Monthly Archives: December 2009

So you got that job offer?

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

You have worked hard, aced all interviews and now you get the job offer and begin to think you are sitting in the “cat-bird’s seat.”  Not so fast!  If you have been engaged in the proactive job search, the urge is to accept the job offer right on the spot.  I would encourage you to not.

While the offer is being extended to you, your primary and only responsibility is to listen carefully and take notes.  Once all the details have been communicated, ask the HR person or hiring manager if you could repeat back the specifics of the offer as you heard them.  Be very clear.  Ask any questions that have come up for you.  If the compensation is in keeping with your expectations (because you have done all your research, and understand the value of the position you are interviewing for), thank the person for the offer   If the compensation is insulting, you can say, “the money is disappointing.”  Ask about signing bonuses, and relocation costs, if your new job is in another city – your new employer may be willing to pick up the tab.

As a coach, I recommend my clients weigh the pros and cons before accepting the offer. Think about the offer as a whole, and not just in a paycheck sense. If your prospective employer refuses and will not budge, see if you can live with the original offer.  If you can’t, you may need to start looking elsewhere.  If the company falls short in one area, see if there are areas that exceed your expectations.

Now ask if you can have two business days to review the offer.  If you are pushed to make a decision on the spot, do your best to avoid having to commit.  If your offer is complicated (i.e. stock options, variable vacation and benefits, etc.), you will need to take time to carefully review.

I offer this brief checklist

Job Offer Checklist —

  • Job Content – What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
  • Salary – Please note this is base.
  • Benefits
  • Compensation – This is the sum total of salary and benefits.
  • Hours/ Schedule
  • Flexibility
  • Location – If you work from home, do you have an efficient set-up that is paid for by the company?
  • Work Environment – Do you have an office or a cubicle?
  • Company Culture
  • Growth – Do they do succession planning?
  • Travel – Will you have a company credit card or will you have to use your own?  If you use your own, how long before reimbursement?

When it comes time to accepting the position, please confirm the offer in writing, e-mail and hard cover, incorporating the following points:

  • Thanks and appreciation for the opportunity
  • Written acceptance of the job offer
  • The terms and conditions of employment (salary, benefits)
  • Starting date of employment

One last note:  No matter how long your job search has taken, care enough about yourself to take a couple of weeks off to clear the cob-webs out of your head, to re-energize your body, mind, heart and soul, and get excited about your new career opportunity!  Good luck!

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Q & A with Samuel Levine

Samuel Levine, a partner at Arnstein & Lehr, has been practicing for over 25 years.  He is a partner in the litigation group and co-chair of the firm’s commercial solutions group, which offers businesses wide ranging legal advice across many disciplines geared to distress in the commercial and residential markets.  He is also a member of the firm’s Construction Group.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

The most interesting part of my practice is its variety.  One day I am in court on trial in a complicated mortgage foreclosure case.  The next day I am in the office writing a brief in a complex construction case.  One minute I am speaking with a banker about protecting his or her bank’s collateral.  The next minute I am in conference with a guarantor of a note facing a large judgment.  Each day presents a different opportunity and challenge.

What makes a good lawyer?

Good lawyering is paying attention to detail without losing sight of the big picture.  Litigation today requires more and more thoroughness  however it is easy not to see the forest from the trees.  It is important to focus on the ultimate objective and keep the focus on our clients’ needs.  We need to be more than just a lawyer to a client and also serve as a trusted advisor.

The practice of law can also be consuming.  We deal on a daily basis with clients’ hopes, fears and frustration.  It is important for lawyers to keep balance in our lives and maintain interests outside of law.

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

The biggest legal news is the recession.  It has impacted both our clients and the profession.  Clients are more focused than ever on the value of their legal spend, which favors law firms providing mid-market value.

Clients are paying more attention to the specifics of their cases and are more willing to consider alternative dispute resolution.  Mediation, whether court annexed or voluntarily agreed to by the parties, is becoming more popular.  Clients are also beginning to consider arbitration as opposed to rushing to the court house.  Both mediation and arbitration involve different skills than attorneys are accustomed to in the court room. It is important for attorneys to adapt to this new environment for dispute resolution.

Job Search Strategies: Do good, help yourself

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

I am focused on end-of-year thoughts.  Or, more accurately, on planning for the coming year.  Thinking about new directions, weighing options, considering what tasks I did not accomplish as planned last year, which of those I should continue to pursue and which no longer seem worthwhile.  One of the tasks that still seems very important is to find a need or a cause and give some of my time and energy to it.

