Trade In Your Challenges


When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problems of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.

Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.

“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”

With success and expansion came a name change: RPCK Rastegar Panchal. Now, servicing clients across the globe and in many different areas of practice is a reality for Chintan, and the high quality problems have become opportunities.

Maybe it’s time for you to think about trading in your BigLaw career challenges for the high quality challenges of a small firm founder. Contact NexFirm today at 212-292-1000 or at careers@nexfirm.com; we’ll help you get started.

The 2013 ATL Holiday Gift Guide

Content removed. This post uses the Override URL to link to the original Gift Guide post at: http://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/the-2013-atl-holiday-gift-guide/

If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.

1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.

2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.

3. Is there a partner in charge of your office’s partner-level hiring? It’s fine to have staff manage the associate process, but partners want to deal with peers. This can be an office managing partner, a practice group leader, a hiring partner, or even a firm-wide dedicated partner-level lateral hiring coordinator. Thisis the ‘quarterback’ of the search that will carry the ball across the field and coordinate with other partners so that the lateral prospect doesn’t wonder who is doing what. There should always be a connection to the firm that is on a peer level. This is helpful in getting colleagues to work together to meet with the prospect and it also sends a congruent signal that the prospective lateral is very important to the firm.

4. Is there an internal ‘sponsor’ that can develop a meaningful connection with the lateral prospect? In addition to the quarterback, I believe this is extremely helpful for the lateral prospect to find someone (outside of leadership) with whom to connect. This is especially effective if the prospect already knows someone in the firm. Once the conversations have started between the leadership and the prospective lateral, then it’s always a good idea to let this relationship build on its own between the prospect and the ‘sponsor.’ This is usually best when there is good chemistry between the two, knowing that a prior friendship can serve as a catalyst to keep the magic alive with the candidate.

5. Momentum: Does your firm always know the next steps for each part of the process? After each meeting or each action step, the immediate goal should be to determine who is doing what, and when. For example, once the initial meeting takes place, you should already start thinking about other partners the candidate should meet with, and move quickly to set up those meetings internally. The process of moving a candidate from initial conversation to start date is a series of small forward-moving steps. Each step adds momentum and positive energy to the process. Any delay may deflate the candidate’s interest.

6. Execution: Does your firm come together when it’s time to sell the opportunity? Do your partners have the ability to drop everything and take action and spend valuable time meeting with this prospective lateral? If not, then you might need to remind them that lateral partner hiring (assuming the partner has a solid book) is the most effective form of new client development. Everyone is busy. Everyone has competing time issues and demanding clients, but those firms that make lateral hiring a priority are able to capture talent that other firms loose. I have seen deals fizzle out because too much time has passed between meetings, and the candidate’s interest wanes over several weeks with no action.

How many “yes” answers did you get?

1-2: You need to get the support of the firm’s leadership as it relates to lateral recruiting. Talk to your chairman or the firm’s managing partner and ask for your office to get top-level attention in this area. Have the top leadership speak with the partnership about the importance and priority of lateral hiring. If everyone is not on board, then you will not be successful in your hiring endeavors. This is not a one-person job, it’s a team effort from all of the partners.

3-4: You are doing great, but need some improvement. What are the two or three areas that are most challenging for you? Write down ten action steps that you can take to ameliorate these deficits. Next to each action step, prioritize them, and give yourself a deadline date for each task. Ask for help from other partners who have indicated an interest in eventually getting involved in firm leadership. You can’t do everything yourself, but you need to get help from a partner. Even if you need an assistant quarterback on deals, ask for help.

5-6: Well done! You have a clear idea of the importance of partner-level lateral hiring. By taking care to follow these recommendations, you are giving yourself an advantage in the lateral game and will insulate your firm from the risk of deals falling apart over these issues.

Copyright © 2013 Scott Love
Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by facilitating law firm mergers and conducting partner-level recruiting for law firms. He has been a career ‘headhunter’ since 1995 and is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. Scott lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two children, and a toothless rescue dog named Smoky. He can be reached at 202-737-5555. To learn more, please visit www.attorneysearchgroup.com.


Need End of Year CLE?

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If you are looking to fulfill CLE requirements by the end of 2013, look no further! Practical Law is offering webinars on a variety of important topics, available free of charge:

What Commercial Litigators and their Clients Need to Know about Bankruptcy
December 5 @ 1 pm EST – With so many complex commercial litigation matters ending up in bankruptcy court, this session will provide need-to-know information for litigators on bankruptcy proceedings, effects of the automatic stay, dischargeability of debt and more. 1* CLE credit. Register now.

