Lawyers tend to be a bit on the independent side and don’t like to be managed as a general proposition.  Despite all the rules we must follow, they sometimes rationalize:  “Those do not apply to me” or “I am not that person.” Most certainly do not like a peer talking to them about their own individual problems.

Take a high stress practice that is deadline driven, and overlay the usual problems of today’s society, and you have lawyers with problems.  It is a given.  Every office has this situation every week to some degree.  Do not ever ignore it, or back down from a big elephant lawyer saying “Leave me alone.”

A Lone Wolf, a lawyer with a substance abuse problem or with emotional issues, can bring down an entire firm by their sole actions or inactions.  So, you cannot afford to avoid the issue.  You must become your brother’s keeper.  Aside from losing a good lawyer with issues, you have a huge financial stake at risk and pretending it is not there will just not work.

Pay attention to your daily world (“situational awareness” is the tactical training term):

• Do you have a lawyer with exceptionally low hours (is there something going on other than a lack of work?);

• What about the lawyer who works extremely long hours and has overly large billables (is it more than workload driving this?);

• Have someone who comes in at odd hours and disappears at times (what have you done to check about that?);

• Do you have one who locks up work electronically or physically, and lets no one know what clients or work they are doing; or takes no vacations (not a firm approach and leaves clear indicia of issues you need to address);

• Are there individuals with big mood swings, flat expressions, lack of engagement, or volatile conduct (can indicate depression or mental health concerns which can impact the firm);

• Do you observe negligent internal practices such as not filling out time sheets, ignoring e-mails, not following firm policies (all can reflect a deeper issue leading to a claim against the firm.  Do not ignore the non-conforming conduct that can affect your firm).

In the older days, some lawyers were described as “bad to drink.” Bar groups formed support groups to aid those with drinking problems.  The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs says prescription drug issues (mostly pain medication) have now grown to be second, only to old time alcohol issue.  This new prescription drug issue accounted for as many state programs as cocaine, meth, and heroine combined.  

Fifty percent (50%) of the issues handled by State Bar programs related to substance abuse and addiction, but thirty-three percent (33%) more were mental health related.  Of these mental health issues, almost half were depression (41%) and a quarter of these mental health issues (23%) were anxiety disorders.  See ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

To me, it is like leaving all the family assets in your house with everything unlocked.  Your firm is at risk when you fail to use common sense — basic situational awareness of what your lawyers are showing you.  Walk around and see what the signals are telling you in your very hallways.  Wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you?

This blog was originally posted on November 7 on the Lawyering for Law Firms blog. Click here to read the original entry. 

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Categories: Life/Work Balance

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Let It Rain - Women in the Law 2013

Posted on February 13, 2013 07:20 by Sarah E. Lovequist

As revealed by the National Association of Women Lawyers’ 2012 Survey, women are not credited as rainmakers at the same rates as men: “Almost half (46%) of all large firms report no women rainmakers among their top 10 business generators . . . women partners are less likely than men to receive credit for even a relatively modest book of business . . .” While business development can be a relatively straight-forward process, it is also arguably one of the trickiest areas for women to navigate. 

So how does one join this traditionally male-dominated conversation and hold one’s own? Fortunately, the first step is as easy as attending DRI’s Women in the Law Seminar, March 13-15, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. Marianne Trost is kicking off the seminar by leading a hands-on workshop that promises to help any female attorney hone her rainmaking skills so that she may stand toe-to-toe with male rainmakers. Additionally, DRI’s seminar offers sessions on practical skills from time management to selecting a favorable jury to delivering a killer cross-exam. And, of course, there will be plenty of time to network with and learn from fellow seminar attendees’ real life experiences. March is right around the corner, register today!

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Anyone who has viewed the viral video, “So You Want to Go to Law School” on YouTube may recall an older male attorney describing one of the more mundane aspects of the practice of law (e.g., responding to Requests for Admissions created solely to confuse you) to an earnest young woman considering going to law school. Despite the male attorney's ominous warnings, the female protagonist in the video, Carrie-Ann Fox, nonetheless decides to go to a fictitious law school and even spawns a sequel YouTube video. Unfortunately, many women are making a different decision—to not go to law school. As a result, this could be a critical time for law firms to make the practice of law more "friendly" to women.

