LegalJob Secure dream law firm job (for law students) and maximize effectiveness once there (for law firm associates) Sat, 01 Jul 2017 02:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LegalJob 32 32 Two secrets of rainmakers you can use today Sat, 01 Jul 2017 02:13:55 +0000 The rainmakers I know all share two qualities when meeting with current and prospective clients.

They are relatable.

They act and speak like regular human beings, not like lawyers. They are naturals at putting themselves in their clients’ shoes, which allows them to understand what the clients are thinking and how they are feeling.

They give their clients and perspective clients the freedom to tell their stories and share their concerns in their own words. This approach is effective in drawing clients out and getting them to talk. The tonality of their conversations projects a demeanor that is pleasant, confident, and curious.

Their questions and comments focus on the client’s concerns.

They use their legal skill, coupled with knowledge and a bit of creativity, to adapt their questions, comments, and advice to the client’s unique circumstances—business realities, personal preferences, desired outcomes, etc.

They demonstrate value by constantly connecting their questions, recommendations, and ultimately their strategies, to items the client cares about. This approach helps clients feel acknowledged and makes them receptive to hearing and considering advice.

Here are examples of focused and thought-provoking questions rainmakers ask to focus on the client…and improve their “relatability” rating:

Identifying the Client’s Goals

What specifically do you want to accomplish? By when?

What would be the most beneficial outcome? What would be the next most beneficial outcome?

From your perspective, what are the two or three biggest obstacles to getting the result you’re after?

What would be your preferred course of action? Is there an acceptable alternative?

Before this conversation, how were you planning to proceed?

Obtaining the Client’s Perspective

How specifically has this issue affected you personally?

In what ways has it impacted your business?

What are two or three of your biggest concerns about this situation?

What aspect of the situation do you find most challenging?   Why is that?

What else should I have asked you?

What else do I need to know?

Providing Help

What are the top two or three things I can do for you to help?

What is the number one thing I can do for you right now to help you/your business?

How can I help you expand or accelerate your success?

What, in your mind, is the number one problem to tackle?

What opportunities can I help you capitalize on right now?

What is the most important thing to achieve in the next 30 days? Would you like my help?


Asking focused, thought-provoking questions makes it easy for clients/prospective clients to open up and fully participate in the conversation. And that, in turn, enables you to better understand their situations, expectations, and desired outcomes as you analyze the opportunities.

Image courtesy of Aeamwong.

Consider your audience Wed, 31 May 2017 01:50:06 +0000 My last post was about the importance of focusing on the reader when crafting your biography. To reinforce the message of considering your audience, I was going to fill this post with a bunch of bullet points about what lawyers should do when meeting new people or how lawyers can make more effective presentations.

I recently read an article about Google CEO Sundar Pichal’s recommendations for creating more impact when making presentations which drives the point home much more clearly. He suggests using fewer words, eliminating bullet points, and using more graphics.

So, when engaged in conversation, less of this:

And more of this:

When presenting, less of this:

And more of this:

Hopefully, this post was less like this for you:

And more like this for you:

Here is a link to the complete article.

Images courtesy of,, and


Three things every client wants to know from your bio Fri, 28 Apr 2017 01:19:12 +0000

I recently came across an article that illustrates the disparity between what lawyers provide in their biographies compared to what clients want to know.  Wow.  Take a look.

A  diagram shows the difference between what lawyers put in their biographies, and what clients look for in lawyer biographies.

The article also provides some useful advice about what to include in bios to engage clients and prospects. Here are some additional thoughts.

Focus on the reader not the writer

As the circles above demonstrate, most people do not care where you went to school, how many degrees or fancy titles you have, whether you worked for a Fortune 100 company or a judge, or whether other lawyers think you are brilliant. None of that information addresses whether you are the right person to handle their particular matter.

Therefore, when writing your bio, you may want to consider an approach that focuses on what might be relevant to the reader — your clients and prospects.

Three things clients want to know

  • What types of problems do you solve?
  • For who?
  • How did you solve these problems?

o What is unique about your approach, and how do clients benefit?
o What favorable outcome do your clients generally achieve because of you?

The answers to all these questions should be brief and to the point so you don’t lose the reader.


Here is a template to use for reframing your biography (written and oral) to address these points.

I work with _______ [type of client] who have ________ [type of problem] and find _________ [that limits them in this way]. Because I bring ________ [experience handling these matters successfully, worked on the other side, etc.], I help the client _________ [solve the problem] and they are able to ________ [achieve a certain business objective] _________ [without too much pain].