Week to week, most of us become consumed by our own big and small personal challenges, the daily to do’s, getting from here to there, both literally and with the challenges presented by “making a living.”  Time flies by.

I give a passing thought to volunteering at a soup kitchen, helping out at a free legal aid clinic, sending money to animal rescues.  The list is long but I do not choose and so nothing happens.

So I am determined that this will change in the coming year.  We all have talents to contribute and causes to advance and we need to do so.  Whether the cause is law related, which makes the most sense, since we have our training and knowledge to contribute, or some non-legal cause, the needs are there, more than ever.  For those of you who are already actively contributing, congratulations, keep at it.  For those of you who, like me, have not begun to devote time and energy to a worthy cause, now is the time.

A wonderful side benefit of pro bono work or other types of volunteer work is that it helps the giver/doer as well.  The summer after I graduated law school I wanted to spend time with my son before he started high school and I became embroiled in my law career. I chose Habitat for Humanity as a part-time volunteer opportunity and began wielding a hammer and a paintbrush helping to build homes.

I loved the work and soon was also able to contribute with title work, property liens, closings, etc.  Because I am fluent in Spanish, I was able to help the families with their property purchases in a language they understood, which vastly eased the process.  The experience was rewarding and, as a fortuitous byproduct, provided many networking opportunities.

That event, among others, led to my career as a real estate attorney.  Not only did I acquire useful experience, but the administrative manager who orchestrated the closings for Habitat for Humanity became a lifelong friend and my brilliant and invaluable legal assistant when I opened my own law office.

Life is full of amazing and serendipitous twists and turns (in among the bad stuff) and getting on the “contribution” wagon may lead to more exciting opportunities along the road.

Q & A with Bruce M. Gagala

Bruce M. Gagala, of Leydig, Voit & Mayer, has been practicing intellectual property law, with an emphasis in patent law, for over 32 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

Our clients, the complexity of the issues brought to us by them and how those issues relate to their businesses.  It is very rewarding to assist our clients achieve their goals and objectives.

What makes a good lawyer?

Objectivity, creativity, timeliness, resolve and the human element—a passion to help your client .

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

The economy, and the effect it has had on our clients.  For the past year clients have had to make difficult choices because of budget constraints.

Social Media: The New Face of Recruiting?

By Rodney L. Abstone II and Susan G. Marlow

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

With the emergence of social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and their user bases growing by the millions every few months, some people would think that a recruiter’s job just got much easier. Let’s face it, in a short amount of time, we usually can find anybody, whether it is on one of these social networking sites, a blog, discussion board, alumni list or elsewhere in cyberspace. In today’s world of information overload, talent is literally available in masses. Gone are the golden days of recruiting where we would hunt for days to find a suitable candidate, with a degree from a top university who worked in a niche field, for a top-notch law firm or company.

That needle in the haystack success that we celebrated after days or weeks of searching now will likely take us minutes, thanks to the rapid growth of social media and the hundreds (or thousands) of web sites. We must, however, take pause and ask ourselves – have our jobs gotten easier or much harder?

Never before in the history of recruiting have there been so many new tools for employers and recruiters to find and attract talent. Social media has taken the web by storm. To continue to be successful as recruiters, we must take notice. In this soft job market, employers are starting to sidestep recruiters and favor what they feel are faster and cheaper options. This change has become the emerging norm and it is unlikely to reverse itself.

Every once in awhile, something comes along that “threatens” to do away with recruiters. First, there were job boards. Now, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are supposedly the beginning of our demise. But hiring partners and managers still need recruiters to provide an invaluable service that no online technology can possibly provide. Managers need someone to sift through the junk they receive. While it is true that an assistant can visually screen through resumes and narrow down the selection process, it is also true that an experienced recruiter saves hiring personnel time by not just sorting resumes, but also by qualifying candidates through in-depth conversations and personal meetings.

Screening candidates goes far beyond the content of a resume. A good recruiter can disseminate what a hiring manager is really looking for and then find people who really are a fit. Although some social media can be useful, it does not replace the expertise of a seasoned recruiter. These are the benefits we must continually remind employers of through marketing and branding.

As employers capitalize on using social media, so should recruiters. The recruiting industry is often slow to take advantage of social media’s low-cost and free opportunities for recruiters to source candidates and brand themselves. Although more and more recruiters are starting to utilize social media, most still have not accepted this new (and likely permanent) wave of networking technology.  This is largely because they either do not have or are unwilling to make the time to understand how it works and can significantly benefit their business.

