Category Archives: Attorneys in Transition

Learn from your year in review

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR.

We all enjoy a good year in review to measure our progress. If you are an attorney growing your career, pause and ask yourself a few questions: (1) Do I know more law and procedure than I did last year? (2) Do I know more people than I did last year? (3) Did I make a mistake from which I gained experience? (4) Am I happy to work in law?

If you answer all these questions and know that, only you stand in control of your future, be happy and celebrate closing out another year!

(1)    In any career, we gain experience one day at a time, one project and one case at a time. In law, clients often present facts and issues that make us want to stop and scratch our head. I know a few attorneys who seem to be magnets for the bizarre cases involving some dynamic clients and the cast of characters they bring to the litigation table. Stop and identify some of these experiences and wonder how and when your experiences could be relevant later on. You just never know when some otherwise benign experiences could be important when you least expect.

(2)    I hope you were diligent in attending as many networking events as possible. The most unlikely events and groups can yield incredible returns. Who did you meet this year? Are you keeping in touch with this person? Did you connect with this person in your social networks? Did you drop them a note about an upcoming event? I hope that you can report that you know more people this year than before and if you cultivate relationships, you will be open for new opportunities.

(3)    Mistakes are assets. When you make mistakes, you can learn from them and value the experience points. The people who do everything correctly (so they think) miss the opportunity to grow from failure. Critical thinkers know what can go wrong if they already experienced the negative sides of decisions. I think that all my failures and bad decisions are assets in my set of tools to give great service with the benefit of experience. Embrace your experience.

(4)    Why did you go to law school? If you are happy working in law and feel like you are making other people’s lives better through practice, then you should be glad. Face it, most people lack the education and experience to successfully navigate the legal system and serve clients with positive outcomes. Put the salary and benefits aside and focus on the clients who relied on you to their benefit. Be glad if you made a difference.

At the end of the day, life is a big mixed back of challenges and tricks. The more you know yourself, the better you can decide where you want to be and how you choose to live. Embrace your year in review!

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Attorneys in Transition: Avoid anchors and evil puppies

Nick Augustine is a freelance legal writer, broadcaster, publicity and business development strategist, and he teaches search engine optimization and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR, Inc.

The legal industry is stressful enough without the added trauma of abusive people and their troubles. This week I came to terms with an anchor and learned these people are often wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Luckily, I have a therapist friend whose practice focuses on lawyers and professionals with anxiety and chaos in their lives. For me, this experience unearthed issues dating back to childhood.

I over compensated with the pursuit of perfection and success and learned to self-sabotage to avoid failure by way of forces I could not control. Life sure does not come with instructions and you do not always know when you are getting it wrong.

My advice might sound contrary, but for those of us in  “repair mode,” when you see abusive people and anchors, run away as fast as you can before they have a chance to bring you down.

When my friend at the ARDC helped me decide whether to cooperate in helping my anchor get help, she let me say no. If the anchor is bound to get their card pulled, they will do it on their own.

As professionals working to help others, we need to live and work in healthy and stable environments. When we try to save the scared puppy, and it keeps biting us, we need to wake up and get away from that evil puppy and accept we might not be able to help it.

I have everything to gain from getting as far away from evil puppies and anchors, as do you. Go forth in peace and sanity my Chicago lawyer friends.

Attorneys in Transition: Finding your brand

Nick Augustine is the principal of Augustine Legal Public Relations and he helps law firms and their staffs attract more clients and tell their stories about the legal industry. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

For some reason, most law schools dangle the big law firm carrot and many law students take interest. My law school had a strong presence in the big firms here in Chicago and what to wear was included in the instructions on playing the part. Once you grow in your legal career, you may still desire large law firm practice, but you may also hang your own shingle or align with a smaller firm. How will you attract clients in the smaller office?

Many say big firms have big clients and to an extent, this is true. The perception developed that the bigger firm with more attorneys and staff will do a better job and the chance of error is diminished. Another perception is that large firms’ names carry more weight in the courts and when leveraging that perception with opponents. These perceptions can be true and false, but at the end of the day, corporate counsels and big clients hire the big firms because the perceptions exist.

Branding is all about creating and managing consistent perceptions. In smaller practices, the qualities clients seek an attorney are variable. Some people want the lawyer who calls them back promptly. Others want a strong and silent type to get the work done. Others want a lawyer with a big personality who “performs” well in court. Think about the qualities that make you a good lawyer and how you will promote your brand.

Although you may wish to direct your brand, your friends, colleagues and customers are the ones who seal your branding fate, in most cases. If you just be yourself, honestly, and try to do the best job, then people will make comments about why they like you. Some will note that you always “know a guy” or “have a way of selling the opponent” and those clients’ perceptions give them confidence. Whatever the perceptions are about you, the brand follows. What people say and know about you is an important part of your brand.

Once you are on your way to really knowing who you are in business, you then should consistently package and share text and imagery that support your reputation and perceptions in the community. When you adopt a logo or font, use it religiously, and adopt a set of branding rules. Consumer psychology tells us people buy what they know, like and trust. When they see your name and logo over time, your clients and colleagues develop a perception, and your job is to meet expectations.

