Could you be unemployable? It’s up to you.

Introducing Ron Peterson, a guest author.  To learn more about Ron, scroll to the end of his post.

Lawyers will often carry Phi-Beta Kappa keys, law review credentials, marquee college and law school degrees, and—after a few years of diligent and conscientious practice—a growing realization that they may be unemployable! How can this be? Throughout school your work has been “A” quality, tests confirm your abilities, you law work has proved impeccable—but advancement has been halted at a critical time in your career. Unlike the earlier part of your life, after six or seven years, law firms take for granted the quality of work and focus more on your ability to attract new business. The nitty-gritty that now counts has shifted, and how well you can sell yourself and your firm to new clients becomes paramount. Whether you like it or not, you’re at the level of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, not the intellectual equivalent to your college deans! This is a difficult fact to digest, and mystifies many lawyers while leading to an inconvenient-truth about modern law firm practice—it’s a business.

Unlike your school courses, where quality of work guaranteed success, being in a business environment is entirely foreign to the singular emphasis on good work that brought you there. Bringing in clients that pay their bills is now almost always a necessary (bordering on sufficient) metric by which you will be judged for promotions and bonuses. You can have other partners, of-counsels, associates or even contract attorneys do the actual work, just so long as you can bill on their backs.

“Don’t clients care about quality?” Of course they do, but there are a lot of smart lawyers (too many, some would say) and others can do just as well as you can and are waiting at the doors for the chance to show it. Julie Fleming-Brown has been flogging you with this realization for years, and it’s time you acted upon it. So, here are a few steps that can help you bridge the gulf between worker bee (read: potential victim) and rainmaker:

  • Start thinking of yourself as someone who needs to bring in business (change your mindset);
  • Look for opportunities to help potential clients, formulate a solutions-orientation strategy and communicate it to those people. Just make sure it’s intelligent and is designed so the prospect can understand it and see the value;
  • Tom Goldstein built a Supreme Court practice by finding split-decisions on Lexus-Nexus and asking the parties if they wanted to take their case to the Supreme Court, (a very simple, but entirely effective approach that led to his chairing his firm’s litigation and Supreme Court practice). Joel Popkin built a consulting practice by reading about corporate problems in the news, figuring out a potential solution, and writing a letter outlining the work and benefits to the CEO;
  • Tom Gorman puts many extra hours in per month for his website and blog,, where he keeps a large audience around the world up to-date on a variety of securities issues (and loves doing it!).

The above examples represent a small sample of what attorneys have done to build their client base for the good of both themselves and their firms. Surely, you can think of things that are even more effective, can’t you?

I recruit partners, of-counsels and some associates for the most prestigious law firms in the world, both here and overseas. Every day I hear from some hapless soul about how wonderful his or her work is and surely some firm needs their input. Sadly, they generally don’t. I do suggest that working on a marketing plan is the very best step any attorney can take to make themselves valuable, and I’m glad to help them in this effort. Even more than sketching out a plan is taking those first steps to implement the ideas.


Ron Peterson is a legal and lobby recruiter with in Washington, DC and can be reached at (240) 308 0337 or He ran an investment banking firm, was a VP at brokerage firms such as Prudential & Paine Webber, holds several masters degrees plus graduate certificates, and is the author of When Venture Capitalists Say “No”—Creative Financing Strategies & Resources and Technology Transfer in the Life Sciences, both now e-books that are free for Life at the Bar readers. Just e-mail with your request. Also, do you have some good stories about building a business that you’d consider sharing, in some form, for a new book?

Communications trouble? Maybe it’s you!

I’m pleased to share  an article written by Annetta Wilson, one of the communications experts who will be leading the upcoming teleseminar Cut Through Communications Chaos.  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a colleague or client only to discover that you’re talking at cross-purposes, with no middle ground you can find?  Read on…

Maybe They’re Not Crazy:  Maybe It Is YOU!


Not quite the headline you expected in an article about communication, is it? 

Okay, it’s a little misleading.  Sometimes, though, when we’re in a conversation that’s going in circles and getting nowhere, it can feel like we’re going crazy. 

Rest assured that you’re not losing your mind (unless, of course, you’ve been officially diagnosed).  It’s possible that you simply don’t recognize the other person’s communication style or know how to adapt to it. 

You have a communication style, too.  Think about your best friend, significant other or someone else in your life that you can talk to for hours and be completely in sync.  That’s not magic, it’s a style match.