The data provided in a recent Catalyst study illustrates this fact. (Catalyst’s “Women in Law in the U.S.” (2011).) Catalyst is not alone in reporting this trend—according to the ABA, in the 2009 to 2010 class, women made up 47.2 percent of J.D. Students. (American Bar Association, “Enrollment and Degrees Awarded 1963-2010.") This is a noticeable change from 1993, when women comprised 50.4 percent of J.D. students. (American Bar Association, “First Year and Total J.D. Enrollment by Gender 1947 – 2010.”)

Several factors are likely to blame for the erosion of female law school applicants—the economy, related concerns about student loan debt, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of women in the upper echelons of law firms and corporate law departments. This stalled advancement coupled with the perception that law school may not be a good investment in these trying economic times could contribute to a long-term setback for women in the profession. These troubling statistics have certainly been noted by the media—the New York Times, for example, published a piece last year documenting the progress of women in the law in light of the 30th anniversary of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor hearing her first case on the United States Supreme Court. (Editorial. "The Glass Ceiling." New York Times on the Web, 8 Oct. 2011. 5 April 2012.) The editorial noted that women with children are having the hardest time staying in the profession, and are half as likely to be hired as women without children.

In 2010, women made up 31.5 percent of all lawyers. (Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 11: Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, S*x, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity,” Annual Averages 2010 (2011).) However, 11 percent of the largest law firms in the United States have no women on their governing committees. (National Association of Women Lawyers and The NAWL Foundation, Report of the Sixth Annual National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms (October 2011). At many firms, female partners do not play a major role in business development. Indeed, women partners account for only 16 percent of those partners receiving credit for having $500,000 or more business at law firms. (Id.)

After assessing the amount of time, effort, and money required to complete law school and make partner at a law firm, some women may determine that it is not worth the sacrifice, if being partner does not give them actual power relative to firm business decisions. In a survey of the 50 best law firms for women, only a fraction of the decision makers were women: 10 percent of firm chairpersons were women; 2 percent of the firms had women managing partners; 19 percent of the equity partners were women; and 28 percent of the non-equity partners were women. (NAFE and Flex-Time Lawyers, “Executive Summary,” Best Law Firms for Women 2011 (2011).)

This lack of power translates into cold hard dollars, as women lawyers made approximately 77 percent of male lawyers' salaries in 2010. (Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 39: Median Weekly Earnings of Full-time Wage and Salary Workers by Detailed Occupation and S*x,” Annual Averages 2010 (2011).) This lesser income, combined with the demands facing women at home, may not make the practice of law as appealing to females who may feel that they are choosing between a family life and a successful law practice. One study found that nearly half as many male lawyers as women lawyers (44 percent vs. 84 percent) have a spouse that is employed full-time. (Catalyst, Women in Law: Making the Case (2001).) So while top male lawyers may have spouses who do not work full-time, if at all, many female lawyers' spouses work full-time, and the demands of both spouses working is particularly hard on these families.

What do these declining enrollment figures mean for the future practice of law? A decreasing number of females entering law school will undoubtedly result in fewer female attorneys in the coming years. And, that could result in even fewer women in leadership positions within firms, which may further perpetuate the enrollment trend.

What can law firms do to encourage women to enroll in and complete law school? Law firms should consider instituting female-friendly work practices, such as generous maternity leave, flex-time, and telecommuting ability. These business decisions may lead to increased productivity and lower turnover rates. What goes without saying is the impact of technology on the modern lawyer's life. Gone are the days of being “off-the-clock.” The BlackBerry, iPhone, and other PDAs have contributed to a whole new level of accessibility for most attorneys, particularly those who communicate with clients. Although there are some drawbacks to the norm of around-the-clock communication, it has ushered in a new age of flexibility for attorneys who do not have to be in their office to review e-mails, work documents, and participate in telephone conferences. These advancements have benefited female practitioners to the extent that they allow for some of the same work to be done from home, which is particularly helpful for those with family obligations.

Notwithstanding the percentage reduction in law school enrollment, there are still a number of organizations focused on advancing women in the profession. Groups like DRI's Women in the Law Committee (WITL), the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), and the National Association of Women and Minority Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) have undertaken noteworthy work aimed at ensuring the success of women both in law school and in private practice. The WITL, for instance, holds an annual Sharing Success Seminar, n/k/a Women in the Law Seminar, which provides an opportunity for female attorneys to discuss tried and true methods aimed at achieving success in and outside of the courtroom. NAWL has similar initiatives like the continuing series, “Taking Charge of Your Career,” designed to provide the skills and information that women lawyers need to reach leadership levels in their practice settings. These efforts will hopefully cause law firms to pay closer attention to these important issues moving forward in order to counteract the enrollment decline and ensure diversity in future generations of attorneys to come.

