Feedback

Well, last Friday was interesting. When I decided to close the comments for last week’s installment of Moonlighting, Lat responded, “I’m glad at least someone is willing to try deactivation.” As expected, undeterred from the fact that they couldn’t comment directly on my post, the usual group of ATL commenters uniformly hijacked Kashmir Hill’s “revenge porn” post which followed mine on ATL to provide me with their usual thoughtful and highly encouraging feedback.

Later, an anonymous 2L tweeted as follows: And @susanmoon has the dubious distinction of being the first @atlblog writer to close off comments. When I joked to the 2L that my feelings get hurt every week, the 2L (taking me seriously, I presume) told me that instead of hiding, I should “rise above it” because even a SCOTUS justice would get flamed on ATL. This invited Brian Tannebaum (an ATL small-firm columnist) and some others to rush to my defense. What ensued was a flurry of debate on Twitter — infused with an abundance of insults — mainly between Brian and the 2L. I’m actually not quite sure why Brian got so involved, as I’m not even sure he likes me (that’s the real reason I cry every week). I think he just likes to pick on poor souls every once in a while (read: several times a day) for his own sadistic pleasure.

In any case, in addition to the entertainment value that the Brian v. 2L debates offered on Twitterverse Legal last weekend, there were definitely some interesting points made on both sides about the value of anonymous feedback….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: No Comment”

As some of you may be aware, it is the Jewish New Year. This means that I get two opportunities to reflect on the past year and make resolutions. Indeed, I have now resolved — for the second time — to eat less carbs. The problem with these kinds of resolutions is that they usually do not work. I think it has something to do with putting way too much emphasis on one day (New Year’s Day, or I guess Rosh Hashanah), rather than working towards a goal consistently throughout the year.

At work, the equivalent of the New Year’s Resolution is the year-end review. All of ones strengths and weaknesses displayed in the prior year are discussed during a thirty-minute conversation that often ends with a bonus check and/or tears. The year-end review, like the New Year’s Resolution, does not work. Rather than getting feedback only once a year, you should make every day New Year’s Day. Well, maybe not every day….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Tell Me I Am Pretty”

Last week we discussed the art of receiving feedback from your firm. The coin of feedback has two sides — praise and criticism. You learn more from the latter than from the former. If you are a solid citizen who is committed and enthusiastic, you can learn great deal from constructive criticism. You must understand why it is given and what it means. In this week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, discusses how to best handle criticism over the summer.

Criticism is usually well-intended. Firms want you to succeed; if you are bright, well-liked, and energetic, the natural human instinct takes over. The partners running the summer program want to run a successful program. Experienced lawyers love to find new lawyers who they can bring into their groups or teams. That, in one respect, is what the summer program is all about. Criticism is not delivered in the abstract. It is delivered (1) on the spot when you have made a mistake, (2) at a quieter moment during the project when the assigning attorney has a moment to breathe, or (3) during the regular review process.

Some lawyers are just unpleasant or angry people. Usually, however, the lawyer is angry about your mistake because it disrupted his or her schedule, confused his client, screwed up an issue in a brief, or otherwise made his professional life unpleasant. The lawyer might also be angry because it was his or her fault for not providing enough instruction or sufficient oversight (but don’t you point this out). Depersonalize your reaction and learn from it. Contain your own hostility, rage, anger, and other emotional reactions. Do not head to your office in tears, vent your emotions to other summer associates, or storm off into professional oblivion. At the end of the day, run five miles or bike around the lake. Go to the gym and beat the heck out of a punching bag. Get on Above the Law and yell at Elie for a spelling mistake in one of his posts.

For more tips on handling criticism and making the most out of your summer clerkship experience, click here. For additional career insights, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.

In this week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, demystifies the process of receiving feedback as a summer associate.

As a law student, you may ask yourself: “What is it about attorneys and their inability to provide quality feedback in a reasonable amount of time?” Throughout law school you will have to wait weeks and months on end before receiving your grade on even multiple choice exams. Then, you move on to your summer clerkship and wonder if every single assignment you email gets sent to a black hole where it never gets read, much less utilized. The truth of the matter is, your work is being monitored, and you are being “graded” during your summer clerkship. But unlike your professors, the attorneys you work for at your summer law firm has legitimate excuses for not providing your grades in a reasonable timeframe.

Every summer associate wants to know how well they are doing. It is a natural human emotional need. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to call out to reporters: “How am I doin’?” He had to wait four years for an answer. Your answer will come at the end of the summer. All feedback systems depend on structure, forms, follow through, and a decidedly unreliable human element. Every spring, hiring partners and recruiting coordinators redesign reporting lines, meeting schedules, review forms, and many other ways to coerce their lawyers to put pen to paper and write reviews. As a hiring partner I tried systems, humor, cajoling, requests just short of Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 and 45, and sitting down in a lawyer’s office and filibustering until they completed the darn form.

To learn more on how to handle the feedback provided during your summer clerkship (or lack thereof), click here to read on. For additional career insights, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.