Monthly Archives: December 2010

Say less, let the interviewer ask more questions

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Typical question:  Why are you here today?  Typical response:  “Well, I graduated from…and then I…and then I…” (you see where this goes).  Effective communication in the interview setting can be judged by the likelihood that the interviewer will not only remember you, but also like you.  Assume that the interviewer knows you meet the minimum job criteria or you wouldn’t be meeting.  The interview is your opportunity to express your personality and interest in making a commitment to the position.

Rambling on may distract the interviewer.  It may be really nice that you went to the same college or were in similar organizations; however, the niceties on the side do not highlight why you’re the best candidate for the position.  Instead of talking about the school in common, talk about what you learned there and why it made you a better lawyer.

How you answer questions may be indicative of how you interact at work.  Interviewers may have key positions at their firm and are tracking their billable time.  Getting right to the point first, shows people you can follow direction and produce a result.  If there is time to comment on the side and you keep it light, that is certainly ok.  Just try to keep to polite chit chat and not overwhelm your interviewer.

Let them ask you more questions.  By succinctly responding to your interviewer’s questions you may engage them to ask some follow up questions based on your discussion.  By asking them questions in return you may take the dialogue in new directions an interviewer may appreciate – I think we’ve all been told “That is a good question, and I’m glad you asked that…”  At the end of the conversation you should be the candidate who is qualified, competent, easy to talk to, and likeable.

Think of good follow-up questions – what you really want to know.  An astute candidate can tell when it’s appropriate to ask direct questions of an interviewer.  When responding to a very open-ended question, and if it naturally follows, volley a relevant question back to your interviewer.  If you have a burning question you want to ask and don’t want to be shy.  If the conversation has been friendly and your question seems appropriate (but the subject matter wasn’t covered in what you already discussed) then feel free to ask – these questions can cause the interviewer to remember you.

Have a closing statement prepared for your interview.  Remind the interviewer why you applied for the position.  It’s good to leave behind the impression that you are particularly interested in this specific offer, not just any position.  It is also helpful to identify your skills and identify where they are particularly complimentary to the job.

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Leveraging Your Reputation: PR 2.011

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

We started with Public Relations 1.0, the basics of PR and traditional, off-line methods for getting attention for your brand. Then we moved to Public Relations 2.0, when social media and an online-focus took over the scene. Now we come to Public Relations 2.011, a time of endless possibilities (and predictions) for PR in 2011 and beyond.

The legal public relations industry is definitely seeing its fair share of forecasts. Formal press releases have seemingly disappeared while social networks and real-time updates have become commonplace for law firms’ strategic-marketing plans. Consider these suggestions for your own legal marketing plan as we move into another decade.

Meeting the Man — or Woman — Behind the (Social) Media

Arranging meetings between attorneys and newspaper reporters or television news producers is not out-of-the-ordinary in this business. In fact, we very much encourage these meetings and try to make them happen as often as possible to establish relationships between reporters and informed and personable legal sources (you). But what about those reporters who only use social media platforms, such as legal bloggers? Because they are social media-centric, is face-time off the table? Not at all. There is a human attached to those typing fingers, and that blogger still needs quality sources, fresh content and new ideas. Think about the media in your social network. Identify the ones in the same city as you and reach out to suggest a face-to-face meeting.

Renewing the Focus on Crisis Communications and Reputation Management

YouTube videos can tally millions of views within hours of being uploaded, while one tweet from Rhode Island can be re-tweeted across all 50 states in less than 15 minutes. Now that the speed at which information is shared tops the speedometer, attorneys and law firms must be ever mindful of potential crises and their online and offline reputation. Especially with the emergence of Wikileaks this past year and a public demand for freedom of information, attorneys should be mindful of their legal documents and what to share with or guard from the public. A firm’s public relations professionals must be strategic counselors to determine what can go right and wrong in a matter of minutes, and become skilled at expecting the unexpected. Have a plan in place and you’ll be ahead in the race.

