Monthly Archives: October 2009

Quarles & Brady hosts trade delegation

In an effort to promote international business cooperation, Quarles & Brady hosted this week a trade delegation from Yibin, China.  The delegation is organized by the US-China Exchange Association, Chengdu Office, and includes business leaders and high ranking government officials.

Member of the delegation included: the vice mayor of Yibin City, Sichuan Province (GDP ranked No. 3 in the Sichuan Province); the director of Yibin Economic & Development Committee; the vice director of Yibin Administration of Work Safety; the vice director of Yibin Foreign Affairs Office; and the director of Chengdu Office, Bureau of Environmental Protection, City of Panzhi Hua.

Other members of the delegation included the president of Yibin State-Owned Enterprises and the president of Yibin Grace Group, a $560 million a year producer of viscose filament yarn, paper manufacturer, and real estate concern. Yibin Grace Group is also actively pursing investment projects in the U.S to expand its global footprint.

Partner Douglas Tucker,  chairman of the China law group at Quarles & Brady, said the firm has a good relationship with the city of Yibin, Sichuan Province. When people from the city said they were planning to visit the U.S. to investigate expanding into this country, the firm suggested they visit Chicago and helped show them around, Tucker said.

During their tour they went to such places as the Art Institute and Lincoln Park, he said. They also met different potential business connections.

He said it’s very important to the Chinese that they have good advisors because they are leery of the American legal system and American lawyers. What fasciliates business transactions is having good legal counsel that are willing to look out for them, he said. The firm has worked to understand their customs, and traditions so it can best serve them.

“For Quarles & Brady and any law firm trying to expand their business in China, business relationships are everything to [Chinese clients],” he said.

“We are showing them the same level of hospitality that they show to us when we are in China,” Tucker said. “That is the type of thing that builds relationships.”

Having strong relationships with other countries means law firms can better serve their American clients that have business outside the United States, he said.

“On the flip side the world is changing,” he said. “When I was growing up China was a poor country. These days capitalization flows two ways. It may be flowing one way, China to the U.S. It would be a big loss to not serve our Chinese clients.”

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Starting with the resume

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist.

For my next blog, I decided to shift  gears and take you back to basics.  I didn’t have the opportunity to do this initially because my piece on interviewing was duplicated from an event I participated in for “Attorneys in Transition.”

For me, the place to start is a good understanding of the resume.  A resume is simply a brief, descriptive summary of your career-related life experiences, expertise, and accomplishments.  There are two types of resumes to choose from:  The reverse-chronological resume and the functional resume.

This will be part one of a two-part series on resumes.

The reverse chronological resume is the most popular type used today.  A reverse chronological resume summarizes a potential candidate’s professional experience in reverse chronological order, generally covering the last 10 years.  They are most effective when past work experiences are similar to the current career preference and search.

In using this format, please begin with a robust and articulate career summary.  This kind of summary should run no longer than 100 words and must describe your industry, experience, expertise, personal strengths, any distinctive qualities, and education.  Use this opportunity to excite the reader, encouraging him/her to read further  to get to know you better.  A career summary might look like this:

“Articulate, highly ethical, and persuasive attorney with 20-plus years experience in corporate/international banking law serving the financial services industry globally.  A unique combination of high-tech training and experience in international business and transactional legal experience in more than 25 countries.  A persuasive individual possesses strong negotiating skills, oral and written communication skills, as well as I.T. and telecommunications experience.  A history of successfully reducing legal expenses, including the use of appropriate insurance and risk-management measures.  Demonstrated experience in managing outside counsel in litigation matters in hundreds of cases.  Resourceful with the ability to assess all issues to adequately protect clients and complete projects producing professional results while adhering to rigid deadlines. Fluent in Spanish and French.”

The main body of the document is the professional experience section.  This section should be formatted as follows:

• Begin with your current or most recent position.  Your title, company, address, and dates of employment (in margin)

• List core responsibilities.  These are the responsibilities you were hired to perform.  Always detail in the present tense.

