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.

Your Best Path Forward

Brian Belowich never really thought of leaving BigLaw to start his own practice. Over his fourteen-year career, his litigation practice was thriving and his clients were happy – but Brian still felt like something was missing.

He didn’t realize what it was until his daughter’s soccer game brought him back in touch with an old friend (who just happened to work at NexFirm). That’s when he decided to seriously consider the possibility of going out on his own.

“NexFirm put together a comprehensive business plan and guided us through the launch process,” Brian recalled. The findings were clear; the risks of going out on his own were actually lower than staying put. The rest was just details.

On May 1, 2013, with the help of NexFirm, Brian and his longtime friend and colleague, Dan Walsh, formed Belowich & Walsh LLP, a law firm specializing in complex commercial litigation, real estate and construction litigation, arbitration and appeals.

Six short months later, Belowich & Walsh LLP is thriving. “We can focus on serving our clients and building our practice, while NexFirm handles the rest,” said Dan. “They have been a tremendous resource.”

Leaving BigLaw and starting your own firm could be the best path for your career, but you will never know until you consider the possibilities. NexFirm will help you construct a launch plan full of financial forecasts and operational strategy, at not charge. If it is the right move for you, NexFirm is ready to get you up and running quickly and efficiently. If not, you will have learned a lot.

Contact NexFirm today at 212-292-1000 and explore your career options.

Liz Murray overcame tremendous odds as she transformed herself from a homeless teen to a Harvard graduate. Her transformation was portrayed in a 2003 Lifetime Television movie, From Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Murray reduced her very personal story to writing in September 2010, in a moving, loving, beautiful autobiography, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard (affiliate link), which within one week landed on the New York Times bestseller list.

Murray’s accolades are numerous, including The White House Project Role Model Award, a Christopher Award, and Oprah Winfrey’s first-ever Chutzpah Award. Murray is the founder and director of Manifest Living, a company based in New York that aims to empower anyone who has the desire to change their life. She is also a motivational speaker and will be the keynote speaker on November 8, 2013, at the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Ninth Annual General Counsel Institute in New York.

Liz Murray was resilient through tough and troubled times and loved the idea of “possibility.” Murray will explain that through the death of her mother, she learned an important life lesson: life is malleable and people have the internal power to change their lives through sheer grit and determination.

Murray was born on September 23, 1980, to poor and drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. Her mother, Jean Murray, was legally blind due to a degenerative eye disease that she had since birth. This meant that she qualified for and received a monthly welfare check. Murray’s family life revolved around the first of the month—the day the welfare check was due. On that day, food was abundant. However, within five days, the money would be gone and for the rest of the month, Murray and her sister survived on egg and mayonnaise sandwiches. They attempted to squelch the pain in their burning stomachs by consuming ice cubes, tooth paste—even ChapStick.

Murray commenced her education in 1985. Although she tried to be a good student, it just didn’t work out that way. She lived in a filthy home and was self-conscious of the stench that she gave off from her unwashed body and squalid clothing. The shame associated therewith caused her to plead with her mother to stay home and, eventually, her mother allowed her to do so.

At age 11, Jean Murray announced that she had AIDS. The following year, Murray’s parents separated, and her mother and sister moved in with her mother’s boyfriend, Brick, while Murray decided to stay with her father. At age 13, Child Welfare took Murray into care. Eventually, the state decided that Murray would be returned to her mother.

Murray began attending junior high school and became friends with a girl named Sam, who similarly had problems at home. Murray told Sam that she could stay with her. The two began avoiding school and hung out with a gang of other truants. When Brick found Sam hiding in Murray’s room, Brick told Sam to get out. So Sam and Murray packed their bags and began to live on the streets, in subway cars, on park benches, and, when possible, at friends’ apartments.

At age 16, Murray’s mother passed away. When her mother died, Murray had an epiphany: “Life was malleable. If I could have a family and a home one night and all of it’s gone the next, that must mean that life has the capacity to change. And then I thought, Whoa! That means that just as change happens to me, I can cause change in my life.” Murray realized that life could be anything she wanted it to be. This pivotal turning point caused Murray to make her first real commitment – to high school. She heard about alternative high school. She researched and went to as many school interviews as she could. Dressed in Goth attire, she was repeatedly rejected.