I work with Fortune 100 companies who are constantly audited by the IRS and find they are using lots of in-house counsel time dealing with tax matters as opposed to working on other major issues affecting the company’s day-to-day operations. Having worked at the IRS and being a CPA as well as an attorney, I speak the agency’s language and generally resolve these audits quickly and favorably without expensive and time-consuming litigation.

I work with Fortune 500 companies whose business practices have been challenged as unfair to consumers by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and who find that they have difficulty managing the negative press associated with these challenges, especially when protracted. Having been the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, my understanding of the FTC’s mindset and deep knowledge of consumer law, helps ensure swift resolution of these matters that maximize their ability to achieve their long-term business goals without unnecessary downtime.

Image courtesy of Aeamwong.

Confessions of a first year associate: Three things I wish I knew before starting Sat, 01 Apr 2017 19:15:15 +0000 How does one make the shift from law student to big firm associate? What are the some of the most important things I need to know to perform at a high level? What is the secret for distinguishing myself from the rest of the incoming class? This post, written by a first year associate at a top AmLaw 100 firm, helps answer these questions.


The takeaways are:

  • Keep partners and clients regularly posted on your status
  • Stay productive whether working on billable matters or some other activity that benefits the firm
  • Ask additional clarifying questions upfront to save valuable time later


Manage Deadlines: When you’re in law school, the only academic deadlines you really worry about are final exams at the end of semester. Even if you take classes which have paper requirements or clinical practice requirements, generally you don’t develop much of a skillset in deadline management. When you start working at a law firm, however, you generally work with several senior attorneys on a variety of assignments. Depending on how your law firm is structured, you may have a formal system in place to track your workload. In any case, deadline management becomes crucial when you’re juggling time-sensitive demands from your clients, both inside and outside the firm. There will definitely be points where you are not able to meet an expected deadline, or otherwise take more time than a partner might expect to complete an assignment. This will often happen when multiple deadlines converge, which forces you to triage your workload. When this happens, it’s key to update the relevant attorneys that are waiting for your work product to let them know that you are swamped and need some more time. In most cases, partners won’t begrudge you for it, and if a certain deadline is firm, they will let you know so you can adjust your workflow accordingly.


Another thing to avoid is unnecessarily imposing a deadline on yourself. Chances are that the partner you’re working with will not give you credit for meeting a self-imposed deadline, and may instead be annoyed if you feel to meet your own deadlines. When you get an assignment via e-mail, it’s best to just send a simple confirmation email that you’re working on it, and then try to get it done promptly. You can also go the extra step asking for the partner’s preferred timing, but again no need to overpromise.


Stay Busy: At many law firms, it is expected that associates bill approximately 2,000 hours per year. In practice, associates can differ widely on whether they meet or exceed billable hours guidelines. As a junior associate, you are generally in the worst position to generate client work. Partners understand this, and as a result you get a bit of leeway in your first few years at the firm. Although you should be eager to take on work as it comes in, don’t fret if there are periods of time during which your billable hours seem to be low. At many firms there are other activities that you could potentially occupy your time with, such as client development activities or pro bono assignments. Although these may not be as desirable as client work, they do provide activities that you could engage in that are helpful to the firm, and also may be objectively measured in a formal review. Stressing yourself out over a lack of client work won’t help you, so instead consider engaging in other activities if possible, or perhaps even reading a treatise on some area of law in which you practice. Since you’re a junior attorney, chances are you do not have much knowledge of the law, and there will be many instances in which you have to learn the background law before you can tackle an assignment.


Ask More Questions: When you first get an assignment, you may not be given the background you need to really understand the work product that you are supposed to produce. It is generally fine for a junior associate to tell a supervising attorney that they have little or no knowledge of a particular issue or area in the law. Although a partner will generally be too busy to give you a thorough breakdown of the relevant law, often partners will give you a few shortcuts and observations which may help point you in the right direction. Partners may forget that they are dealing with a junior associate, or that they are dealing with a mid-level associate who may not have encountered a particular area of law before. By the time you become a senior associate, you are generally expected to know the areas of law in which you practice, but take advantage of the leeway afforded to junior associates. An important role that law firms play is the teaching of young associates, so take advantage of the legal experts that your law firm has. Also, when you are receiving an assignment, if you are unsure what you are supposed to be looking into or producing, ask follow-up questions at the time you receive the assignment to clarify. Your questions can help save you a lot of work later by avoiding situations in which you are aimlessly spending your time reading aspects of the law that are not relevant.

Image courtesy of

It’s hard being a mentee Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:36:14 +0000 It’s hard being a mentee

So many dos and don’ts.

