Why status quo is dangerous.

What’s wrong with status quo? Maybe nothing. But here’s what you need to keep in mind when you’re considering whether to make a shift of some sort:

Status quo doesn’t get attention.

Status quo doesn’t delight anyone.

Status quo doesn’t get talked about.

Status quo doesn’t feel fresh or tailored.

Status quo… just IS.

Maintaining status quo

In a world that is moving forward, staying the same gives your competitors an advantage. They need not make a big change, and they need not even make a change that offers a substantial advantage: any change offers a point of distinction.

Should you make a change solely for the sake of making a change? No. But you should never stop asking whether a change is warranted to better serve your clients, to better position your practice, or to work more efficiently.

If nothing else, a change may get your own creative juices going. If you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, try standing up or working in a different location. Even driving to work in a new way may stimulate new ideas.

If you’re feeling stuck in status quo, what might you change?

Tuesday shorts 7/29/08 (happiness in the law, client relationships, Blackberry malaise)

I’m attending a conference this week, so I thought I’d load up a few links to good articles and blog posts some of you may not have seen.

Seven Simple Suggestions for Success and Happiness in the Law  The JD Bliss Blog recently posted a summary of a commencement speech by Stephen Ellis, a lawyer who has happily practiced for 36 years.  The suggestions are deceptively simple:

  • Be there for your clients when they need you.
  • Don’t be obnoxious.  Do a good job on the law, facts, and strategy, but don’t make it personal.
  • Be enthusiastic about your clients’ matters; ask how something can be done rather than rattling off reasons why it can’t.
  • Believe in your brain–some things people tell you really might not make sense.
  • Stay focused and stay with it–renew daily your commitment to good work and reliability daily.
  • Get “outside” yourself and participate in community events.  In addition to being a great way to meet more people and broaden your appreciation for your community, you have a lot to offer, and you’ll have fun.
  • Be nice.  In Ellis’ own words, “Cliche it may be, but being pleasant and friendly makes the day’s good spots better and the rough spots smoother. And that makes everyone’s life better–for sure yours.”

Well said!

Building strong client relationships  Frank D’Amore, founder of Attorney Career Catalysts (a legal recruiting, consulting, and training firm), published a helpful article in The Legal Intelligencer recently, discussing how a first-year partner who has landed a major client can build a solid, long-term relationship with the client.  (I particularly appreciated D’Amore’s reminder not to focus so heavily on any single client that business development efforts slow down or stop.)  To build a strong client relationship, D’Amore recommends:

  • Understand your client’s business and industry.
  • Keep your client fully in the loop about what’s happening in the matter.
  • Make your client look good at all times.
  • Maintain regular contact with your client, even when there’s a lull in the representation.
  • Consider how you might help key client contacts in ways that extend beyond legal services.

Stop blaming your Blackberry for your lack of self-discipline  Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, has a funny-because-it’s-true post about those whose lives are run by their Blackberries.  Yes, I understand needing to receive and respond to emails immediately sometimes, but anyone who’s ever complained about Blackberry bondage should read this post.  Just a clip (from the end of the post):

Blackberries are tools for the well-prioritized. If you feel like you’re being ruled by your Blackberry, you probably are. And the only way to free yourself from those shackles is to start prioritizing so that you know at any given moment what is the most important thing to do. Sometimes it will be the Blackberry, and sometimes it won’t. And the first step to doing this shift properly is recognizing that you can be on and off the Blackberry all day as a sign of empowerment.

Tuesday Shorts 3/11/08 (Unhappy associates, dealing with mistakes, time)



The Lost Generation of Associates Former GE General Counsel Ben W. Heinemann, Jr. and Harvard Law professor David B. Wilkins have written an article outlining some of the challenges that associates in large law firms face:

At the 250 largest law firms, the arrows are pointing up for many associate indicators. Summer internships are up. Incoming associate classes are up. Recruiting costs for both summer and first-year associates, in dollars and in partner time, are up. Salaries are up ($160,000!). Bonuses are up ($50,000!). Concierge services are up. Stress management services are up. Twenty-five percent of the 40,000 graduating law students today go to these 250 firms, by some estimates.

But for all this effort, one critical indicator is down. The larger law firms are reported to be losing 30, 40, 50 percent of associates after three to four years-with half to two-thirds of the defections due to associate, not firm, choice. Where do they go? Smaller firms, more competitive firms in the same city, firms in other cities, in-house, government, teaching, nonlegal jobs. The After the JD study of 4,000 graduates in the class of 2000-conducted jointly by the American Bar Foundation, Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession, and others-indicates such churn.