Murray then experienced another pivotal turning point. She reached in her pocket and realized that she had enough money to buy a subway token to an interview or buy a slice of pizza. Murray opted for the token, which led her to meet Perry Weiner, the founder of Humanities Preparatory Academy. Weiner gave Murray the chance that changed her life. He offered her admission to Humanities Preparatory Academy, where she became a straight A student, fishing a four-year high school program in just two years. Weiner later selected Murray for a trip to Boston. When she arrived on the campus of Harvard University, she had a deep longing that she could not explain. Weiner encouraged her to apply to Harvard, telling her that although it was a reach, it was not impossible. Murray headed his advice, but wondered how she would pay for tuition, room, and board. She then discovered The New York Times scholarship contest, which would provide winning contestants with a $12,000 yearly college scholarship. The scholarship contest required students to write an essay in which they were to describe any obstacles that they had overcome in life to thrive academically. Murray became one of the six scholarship recipients and was admitted to Harvard. Her story was first printed in the New York Times. After the article appeared, strangers came to Murray’s aid, providing her food, clothing, money for rent — even laundry service. Murray’s life was forever changed.

As amazing as Murray’s transformation is, equally important is Murray’s resolve to carve a life for herself that was not limited by her past. Murray is adamant that people should not use their past as an excuse not to take opportunities; every new moment is a new opportunity, and no one knows what is possible until doing it. Murray’s life is a triumph over adversity and a stunning example of the importance of dreaming big, working hard, and being resilient in tough and troubled times.

We look forward to Liz Murray’s keynote address. For further information and to register for the Ninth Annual General Counsel Institute, taking place in New York on November 7-8, 2013, go to News and Events at www.nawl.org.


Getting an Edge in the Game

She called me and gave me the bad news after the interview, saying she lost interest in joining my client, telling me it was because the firm was not serious about growing the office. I was surprised when I heard this because the firm’s managing partner told me this search was a priority. I asked her why she felt that way and she said that one of the two partners in the meeting kept checking his blackberry during the interview. She ended up joining another firm.

Two weeks later, this same law firm interviewed another lateral partner candidate I submitted. I asked him how the meeting went, and the first thing he told me was that one of the two partners in the meeting kept checking his blackberry during the interview. Two months later, he joined another firm.

If hiring successful lateral partners with loyal clients is a priority to your firm, then everyone involved must appear to make it so. At the partner level, the deals are fragile and are lost from these little things such as a misunderstood comment, a misinterpreted tone of voice, or a minor sign of unintended disrespect such as a quick glance at the email during the interview. These ‘tells’ influence perceptions and ultimately decisions. I doubt the partner checking his email would have done that on a meeting with a prospective client to get work.

A critical suggestion I have made to firms on this subject is to make lateral partner recruiting a priority on the same level as client development. If you want to grow your firm, you have two options: get new clients, or recruit those who already have them. You need to discuss this with your partners and let everyone see how adding productive partners with loyal clients in strategic areas will help everyone grow their own work over time. You need to discuss how lateral recruiting, when done with a clear strategy and in a smart way, adds synergistic and symbiotic value on multiple levels. This has to be part of your firm’s story.

Lateral partner recruiting IS client development.

From my personal experience of watching hundreds of candidates fall off of my magical recruiting circus bus over the years, here are three tactical suggestions to get an edge in the lateral game and keep your potential lateral placements moving forward:

1. Serve the good wine first.

Consider who will best represent your firm and have them start the process of meeting the prospective laterals. Once a good impression has been made, then bring in the others who might be the next choice in the process. Get the rainmakers and leaders involved early in the process because usually they have mastered the skill of developing authentic and meaningful relationships. I have several clients who are adept at bringing in the big guns first. A visible display of the commitment to the candidate by law firm leadership is a positive “tell” that says to the prospective lateral, “This practice group is a priority. Growing it is a priority. You are a priority. And if you join our firm, you will be a big deal to us.”