Current Trends in Tender Offers: Exploring the Issues and Impact of New DGCL Section 251(h)
December 10 @ 1 pm EST – A review of trends and highlights from tender offers launched since the August 1 effective date of DGCL section 251(h). 1* CLE credit. Register now.

An Introduction to Legal Project Management
December 11 @ 1pm EST – A discussion and demonstration on how to use legal project management to make legal service delivery more effective, resulting in increased client satisfaction. 1* CLE credit. Register now.

About Practical Law
Practical Law provides legal know-how that gives lawyers a better starting point. Our team of attorney editors creates and maintains thousands of up-to-date, practical resources that go beyond primary law and traditional legal research to give lawyers the resources needed to practice more efficiently, improve client service and add more value. To learn more, take a free trial.

*1 general CLE credit pending for AL, AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, GA, HI, IA, IL, ME, MN, MO, MS, MT, ND, NH, NJ, NY, OK, PA, TN, TX and VT.

A Novel by Steven A. Beckelman

“Why does a hearse horse snicker hauling a lawyer away?” The Last Lawyer Book presents the New Jersey legal system at its finest in a dispute over a sixty million dollar estate case featuring tainted lawyers, crooked judges and craven clients.

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BYOD is so great for so many reasons (For individuals: fewer things to carry around, everything in one place, no device confusion, you can use your shiny new phone more often. For corporations: less expensive, less need for support/IT, fewer whiny employees asking why they can’t use their iPhone/Nexus 5/Surface instead of the boring old Blackberry) that it’s easy to ignore pitfalls. But the mingling of personal and corporate data on a single device does create a lot of headache, and when you think about it, the privacy implications of BYOD are kind of obvious and something both corporates and users should be aware of.

Most disquieting to employee users of BYOD may be that when it comes to litigation, the fact that the phone is yours means nothing. If the phone or data on it are requested as part of a warrant or relevant civil e-discovery request, it must be turned over – with all of your personal photos, texts, banking information and Words with Friends high scores along with it. This can come as somewhat of a shock, not only because you are turning over private data that may potentially be searched by co-workers and third parties, but because you’ll be without your device as long as it is part of an investigation or discovery process. It’s enough to make you think twice about the ‘burdens’ of carrying two devices!

However, this is not to say that employees are entirely disadvantaged. Federal law does afford some protections, including statutes barring unauthorized, intentional access to employee-owned devices. A recent federal case, Lazette v. Kulmatycki, in the Northern District of Ohio upheld the idea that a company’s search of private employee data on a mobile device violated the Stored Communications Act because such a search was ‘unauthorized’ –even though in this case the device was owned by the company. It can be logically surmised that a similar search on an employee-owned device could create a similar outcome if also unauthorized.

Actually, this idea of ‘authorization’ is one of the strongest takeaways from statutes and case law in this area. And by ‘authorization’ I mean the informed consent of an employee for the employer to search all data on the device. It is absolutely essential that a corporation make the notion of informed consent a central part of any BYOD policy. But we may be getting ahead of ourselves, especially considering that according to a recent survey, 60% of corporations using BYOD lack a policy surrounding it.

Another takeaway is that when investigating surrendered devices, organizations should train staff to understand exactly which data to target and how to avoid data that is private and off-limits or just plain unnecessary to the matter. Technology and written process can help to narrow search and collection to specific date ranges, subjects and data types on a phone or tablet – allowing users to avoid those things that irrelevant and/or in a grey area when it comes to privacy concerns.

Providing an example of what not to do, the investigator/supervisor in the Lazette case accessed over 48,000 of an employee’s personal emails (from an account she thought she had deleted from the device) over an 18 month period as part of his investigation of her surrendered Blackberry. He then shared details of the personal emails with third parties. This is the type of practice companies want to train investigators to avoid. Unless the employee’s personal email is somehow relevant to the case, it shouldn’t be reviewed and definitely not discussed with parties outside of the litigation.

These two strategies are good for both parties because the statistics are showing that BYOD is here to stay and only getting bigger. This year, a Gartner survey of CIOs showed that 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing devices to employees altogether by 2016. And another survey shows that a majority of younger workers are willing to actually contravene a corporate anti-BYOD policy in order to use their own devices on the job. Clearly corporations and their employees are rushing headlong into the BYOD future together. The good news is that with a bit of forethought, some education and the right tools the privacy implications for such a future do not necessarily need to be grim.