Be focused. Don’t ask questions you are not interested in the answers to. Show gratitude. Make it a two-way exchange. Ugh! One of my mentee’s put it best — “If I had my sh*t together and was focused, I wouldn’t need a mentor in the first place.”

So, what is the secret to maximizing ones “menteeing” efforts? We asked this question to a handful of successful law students and law firm associates whose mentoring relationship translated to helpful insight, strategy, and guidance that enabled them to accelerate their career path. Not surprisingly, they had different thoughts on what works best but all had in common three principles:

They were bold with their selection.

They were willing to disregard everything they learned.

They were clear on their preferred outcome.



They were bold in one of the following three ways:

  • They went outside of the law altogether. This additional perspective helped them think like (and understand the challenges and goals of) employers, clients, partners, and law firm managers. They picked successful entrepreneurs, seasoned professionals from the sales and marketing world, executives at Fortune 500 companies, including technology companies, healthcare companies, and advertising agencies, seasoned assistants of State and Federal legislators, top-level people at Federal agencies, and leaders in the journalism, radio, and television industries.
  • They turned lemons into lemonade. They picked mentors that had provided them some negative feedback in the past. And, in some cases, the feedback was not very constructive. That feedback ran the gamut from mild criticism or disagreement with an idea or a conclusion all the way to being given poor grades or negative annual evaluations.
  • They shot for the stars. They went for it. Leading lawyers (not necessarily at their firm), CEOs, heads of Federal agencies, heads of public relations firms, and leaders in the non-profit world. In each case, they had some tenuous connection to the people and turned that thread into a successful mentoring relationship. They all reasoned that the worst that could happen is that the stars say no or do not respond.


Each of the mentees had the same message. They were flexible. They went in with an open mind. They were willing to think about things differently. They recognized that thinking like a lawyer is not necessarily helpful in every situation. They were willing to be wrong. They were willing to say “I don’t know,” or “I hadn’t considered that.” They were willing to be coached.


Each of the mentees did not know what to expect from the relationship but they were clear on at least one specific and tangible goal they wanted help achieving. The law students had identified their dream job but needed insight, and support to create a clear plan for securing the job and to proficiently execute the plan. The law associates were considered rising stars at their firms but needed guidance and strategy to move up to levels of performance and client service faster than they might without the mentoring help.


Image courtesy of

Seven questions every associate should ask — part two Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:00:25 +0000  

As discussed in part one of this post, the biggest reason associates fail is not because of poor work ethic, lack of technical skills, or personality differences. Instead, it is that associates do not understand what is expected. Understanding expectations is a big part of meeting them.


This post continues with advice from big firm partners relating to working on projects, researching, and presenting conclusions to help ensure associates avoid this common pitfall.


Working on projects


Do you want to know the status of the assignment even if there is no news?


This was a repeat question that also came up in the context of the day-to-day category. So, take note associates. Partners provided a unanimous “yes” to this question. They generally prefer the associate check in at least every couple of days, maybe more depending on the project. And related a majority of partners advised that associates should not fail to respond within a reasonable time to a call or an e-mail from partners requiring response during work hours.


In all cases would you rather the associate take the extra time to make the

work product “perfect” or stick to the deadline (assuming perfect is not possible by the deadline)?


The general consensus among the partners was that the quality of the work product should reflect the opinion that the associate wants the partner to have of him/her.  Deadlines can be malleable; quality work is not.


There was consensus that the associates always give them their best product. They were clear that associates should never expect them to take their time to edit your written work for grammar, syntax or punctuation. They also don’t expect to do their thinking for them.


They placed the full burden on the associate to tell them as soon as possible if a deadline is unrealistic but noted the deadline may be binding if it’s the client’s deadline.




In all situations, would you prefer the associate spend as much time as it takes to get the right answer?


Only a handful of partners said they wanted the associates to spend as much time as it takes. A majority wanted approval before doing that and noted that associates should ask this question at the outset of the project.

However, on the subject of billing, a majority of partners said they want the associates to bill all of the time spent including learning time because they want to know how long an assignment really takes. They expect that there will be some time written off that relates to getting up to speed, but they need to make that judgment.


Presenting conclusions


How should the associate present his conclusions?


A majority of partners preferred an executive one-page summary followed by formal, detailed memo. All agreed that as with most other things, the associate should simply ask the partner’s preference at the initial meeting.  Many noted that they usually like to discuss the answer before a lot of time is spent (and potentially wasted) commemorating it.   All partners said they prefer associates write clearly and concisely (and be careful not to present ancillary issues that are not necessary to the ultimate recommendation).