Attorneys in Transition: Fake it until you make it

Nick Augustine is the principal of Chicago’s Augustine Legal Public Relations and he works for the Bryan Law Group, a full service boutique family practice in DuPage County. Nick teaches law firms and their staff how to get more clients as he helps attorneys share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

Assume a psychological phenomenon: Everybody around you is more successful, has a nicer suit, a better window view and a parking spot in a downtown garage. Now, consider reality: Most of the others assume you are the one doing well. Reality: You could both be doing equally well or miserable.

Fake it until you make it and allow others to perceive you as successful.

Perception is reality in the business of law. “Successful” law firms and lawyers project an image of success so members of their community hold them in high regard. It makes sense. I would not want to hire the sloppy lawyer who looks like s/he just came from their second job bagging groceries.

Here are some tips on not blowing your cover if you are still “making it” or just getting started:

  1. Always appear dressed as you just came from court. People will assume you are doing well and working. People are not likely going to ask why you are dressed for business. If someone does ask, a safe answer is “… had a meeting.”
  2. Never talk about money. It is always distasteful to talk about the amount you (want to) earn at work. Most young attorneys are close in pay-range so bringing up wages only makes you appear conceited or self-conscious.
  3. Do not complain about student loans. Most of your colleagues have loans and the only people who complain most are the ones who can barely eat because their budgets cannot afford the loan repayment. Why draw attention to your financial stress?
  4. Talk about interesting matters on which you are involved. Young lawyers share stories to compare their work experience with others. If you show interest in appellate work, for example, a friend could remember that and a referral could come your way.
  5. Believe that you deserve all the best. A lawyer’s career will likely continue through economic swings. Remember that there is always work for quality lawyers. Appreciate the qualities that make you a good lawyer and allow yourself to believe in your knowledge skills and abilities.

If perception is reality, then make sure others perceive you as a successful lawyer they know, like and trust. People talk. They know whose going to make it. Will it be you?

Litigation PR: Did you think of your mentors on Law Day?

Nick Augustine is the principal of Pro Serve PR Marketing, a firm that provides marketing and public relations advising and services for law firms. Nick’s niche in litigation public relations grew out of time spent in litigation trenches. Nick is a frequent national speaker on law firm public relations, risk, strategy and public opinion management. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

May 1 was Law Day. Appreciate giving thanks and credit to the lawyers who influenced you early in your career. Take a moment to say thank you. Doing it publically is an honorable way of paying tribute. I tip my hat to Kari L. Fritz-Klaus and to John B. Kinkaid.

As a kid, I watched my uncle on the bench and thought the practice of law was noble. I aspired to grow up and work in a system that kept order and accountability in society. I watched “L.A. Law” in the ’80s and the O.J. Simpson trial in the ’90s. Preparing for the future, I took the undergraduate criminal law and procedure courses at Marquette and went on to earn my law degree from The John Marshall Law School, 10 years ago this month.

Kari L. Fritz-Klaus, Law Office of Fritz-Klaus, a solo practicing family law attorney in Milwaukee, gave me a chance. I was junior at Marquette when I applied to the law clerk position she posted at Marquette’s law school. When she learned I was an undergraduate student, she remarked that she assumed I was already in law school. Undaunted, I asked for a chance and went to work learning to research annotated statutes and figure out a legal argument to help her client. I nailed it.

Along the way, Fritz-Klaus let me scale back my hours when I volunteered at the Milwaukee County Office of the District Attorney, and with both positions, I learned the stark contrast between public and private practice. I will never forget working into the evenings, ordering pizza and working through drafts of pre-trial orders and the rolling paper fax machine. Fritz-Klaus was a leader in her local bar, well known for her efforts in civility and professionalism in practice. I learned so much about professional client service.

John B. Kincaid, Mirabella & Kincaid P.C., a pillar of DuPage County family and civil practice, also gave me a chance to learn among the best lawyers. I was taking evidence at the time Kincaid would bring me along to court, explaining every detail along the way. One day, I asked about evidence, wondering why nobody objects in family practice. He explained the balance of judicial economy and a need to ascertain the true nature of the martial estate. I was learning about the business of law.

During my time as a law clerk at Mirabella & Kincaid, I worked on dissipation tracing, deposition and trial preparation, assisted in court with trials and hearings, and just about every other facet of family and civil litigation matters. One day after court, Kincaid told me a story about reviewing orders, and stressed the importance accurate and exact language. He spent the time to teach me the noble ways of family and civil practice – a gift I have always treasured.

Be good to one another and take the time to acknowledge all the people who devote their personal and professional lives to improving the legal profession.

Leveraging Your Reputation: Do a teleseminar or webinar

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 midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Association CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

If you want to increase your exposure, communicate with current clients and attract new ones, then try doing a teleseminar or webinar. It’s a great way to share your expertise and promote your practice or firm. I’ve given tips before for being an expert and creating a seminar that people can listen to or watch online can further help your reputation in the area in which you specialize.