Taking the Daily or Weekly Temperature of Media Exposure

I’ve seen many firms who do not place much importance on the specific value of the exposure they receive. Rather, they only care that exposure WAS received. But no public relations effort can be valuable unless it can be measured. There’s a big difference between “warm” and “room temperature,” so make sure you measure your media to get hot – it can increase your firm’s website hits and even client count. Law firms and attorneys should expect their PR agencies to measure the value of all placements achieved and report the results each week. But first of all, it is important to determine the types of results that matter most to your firm—whether it is website visitors, Twitter followers, blog comments, LinkedIn connections, stories in print media or clients gained. Doing so early on makes it easier to assess the true value of your media exposure. And the forecast for 2011 – hot, hot, hot!

Out with the old and in with the new

Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.

Another year is wrapping up.  This is the time of year when we all reflect on the past 12 months and look forward to starting anew.  As you write your resolutions for the year, try to first focus on the things you’ve accomplished in 2010, then jot down the things you would like to change in 2011. Although New Year resolutions are cliché, there is something comforting about them.  We all have things we regret not doing.  When we write resolutions, we get excited about accomplishing the things we didn’t get around to doing the previous year.

When you are crafting your job search resolutions for 2011, think about things that didn’t work for you during the past year.  Did you apply to mostly online job postings and hear virtually nothing back?  Did you drop the ball when it came to following up on opportunities?  Did you get out and network enough? Perhaps next year you can make it a point to get out and meet more people.  Networking is a highly effective way to job search.  Through networking, a friend of mine was recently offered a job with a firm.

In 2011, don’t just say things like, “Well, I don’t know people so I’m not going to get the jobs.”  Instead, go meet people and show them how impressive you are.  This year I started a networking group for job seeking attorneys, and it has been a very fun way to connect with people.  Don’t forget about non-law networking events as well.  Remember, just because someone isn’t an attorney does not mean they do not have connections to attorneys.

Did you get practical legal experience this past year?  If not, think about taking a pro bono case in 2011.  There are tons of legal service organizations that would be happy to set you up with a client.  Working on pro bono cases is an excellent way to get your feet wet and gives you the opportunity to really help someone who needs you.  Another way to get hands-on experience is to do contract work or per diem work for an established attorney.  Working with another attorney often allows you to learn new areas of law.

If you are thinking about starting your own practice in 2011, look into seminars and CLEs that are geared towards solo practitioners.  I went to a CLE for solo practitioners the first week of January this year.  While everyone is taking a time-out during the holidays, you can be outlining the steps you will take to start your practice in the new year.  Sketch out a business plan or brainstorm some marketing ideas.  The earlier you start, the sooner you can get rolling.

If you start making plans for 2011, you will start the year off with a bang.  If you had a bad 2010, put it behind you and focus on the future.  Take care of yourselves.  This is Tiffany Farber signing out until 2011.

Job Search Strategies: annual review and finale

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

The end of the year is a perfect time to do an audit of your job search activities. Here are some questions that might help to frame your inquiry. What has worked, what hasn’t, why? Do you need equipment other than what you have to conduct the most effective search? Are there pro bono opportunities you should contribute to? Are there promising contacts you haven’t reached out to, why not? Do you need to spend some money on a coach or on going back to school?

The more difficult audit is the emotional one. How are you feeling about the job search? Are you filled with high energy? Have you given up? What do you need to regain your determination? Are there options that you are not considering, for what valid reasons? Are you super excited about some option and need to focus on that?

Come up with your own questions, as though you were a disinterested auditor, and then examine your answers and emotional responses. Your brand new 2011 plan should emerge from that analysis.

Be frank with yourself as you make your plan, don’t pretend that in 2011 you will be able to do certain things that you really tried but couldn’t do in 2010, unless the circumstances are different. Maybe you kept shooting for 20 contacts a week in 2010 and failed to meet that goal. What makes you think you’ll be able to accomplish that in 2011? On the other hand, if you weren’t active enough in 2010, make sure you set more ambitious goals for this coming year.