All partners agreed that associates should not be afraid to tell them what they think and provide recommendations. “Stop being so tentative,” was the advice from many.


Image courtesy of

Seven questions every associate should ask – part one Sat, 31 Dec 2016 00:17:06 +0000 The biggest reason associates fail at law firms is generally not due to poor work ethic, lack of technical legal understanding, weak writing skills, or personality mismatch. Instead, it is that associates do not know what is expected of them both in terms of the substance of particular projects as well as the overall stylistic preferences of partners.


To ensure you do not fall in that bucket, consider asking the following seven questions presented in two posts. This first post covers three questions – two in the day-to-day category and one in the receiving work assignments category.


The questions and the responses below are based on feedback from ten big firm partners.


Note that your answers to these questions don’t have to come from the partner herself. Other associates who have worked for the partner or even the partner’s long-time assistant can be valuable sources of information.




1)        Is face-time important to you?  And related, do you expect associates to arrive before you get in, and to be at the firm until you leave?


For many partners face-time is primarily a question of effort and dedication.  They generally don’t expect an associate to keep particular hours, and certainly not to arbitrarily be in the office awaiting their whim, but they do want to see enough of the associate to know that he or she is properly focused on his or her career and what they have asked to be done.  Put another way:  an associate might be able to do an excellent technical job entirely through electronic means and contact, but the partner may never be entirely comfortable that they want to work with him or her or understand their perspective without significant personal contact.


2)       Would you prefer regular meetings with the associate to update you on status of work assignments?


The answer is yes for all partners. They want the associate to treat them as a client in this respect. Thus, how often they should check depends on the time-sensitivity and complexity of the assignment. Generally, the associate should ask how often the partner wants them to check in when they assign the project.


Receiving work assignments


3)        How do you prefer to handle the assignment process?


Many of the partners interviewed appreciate an associate approaching them for work, although they have no problem approaching associates. They find proactivity suggests great interest in the firm and a career at the firm.  The consensus is that superstar associates will regularly keep them informed of the status of his/her “plate.” They advise that associates should keep them informed of other assignments if they think it is germane or if they need help sorting out priorities. A handful of partners noted that they want to know what else the associates are doing especially in the case of junior associates because they find the junior associates are not particularly good at evaluating how much time something will take.


When receiving as assignment, the majority of partners asked prefer the associate ask how much time they have to discuss the assignment right then, and tailor his/her inquiries accordingly. A handful of partners said that it was important the associate not be afraid to ask questions, including ones to make sure they understand the assignment, timing and amount of effort required. The same group said that associates should always ask when the partner needs the answer by and in what form they need it.

Image courtesy of Miles.

A key to becoming a superstar associate Thu, 01 Dec 2016 01:43:20 +0000 Superstar associates say that, despite popular belief, being successful is not dependent on working hard, establishing that one can handle as much responsibility as is thrown at them, having high levels of enthusiasm, or cultivating mentors. While certainly helpful, top performing associates do not credit any of these items as necessary for their success.


So, to what do superstar associates who consistently achieve high levels of success credit their success? Exceptional client (and partner) service. Throughout this post, client should be substituted for partner for associates working in law firms who may not consistently deal with outside clients.


And there seems to be a consensus that, at a minimum, these three items contribute to the production of exceptional service: (1) becoming an expert in the client, including deeply understanding the client’s challenges (professional and personal), aspirations, and needs; (2) solving current legal issues while taking into account client preferences; and (3) anticipating future issues and providing solutions.


Deeply understanding the client’s challenges


Successful associates take certain steps to understand the client’s “pain” as they refer to it in the sales and marketing world – the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. For example, they make it a point to learn the history and culture of the client, including the current and former principals of the business and their personalities and interests. In addition, when possible, they gather information on the client’s industry, its competitors, and threats by attending industry conferences and relevant panel presentations. And sometimes, they get their hands dirty by visiting the client (even if at their own expense) to see how the client’s product is made or their service is provided.


Solving current legal issues with an accommodation to the client’s preferences


Successful associates strive to serve the heck out of clients in the way they want to be served. This means providing solutions that are tailor-made to the client and takes into account, not only its industry, market, financial, and other objectives, as mentioned above, but also (and perhaps most importantly), its quirky preferences.


To effectuate this level of service, these associates confirm their clients’ goals before beginning work on a project rather than assuming they know what the client is looking for, even if it seems obvious. So, they understand what a “win” is from the client’s perspective. As such they are seen as creative and efficient because they accommodate the client in various ways and understand that the client’s preferences as far as timing, budget, and other considerations may dictate a preference for certain outcomes.