The Prestige Rewards Program

What if we just gave them money?

That’s how the Prestige Rewards Program was born. We wanted to find a way to incentivize the best attorneys to let us help them in their job search – after all, they’re the ones our clients want to hire.

Associates with top-tier academic and firm credentials. Partners with portable books of business. These are the attorneys our clients are always asking us about; we just had to find the best way to catch their attention.

Earlier iterations of our Prestige Rewards Program involved offers of coordinated handshakes, karaoke duets and home cooked meals – but those never really got off the ground. Eventually we got around to money. What better way to reward the most marketable attorneys for working with us than giving them a portion of the fee we generate for placing them?

That’s the Prestige Rewards Program in a nutshell: if you’re an associate with elite academic and firm credentials or a partner with a portable book of business we’ll give you money if we place you in your next job – up to $15,000 for associates and up to $150,000 for partners and partner groups.

We work with nearly every firm in the market, so we have access to almost every opportunity you hear about. The real question is: if you qualify for the program, what reason do you have for not working with us?

Sure, you could apply to that intriguing job you heard about directly, or through a friend, or reply to the random recruiter e-mail and in turn fail to take advantage of the money waiting for you in the Prestige Rewards Program. You could also pass up your year-end bonus – but why would you?

Our services aren’t limited to existing jobs. We specialize in helping attorneys find the job they really want, not just the job that’s available. Most of our Prestige Rewards placements come from partnering with attorneys who are relatively happy in their current job but open to a move for the “ideal” position. Take the time to tell us what your ideal job is – we will find it for you and give you money once you accept it. It’s that simple.

You worked hard in school. You worked hard to establish your legal career. You earned this. Why not take advantage?

Make the smart choice.

Find out if you qualify today

The Hero’s Journey and Lateral Hiring

Joseph Campbell, the famous American mythologist, writer and lecturer, talked about common themes and similar patterns that are found in myths and narratives from around the world. He described this concept as ‘The Hero’s Journey.’

Think about any movie that captures your attention. It is comprised of a formula that includes the main character (the protagonist or ‘hero’), the adversary, the conflict between the two, and the resolution. There are other players involved in the story, such as the mentors and helpers. The journey begins with a Call to Adventure and you find the main character embarking over the Threshold into the Unknown, facing Challenges, experiencing Revelation, going through Transformation and reaching Atonement. Most stories that we enjoy follow this formula. In some ways it is a part of who we are, and we want to experience this in story as it gives a framework and context to our own personal journey.

These stories bring us together as a society. Campbell suggests that these stories are what give us meaning and purpose in our lives. In fact, they are so powerful that stories serve as a binding agent, almost like a mortar, between us.

Your law firm is a unique social ecosystem with layers of interdependent actors who are trying to accomplish different goals in different areas, but can only reach those goals by working together as a unified team. Law firms can be fragile, and as I have mentioned before, a law firm is a collective of peers held together only by conditional promises to each other.

When you are discussing your firm’s story with prospective lateral partners, see if you can follow this Hero’s Journey pattern to help give you some structure to the story, and to increase the odds of a successful hire. Here are some ideas on how you can tell the story of your firm in a way that attracts and even bonds prospective laterals to you, and incites them to move their practice to your firm and become part of your firm’s story.

1. Interview new colleagues. Ask relatively new partners, such as those who have been with the firm for less than two years, to submit stories about how their condition improved as a result of joining your firm. Ask them to identify problems they were having prior to joining and how the move to your firm improved the outcome. Get specific results, rather than opinion. Specificity in your story builds credibility.

2. Get testimonials from former colleagues. Those who have nothing to gain from a new hire add the most credibility to your story. Perhaps a video testimonial is more believable, with them telling their story of how they grew or accomplished major career and professional milestones as a result of being a part of your firm.

3. What is the bigger vision? The visionaries will win the lateral hiring game. Those who know their firms, including and especially the firm’s shortcomings, will know how best to grow them. They have to see the future, keep their thumb on the pulse of industry trends, and know how different practices relate to each other and how best to structure those practices and grow them. This can only be done by a leader who is facing forward and whose gaze is set on at least five years in the future.

4. Beyond Profits Per Partner. To win the hearts of high performing attorneys, you have speak to their heart. Recruiting is an emotional game and you have speak in terms of personal satisfaction that a partner might experience, or deep friendships and feelings of working together. How did your team cross the abyss and fight the monsters together? How did they grow from that? What emotions did they experience in working together to achieve Transformation? There has to be substance in the infrastructure supporting all of this, but after the prospective lateral is sold on that, this story will get them to choose you over a competitor.