Take any money you get for the holidays and use whatever of it you can to improve your chances of making a great initial impression, the first key step to landing a job. Get your hair done, buy a new coat, or a new briefcase, whatever you think needs attention to improve your image.

For your inner landscape, think about the people or things or events that motivate you and that refresh your energy. Plan to have more contact with those inspiring people, get more of the things that help you and attend more of those events.

Finale

As of this posting I am bowing out of this blog space, going on to other exciting endeavors, ceding the opportunity for someone else to share their thoughts, insights and techniques with you. I hope mine have been of some use to you and I wish you every good thing in the coming year.

Q&A with George McAndrews

George P. McAndrews is a founder of McAndrews, Held & Malloy.  His practice focus is on counseling clients regarding all phases of patent, trademark, antitrust, fiduciary duty, unfair competition, warranty, and other intellectual property law, and in litigating such cases, both complex and simple, involving mechanical, electrical and chemical subject matter, primarily before juries, in federal and state courts and before administrative bodies such as the International Trade Commission throughout the United States.

How has the practice of law changed from when you first got into it?

Over the years, the practice of patent law has really grown.  Firms today are even called to demonstrate international capabilities as well keep track of what’s happening in the United States.  We have more than our share of overseas clients, and I’ve been asked countless times why McAndrews, Held & Malloy hasn’t established offices in Bombay or Shanghai or Berlin.  But we have found efficiencies of expertise and resources operating as a single large firm in Chicago and that provides great benefits to our clients.  I’d say our approach is quite successful.

Since I entered the profession, the technology and inventions we deal with as patent attorneys has continually changed and become more complex.  We’ve moved from dealing with basic cell phones to dealing with nanotechnology.  As technology advances, patent attorneys need to be more skilled at presenting complex material in a way that is understandable to the jury and sometimes even the judge.

What advice do you have for law students?

I would encourage them to make sure they have entered law for the right reasons.  I’ve read a number of studies that report a surprisingly high proportion of lawyers in practice for 10 years or less believe they selected the wrong profession.  I think it’s because too many students went to law school because of how the job is portrayed in the media.  They saw the high-profile cases, the scandals, the media attention, and they thought that was what it meant to be a lawyer.  But in reality, the careers of real-life lawyers are often much less glamorous than those portrayed on TV and in movies.  However, that doesn’t mean this profession isn’t satisfying.  I knew I wanted to be a lawyer when I was five years old, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What are the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance?

There can be a lot of tension in an IP-focused firm, but I think we’ve been successful dealing with the necessity to balance our lives.  After a lengthy trial, when our attorneys have been working 16-hour days, we tell them to get the hell out of here!  We tell them to take a break, go on vacation, play with their kids and pay attention to their spouse.  We realize our attorneys have families and need to spend time with them.  We also have programs at our firm that allow our women attorneys with young kids to work part-time, or work from home a few days a week.

In addition, McAndrews was featured in “America’s Greatest Places to Work with a Law Degree” by Kimm Walton, J.D., and also was recently included in the Chicago Tribune’s Top Workplaces 2010.  Both listings were based upon employee opinions.   So even though we put in long hours and depending on the case, the occasional weekend, our attorneys are generally really happy here.  I’m very proud of that.

Attorneys in transition should embrace diversity

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition attract more clients and positive contacts when they are sensitive to diversity.  This holiday season we should shed our presumptions and ask people what, if anything, they celebrate during the holiday season.  Something I have learned working in international public relations is that you should never make assumptions based on stereotypes.  This also applies to attorneys in transition who miss opportunities if they limit their networks.

Diversity in the legal community has given rise to the establishments of bar associations and groups of individuals networking to share ideas with like-minded or cultural colleagues.  I was recently invited to The Advocate (Polish Bar Association) Holiday Meeting.  At the ISBA Midwinter Meeting Reception my friend invited me to attend the event and I was intrigued by the newsletter she e-mailed me containing information about the efforts within their bar association.

