your current firm. Today we’ll discuss how to carefully analyze your firm’s counteroffer to see if it is really better than the new offer.
In the first part of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how to evaluate a counteroffer, we covered the importance of re-evaluating your current employment situation to remind yourself of the reasons why you began your job search in the first place. Today we’ll discuss how to assess what the new firm is offering you, and how to determine whether it addresses the issues with or shortcomings of your current firm.
In the first part of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how junior associates can become more indispensable to their law firms, we covered the importance of taking ownership of your work. Today, we’ll highlight a productive way to spend your precious non-billable time. These tips are provided by the experienced recruiters at Lateral Link, who, in addition to providing sound career advice, can assist you with a lateral move to one of hundreds of law firms or in-house positions they have in their network.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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