Remember, this game is about getting a small edge over your competitors in attracting talent. By working on a clearly defined and congruent story, you will increase the probabilities of a successful result and win the lateral hiring game.

Copyright © 2013 Scott Love
Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by facilitating law firm mergers and conducting partner-level recruiting for law firms. He has been a career ‘headhunter’ since 1995 and is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. Scott lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two children, and a toothless rescue dog named Smoky. He can be reached at 202-737-5555. To learn more, please visit www.attorneysearchgroup.com.

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How effective are my trial presentations? It’s a common question that any good litigator will ask multiple times over the course of his or her career. As a previous trial consultant and now as a product manager for LexisNexis® Sanction®, I have spent a lot of time talking with legal teams about how they can improve their trial presentations and drive better outcomes for their clients. During landmark cases in which I was involved, we could not afford to have technology difficulties and awkward lags in momentum; it was imperative that our team was prepared before trial. As technology moves beyond novelty to an expectation in a growing number of trials, it’s important to periodically review your effectiveness and aptitude in the courtroom.

1. Keep Your Equipment Current
A sure-fire way to bomb in front of a jury is to have outdated equipment that fails during your most critical time. If your equipment (laptop, projector) is more than 3 years old, it is time to look for something new. Projectors come in many degrees of brightness as well as resolutions. Look for a projector that is at least 3,500 lumens in brightness and projects at a native 16:10 aspect ratio. That will match your new laptop when you are connecting for a presentation. A portable screen ensures that you have sufficient space to display your images and videos. If you do get a wide-screen projector at a native 16:10 aspect ratio, make sure your screen matches.

2. Mix and Match Presentation Methods
Monotony is one of your greatest enemies in the courtroom. Jurors’ minds can wander if you stick with one presentation method throughout the trial. You know that you need to be clear and compelling, but so do the various aspects of your presentation. Keep multi in mind when you incorporate multimedia into your case. In addition, don’t be afraid to incorporate traditional methods like large timelines and white boards/butcher paper. Every point to be made in a presentation does not require the use of electronic methods. Keeping things fresh and changing the focus of attention will maintain the audience’s attention.

3. Use Video Effectively and In Moderation
Few mediums are as powerful as video when it comes to illustrating facts. With the right software, you can even create and edit video clips on the fly in response to a judge’s rulings during trial. By utilizing the power of video within litigation presentation software, you can also play video testimony synchronized with deposition transcripts. But remember: it is possible for your jurors to get too much of a good thing. Watch your deposition segments in advance to gauge their impact. Save the playing of video for your best, most important points. When you encounter minor points to display, use the transcript. This will ensure your video has maximum impact when used and will also reinforce mixing presentation methods for greater effectiveness.

4. Know Your Technical Limitations—Both for You and Your Equipment
You’ve mastered the facts—make sure you master your technology. Never be afraid to ask for help, either internally within your organization or externally to trusted support companies. Invest the time you need to feel confident with the equipment that you’ll be using in the courtroom, as well as the software. Consider familiarizing yourself with and using software, such as Sanction®, to present documents, exhibits, transcripts, demonstratives, and video that will be used to present evidence throughout litigation.

5. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
They say practice makes perfect, and the high-stakes truth of that statement is rarely more apparent than in the courtroom. Software such as Sanction can help you organize evidence throughout the life of a case and create powerful visuals, along with other materials to present with confidence. Visit the venue in advance, if it is an electronic courtroom, plug in your devices and check the display on every monitor or projector in the room. If you are bringing your own projector, test it at your office and make sure you have adequate bulb life to get through your trial or proceeding. If any of your tools (such as digital pointers or remotes) require batteries, be sure to have a back-up in your briefcase. And, perhaps most importantly, take time to review every piece of evidence, every demonstrative and every video segment one last time before presenting.

Easy to use but powerful, Sanction litigation presentation software is one of the best ways to prepare for and present an effective trial presentation. Sanction offers a proven way to organize, manage, and present evidence throughout the life of a case, along with other materials that will help you present with confidence. To explore it for yourself simply register for an online demonstration of Sanction—when you do you’ll receive 20% off your purchase of the software.