The more important question is: Why do they go? Some associates just wanted to pay off law school debts and had no intention of staying. Others are balancing two careers and need to follow a spouse. Some are lured away by higher-paying jobs in banking, private equity, or hedge funds. Or they don’t want the Faustian bargain of higher pay for more billable hours and a job that skews the work/life balance too far toward work. Finally, some do not want to stay for the likely rejection four or five years hence at the entrance to equity partner Valhalla-or don’t view it as Valhalla at all.

But on the basis of many discussions with students, associates, partners, and inside counsel, we believe that for a significant number, their first professional experience after at least seven years of higher education is too unprofessional and demoralizing. That disappointment is a major reason for leaving their firm.

They then suggest some solutions, such as allowing associates to observe client meetings (at no cost to the client), seconding 3rd or 4th year associates to clients or government agencies for a year, encouraging pro bono work, and developing a strong, respected professional development training program that would incorporate competency models, training materials, planned experiences, measurable milestones, internal career counseling, and communication with and mentoring by partners.

Mistakes were made… The Snark has written a humorous piece on mistakes and how to deal with them, and it wraps up with good advice:


This is the hardest plan to implement because you fear finally being discovered for being imperfect and possibly over-rated. Will you be fired? Will it go down in your “file” only to rear its head in four years when you are denied admission into the partnership and the only reason they can give is, “Back in your second year, you missed that 1 p.m. meeting with our best client, MegaCorp.”

But I think in the end it is better to fess up. Just don’t do it in a way that makes things even worse: no crying, sniveling or begging for mercy. And no need to shave your head or hold a press conference.

You just need to explain yourself while displaying the appropriate level of remorse blended with confidence that says, “Yes, I screwed up that once, but it was an uncommon lapse that will be rectified. I will work even harder and bill a few extra hours to make up for lost faith in my value.”

Provided your mistake didn’t actually cause lost revenue or client relationships, you likely will be forgiven. But don’t let it happen again. You get paid way too much money to make mistakes.

How do you see time? Stephanie West Allen has linked to an interesting op-ed from the New York Times:

Believing time is money to lose, we perceive our shortage of time as stressful. Thus, our fight-or-flight instinct is engaged, and the regions of the brain we use to calmly and sensibly plan our time get switched off. We become fidgety, erratic and rash.

Tasks take longer. We make mistakes — which take still more time to iron out. Who among us has not been locked out of an apartment or lost a wallet when in a great hurry? The perceived lack of time becomes real: We are not stressed because we have no time, but rather, we have no time because we are stressed.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stressed-for-lack-of-time interventions: find a watch with a second hand, stop what you’re doing and simply watch the clock while the minute passes. For many people (me included) that exercise helps me to reset my brain and realize that a minute actually is a significant amount of time, which in turn helps me to feel less stressed about the minutes flowing by.

Wednesday Shorts 3/5/08

I almost titled this post “The Bad Blogger,” because that’s how I feel!  I’ve been away from Atlanta (my primary home) for all but 3 scattered days since mid-January.  I’m accustomed to travel, but doing this much of it all at once is truly a challenge.  One thing I’ve learned is to be a little more gentle with myself on negotiable deadlines, and blogging has fit into that category.  Thus, the unusually random schedule.  I’ve started using a voice-recognition software program recently (unlike just a few years ago, it works quite well!) and so I’ll have more fresh posts appearing soon.

And, I’d like to share a celebration with you: I learned last week that I’ve received the ACC credential (Associate Certified Coach) from the International Coach Federation.  While I’m the first to admit that the path to that credential was nothing like as onerous as getting my license to practice or becoming registered to practice before the Patent Office, it’s a significant accomplishment nonetheless — especially in light of the fact that only about a quarter of ICF members are currently credentialled, and many, many other coaches aren’t ICF members at all.  I know some excellent coaches who aren’t credentialled, so I help certainly don’t intend to cast any aspersions there!  But I’m quite pleased, and happy to share the news with you.  I learned in practice to celebrate at least briefly whenever an opportunity arises, especially since those moments can be awfully fleeting, and I follow that habit today.

Now, on to the legal news!

