Network Efficiently

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Cassie Baudean Cunningham, Five Tips to Network Efficiently, Law Technology Today (Jun 8, 2016).

Learn to tell people what you do, rather than what you are.
If you want people to learn about you, build a relationship with you, and ultimately refer you, don’t use “lawyer” or “attorney” when you first introduce yourself. Begin your introduction by explaining what you do. For example, “I help individuals transition through divorce and custody cases,” or “I help businesses ensure they are compliant with the laws in their industry.” …You will eventually discuss the fact that you are a lawyer, but start with a description of the value you provide.

Be willing to help other people.
When you are networking, you should expect sometimes that you will help someone who is not particularly in a position to help you. …Take some time and build relationships and trust that ultimately, those relationships, rather than individual referrals, will help grow your law firm over time.

Schedule networking into your calendar.
If you make the effort to continue networking through the busy times, it will help reduce the slow times because you are consistently getting your name, face, and reputation out there to the community.

Know that networking doesn’t have to be done through a formal group.
Networking doesn’t mean you have to pay a fee and meet with the same group every week or once a month. Networking means building relationships and maintaining them. …The key is to continue building the relationships you have and forming new relationships with those in your community.

Ask questions.
It’s hard to meet new people, particularly if you don’t have an introduction from someone else. …Remember that people like to talk about themselves so when you begin your conversation, ask questions about the other person, their job, their interests, etc. You may quickly find mutual ground that you can connect on or you may find that this person isn’t a great fit for you to build a relationship with. …Don’t be shy to introduce yourself to others at networking events (that is why they are there after all).

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Mindfulness for Law Study & Lawyering

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Leonard L. Riskin, The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients (View Article).

It seems likely that the outcomes of mindfulness can help improve or enrich a law student or lawyer’s performance on virtually any task, from learning and manipulating rules, to drafting documents and litigating cases. In addition,…mindfulness sometimes deepens and clarifies a person’s awareness.

Jerry Conover, of counsel to Faegre and Benson in Denver, says that it affects his overall state of mind, giving him a “balancing and bottoming perspective that is unshakeable.”

Steven Schwartz, head of a public interest disability law firm based in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that it helps him think creatively. Sometimes when he is meditating, without trying for anything, solutions to practical problems in the office occur to him; on some days, the outline of an entire brief will come to him, and, he says, “[it] is sublimely, precisely correct.” In addition, the practice helps him connect with his feelings of compassion for his clients, “it is singularly why,” Schwartz says, “I’ve been able to do the same work for twenty-seven years without being overwhelmed by the pain and my feelings for these devalued people.” It has also deepened his understanding of the motives of people involved in his cases and keeps him motivated for “the long haul.”

The peaceful presence of a lawyer who practices mindfulness meditation is likely to affect the client, too.

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Culture in Organizations

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Harrison Barnes, The Importance of Culture in Organizations, www.hb.org (Oct 26, 2016).

Employees’ level of success and overall happiness has more to do with a particular culture (which is sometimes also referred to as the personality of an organization) than with any other factor. …Just as the work, salary, and prestige level can vary from employer to employer, the cultures within each organization can be very different. …Suffice it to say, that your success and happiness in your career may have more to do with your thoughtful and intelligent decision to join an organization that best fits you culturally. People simply want to be around people they like, and when people like each other in the workplace, both sides of the relationship benefit.

When an employee…evaluates offers based upon where she believes she fits in the best, that employee is far more likely to find happiness and success in her career. The problem, however, is that most employees are competitive by nature, and “fitting in” is not nearly as easy to quantify as things like money, company cars, and other perks.

Many people, in fact, have subordinated much of their happiness in life in pursuit of money, respect, power, and admiration from their peers. This leads many people to base their entire concept of happiness on things like having the largest house, the most expensive car, and other traditional accoutrements of the American Dream.

[I]t is…difficult to evaluate an organization’s culture and whether working in that culture will keep you happy over the course of your career.

Many…attorneys stopped practicing law two to seven years into their careers because they became disillusioned. Most of these lawyers say things like “I would never work in another law firm. I would only work as an in-house attorney.”

The resumes of these attorneys are sometimes littered with one firm job after another, where the next and then the next firm were virtually identical in terms of culture to the very first firm that the attorney joined right out of law school.

The key to true job satisfaction is determining which organization’s culture suits you and your career. Finding the right culture will allow you to find a job that won’t feel like work. What is going to make the difference over time is not a $5,000 per year salary differential, but whether or not you feel comfortable and appreciated in a particular environment. No matter what the reputation of the organization is, going through the process of discovering who the people are and what they think of you and your skills will be the best indicators of your potential long-term satisfaction and success.