There are some ‘magical’ beings out there that almost everyone can relate to.  Then there are the ones you want to run from when you see them coming.  That’s right: mismatched styles.


Before you pull out your label-maker, understand that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ styles.  It’s simply a matter of what works in a given situation and what doesn’t.  

In what situation does your particular communication style fit perfectly?

Are you the ‘schmoozer’ who makes everyone feel at ease, even when it’s not YOUR party?

Or are you the ‘bottom line’ person who sees the big picture and puts everything in perspective?

Maybe you’re the ‘magical’ one everyone seeks out for sage advice and is usually the voice of reason.


Then again, you could be the ‘detail’ person who always makes sure that the data checks out, nothing is left to chance and who is happy to leave that ‘people’ stuff to someone else.

All are necessary.  All are different.  And all can be annoying if not put in the right role at the right time or the right setting!


Tip:  The next time you’re tempted to criticize or get upset with someone because they don’t communicate the way you do, ASK them how they prefer to receive information from you.

Detailed information in written form may make some people ecstatic, while others are perfectly fine with a quick verbal overview and just the highlights.

Someone else may need to socialize a bit before they can focus and get down to business.  Allow them that two to three minute window.

Remember to let them know how you want to be communicated with, too.

The point is, if you don’t ASK, you don’t GET.  If you don’t TELL them, everyone’s confused. Clarity beats ‘crazy’ any day!

Asking a simple question like, “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” can eliminate a mountain of aggravation and create untold opportunities to learn something new.  


©2007 Annetta Wilson Media Training and Success Coaching. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Annetta Wilson is a business strategist specializing in media training and presentation skills coaching. A talent coach for CNN, she has also coached for Walt Disney World. She makes it easier for high-profile individuals and teams to communicate more powerfully. Annetta is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years experience in the broadcast industry, a Certified Trainer and a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst.  


Visit her Web site at  


Dare To Dream, Gridlock and the Two-Professional Couple

Children, no children. Be social, stay at home. Go to church, be an atheist. Spend large sums on a rental home, invest the money.


Gridlock is part of the fabric of being a couple, especially a two-professional couple where time is a premium and consistent dialogue about personal issues is not very common. However, ending gridlock does not have to mean “coping” with the impossible.  Confronting gridlock is not about “solving a problem, it’s about dialogue. Two-professional couples in healthy, conscious relationships can live with gridlock when they choose to understand the nature of gridlock and dialogue about the root cause of gridlock.

Gridlock is, “having dreams that are not seen, heard, respected or addressed by one’s partner.” Dreams can be hopes, visions, aspirations and wishes that define you and give purpose and meaning to you life. Dreams can be practical (make “x” amount of money); others are deeper (a spiritual journey).

Some of the dreams of couples I’ve coached are: a sense of freedom; justice; honor; having a sense of power; exploring one’s creative side; being forgiven; having a sense of order; being more organized and productive; being able to relax; finishing a very important project; quietness; ending a chapter of one’s life.

To move toward constructive dialogue, two things must happen. The one with the dream needs to express the meaning, the symbolism that the dream holds for him/her; the other needs to express the meaning, symbolism that causes him/her to reject their partner’s dream.

For example, eating out on Sunday. For one, underneath “the meal” is a memory of feeling special when the family ate out on Sunday nights. For the other, the memory is that of wonderful home-cooked meals on Sunday. So, the issue of eating in or eating out is not about “eating.” For both partners, it’s about what’s underneath the “eating experience” that brings them a feeling of contentment, warmth, emotional security, and feeling loved and cared for.

Where conflict and gridlock enter the scene, however, is when one partner cannot experience their dream and then judges another’s dream (e.g., your wanting to eat out on Sundays when I want to stay home) as bad, wrong, stupid, silly, selfish, ill-thought-out, illogical, and then proceeds to disrespect their partner’s dream. Arguments, shouting, fighting, judging, resenting, or silent anger, silent treatment, or silent defensiveness result. In a word, gridlock.  

Happy and fulfilled partners understand helping the other experience their dream is a shared goal of the relationship — wanting to know what their partner wants in their life. Shared values means incorporating each other’s goals into their definition of relationship. Happy and fulfilled partners discuss one another’s dreams with mutual respect for, and acknowledgement of, one another’s dreams.