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist who observed what motivates people at work, developed the most widely adopted perspective on human needs in the 1960’s. One of these five fundamental human needs is recognition: we all have a need to feel recognized and important.

This is a leadership issue. Some firms do not have effective leaders in place that know how to orchestrate and articulate these issues, and some feel that positive leadership is beneath them and that their old and tired brand should be enough in itself to draw people to them.

2. Practice before the game, not in the middle of it.

Make sure that those partners engaging the candidate during the first interview understand the potential contribution he or she can make, and how the firm and the new partner together can derive a mutual satisfaction of needs.

Prep those involved partners about the candidate’s motives and clarify your firm’s “hiring value proposition” as it relates to this specific lateral prospect. I have created a significant advantage with my clients when I facilitate a conference call with the leaders and involved partners before a meeting. That way we are all on the same page and everyone knows what questions to ask, what hot buttons to press, and how to move things forward.

3. Accept the fact that this takes time. A LOT of time.

You may get resistance from the partners to spend time on the above exercise. I know that everyone is busy with competing agendas, but this is an issue of leadership and priorities.

There must be someone involved in the process that has enough political capital in the organization to steer all the partners in the same direction. Partner recruiting, at least when it comes to the face of the firm, must not be delegated to staff, even if they are highly motivated and competent. There must be a peer-to-peer facet of the relationship between your firm and prospective laterals at all times.

If your entire lateral recruiting process is nothing more than a flurry of emails between everyone, then you are losing an edge because you are not sharing information in an effective and creative way that can provide key solutions to bringing that lateral over. When you are emailing, you don’t think of asking a certain question the way you would in a phone call, and that one small piece of information could possibly be the single greatest resource in getting that candidate to consider joining your team. Communication during this process should be a continuous brainstorming exercise, not one-way information dumps.

You need to spend time on this, and recruiting lateral candidates needs to be as great of a priority to your firm as acquiring new clients. If you make it a priority and follow these steps, you will get an edge over your competitors in the game for winning talent.

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 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.

It’s one of the two most important concerns for small law firm attorneys: your bottom line. If your firm is not profitable, even the other top small law firm concern, quality legal practice, will falter. Profitability matters.

With clients pressing your income down, and economic changes pushing costs up, how can a small firm grow profitability? Karl Florida of Thomson Reuters applies smart business practices to the current small law firm environment, and concludes that one thing can drive short-term gains and establish long-term stability: technology.

In the Independent Thinking article, How Technology Drives Short- and Long-Term Profitability for Small Law Firms.

Download the free article to read about:

• Three specific software options that can help you operate more efficiently
• Technology that can solve for immediate workload and personnel challenges
• How technology use today can drive long-term profit growth or firm expansion

Karl Florida leads Thomson Reuters’ small law firm business, which offers such legal solutions as the Firm Central cloud-based practice management platform, WestlawNext small law firm plans, and FindLaw’s lawyer marketing solutions.

Download a free copy of How Technology Drives Short- and Long-Term Profitability for Small Law Firms to learn more about smart technology choices that can impact and grow profitability for small firms.

Dear Reader, we’ve covered many topics over the past months: iPhones, Octonauts, Justins. We’ve covered TAR, cyber-security and playing well in the schoolyard (OK, I’m double-dipping, that was the Octonauts too). Surprisingly, one thing I haven’t covered, really, is probably only the biggest topic of them all in e-discovery: we have too much electronically stored information.

As I’ve detailed before, pre-TAR review workflows did not really fit the work in front of us or the skills we had with which to do it. We have been trying to review document collections as if we were reading novels: beginning with the first document and reading our way through until the end, hoping that we captured enough details to pass the triers’-of-fact exam at the end of the process. At best, we could be a bit more skillful when we had an index to guide us but an index is only as reliable as its input and, actually, we really needed to read the whole stack to create the index in the first place.