When you start connecting with candidates on websites such as LinkedIn, you reach a talent pool that your competitors do not. A good social media strategy also helps to build relationships by creating a dialogue with clients and candidates, and moves beyond the one-way conversation of traditional web sites. Recruiters should use the ever-growing social medium to build their brand (company and individual) and more effectively interact socially with potential candidates and clients.

When properly utilized, social media can create loyalty to your business and promote your brand through word-of-mouth and online networking. It is essential that you make the necessary effort to understand the different medias. Take note of how other businesses are using them effectively or ineffectively. And when you’re ready, know that it is okay to start small. But also know that it is imperative to start now. Change is inevitable and unless you are willing to adapt, your continued survival will change without you…but not for the better.

Rodney L. Abstone II is a Legal Executive & Staffing Consultant at CLS Legal Staffing in Chicago. He may be reached directly at (312) 251-2581 or at rabstone@clslegalstaffing.com.

Susan G. Marlow is in Enterprise Recruiting at Accenture HR BPO Services. She may be reached directly at (813) 265-9626 or at s.marlow@accenture.com.

Katten plays Santa to children

Katten Muchin Rosenman attorneys and staff have geared up for their usual strong holiday season support of their local communities. Around the firm’s offices, “elves” can be seen wrapping presents, assembling bikes and making donations of time, money and toys.

In Katten’s Chicago office, the firm’s annual “Letters to Santa” program with Direct Effect Charities has officially launched. Children from Chicago’s neediest schools, from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, write letters to Santa. Katten attorneys and staff answer the letters, granting their holiday wishes.

More than 95 percent of the children in the program live at or below poverty level, and the holiday gifts they receive from Katten are just a small way to brighten their season. Direct Effects has asked members of the firm to purchase gifts at the $25 price point and make an additional $5 donation to the charity to help defray the administrative costs of the program.

Rachel M. Vorbeck, a litigation partner at Katten, helps coordinate the firm’s involvement in the “Letters to Santa” program. This is her fourth year doing that, and since she started between 1,000 and 1,200 children have been helped.

“If you see some of the these letters from these kids, they are heart-breaking,” Vorbeck said. “These kids might otherwise be asking for anything in the world for Christmas, but they are asking for gloves and coats to keep them warm. … They always ask how Santa is doing. They send little paper drawings in. These are kids that don’t have anything to help themselves out of the situation they are in. If they don’t have gloves, hats and coats they just are cold.”

Vorbeck said she coordinates the program with Cathleen A. Booth, a corporate partner at Katten, and their assistants Dawn Sykes and Rosie Gradilla.

The importance of first impressions

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

Many of you never had to worry about managing anybody’s impression of you.  Many of you were hired into firms as a result of a successful internship or clerkship.  But now, the reality of your unemployment circumstance in many ways obliges you to pay attention to details in the past seemed unimportant.  Through the next couple of weeks, I will address a number of these issues which directly impact your job search.

Impression management – what is it?  Impression management is a process through which people try to control the impressions other people form of them. It is a goal-directed conscious or unconscious attempt to influence the perceptions of other people have about you, your qualifications, how you look, how you talk, how you dress, etc.

Please note:  the operative word here is control. You don’t have to worry about control if you are aware about general expectations during the interview process and prepare appropriately.  You will be good to go!

First impression is important; it can make the difference between job and no job.  Marketing experts use many effective techniques to get us to buy their client’s products.  You need to know these techniques so that you can apply them to yourself, which will enable to successfully sell yourself.

Consider yourself the product.  You are worth-while.  You know your strengths and weaknesses.  You have a great work ethic and you possess all the great qualities employers and firms are looking for in a new profession.

Package yourself as eye-pleasing as possible.  Yes, the uptown look probably gets the job every time.  Your competition also looks great, so it is imperative that you have the upper hand at all times.  Remember how vital that first impression is.

As an Executive Coach for professionals of all types, I can not tell you how often I see clients who have ill-fitting clothing; shoes that are not polished; dress shirts that are not starched with buttons missing; ties with spots; and women who have way too much jewelry, make-up or poorly groomed, unstylish hair.

I know too many of you, these things are not important.  The law is important and you are a good lawyer.  But, you can not get the job if you are not invited to the second round interview.  It is just that simple.  Even if you are invited for a firm or corporation that proclaims it is business casual, please show up in a suit and tie; or for women:  in a good looking business suit or a dress with a jacket.

I can not stress to you the importance of you making a good impression at every step of the interview process.  Years from now, as you have worked your way up the corporate ladder, and are a senior partner in an uptown firm — you can dress any way you want!  Until then, play the game and play to win!