• Accomplishments.  Should play off the core responsibilities using the past tense.  Always quantify using a $, %, or #.  A slick approach is to use the words “resulted in …” after the initial statement and before the quantity expressed.

There is a great temptation to list every job ad nauseam all the way back to high school.  Please don’t do that.  No one cares how successful you were as a lifeguard at summer camp or a waitress in college.  Instead, go back and detail only 10 years.  Beyond 10 years, simply list the position title, company, address and dates of employment.  Underline this and do not indicate core responsibilities or accomplishments.

Contrary to what most people think, unless you are a new graduate, detail your educational credentials at the end of the resume.  Please do not share your grade-point average.   Again, no one cares.  Unless of course, you graduated cum laude from  Harvard, Yale, USC, etc … you get my point, right?

Finally, you can end by listing any significant professional associations, all legal licenses, and military service.  Do not list seminar or conference attendance.

A few more things:

• No reference to age, marital status, gender, race, or health.

• NEVER include a picture of yourself.

• No fraternity listings.

See you next week!

Reed Smith launches competency-based program

Reed Smith  announced this week the launch of CareeRS, a  competency-based program focused on developing the talent of its personnel.

CareeRS will be rolled out across Reed Smith offices around the world, effective immediately. The first phase of the roll-out will be to associates, and the second phase to support staff next year.

The competency model provides a “road map” detailing the specific skills required at each level. Under the new program, associates are no longer classified by year, but by competency level — junior, mid-level, or senior.

The Reed Smith competency model covers four core areas — legal skills, citizenship, business skills, and clients, with a focus on nine core competencies.  Among other things, the core competencies address the mastery of fundamental legal skills, support of the firm’s culture, demonstration of leadership and business skills, and  understanding and effectively managing clients’ needs.

Nicky Dingemans, Reed Smith’s global chief people officer, said the program was developed before  the recession and it is not in response to the changing economic situation. Discussion and planning started about 18 months ago in an effort to attract, develop, and retain the best talent, Dingemans said.

“We feel it’s crucially important to have a program like that that is competency-based and focused on developing the kinds of lawyers our clients are increasingly demanding, which is not lawyers who only have great legal skills and acumen, but lawyers that are well-rounded,” she said.

She said this program will meet clients’ needs and keep associates engaged, motivated, and empowered.

“They understand what is required of them,” Dingemans said. “We have given them a road map for development.”

Training and other development opportunities are already widely available firmwide through Reed Smith University, which  offers 140 in-house courses annually that are designed to enable the firm’s lawyers to expand and extend their knowledge and skills.  Associates also have a range of other development opportunities through pro bono work, participation in client and intra-firm secondments, online resources, and mentoring and coaching, among others.

CareeRS will expand the training and development options with courses and other opportunities mapped to the nine core competencies, and it will also include three “academies,” one for each associate level.

Job Search Strategies: What would you say?

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

Things are not getting any easier for lawyers in transition.  For those looking for work, the news is continues to be disheartening.  While we are not seeing the mass layoffs of a few months ago, there is an insidious trickle of layoffs, 10 or 12 associates here, five or six associates there.  For those contemplating a solo practice, the idea of finding paying clients is a source of anxiety.

Simultaneously, many people are considering a legal career and are applying to law schools, according to some sources, in unprecedented numbers.  Unfazed by the number of lawyers out of work, aspiring attorneys are studying to take LSATs, signing up for the test, lining up financial aid and in general actively starting down the road to becoming lawyers.

All of us practicing attorneys come across these people in our daily lives.  These would-be lawyers ask us for advice.  So, what would you say to these people?

I was curious about this phenomenon and so I have been conducting an informal poll among my colleagues.  And the results of my poll are both surprising and surprisingly consistent.

Almost unanimously, the lawyers I asked answered with a resounding, “Yes, law school is a great idea!” I know, you are shocked, so was I.  I expected some positive responses, but I also expected just as many lawyers to exclaim,  “Are you crazy, have you read the news lately?”

Those I asked did have qualifications to their affirmative answers, but their positive attitude reaffirmed my profound love of the profession and my steadfast belief that I picked the right career, in spite of the current circumstances.