Michele Hale DeShazo is senior counsel with the New Orleans office of Kuchler Polk Schell Weiner & Richeson LLC, in which four of the firm's five founding partners are women. Her practice is entirely devoted to litigation, including environmental, toxic tort, product liability and general civil defense litigation.

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Media strategy and the tips and tactics of developing female organizational power were the big topics of the morning at this year's DRI Sharing Success seminar in sunny Scottsdale at the Westin Kierland Resort.  The morning started off with TV and radio personality, Mary Katherine Ham.  She regularly defends her political opinions on her morning radio program, The Morning Majority, and against Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor.  Her presentation focused on finding our voice and crafting our message and defense in the media - be it in the press, on tv, or on the Internet at large through social media.  Enlightening and refreshing and a great start to the morning. 

Linda Bray Chanow from the Center for Women in the Law spoke next and offered a very interactive discussion on the perceptions of female power in business and law. Simply by starting with a classic scenario we've all seen in our professional careers,  attendees peppered Ms. Chanow with questions and comments. Overall an incredibly collaborative and insightful presentation that will surely lead to continued discussions amongst all the attendees during the rest of the seminar.  Definitely excited to see what the rest of day has to offer.  

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DRI Thanks Our Bloggers and Readers

Posted on December 19, 2011 01:46 by Admin

 

During this holiday season, DRI would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our bloggers and readers for 2011.

Postings on the DRI Blog were provided by DRI members representing nearly every substantive law committee and practice area! Your efforts have provided quality content and food for thought for your fellow DRI members and the legal community.  

We would also like to thank our officers, board of directors and committee leaders, as well as their companies and firms. The time and effort you sacrifice on behalf of DRI are greatly appreciated.  We look forward to working with all of you in the coming year!

Look for new content on the DRI Blog beginning on January 3, 2012.

Thanks again to all of you and we wish you a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

 

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I got an e-mail the other day telling me that I should read an article published by the ABA.  Normally I ignore such messages, but this one caught my eye.  The title of the article was “Not One Legal Secretary Preferred Working with Women Lawyers.”  Hummm.  I thought.  So I read it.

On Friday, October 28, 2011 the ABA Journal posted this article in their online content. 

This article is based on a study called “If you become his second wife, you are a fool: Shifting paradigms of the roles, perceptions, and working conditions of legal secretaries in large law firms.”  The full study is available at this link. The problem is that the ABA’s article, in my opinion, is a complete mischaracterization of the study.

On October 31, 2011, a group of women attorneys including the President of California Women Lawyers, Georgia Black Women Lawyers, and others had a phone conference with ABA Editor, Allen Pusey.  Those on the call ultimately demanded an apology and a retraction.  At the time of this writing, neither has happened.

On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Forbes published a piece about women demanding an apology from the ABA.  

Two days later, on Friday, November 4, 2011, the ABA ran another article, basically saying the original article did women lawyers a favor by pointing to the fact we are discriminated against, and we don’t like to talk about it, so we got angry.  That is my summary. Read it and decide for yourself.

I am not a member of the ABA.  I dropped my membership and I am glad I did.  I think both articles should be retracted immediately.  The title of the initial article is inaccurate.  The study actually states that 47 percent of those surveyed had no opinion as to whether they preferred to work for male or female partners or associates.  With almost half of survey respondents expressing no opinion, it is a distortion of the results to say that “not one” legal secretary preferred working with women partners.

Additionally, the article gives the impression that the survey heavily emphasized the issue of legal secretaries working with women partners.  Such a survey on its face is insulting and feeds into gender stereotypes.  We do not (and should not) read about surveys regarding working with partners of particular religious affiliations, ethnicities, or sexual orientations.  While the study surveyed legal secretaries on a wide range of issues, two thirds of the ABA article focused on only one issue, secretaries working with women partners.  By strongly focusing on the survey results dealing with legal secretaries working with women lawyers, the article misrepresents the substance of the underlying study.  It gives disproportionate attention to but one of many issues addressed and in so doing continues to perpetuate negative stereotypes of women lawyers.  