But, things are beginning to change. We have TAR now, the Indexobot 3000 that will crawl through your collection and attempt to predict, at least, which documents are not responsive. We have increasingly “intelligent” OCR technologies. We have indexes automatically generated by our databases. So, yeah, we have some assistance. But, we still have too many documents that are being generated too fast for us to make sense of in any meaningful way without expending increasingly onerous billable hours of review time.

And all of this is just to get a sense of what’s in the collection. We’re not even looking for the needles yet. We’re just trying to find out how much hay there is and what state it’s in.

Well, today, I’d like to introduce to the visualization modules . . . your best shortcuts to the best stuff!

While ediscoverers like to fancy ourselves as cutting-edge, I’d like to acknowledge that, for decades now, at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, sociology and computer sciences – a community of researchers has been working to determine how humans take in new information and how to best deliver that information to them. The results of their studies have collectively come to be known as visual analytics. These are the researchers responsible for colorful maps depicting world-wide pandemics, economic disparities, species extinctions, hunger rates. They collect or acquire datasets from national archives and multinational organizations and hash them out into meaningful statistical pronouncements.

Also, they study humans and attempt to discern the most efficient means of delivering information to their brains in a format that can be quickly digested without losing any essential details along the way. For instance: they use pretty shapes and colors. They produce pie charts, bar and line graphs. They make learning simple, fun and – ideally – instantaneous!

Ok, maybe now you’re thinking, thanks Canary, why are you wasting our time here . . . we have documents to review!

Well, folks, visual analytics has arrived in full in the e-discovery market. Most providers offer some sort of it, most trade show booths have giant monitors showcasing it, and, if they want, most users now have the opportunity to use it.

Summation 5.0, AccessData’s document review platform, has an exciting array of visualization tools.

With Email Visualization you can choose from a variety of graphical formats. You can construct a timeline to graphically illustrate relationships within your data set based on emails in a certain date range and, once your graph is rendered by the system, you can easily identify the frequency of communication between your custodian and different parties.

With the Social Analyzer, you can see an overall view of communication at a domain level, identifying Custodian interactions and revealing connections that make literal the idea of a “document universe”.

And if you want to know just how many of your documents are – the horror – spreadsheets, you can click quickly on the Filetype Analyzer.

Your initial reaction to all of this might be, well, skeptical of the accuracy or utility of the tools; or perhaps you just think that “work” should not be so easy on your eyes. That’s fine. But remember, like predictive coding or other assistive technologies, this is just a tool. I’m not suggesting that you go a picture-only model of review. But, look above, why don’t you start this review with the orange slice of pie. It has all the documents. Or further up above, what’s going on with those outlying circles? They’re large because there’s a lot of activity but they’re far away from the more populated clusters because they come from a different domain. What’s that domain? Did you know about it before you quickly peeked at this image?

Ok, you’re still not convinced? Then go ahead and click on the X in the corner. Close the picture. You still have all the data underneath.

And all the time you need, right?

For more info on Visual Analytics, join me and a panel of experts here at the EDRM webinar series last week . . .

Eric Killough is the virtual canary AccessData has released into your digital mine. He is a JD, a CEDS, and a librarian. He thinks about electronic discovery probably more than he should. Please join him here, at Twitter, at LinkedIn, and at his own blog. He’ll be happy to meet you.

I’ll never forget the first time I was kicked out of a casino.

About eight years ago I was a professional card-counting blackjack player. Two alumni of the legendary MIT blackjack team mentored me, so for a year and a half I had a ‘side business’ of exploiting casinos through the legal means of gaining an advantage over them by counting cards.

Getting busted by a casino for counting cards meant that, once they discovered me counting, they would either ban me from the tables or they would assign a ‘pit boss’ to track my moves and tell the dealer to reshuffle anytime I made a big bet. It rendered my advantage back to a negative percentage, which meant I was gambling with negative expectation just like everyone else. It’s pointless to gamble unless you can control the circumstances and give yourself a positive edge over the competition.

The game of blackjack has a ‘memory’ and there is an inherent defect in the game that we can turn to our advantage if we learn how to bet in proportion to our advantage, and we can predict the future by paying attention to the cards that have already been dealt. The first time I was busted was at the Mirage in Vegas.