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Happiness Leads to Success

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The follow contains excerpts from S. Lyubomirsky, L. King & E. Diener, The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? 131 Psychological Bulletin 803-855 (2005). (View Study)

There is a strong relationship between success and happiness. But the question is which comes first, happiness or success?

While psychological research tends to talk about success leading to happiness, there is also plenty of evidence showing that happiness can also lead to success. Some evidence comes from experimental studies that induce participants into positive and negative moods and then compare their behaviors in certain situations.

This correlation is important because many times people will focus on success thinking that it will lead to happiness and while trying to become successful, they ignore their happiness in the moment. This evidence, shows that people should pursue success but not to the exclusion of happiness.

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Choosing Law Practice Management Software

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following is an excerpt from Aaron Street, Five Steps When Choosing Law Practice Management Software, Law Technology Today (March 13, 2017).

Start with Goals
Too often law firms start their software purchasing by looking at features lists without first understanding what things their firm actually needs. …[T]he starting process for deciding which tools a firm should use should begin with an analysis of the long-term goals of the firm. For instance, solo firms intending to remain solo should have different goals and needs than a solo firm hoping to bring on additional attorneys and staff.

Future-Proof Criteria
Most law firms retain their practice management software for 5-10 years or more (sometimes much more), so it is also important to think about your possible future needs and analyze potential risks to your firm and your data.

It is important to have at least a general sense of where technology and innovation trends are headed and how they relate to the long-term strategic plan of your firm. For instance, if document automation will be an important part of your firm’s future, take time to look not just at current document automation technologies, but also where it is probably headed.

You should also create a threat model using your particular data and file security risks. …[I]f your firm defends international terrorism suspects, you have acute needs around data encryption and communication privacy.

Understand Your Advisor’s Incentives
A law firm technology consultant can be a great resource for selecting practice management software for your firm. Good tech consultants are experts on helping you think through the business model and workflow implications of different software and assessing your security needs, pricing preferences, and specific firm customizations or training needs.

Pay particular attention to consultants who “always” or “never” recommend cloud-based software solutions for law firms, since those vendors may not be making recommendations based on the specific needs of their law firm clients, but on their own.

Narrow It Down
[H]ere are some things worth thinking about:

  • Software security protocols (encryption, standards, audits).
  • Mobile access (smartphone apps, mobile web interface).
  • Design, interface, and ease of use can help you get essential buy-in from you team.
  • The vendor’s demonstrated commitment to ongoing development.
  • The likelihood of the vendor’s longevity and support.
  • Ease of transitioning in or out of the software (import/export).
  • Full initial cost and likely future cost (setup, consulting, training, additional users).
  • Ability to add additional features (APIs, third-party integrations, paid up-sells).

Ask Hard Questions & Do a Test Drive
Now that you have some finalists, reach out to hem and ask any questions you have about the issues you’ve highlighted. …Almost all practice management software offers a free or refundable demo period.

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Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following video and description is from www.ted.com.

Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy
What are our screen and devices doing to us? Psychologist Adam Alter studies how much time screens steal from us and how they’re getting away with it. He shares why all those hours you spend staring at your smartphone, tablet or computer might be making you miserable — and what you can do about it.

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Habits of a Happy Lawyer

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

Clarissa Rayward’s article “5 Habits of a Happy Lawyer in Law and in Life”, addresses the five attributes that happy lawyers possess. She has turned these habits into a HAPPY acronym which can be found below.

‘H’ is for Health
When it comes to happy lawyers, they are healthy. They may not be able to run a marathon…but they are healthy and looking after their health is one of their top priorities. Without our health it is so hard to find happiness. Many of us take our health for granted, but as the years go on we discover quickly that in order to do much in life well, we need our bodies to be functioning in the best possible way.

‘A’ is for Attitude
A happy lawyer has a positive, mindful and ‘glass half full’ attitude… They have the capacity to see the good in more situations, are grateful for the opportunities their career has given them and are mindful –living in the moment and enjoying life for what it is. Even in the difficult times, they see the good in the bad, practice kindness, empathy and gratitude, all of which neuroscience has shown has a significant and positive impact on our happiness.

‘P’ is for Passion
The 3rd ‘habit’ of those Happy Lawyers is passion! Most are passionate about law or their legal career in some way, shape, or form but perhaps more importantly they have passions, daily! Whether it is running, swimming, music, art, reading, walking or just being in nature, all of the happy lawyers I know have passions that they pursue every single day, whether it be inside or outside of their law career.

‘P’ is for Purpose
A happy lawyer is clear on their purpose. Many of the lawyers I have heard from find their purpose in the ability to make a difference or to have a positive impact on the lives of those around them. Their purpose is bigger than the mere practice of law. Chances are those happy lawyers could have pursued many different career paths but law is the tool that they have chosen to use to pursue their purpose. …They keep things in perspective and are able to recognize the difference they are making, even when it seems to be buried under a 20 volume brief.