Legal secretaries play an important role in law firms, and surveying how that role has evolved during the past 50 years is a worthwhile endeavor.  The ABA Journal’s emphasis on one aspect of that study does a disservice to legal secretaries as well as the women lawyers with whom they work.  I hope you will join me in writing to that organization asking for a retraction and apology. If you are interested in more background information or the steps certain women lawyers groups are taking, please let me know.  I am proud to be a DRI woman and I am proud to be on its Women in the Law Committee.

Laurie K Miller with the Charleston, West Virginia firm of Jackson Kelly PLLC    Teresa M. Beck is with Lincoln Gustafson & Cercos LLP in their San Diego, California.
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E-Books v Paper Books in the Legal Community

Posted on October 3, 2011 02:28 by Chad Godwin

The legal community is beginning to take notice of the trend of moving away from paper and toward eBooks. Attorney Jean P. O'Grady recently blogged on the topic.  Ms. O’Grady concluded that the eBook model is a poor fit for the legal community.  

I am not sure that any type of legal publication needs to converted to an eBook format.  It is rare that I look to a hard copy of any legal authority.  Most law firms provide their attorneys with access to Westlaw or Lexis.  There are also a number of competitors that appear to be gaining a foothold, such as Loislaw, The National Law Library, Quicklaw America, Law.net and Versus Law.  Westlaw and Lexis, along with similar on-line models, provide subscription-based services that allow users to include access to the materials that they view most frequently, with pay-per-incident access to the materials that are needed on occasion.  These services provide access to virtually all mainstream legal authorities, including treatises and law review articles.  Moreover, they provide powerful search engines to access content in a quick and efficient manner.  Therefore, the majority of the legal community already has access to electronic information.  To the extent that lawyers are seeking portable access to that information, Westlaw created an application called Westlaw Next, which is available on the iPad.  Similarly, Lexis created iPad and iPhone applications that allow its users to access mobile content.    It makes more sense to let internet and/or cloud-based services compile and update legal resources than to purchase separate copies that have to be stored locally.  I agree with Ms. O’Grady and don’t see a big future for traditional eBooks in the legal industry.
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A Little Perspective

Posted on September 1, 2010 02:42 by Stacy Moon

Litigators tend to be type-A, highly-stressed sort of people.  The omission of a document in discovery is usually a source of a great deal of activity and is considered important.  Many of our clients are fighting over their livelihoods, or payments for work they did.  And they may (or may not) be entitled to recover.  We generally entered this profession because we enjoy a good argument and a good puzzle, but sometimes we lose a bit of perspective.

A little over six years ago, on Labor Day, I learned a second cousin of mine serving in the Illinois National Guard had been killed in Iraq.  At the time, I was in a mini-feud with an attorney over the scheduling of depositions; who was going to go first; which office would have the depositions – you know the entire scheme.  And it seemed very important until I received that telephone call.  Two weeks later (as Hurricane Ivan was bearing down on Alabama), we learned the funeral would be that Friday.  Having finally gotten everyone locked in for depositions on Friday, I informed my family I could not attend the funeral of our fallen cousin – one of a group of kids we called the “midget mafia” and who my grandparents babysat regularly.  I still regret that decision.  As a result of Hurricane Ivan, the other attorneys’ office did not have power that Friday, and (strangely enough) he refused to go forward with the depositions in my home (where I did have power).  Rather than attend and take an important deposition, I pointlessly missed the funeral and accomplished nothing that day in the office.

I write this as we approach the sixth anniversary of his death (and of Hurricane Ivan, for that matter), and I hope that I have learned some perspective from that event.  Being an attorney is an honorable profession, and our clients rely on us for ardent advocacy.  And we provide that advocacy.  But this profession, nor any other, should not be allowed to completely consume our lives.  Depositions can and should be rescheduled when appropriate.

At the Annual Meeting this year in San Diego, Judge Karon Bowdre will be presenting “The Amazing Juristas,” regarding the juggling act we all perform – some of us with more success than others.  I hope all of you – young lawyers and more seasoned lawyers – will attend both the DRI 2010 Annual Meeting (.pdf) and the session.  It is simply too easy to lose perspective of our entire lives as we engage in daily battles with the other side, and hopefully, Judge Bowdre’s thoughts will help us regain or maintain the proper perspective.

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Categories: Annual Meeting | Life/Work Balance

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