The pit boss tapped me firmly on the shoulder and told me I had to refrain from blackjack for the rest of the evening but I could play as much craps and roulette as I wanted. “But that would be gambling,” I quipped. “Why would I want to play at a disadvantage?” He didn’t appreciate my humor so I left and came back six hours later during the next shift.

During this time I became adept at making decisions based on probabilities, and learned the art and science of ‘game theory.’

I use ‘game theory’ in helping my law firm clients gain a competitive edge in the game of lateral hiring. Lateral hiring is a zero sum game which means that there are not enough rainmakers with big books of business to go around, and those firms not growing their headcount through lateral hiring will end up in a downward trajectory and will lose out to law firms which are adept at this skill.

Tip #1: PROCESS: Flow out your process using a visual diagram.

Recruiting isn’t rocket science and is actually a simple concept: Offer a compelling opportunity to those candidates who can benefit from your offering. That about sums it up. But the execution of the strategy is where you find most problems. Most law firms have an incomplete process, or in some cases utilize a shoot from the hip approach in how they recruit, onboard, and integrate laterals.

During my Navy days after my sea tour, I was a Total Quality Leadership instructor and taught W. Edwards Deming’s concepts of continuous improvement. At that time I learned statistical process control, which is the use of charts and graphs to measure variables so that managers make effective decisions. Deming was an American management consultant who pioneered the quality movement in the 1950’s and stimulated a major economic impact in the Japanese economy by showing the Japanese how to manage their manufacturing output in their recovery from the Second World War. In the 1980’s, his revolutionary ideas came to America, and the rest is history.

This personal early career experience shaped the way I viewed the world. If anything can be measured, it can be improved.

In looking at how law firms recruit and integrate prospective lateral candidates, I find that there is a need for a clearly defined process that is communicated to those involved internally in partner hiring. To help your firm improve, I am offering a free process flow chart tool to help you improve your effectiveness in recruiting and placing laterals. You can download this pdf tool here: LATERAL HIRING PROCESS. If you would like a Microsoft Word version of the tool which you can modify as your own template, please email me at scott@attorneysearchgroup.com and I will forward that to you.

This tool can be a talking point during management meetings among hiring partners, practice group leaders, managing partners, and recruiting departments. I would recommend using it as a baseline in shaping your internal protocols. By using the tools of measuring process, we can make improvements. My hope and intention is that that this flow chart helps your firm begin discussions in smoothing out the rough spots in your internal recruiting process and gain a competitive edge in the game of lateral recruiting.

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.

“Resiliency” is the word of the day for in-house counsel who want to not only survive, but thrive, in today’s changing business and legal landscapes. Learn how to incorporate the critical skill of resilience into your role as in-house counsel at the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Ninth Annual General Counsel Institute on November 7 and 8, 2013.

This unique program connects women in-house counsel from across the country for two days in a collaborative effort to discuss the power of perseverance, resilience and success. Hear amazing personal stories of resiliency from keynote speakers Lauren Stevens, former VP and Associate General Counsel of GlaxoSmithCline, who was indicted by the DOJ for, among other things, making false statements and obstructing justice, all of which were thrown out by the court; and Liz Murray, author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard. Talk about resilience!

Meet top legal leaders from Gap, Estee Lauder, American Express, Godiva, Walmart and others. Explore cutting-edge issues and the direction of new legal changes focused specifically in areas of concern to in-house counsel, such as cyber-security and data privacy, regulatory policy and politics, and global intellectual property protection during CLE-eligible workshops.

Join more than 200 dynamic general counsel and senior counsel and experience the uniquely candid atmosphere that has become the hallmark of NAWL’s GCI program. As one past attendee exclaimed: “The energy and talent of the women in the room were beyond compare!” Register at http://www.nawl.org/calendar_day.asp?date=11/7/2013&event=90.