They also communicate their status and ultimate results to the client in a manner and format in which the client can understand and relate. For example, these associates get that some clients want to get in the weeds but that most do not. They understand that some clients prefer e-mails, some prefer face to face, and others prefer phone calls and it all likely depends on the matter and current client circumstances.


Anticipating future potential issues and provide solutions


Successful associates, on their own initiative, keep up with the changing business (and therefore legal) needs of the client. They accomplish this objective in a number of ways. As an example, they may monitor Federal and State congressional action (or possible action) and court cases that could affect the client and/or its industry. In addition, they may monitor the activity and challenges of the client’s competition.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Four keys to crushing any networking event Fri, 28 Oct 2016 15:26:18 +0000 Many lawyers think networking events are a waste of time because they rarely meet new clients there. One possible reason why these lawyers have trouble is that they approach these events with the misguided goals of trying to sell themselves and obtain client leads. They emphasize what they do and how valuable they are. They may ask about others but they are primarily self-oriented and most of their time is spent talking.

On the other hand, lawyers who actually enjoy networking events use a very different approach. They are genuinely interested in serving others and, often unintentionally, that is how they establish their value. They demonstrate this interest by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions. Their mission is to understand what the other person is trying to accomplish and what might be preventing them from doing so.

These folks become an expert in others by understanding what others most want. Then, they help them in any way they can. Their help could come in the form of connecting with them with others, providing them insight that gets them to think about things in a different way, or providing legal services.   They don’t start the conversation with what they do and only address the issue if asked. Even at that point, they keep the focus on themselves brief and to the point by describing the major problems they solve, and for whom.

So, for best results approach the next networking event with these four keys in mind:

  • Ask open-ended questions to understand the goals (including plans from getting from where they are to where they ultimately want to be), challenges, and priorities of others.
  • Listen for a majority of the time.
  • Consider ways to be helpful
    1. Asking thoughtful questions (e.g., what would make this event a success for you)
    2. Giving them your undivided attention
    3. Connecting them to helpful people
    4. Performing legal services
  • If asked, describe what you do succinctly and clearly by explaining
    1. Who you help
    2. What their challenges are
    3. How you solve them

Image courtesy of Ambro/

Being relatable Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:37:28 +0000 Being relatable is one of the keys to being a successful lawyer. When mastered, being relatable can help you to:

  • Deliver an engaging presentation to any audience.
  • Understand and deliver work product that exceeds client and partner expectations.
  • Attract new clients.

The steps to being relatable are similar whether you are speaking, providing legal services, or talking with prospects. Just substitute audience for client/partner and presentation for project or future work. Here are the three steps:

1) Provide information in an easy to understand, digestible format.

Find out ahead of time what your audience is hoping to get out of the presentation, project, or meeting. Do they want to solve a problem, prevent a problem, learn new way of thinking about something?

Has a similar presentation been given in the past? If so, ask the host what information was useful and what was not. Find out what the audience want to learn more about. Along similar lines, perhaps you can also learn what he or she believes would make the presentation a home run.

Generally frame your remarks so the least knowledgeable person can follow. Stay out of the weeds. Don’t make people think too hard to understand you. Practice on your spouse or friend who has no subject matter knowledge. If they can’t follow you, you need to simply the message or include illustrative examples.

Be creative and interactive to keep the audience engaged. You can ask questions that require people to participate (e.g., raise their hand for yes). Story-telling is another way to engage the audience and illustrate a major point.

If the information is available elsewhere (the internet, for example) you will need to add something to bring the audience closer to the material. You can organize the material along a timeline. You can relate the information to a relevant current or historical event. You can include additional knowledge that adds context to the material.

2) Relate the information to something folks in the audience care about.

Consider asking the question – “Why should you all care about this?” Then, provide a couple of possible reasons. Perhaps your words address desired or undesired results. Polling ahead of time or even during could provide intel here.

Make sure to answer the question. Help people connect the dots because they probably will not on their own. “You should care because…”

3) Answer the question of what can folks do now that they heard you.

Tie steps number one and two in a neat little bow by providing suggestions for action (or potential solutions if in a project format). You can ask, “Now that you have the information and we talked about why it is important, what can we do to avoid this bad result, create this good result, or maintain our strong position?”

Here is your chance to provide nuggets that will help make folks that attended your presentation or meeting, or worked with you feel it was time well spent. Give them the edge over folks that didn’t spend time with you and help them accomplish something they wouldn’t have done before they heard you.

Image courtesy of