‘Y’ is for ‘You’
I have come to conclude the happy lawyers around me have found a way to be authentically themselves in their practice of law. Whether it is a love of sequin-covered shoes, music, family, kindness, empathy, mindfulness or deep intellectual challenge –those happy lawyers bring the whole of themselves to all that they do in life and in law. They are one whole person whether they are at work, at home, with their family or colleagues—they are just tapping into different parts of themselves in different amounts depending on their day.

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Advice for New Associates

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The follow is an excerpt from Ivy Grey, Advice to My Young Associate Self, Law Technology Today (Apr 26, 2017).

Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose.
Nothing builds trust better than consistently producing correct, high-quality, timely work product. …Yes, those nitpicky typos really do matter. And, no, your analysis is not so nuanced and brilliant that you can skip proofreading!

Mistake response defines you.
The question is not whether you make a mistake, it’s when. Accepting responsibility for your mistakes show humility, that you take ownership over your work, and that you can learn from your mistakes.

Check for blind spots. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Blind spots are biggest when you first begin to practice law. As you gain experience, you will develop judgment and gain a better sense of where the blind spots might be. …You can begin to uncover your blind spots through mentoring, actively reading bar publications, listening to podcasts, and participating in your local bar association.

More does not mean better.
A longer, more complex brief, memo, or contract is not necessarily a better one. Needless language or complexity provides more room for error. This is contrary to what we learned from law school!

Looking busy doesn’t help.
Spending 12 hours to find a solution that you could have reached in two hours does not make you a hero. It makes you slow and demonstrates lack of judgment.

Start from scratch, but don’t go it alone.
Don’t fall into the trap of relying too heavily on precedent documents. …Precedent documents can obscure the fact that you do not understand the assignment or your client’s goals. Start by outlining your assignment on your own.

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Breaking a Mental Block

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains excerpts from Jason Gallate et al., Creative People Use Nonconscious Processes to Their Advantage, 24 Creativity Research Journal (2012). View Study Here.

Sometimes the best way to beat a mental block is to take a break. A break from the problem allows the unconscious to continue solving our problems even though we are not aware of the process. This is known as the incubation effect.

The Incubation Effect
The incubation effect began as a part of an early four-stage theory of creativity from an English psychologist, Graham Wallas. His theory was as follows:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination/Insight
  • Verification

The incubation phase is a very mysterious phase as it takes place in one’s unconscious.

Using Your Incubation Periods

  • Prepare –It helps to have prepared by looking at the problem from more angles in the beginning
  • Short breaks –Studies have found that 30-minute periods can be more beneficial than 24-hour breaks

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When Your Beliefs Are Being Challenged

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following descriptions and videos are from www.ted.com.

What do you do when your beliefs and understanding of the world have been challenged, unraveled or even destroyed? Take a deep breath and learn from TED’s best on how to approach these moments with grace and fortitude.

Take “the Other” to lunch
There’s an angry divisive tension in the air that threatens to make modern politics impossible. Elizabeth Lesser explores the two sides of human nature within us (call them “the mystic” and “the warrior”) that can be harnessed to elevate the way we treat each other. She shares a simple way to begin real dialogue — by going to lunch with someone who doesn’t agree with you, and asking them three questions to find out what’s really in their hearts.

The gospel of doubt
What do you do when your firmly held beliefs turn out not to be true? When Casey Gerald’s religion failed him, he searched for something new to believe in — in business, in government, in philanthropy — but found only false saviors. In this moving talk, Gerald urges us all to question our beliefs and embrace uncertainty.

Why you think you’re right—even if you’re wrong
Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to examining your beliefs. Are you a soldier, prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs — or a scout, spurred by curiosity? Julia Galef examines the motivations behind these two mindsets and how they shape the way we interpret information, interweaved with a compelling history lesson from 19th-century France. When your steadfast opinions are tested, Galef asks: “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”

For argument’s sake
Why do we argue? To out-reason our opponents, prove them wrong, and, most of all, to win! Right? Philosopher Daniel H. Cohen shows how our most common form of argument — a war in which one person must win and the other must lose — misses out on the real benefits of engaging in active disagreement.

5 ways to listen better
In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, “We are losing our listening.” In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening — to other people and the world around you.

What reality are you creating for yourself?
Reality isn’t something you perceive; it’s something you create in your mind. Isaac Lidsky learned this profound lesson firsthand, when unexpected life circumstances yielded valuable insights. In this introspective, personal talk, he challenges us to let go of excuses, assumptions and fears, and accept the awesome responsibility of being the creators of our own reality.

 

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