Be sure to join NAWL’s General Counsel Institute LinkedIn Group for more information on Resilience, GCI9, and other topics of interest to women lawyers. Join LinkedIn Group Here

When it comes to making financial progress, we can all agree that saving for the future is a critical part of the equation. But how much are you supposed to be socking away exactly? According to the 50/20/30 rule, your monthly budget should be divided into three distinct categories of expenses: 50% should be reserved for essentials (think housing and food), 30% should be allocated for lifestyle choices (things like nights out and 121 channels of cable) … and at least 20% should go toward what we call “financial priorities,” which include debt payments, retirement contributions and, of course, savings.

We spoke to LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Tonya Oliver-Boston to find out if we really need to allocate 20% of our income toward financial priorities each year—and how much of that 20% should go into savings.

Why Anyone Can (and Should!) Follow the 20% Rule
For many people, putting at least 20% of their net pay toward financial priorities isn’t actually all that difficult. In fact, Oliver-Boston finds that the biggest problem clients generally face isn’t that they can’t manage to allocate the 20% for financial priorities—rather, it’s that outsized debt, like student loans and high credit card balances, that eats up most of that 20%, leaving little left over for savings. But as Oliver-Boston cautions: ”Even if you have debt in excess of 20% of your net income, you still need to find a way to save!”

Translation: Prioritizing one financial priority doesn’t mean that you can ignore the others—be it debt payments, adding to your emergency fund, contributing to your retirement, or other savings goals, like accruing enough money for a down payment on a house.

So what’s the best way to divvy up that 20% across all of your financial priorities? ”It depends on the individual situation,” says Oliver-Boston. “But emergency savings and payments on high-interest debt tend to fight for first priority.” Retirement, she adds, is usually a strong third because it’s critical for your long-term financial health, followed by other savings goals, like that down payment we mentioned.

Need real-life examples? According to Oliver-Boston, if a client has a lot of high-interest debt but also has emergency savings, the client’s first priority would most likely be the debt because she has money in place to support her should she find herself in a situation in which her income could no longer cover her living expenses. If a client is cash-strapped, however, putting money into an emergency fund would probably take priority because the client doesn’t have the necessary cushion to cover her day-to-day expenses should an emergency arise.

Not sure where to start? Try the free LearnVest Money Centre to see exactly where your paycheck goes or chat to one of our financial experts and let them help you get on the right track.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Please consult a financial adviser for advice specific to your financial situation.

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In the courtroom, our tech-saving experts will take care of the hardware and presentation peripherals. Troubleshoot. Make adjustments on the fly. And make sure you look good so you can stay focused on delivering your most engaging and effective presentations.

Battle-tested, court-proven presentation expertise
Our trial consulting specialists bring a wealth of knowledge and practical, hands-on trial preparation experience to help your busy litigation team:

• Scan and manage key documents
• Develop and build your presentation database
• Load evidence, clips and video/audio testimonies
• Fine tune your presentation strategy
• Evaluate presentation hardware and peripherals (monitors, projectors, cables, etc.)
• Create presentations with Sanction litigation presentation software

High-profile, high stakes litigation experience
Our trial prep and consulting expertise includes work on countless high-profile cases and hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation.

• Joseph Hirko v. United States (Enron broadband trial)
• McKesson Corp. v. Islamic Republic of Iran
• Dominion Power v. United States

• The Oklahoma City bombing trial
• The D.C. sniper trials
• The United Nations International War Crimes Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia

Special Offer: Complimentary Trial Preparation and Consulting Services*
For a limited time, you can receive four hours of telephonic Sanction Trial Consulting at no additional charge when you book eight hours. There’s never been a better time our trial presentation professionals to work on your next case.

To see the Sanction trial prep and consulting team in action, be sure to watch Mike Hahn’s reconstruction of the closing arguments in the Oklahoma City Bombing Trial.

>>Watch trial history reconstructed

Check out these additional Sanction consulting and software resources.
Learn more about Sanction Consulting Services and Software.
>>Sanction Consulting Services PDF brochure
>>Sanction Trial Preparation Service PDF brochure
>>Sanction litigation presentation software PDF brochure

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