Leading Big Law Leaders to Lead  That’s the title of a recent article from the New York Lawyer. The article offers a nice overview of some of the leadership training alternatives in which law firms are now investing, ranging from one-on-one coaching to in-hour training to multi-day programs at major universities, including Harvard and the Wharton School.  It raises a few warning bells:

Paul Zwier, a professor at Emory University School of Law [and] author of the book Supervisory and Leadership Skills in the Modern Law Practice (National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2006), said that in some cases leadership training can serve as an “opium of the masses.”

In other words, what some firms call “leadership training” in reality is a way to get lawyers on board with a firm’s strategy, rather than truly honing leadership skills.

Dubbing it “leadership training” can make participants more willing to sign on to a program and feel more valued if they think that they are recognized as special. However, Zwier said that even lawyers without supervisory duties within a firm need leadership skills, since such skills are necessary in dealing with clients.

And, as recognized by Larry Richard, an attorney and psychologist with Hildebrandt International:

To truly change behavior, training must include much more than a few days at an impressive school, Richard said. He divides programs into two categories: conceptual education and skills-based education. Conceptual education models are the popular “boot-camp” executive programs offered at prestigious schools that use mainly the case-study method. Those programs are valuable, he said, but limited. Attorneys also need long-term training, or skills-based education, to enhance specific leadership behaviors, which are more readily measurable.

I’m a proponent of leadership development work (both training and coaching) for lawyers.  Some might question whether expenditures on such “non-essentials” can be justified, especially in today’s economic climate.  My answer is, not surprisingly, absolutely.  More on why in a future post.

It’s About Time II  The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers released its study of flexible and part-time work arrangements this week, following up on the 2004 initial study.  From the Executive Summary:

Results from this study suggest that it is about time. Few working professionals feel the “time crunch” more acutely than attorneys. Billable hours requirements render the business of law virtually all about time. Should it be any wonder then that the issue of time would weigh so heavily in attorneys’ evaluation of the work they do? Our findings indicate that the availability of flexible and part-time work arrangements is extremely important to male and female attorneys alike. Regardless of whether they themselves plan on taking advantage of such policies, attorneys place a high value on the availability of flexible and/or reduced-time work at their firm. Isn’t it about time that firms recognize that value as well?

Interest in flexible and part-time arrangements is particularly strong among women attorneys. Reduced-time work options are so highly valued that women are willing to exit employment to find more flexible work arrangements. Indeed, firms that provide formal, written policies governing part-time work arrangements enjoy higher retention rates of women lawyers and firms that maintain a successful part-time program reap the rewards of retaining highly satisfied, highly motivated, and highly committed attorneys.

The study is based on surveys completed by 84 Georgia law firms, and the results fall squarely in line with national results: flexible and part-time options are important to lawyers, many firms don’t have written policies to solidify those options, many lawyers are concerned that taking part-time or flex status is a career-limiting move, and there’s evidence to support that concern.

The full report is almost 100 pages long.  The Executive Summary is 3 pages.  It’s well worth a read.

Your personal Board of Directors  I always recommend that lawyers develop a group of mentors.  Did you notice that’s mentors, plural?  Because each mentoring relationship is unique, I find that those who have multiple mentors realize significant benefit.  And mentors need not be in your firm or city (indeed, some mentors absolutely should be “external”) or even in your profession.  Collectively, this group of mentors forms your personal board of directors.  Wondering how to fill all the spots?  Michael Melcher, author of The Creative Lawyer (which is on my list of books to review here) has suggested finding people with 25 attributes and narrowing down the nominees to a group of 6 to 10 “board members.”  Attributes include:

4.    Can give you encouragement in tough times
5.    Can talk to you straight about your weaknesses
20.    Gives good advice about office politics
21.    Gives good advice about professional development
22.    Gives good advice about how to get ahead
23.    Thinks you are great at what you do
24.    Thinks you have great talents other than your present career

Check out the whole list.  You may be surprised.

Monday Shorts 2/25/08

Blawg Review #148  Hosted by Brett Trout of BlawgIT, Blawg Review #148 is devoted to Internet Memes, complete with the requisite YouTube videos.  Who could resist this?