This group of lawyers, all hit hard by the financial downturn, were still extremely committed to our profession, still love the law and wouldn’t do anything differently regarding their careers.  The economy will rebound at some point, we will all still be lawyers and will emerge out of this downturn to continue our work.  I am not sure there are many other professions where you would get the same response.

One more thought.  I think the current economic difficulties are making people more sympathetic toward lawyers.  A person I met at a fundraiser told me that she doesn’t hate lawyers so much any more in view of what they are going through in this economy.  Additionally, she found a lawyer that did wonderful work for her and she is now a fan.

And, finally, I realized that I have not heard a single lawyer joke in the last year, have you?  Now, that’s progress.


Q & A with Michael Muczynski

Michael Muczynski is a partner at Marshall Gerstein & Borun.  He’s been practicing for 11 years with experience in both IP litigation and patent prosecution. His focus is on pharmaceuticals and other chemical industries.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

I really enjoy solving problems.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked to take things apart to figure out how they work, and then fix them or improve them.  So, for me, the most interesting parts of my practice are the big challenges.  I like to find a way to get something done when others think that it’s impossible.  Often, that means digging into the facts to develop an argument for patentability of an invention that really convinces the Patent Office.  Another side to the coin is in preventing problems.  So, for example, I like thinking steps ahead like in a chess game when drafting a patent application to find all the ways it might be attacked during prosecution or enforcement, and then eliminate those problems or build in defenses.

What makes a good lawyer?

I think a good patent lawyer has to have a combination of three essential qualities.  First, is a good technical education and solid understanding of the science involved in the invention.  The clients and inventors we work with really do a great job of explaining their inventions to us, but without having the appropriate technical base to build upon so many opportunities could be lost.  I know that we add value to protecting and enforcing inventions, for example, by being able to collaborate with inventors to improve the breadth of a patent application and spot weaknesses.  Second, is a thorough understanding of the law, and taking the time to keep up with developments in case law.  A good lawyer is also a legal scholar.  Third, is the ability to creatively combine the technical aspects of the issues we’re faced with and the principles of law to find solutions for our clients that improve their bottom line.

What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?

There are two big legal issue in the news right now that will affect our clients.  First is the Supreme Court’s decision to review the the Bilski v. Doll decision from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  The issue there is whether method inventions need to be associated with a machine or some transformation of matter in order to be patent-eligible subject matter.  The invention at issue is a so-called “business method” that involves a series of steps for hedging risk in commodities trading, but the decision will have implications for many other industries such as software and even biotechnology.  For example, under one legal theory a method of diagnosing a disease would not be patent-eligible subject matter because the novel step would involve a mental step of correlation (e.g., between a discovered property and a patient’s blood test results).  The inability to patent such an invention removes the financial incentive for doing that kind of research.  This could be a serious detriment to cancer treatment, for example, where early detection can make the difference in patient survival.

The second issue is the debate in Congress about so-called “follow-on biologics,” or generic versions of biotechnology drugs (drugs produced using living organisms).  Congress will need to balance the the economic advantages of allowing generic biologics with incentives to biotechnology companies for continuing to develop new therapies, while at the same time taking into consideration unique safety and efficacy considerations involved with generic biologics.

The art of networking — part two

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist. She will periodically answer questions that can help lawyers get that next position.

The bottom line:  It’s all about full-contact networking!

• Never fail to get into the office of anyone who  is mentioned to you.

• Never depart with less than three new names.

• Never leave follow-up solely in the hands of the person you just saw.  Always keep the ball in your court!

• Remember, never try to reschedule a repeat performance with this networking contact — unless one of his or her leads pans out and you would benefit from this person’s continued guidance.

• When the dust settles and you have your great job as a result of this person’s referral, let’s just say more than a thank-you note is required.

Should I work with a recruiter?