Mike Hahn is senior director of product management at LexisNexis and is an original founder of Verdict Systems, creators of Sanction. Hahn has provided consulting services for landmark matters such as United States v. Timothy McVeigh, the Washington, D.C., sniper trials, and Joseph Hirko v. United States (Enron Broadband Trial). In addition to consulting, he is a frequent speaker at industry trade shows and Continuing Legal Education events.

I spent the last few days of my vacation with a relative in a hospice home. The facility itself was quiet, but within earshot of a neighboring noisy Montessori school only a few yards away.  The children laughed and screamed loudly on the playground in a melee of activity.  This really bothered me. Couldn’t the teaching staff show some courtesy by at least trying to keep the noise down?

I then noticed that all the windows and doors of the hospice home were propped open, especially those that were facing the Montessori school. I saw that even some guests were sitting outside of their rooms, quietly watching and listening to the noisy playful children.

It then became apparent to me that these loud happy sounds were not damaging, but nurturing. Either through divine intervention or very bad zoning, the relationship between these two facilities grew into a symbiotic balance of healing and harmony, with the Montessori school doling out generous doses of energy and power to the guests in the hospice home.

We all affect each other in our relationships, especially in a closely-knit workplace environment like a law firm.  A law firm is a fragile structure and is nothing more than a collective of peers held together by conditional promises to each other. They are hypersensitive and, as a leader, you affect the mood and the emotional state of the team.

Do you ever wonder why there is churn in your firm? Have you built up what is considered a world-class office, but are still surprised when partners depart to go to other firms with seemingly inferior platforms? It could be a subtle tell or indication that the leadership of the office must improve. On a very personal level, you possess the potential to create a synergistic balance of harmony.  Partners leave for all sorts of reasons, but if it’s because of a lack of trust (or what some call ‘culture’), then that responsibility sits squarely on the shoulders of the firm’s leadership. But the good news is that this can be improved over time when the leadership realizes they need to change and are committed to doing so. But it takes time, energy and deliberate effort.

Recently I was talking with a prospective lateral who wanted to leave her firm very badly. She told me how the firm’s leadership rarely shared positive comments with the partnership. “They never know how much this negativity influences all of us.  And now they wonder why morale is so bad over there.”

If you are in a position of leadership, whether it is by title, position, or because of the political capital you have earned within your firm, then you have been given a heavy and serious responsibility. Here are three ways to positively influence the culture of your firm and the partners within it. Remember, as a partner-level legal recruiter, I talk to partners every day to discuss their motivations to move. I hear partners complain frequently about why they are open to leaving firms, and often it is because of the firm’s leadership.

1) Catch people doing something right. It can be a spontaneous and verbal recognition of their effort, or you can do it at your partnership retreat or during your monthly conference calls.  Either way, you can harness the power of influence to shape the premises of what is accepted as strong performance.

If your organization has the ability, put these awards and stories in an internal newsletter or an innovative podcast format to distribute to partners and associates. Interview them and create an audio library of achievement and best practices within your firm that people can access via mobile devices when commuting. This doubles as a training moment, and also inspires colleagues and younger associates to stretch beyond their reach. It may even help them to feel connected to colleagues in far away offices. Audio programs add an emotional context to the experience because they can be more personal and more human, more than the written word.

2) Keep a positive and optimistic outlook.  Your mood is the thermostat of the team’s attitude. Everyone looks to you to see how they should gauge it. If your firm faces a grave situation, stay encouraging and offer hope with empathy to your colleagues and co-workers.  Hope always exists in everything.  It’s up to you to find it, look through that lens of hope, and share it with everyone else.

3) Understand how much power your personal influence really carries. A subtle rolling of the eyes, a careless word or a rude remark can be demoralizing. Don’t talk negatively about colleagues or even recently departed partners. In today’s world of social media, personal interactions have become more meaningful. Leadership is intensely personal and each interaction is powerful.  Each contact that you have with a member of your team will either add value to or detract from the interdependent nature of your relationship.

The entire culture of your organization can be shaped and molded through your power that you carry as a leader, and in many ways your personal influence can offer healing and hope.  Be intentional and deliberate to influence your team in a positive manner, and if you do, then you will be giving those partners who are contemplating a move one more big reason to consider staying.

Copyright © 2013 Scott Love

Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by facilitating law firm mergers and conducting partner-level recruiting for law firms. He has been a career ‘headhunter’ since 1995 and is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. Scott lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two children, and a toothless rescue dog named Smoky. He can be reached at 202-737-5555. To learn more, please visit www.attorneysearchgroup.com.

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