Categories
The Practice of Law

That Whooshing Noise

Let’s talk about deadlines. Here are two quotes to get us started:

From Douglas Adams, we give you the light-hearted Associate’s perspective: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security, because the truth comes from Amit Kalantri, who said: “A professional who doesn’t deliver as committed is not just lazy, he is a liar.”

Categories
The Practice of Law

Consistently Chaotic

Early in my articles, a senior partner named David asked me to draft a document and gave me a precedent to use. David approved my draft but asked me to show it to Bob, a more junior partner. Bob told me that I had left out an important clause and asked me if David had approved my drafting. When I assured him that David had thought the draft was fine, Bob rolled his eyes and I understood that Bob did not hold David in high regard.

Categories
Mentoring

Retired Mentors.com

Click here:

www.retiredmentors.com

Categories
Mentoring

When Mentoring Disappears

Many new lawyers start their own practices soon after graduation or join firms that offer little mentoring or training.  I attribute this to a number of factors, including the law firm model falling into disfavour over issues of work/life balance and mental health, and prejudice encountered by internationally trained lawyers.

Categories
People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Eight: The Chief Marketing Officer

Those of you who have been following this series know that I said that Part Seven was the final article in the series. It turns out that I lied.

The purpose of the series is to set out the questions which Articling Students and new Associates should figure out about their firms when deciding whether to stay there over the long-term.

This time it is about the Chief Marketing Officer (“CMO”).

Categories
Mentoring

Users and Mentors

This is an abridged version of one of my first posts from several years ago.

Supervising lawyers fall into two groups. 

  1. Those who will devote no effort to training Associates beyond what is necessary to get their work done.  They may teach their Associates how to do things but will not take the time to teach them why they are being done or why they are being done differently in different situations. They will: (i)  mark up the Associate’s draft, but will not spend the time to explain why the changes are necessary; (ii) involve the Associate in a part of the file, but exclude them from meeting clients where the strategic considerations are being discussed; and (iii) have the Associate draft the agreement but not involve the Associate in the negotiation of the document with the other side.  Every decision is based solely on whether it advances the short-term interests of the senior lawyer. I call these senior lawyers the “Users.”
  2. At the opposite extreme, there are those who assist their Associates to develop to their full potential. They spend as much non-billable time as is required to achieve that goal, even if doing so is not profitable in the short-term. I call this group the “Mentors.”

The Users justify their approach in many ways.   They are too busy.  They do not believe in “hand-holding”.  The “sink or swim” approach is the best way to train someone.  At the end of the day, it is all nonsense – these lawyers simply do not want to earn less money by wasting billable time, and sometimes do not want to expose their Associates to their clients and risk losing the loyalty of the clients.

In my experience there are more Users than Mentors, and I believe that there is a historical reason for this.

In the old days, lawyers joined firms with a view to working their way up the ranks, becoming partners, and cashing in. Senior lawyers were willing to spend their time and effort in developing their Associates who would be their future partners and stay with their firms throughout their career. 

Then things changed. Salaries of Associates increased beyond their actual value to the firms.  In bad times, firms cut Associates loose.  In good times, Associates rewarded the lack of loyalty by jumping from firm to firm for more money.  Partners had to put in more hours to maintain the levels of profitability that they had come to expect, and gradually senior lawyers developed the attitude that they were not going to invest their time at personal cost in lost billings to train Associates who would likely not be with them that long anyway.

So here we are.  We now have Mentors who will sacrifice their time and short-term billable hours to help the next generation develop, and Users who will not.

The challenge for new Associates looking for jobs is to find out who is willing to work with them to help them reach their potential, and who just wants to use them.

Categories
Firm Culture

How Quickly My Good Idea Becomes Your Great Idea

Now and then I will tell a story about something that I did back in the day when my wife Maureen and I practiced at the same law firm. Typically my story involves a brilliant legal strategy that I developed, a big win, and a grateful client.

Occasionally Maureen will observe, “how quickly my good idea becomes your great idea.” Her point, I guess, is that she was the brilliant one and I just took her idea and ran with it. It could have happened that way. It was a long time ago and it really is not in my interest to remember the details that clearly.

Categories
People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Seven: The Supervising Lawyer

This is the last in a series about the questions which Articling Students and new Associates should figure out about their firms when deciding whether to stay there over the long-term.

This time, I will speak about supervising lawyers (“SL”).

Categories
People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Six: The Law Clerks

This is the sixth in a series about information that Articling Students and new Associates should have before deciding to stay at a firm for the long-term.

Today it is about some of my favourite people in law firms – the Law Clerks (“LC”) (aka Paralegals).

Categories
People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Five: The Chief Financial Officer

This is the fifth in a series about questions that Articling Students and new Associates should consider when trying to size up their new firm.

This time I will address the most senior person in charge of the money. In your firm, this person could be called any of the following:  Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), Controller, Accounting Manager, Accountant or Bookkeeper.