Why not?  We already know that you are better off getting to the employer or law firm on your own, but if you haven’t landed a job yet, I encourage you to work with anyone who will extend the hand of friendship to you.  It is extremely important to understand that as a job candidate, you NEVER pay a fee for anyone to get you a job.  All fees are the responsibility of the hiring organization.

If you get far enough into the process with a  recruiter, you must in good conscience pursue every opportunity only through the recruiter who introduced you to the professional opportunity.  If you try to go around the recruiter, you risk falling out of favor with the prospective employer.  Why?  It is because you didn’t respect this process.  If you are willing to disrespect this process, the employer may project that you would be willing to disrespect processes within the organization or partnership.

If a recruiter calls you with an opportunity and you are not interested, the polite response is, “No, thank you. I would prefer to find my own opportunities.”  Realize that recruiters will call you with an opportunity without revealing the name of the corporation or partnership until you are scheduled for an interview.  So if you decline to work with a recruiter, you may never know who he or she was a recruiter for.

To help you understand the  types of recruiters out there, I offer the following:

Internal recruiters

Internal recruiters are members within a company or firm who typically work in human resources. They are multi-functional serving in an HR general role — negotiating, hiring, recruiting or in a specific role of recruiting.  They tend to be either permanent employees or hired contractors.

Executive search recruiters

Retained search

High-end executive search firms get a retainer (up-front fee) to perform a specific search for a company officer or other senior executive position. Typically, retained searches tend to be for positions that pay upward of $100,000 and often far more.
Retained recruiters work for the organizations that  are their clients, not for job candidates seeking employment.

Delimited search

An additional aspect of the executive search is the delimited search, which is similar to the retained search, although there are distinct differences.

Like retainer firms, delimited search firms expect an initial fee before engagement of the search.  However, delimited search contracts require a date set forth by both parties for when the project must be completed, or the fee is refunded.  This is becoming a popular tool today.

Pro Bono Week

The Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Foundation will sponsor Chicago’s Fifth Annual Pro Bono Week from Oct.  26 to 30.

It is chaired by Jesse H. Ruiz of Drinker Biddle & Reath and Barry C. Taylor of Equip for Equality.

The week will  honor lawyers’ pro bono efforts and educate the public and  legal community about how these lawyers are improving the lives of the less fortunate, according to the organizations.

“I hope lawyers understand that it is a great week to celebrate all the contributions pro bono attorneys do to help the less fortunate in our community,” said Kelly A. Tautges, director of pro bono at the CBF. “It also offers attorneys who are already active and those considering doing it for the first time to get involved.”

In the Chicago area there are only about 300 legal aid attorneys to serve the more than 1 million people who  qualify for these services, Tautges said.

“We know more people get turned away for legal aid than actually get it because of funding. … Pro bono attorneys help and supplement the work in areas where they are needed,” she said.

The week will include a pro bono breakfast with Illinois judges, at 8 a.m. Oct. 27 at Drinker Biddle & Reath, 191 N. Wacker Drive. RSVP for the complimentary event at http://www.chicagbar.org (under CLE) or (312) 554-2032.

MCLE Programs at the CBA:

• An introduction to representing low-income individuals and families that face a tax controversy with the IRS (Oct. 28, 3 to 6 p.m., complimentary)

• An introduction to forms of relief from a criminal record —  expungement, sealing and pardons (Oct. 30, 9 a.m. to noon, complimentary)

In the spirit of Pro Bono Week, attendees are expected to accept a pro bono case within the next six months of attending a complimentary CLE. Register at http://www.chicagobar.org (under CLE) or (312) 554-2056.

There will also be the 16th Annual CBA Young Lawyers Section Pro Bono and Community Service Fair. From 5 to 7 p.m.  Oct. 29, meet with representatives from more than 40 of Chicago’s legal aid, pro bono, and community service organizations. Refreshments will be served.

The fair is co-sponsored by the CBF, Exelon, Kirkland & Ellis, and the Public Interest Law Initiative. The event is hosted at Kirkland & Ellis, 300 N. LaSalle St., Chicago. RSVP to yls@chicagobar.org by Oct. 23. A list of participating organizations can be found at http://www.chicagobar.org.