Unhappy folks spend time negating, adversely judging, manipulating against and otherwise “tuning out” their partner’s goals. Gridlock, emotional distance and tension ensue. Moreover, when one sees one’s partner as the sole source of “the problem”, one knows one is wrestling with one’s own hidden dream. When one hears oneself saying, “He (or she) is this…” or “He (or she) is that..”, it’s a sign of one’s own hidden dream (i.e., the dream is the root cause of the judgment of the other).

To move forward toward an open, safe trusting, conscious and healthy relationship, it’s critical to uncover the dream underneath the gridlock.  

So, some questions to consider:

Where are you experiencing gridlock in your relationship?
What is the wish, want, dream underneath the gridlock?
Why is this dream meaningful for you?
Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
What do you want/need from your partner?

Happy couples listen to their partner’s dream story. It does not mean that one partner believes the other’s dream can or should be actualized. However, it does mean that one can honor another’s dream by hearing it without judgment or criticism, and can become part of the partner’s dream in some way, shape or form.

Moving out of gridlock is not about engaging one-hundred percent in your partner’s dream; it’s about honoring that what you partner says is true for them and finding common ground where you can.

So, with respect to your partner’s dreams, are you co-counsel or opposing counsel?

Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, Peter’s coaching approach focuses on personal, business, relational and spiritual coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. (You can contact Peter directly: pvajda at      

Two Heavy-Duty Partners in Relationship

So, Bill Clinton will be fast and furious on the campaign trail supporting Hillary’s bid for the Presidency. Good news or bad news? In 2004, Howard Dean’s spouse, Judith Steinberg Dean, stayed more “stage right” and was seen infrequently. Good news or bad news?

The question that surfaces is this: Can two full-time, fully-engaged-in-a-professional-life partners maintain a conscious, healthy, intimate relationship? When two professionals spend a great deal of, or an inordinate amount of time, pursuing their careers, is there time to pursue each other on a consistent basis, that is, to continue to see their relationship as “fresh” every day, to continue to ”work” on their relationship consistently, and actually “be” in a relationship on a true like- and love-level? Or, does something (read: someone) have to give? Does the relationship begin to evaporate to the degree that the two spouses or partners are more roommates, and ships passing in the night, than they are committed and intimate partners? Do the partners lose sight of “shared values” and the notion of a “we” and replace these relationship foundational supports with “my values” and “your values” and “I” and “you”?

Can two high-powered professional folks truly support one another emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and socially? Can this be a win-win relationship? Do high-powered couples more commonly grow apart than grow together?

With late night work/dinners, travel, children and their needs and wants, pet care, medical appointments, school meetings, work around the house/living space, shopping and all the rest, can a loving, caring, committed (in deed as well as thought) relationship between two fully-engaged professionals work?  Does it work? For you?  Where does “relationship” lie on your list of priorities? And do your actions (not just thoughts) reflect that priority? Or, does your relationship have to give and, if so, are the consequences? What compromises do you make; what non-negotiable exist vis-à-vis your relationship requirements, wants and needs? What choices are you making when it comes to your relationship? Is relationship failure a real or potential outcome?

Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, Peter’s coaching approach focuses on personal, business, relational and spiritual coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. (You can contact Peter directly: pvajda at

I Love Your Being a Lawyer; I Hate Your Being a Lawyer

I’m excited to share some thoughts about lawyers in relationship with you this week.  Why relationships? In addition to my work as a life and business coach, I have dedicated much of my coaching practice to support couples in relationship. Having been in a 15-year failed marriage, and married to one who had been in a 14-year failed marriage, I have dedicated my professional life, (and my own continual personal growth work) coaching and supporting couples to create healthy, conscious relationships, where two partners learn to continually “work” their relationship ,where the relationship gets to “work” them. I find the relationship journey to be particularly challenging for relationships where both partners are professionals – in this case, lawyers in relationship. I hope the readings I offer this week will provide some food for thought, perhaps pique your curiosity, about who you are, and how you are, as an attorney in relationship. 

I love your being a lawyer; I hate your being a lawyer. 

Hmmm…maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but in my relationship coaching work, I have come to believe there a flavor of the love-hate dynamic in nearly every personal relationship…new relationships, committed and exclusive relationships, with engaged couples and with married couples. If there’s not, then, (tongue in cheek), perhaps it’s because you haven’t known the person long enough to find something to resent. At any rate, a love-hate relationship does not mean there is no passion, no intimacy, no sincere and deep love, commitment and devotion.  