It’s best to choose which method works for you. If you feel self-conscious about being on camera and are worried about how you’ll appear, then I’d recommend doing a teleseminar. Another advantage of a teleseminar is that since people cannot see you, you can write out your talking points and read complete sentences instead of speaking off cards or from memory. Some teleseminars aren’t interactive at all; I’ve dialed into teleseminars that were lectures, where the expert was talking for a straight hour. They’ve sounded so smooth that I assumed the expert had written a script and was simply reading it. But they worked; I got a lot of useful information and took plenty of notes, so I eventually ended up using the tips in my own business.

If you have the tools and know how to do an effective visual presentation, then do a webinar. Some people prefer to watch a video on their computer or smart phone, so you’ll be able to connect with such an audience effectively. However, to get maximum exposure and connect with even more people, I would suggest doing both webinars and teleseminars. You can alternate which one you do and perhaps do one per month or every other month. Just be sure to set up a schedule and stick to it and make sure that you understand the technical details before you go live.

Before your teleseminar or webinar, remember to promote it through your own online and offline networks, and if you know other people with a blog or newsletter, ask them to mention it to their readers. After your seminar, upload your presentation to Slideshare and share the link with your audience or put the outline of the presentation into the body of an email. Another option is to create a short e-brochure and post it on Scribd to share with your audience. Whatever you use, it’s important to find ways to continue connect with them.

You will find that doing a seminar online or by phone will greatly enhance your reputation, and with proper pre- and post-seminar promotion, you will expand the exposure of your expertise even more.

Attorneys in Transition: Seven ABA Techshow 2012 vendor products and services to know

Nick Augustine is the principal of Pro Serve PR Marketing, a firm that provides marketing and public relations advising and services for law firms. Nick’s practice includes advising attorneys on career development and leveraging knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

Last week I attended ABA Techshow 2012 at the Chicago Hilton and the Expo Hall was packed with vendors, some new and some favorites, and the law firm technology industry is strong. I visited with several vendors and there are a few products and services I recommend to attorneys in transition among vendors.

Seven products and services are useful for lawyers in solo practice and larger firms:

  1. Digital War Room. E-discovery solutions powered by Dell’s servers make preparing trial warfare and litigation more palatable when you have products that make your job easier, without hiccups. This product boasts a collaborative approach to e-discovery. Ingesting and indexing data, through some really smart technology, makes this product easy for any lawyer to use, regardless of size and scope.
  2. Jura Law. Legal docketing is easy and you are less likely to miss a deadline when you use this product offered through Law Bulletin Publishing Company. There is also a Westlaw legal docketing product I’ve used, and Jura Law’s platform and interface are easier to use and more user friendly, in my opinion. Simply input your case information and adjust your settings to meet your needs. I’d suggest keeping a hard backup copy of everything for redundancy and audit purpose.
  3. Pro View. A Thomson Reuters product that brings Westlaw to your iPad (Android soon) as an application, is a sure bet for busy lawyers on planes, trains and in court. You only need a Wi-Fi connection when you periodically download updates for the application. Highlight a single word or sentence and send it off to your legal team or pull it up later, you will save time and be better able to serve clients with Pro View. Think of Pro View as being an e-book with Westlaw.
  4. Rocket Lawyer. This “on call” program for layperson end users allows that user to reach a lawyer “on call” with Rocket Lawyer, as a product benefit. Attorneys can apply to be vetted for participation in the program. Sometimes people just need a simple contract, or need document review, and instead of flying in the dark, Rocket Lawyer keeps costs down and provides access to lawyers. Backed by Google who invested heavily last year, we are likely to hear more from Rocket Lawyer in the near future.
  5. Rocket Matter. After you pick up new work from Rocket Lawyer clients, track your time and billing with Rocket Matter. This web and app-based program will track how you spend your time on your computer. Spend too much time on Facebook? Rocket Matter will tell you exactly how much time you spend on various activities. This is a nice tool because you can critique your efficiency and billing when you aren’t in the heat of the moment. There’s nothing more bothersome than hitting the breaks on a project for a 0.25 phone call, and if you don’t remember to write down your time, on the back end you will likely under bill.
  6. Ruby. Solos should love Ruby, the receptionist service with style, brains and a professional attitude. I asked the Ruby representative if their receptionists could use Google to look up an address, and she said, “Of course!” Ever had a client lost, trying to find 35 E. Wacker, when they are on South Wacker, totally confused? The last thing you need is a call center in Omaha to stumble through that call. Oh, your Ruby receptionist can also return calls and process intakes.
  7. Smokeball. Court forms are easy to access and process with MS Word when you use Smokeball. Real estate practitioners will like being able to make adjustments to closing docs with a few clicks of the mouse. This company is fresh and new to the scene, but they have already compiled Cook and DuPage forms, with the rest of the collars in queue – got efficiency?