Here in Chicago we have so many cultural and ethnic neighborhoods and groups.  Being a friendly contact to one may be a bridge to others for referral and other business related benefits.  Now, I am not Polish, nor do I live in Jefferson Park; actually, I am Irish/Austrian/German and live in Lincoln Square – based on my professional experiences, ethnic and cultural bar associations are very open to share their groups with new members and guests.

As you embrace and become aware of different groups of people, be mindful to be neutral and friendly.  Working as a moderator for a diversity committee, I recently discussed stereotypes with a psychiatrist.  I learned about “micro-aggressions” which are the subtle, yet easily offensive, gestures and comments people make about others with whom they are not yet well acquainted.  Avoid micro-aggressions and presumptuous statements and actions when meeting new groups.  I am often surprised that what I had presumed was far from reality; don’t put yourself in a situation where you need to be corrected.

You can put this all into practice quite easily by remembering a key mantra: “Don’t assume anything.”  When we put our assumptions about people aside we are able to learn about the actual person, not their religion, choice of food or dress, and so on.  The global legal community is growing more diverse and it is in an attorney in transition’s best interests to not be closed off to valuable contacts and business sources based on diversity thoughts and judgments.

This holiday season, be good to your family and friends and remember that we are all in transition at several points in our lives whether that transition be work or personal.  Happy Holidays!

Inside Perspective: Balancing personal beliefs against corporate responsibility

Dan Harper is vice president, corporate counsel and secretary for Océ North America, Inc., a Canon Group Co.  He is also president of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. The views expressed herein are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the position or viewpoint of Océ North America Inc., Canon Inc. or any of the Océ or Canon companies.

As in-house lawyers, we must be fair-minded, we must be good examples, we must be sympathetic and empathetic.  For most of us, this is not so difficult.  However, we live in a complicated world.  The workplace is a very diverse place.  In-house lawyers encounter diversity in every form: cultural, color, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, ethnic, religious.  How do we ensure that “we all just get along” without compromising our personal beliefs and moving the business goals of the company forward, all while protecting the company from legal risk?

I know the general counsel of a very large public company.  On his desk is a Bible, on his wall is artwork with quotes from that Bible.  Personally, I feel very comfortable in his office because I share in his beliefs.  If I was an employee of this man, would I feel as comfortable if he had a Quran on his desk and Islamic art on his walls?  In such a case it would be the responsibility of that general counsel to make me feel just as comfortable under the latter circumstances as I do under the former.

How does one practice one’s personal beliefs without “offending” someone who believes differently?  In the corporate world, I do not wear my religion on my shirt sleeve, I do not preach or engage in religious discussions (unless invited to do so).  To behave otherwise would not only be counter to the manner in which I share my religion with others outside the office, but could also arguably create exposure for the company by evidencing a perceived (not actual) prejudice in my way of thinking.  Of all the offices within the corporate structure (except for perhaps Human Resources), the general counsel must demonstrate absolute freedom from any hint of bias for or against someone who is not like them.

On the other hand, should in-house counsel be relegated to a state of exhibiting absolutely no spiritual life whatsoever?  That would be quite unfair to those whose beliefs require them to reach out to others who may be spiritually in need.  How, then, do we as in-house counsel “practice” our religion?  Just like the business situations we encounter daily, we have to find fair compromise, balancing two of the most important aspects of our lives (work life and spiritual life), walking a fine line between the permissible and the impermissible.

In many cases, people in our position offer “testimony” to their faith through the way they live their lives, their interactions with clients, their daily practice of the principles they adhere to, their efforts at instilling those principles (not the religion) into the culture of the business.  In other words, through example.

There are so many issues dividing us today.  My hope is that although we have diverse viewpoints, we look to the common moral threads running through each of our belief systems and, within the workplace at least, apply them.  Make no mistake, I am not advocating that we act in a morally relative manner.  Rather, we must respect each other’s belief systems, hold true to our own principles,  and practice our own traditions while being sensitive to creating a perception of bias for or against one belief system or another.