So, in the lawyer-non-lawyer relationship, I’m curious how the lawyer piece plays out in both supporting the relationship and in limiting, even sabotaging, the relationship. For example, if the lawyer piece points to being a skilled negotiator what does that look like in your relationship? On the “I love your being a lawyer” end of the continuum, does the non-lawyer-partner depend on the (skilled negotiator) lawyer-partner to purchase (negotiate the price/sale) a new car or other big-ticket item? Or, does your non-lawyer partner depend on the (“time-is-money-focused”) lawyer-partner to manage projects that demand efficient and effective use of time? Does the non-lawyer partner rely on the (“socially-skilled”) lawyer-partner to be the life of the dinner party, to break the ice, get things rolling and generate lively energy? Why else might your non-lawyer partner say, “I love your being a lawyer?” Does the non-lawyer partner achieve a sense of worth and value by continually suggesting the lawyer-partner to friends and neighbors who are in need of legal advice? 

On the other end of the continuum, what might it be about the lawyer-partner that gets in the way of a smooth relationship? When does the attractive, “plus” side of the lawyer-partner perhaps morph into a more repelling side that may cause resentment or bitterness, or teasing and sarcasm (which are veiled forms of anger and resentment)? For example, when the non-lawyer partner needs support, a kind ear, and silence in order to be heard, does the lawyer-partner become overbearing, dominating in a manner that is insensitive, undiplomatic, holier than thou, or argumentative? Does the lawyer-partner always need to have the “logic” of a discussion drive the discussion, and perhaps drive the non-lawyer partner away? Or, do most discussions become “arguments”?  So, my curiosity. When does it support your relationship to bring the “office” home and when does it support the relationship to leave the “office” behind? My curiosity is directed to lawyers and to non-lawyer spouses or partners who are in relationship with lawyers.

Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, Peter’s coaching approach focuses on personal, business, relational and spiritual coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. (You can contact Peter directly: pvajda at

Vacation; ABA meeting; Introducing guest blogger Peter Vajda

“Vacation used to be a luxury, however, in today’s world, it has become a necessity.”
“Vacation is what you take when you can’t take what you’ve been taking any longer.”

“Isn’t it interesting that people feel best about themselves right before they go on vacation? They’ve cleared up all of their to-do piles, closed up transactions, renewed old promises with themselves. My most basic suggestion is that people should do that more than just once a year.”
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done and productivity guru

I’m off for vacation!  In just a few hours, I’ll be headed to San Francisco; from there, my husband and I will travel down Highway 1 almost to LA, stopping at various points along the way for great scenery and relaxation for mind, body, and spirit.  It’ll be 5 glorious days in places like Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, and Half Moon Bay — and even more gloriously, the stretches in between the towns that are broad sea vistas on one side of the two-lane road and rocky hills on the other side.  I can’t wait.

Following our vacation, we’ll return to San Francisco, where I’ll be attending the ABA annual meeting from Thursday through Saturday.  If any of you reading this will be there, please drop me a note — I would love to meet you!

While I was planning my vacation, I considered taking a week-long hiatus from blogging.  But one morning while I was taking a walk, a great idea came to me.

Side note: have you ever noticed how often inspiration strikes while your body is active and your mind is either relaxed or concentrating on other than work?  What does that tell you about the benefit of time away from your work?

My idea was to invite someone to serve as guest blogger for the week, to offer a different perspective on Life at the Bar.  And as soon as the idea bubbled up, a name did the same: Peter Vajda.  He and I met in December, thanks to Stephanie West Allen,  and we shared a delightful 3- (or maybe even 4-) hour lunch.  Peter has often commented on this blog, and I’ve observed that his comments bring richness to the conversations that go on here.  When I invited Peter to blog here for a week, he accepted immediately and began floating ideas right off the bat.

I’ve seen what’s in store for next week’s posts.  Peter has elected to focus on lawyers in relationships, and his thoughts and suggestions hold relationship in a new light, particularly in view of lawyers’ tendencies and pressures.  Although his posts next week are specifically about dual-career couples and lawyers in romantic relationships, the applicability of his ideas spread much further.  He brings a new perspective that’s thought-provoking and intriguing, and I think his posts will be a treat for readers.

I am delighted to introduce Peter (he’ll handle the formal introduction on Monday) and pleased to welcome him as the first Life at the Bar guest blogger.  Enjoy!