Above the Law recently produced a webcast, We Know What You Should Do This Summer, in which a panel of career experts discussed how law students can make the most of their summers. The panel was sponsored by our friends at the Practical Law Company, which provides law students with free access to its excellent resources so they can succeed over the summer. Check out PLC’s law student home page to learn more.
We divided the webcast into different segments on discrete topics, for posting on Above the Law. We posted the first clip over here. Now, on to the second segment….
Earlier this month, Above the Law recorded a webcast, We Know What You Should Do This Summer. We convened a panel of career experts to discuss how law students can make the most of their summers. The panel was sponsored by our friends at the Practical Law Company. (We previously explained PLC and its mission over here.)
We started off with information and tips for our less fortunate readers — namely, law students (and lawyers) who have not yet found positions for the summer.
Funny story: One day during my third year of law school, I overslept and missed an important session of my Sales class. The problem is, when I tried to get the notes for the class, the only one who had … pardon me? Yes, Sales. No, not UCC Sales. “Sales.” As in “How to Market and Sell Your Legal Services.” … So, anyway, the only one who had the notes … what’s that? You didn’t? Seriously? So how were you supposed to learn how to sell your services as a lawyer?
Turns out my story, which was going to be hysterical, was also completely fabricated. Like you, I didn’t learn a damned thing about sales in law school. But at the time (the early nineties), that seemed OK. It’s a profession, you see. Sales is for commerce. Lawyers aren’t in commerce; we’re in a vocation.
As the practice of law careens away from its eighteenth-century traditions, where clients just find you, lawyers today (and especially small-firm lawyers) need to rely on sales skills to bring in business. Since we didn’t learn these in law school, we have to rely on our natural sales ability. Unfortunately, lawyers tend not to have any.
In fact, as a group, we suck at sales. But the reason we suck will probably surprise you.…
When 1,500 lawyers gathered at this week’s ABA TechShow in Chicago, an interesting thing happened:
The business card died.
When these lawyers weren’t listening to the dozens of cutting-edge seminars or browsing the exhibitors’ booths, they were making new friends and new professional connections. But instead of exchanging business cards, many of the attendees were trading Twitter handles — their online identities that begin with the @ symbol. (I’m @jayshep.) Massachusetts lawyer Gabriel Cheong (@gabrielcheong) told me that by the end of the conference, he had collected exactly zero business cards. (I immediately gave him one of mine. #irony) Instead of accumulating two-by-three-and-a-half-inch scraps of cardstock, he typed their Twitter names directly into his iPhone. (And I doubt anyone actually said, “Uh, I’m not on the Twitter.”) Molly McDonough (@Molly_McDonough), online editor at the ABA Journal, tweeted at the end of the conference: “For first time, I didn’t collect any biz cards at #abatechshow. Just made note of names and followed on Twitter.” Others retweeted (quoted) her tweet with approval.
So does this mean it’s time for small-firm lawyers to learn how to tweet?
Although I have a blog and accounts with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Plaxo, I am not a big “rah rah” social media cheerleader for the sake of being one. There is much about social media that is overhyped, which is probably why I liked G.M. Filisko’s article in the January edition of the ABA Journal, “Social Media or Snake Oil: Does Social Media Measure Up to the Hype?” I saw many parallels in it in terms of how I have used social media and thought it offered some honest advice.
After the jump, I will point out a few things that have helped me along the way with social media — and reveal its biggest “not-so-secret” secret….
I was on the other side — the law firm side — of the business development coin for 25 years. And those 25 years taught me this about generating business: Raise your profile; stay in touch with people; and get lucky.
I was never once retained by dint of good looks or charm. (Anyone who’s seen or met me won’t find this to be surprising.)
And I don’t play golf.
So what’s a lawyer to do? What business development efforts worked for me, and what might work for you?
My firm, like so many, has decided not to purchase and send holiday cards for our clients, instead relying on those stupid ecards. Ostensibly this is part of our “Going Green” initiative. More likely it puts more green in the partners’ pockets. Whatever.
I’d like to send actual paper cards to some of my clients and contacts. These are people who are not social friends, but with whom I have a business relationship, or would like to maintain professional contact. My questions:
1. Should I send them my regular family holiday card (photo of me with the wife & kids and a holiday greeting)? Most of the people to whom I would send this have never met my wife or kids, and in many cases probably don’t know they even exist.
2. If not, should I get a generic card or a customized card with my name on the card? what about other info (firm name, phone, email, etc.)?
3. Should I include a business card with my holiday card?
4. Should I forget the whole thing and just send ecards? or nothing at all?
Dear Bah Humbug,
These detailed questions require a very organized response. Let’s break down each option you’ve laid out…
We’ve repeatedly discussed the importance to lawyers of networking. It matters whether you’re at a small firm or at a large one. It’s a necessary skill, in terms of getting the best assignments, making partner, and remaining a partner — no longer a guaranteed outcome, in these challenging times.
But networking also raises some ethical issues. When does it cross the line in to unethical solicitation? What are the limits on entertaining clients? How can you ethically handle referral fees?
This week’s Continuing Legal Education offering, handpicked by your ATL editors from the extensive CLE catalog of our friends at ALI-ABA, is all about how to network effectively and ethically. It offers those elusive ethics credits (required in many MCLE states), it’s reasonably priced, and it’s a telephone seminar — so you can participate from the comfort of your own office or home.
Check it out, and sign up, via the link below. Happy networking!
Okay, so you’re not socially inept. I’d offer my congratulations, but being socially adept and willing to mingle is only part of the battle for a small firm attorney. It’s a necessary but not sufficient component of long-term success. (Remember all that necessary/sufficient crap from the LSAT? Yeah, me neither. It doesn’t matter.)
What does matter is that you find a way to deploy whatever level of social skill that you have. Even Bobby Boucher figured that out. You have to find something to fill in this blank:
Step One: Be a reasonably competent lawyer who’s not socially inept.
Step Two: ??
Step Three: Profit.
So what’s the meat in the Step Sandwich here? I’ll share some of my own experiences, along with some insightful comments from the readers….
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.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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