While considering a theme for this week’s Blawg Review, it struck me that lawyers do not spend as much time aimlessly meandering the web as would, for instance, a typical air traffic controller. As a result, most lawyers are woefully detached from the Zeitgeist embodied in the lowly Internet meme. An Internet meme is any amusing video, email, picture, audio clip or other material that spreads virally across the internet. Unlike computer viruses, which spread based upon how many paint chips the people opening them consumed in their youth, Internet memes spread based upon how entertaining viewers find them.

Although blawgers are more aware of Internet memes than your average lawyer, blawgers still find there are not enough hours to stay up to date with each new version of someone reenacting the Thriller video at a wedding. To save you from this critical legal research, I assiduously complied several of the most popular memes for you. While the list might not necessarily “make” your day, at least it might maintain your work/life balance in sufficient equilibrium to stave off the rubber room for another week. The list is not comprehensive, but it is the best I can muster without being served pre-marital divorce papers. For those of you true professional Internet slackers, swing by memelabs and test your meme IQ.

It’s a fun way to organize some of the week’s blawg posts, and it’s certainly worth a read.

What women lawyers think of each other. Or not.  I was all ready to blawg about the recent ABA Journal article titled What Women Lawyers Really Think of Each Other.  The results (presented primarily with graphics in the print magazine) were interesting, suggesting that women under 40 think male supervisors give better direction, give better constructive criticism, and are better at keeping confidential information private.  Women over 40 were reported as believing that women take directions and constructive criticism better than men and have better discretion than men.  And then, just as I was beginning to compose my thoughts, I noticed the critical modifier to each set of results: 58% of respondents said that gender doesn’t matter, and the cited statistics came from the 42% who expressed a preference for working with either men or women.  Sometimes it isn’t the story that matters, but rather the story behind the story.

Tuesday Shorts: 2/12/08

I was particularly interested in Closed Networks & the Problem with Facebook by Steven Matthews.  An excerpt:

This month’s edition of Web Law Connected could be seen as a bit of a rant, but the honest intent here is to explore the underlying marketing value offered to lawyers by what has become the 800-pound gorilla of social networks – Facebook.

It’s difficult to refute the fact that Facebook is the fastest growing entity on the web today, and the adoption rate within the legal community has been no different than that of any other group within the Facebook walls – it’s expanding, and fast. While some law firms are guarding business productivity by blocking access, we’ve also observed firms who see this latest gathering spot as an opportunity to expand their online presence. It should be noted, anytime we find legitimate communities and discussion on the web, the chances are good that individuals looking for business development opportunities will soon follow.

However, the bigger issue for me goes beyond the website blocking debate, or whether there is a legitimate business community here that can be marketed to. But rather, if we compare the relative value of Facebook to all the varying forms of web marketing out there, is it a good use of a lawyer’s online marketing time?

After a lot of consideration, and my opinion wavering, I’ve concluded that Facebook is a low quality marketing investment. And above all the positive aspects this service offers, the deciding negative factor was the closed nature of its network.

And your thought some of your clients were, uh, challenging.  I am fortunate to work with amazing clients now, but I remember a few clients from my days in full-time practice who could ruin a day simply by calling.  But who’s to say what separates a difficult client from the stereotypical “client from hell”?  Robert Sutton, author of the award-winning book The No Asshole Rule and the terrific Work Matters blog, has created the ACHE (Asshole Client from Hell Exam) to answer just that question.  Bob writes:

You can use it to help decide if it is worth continuing to work with a current client or if you want to charge them “asshole taxes.” You can use it as an “asshole screen” for future clients – send it to others who have worked with them to find out if they are a client from hell.  And if you are a client, and feel like most lawyers, management consultant, designers, accountants, and IT consultants that you hire are complete idiots,  you find yourself being gruff with them, and you find that fewer and fewer of them want to work with you –- and those that do keep raising their rates beyond reason –- you might take the ACHE as a self-test.  And you might get some of the people you’ve worked with to complete the ACHE to get some feedback about what it is like to work with you (if they feel safe enough to give you accurate feedback – you may have unwittingly taught them to only give you good news).

In case you need another reason to take care with email addresses: The story has already made the rounds, but as cautionary tales go, it can’t be beat.  The New York Times broke the story earlier this month that Eli Lilly was in settlement talks concerning alleged marketing improprieties of the drug Zyprexa.  Apparently a Pepper Hamilton lawyer representing Lilly emailed a package of confidential documents, thinking she was sending them to co-counsel Bradford Berenson when in fact she emailed them to NY Times journalist Alex Berenson.  Visit the WSJ Law Blog for the full, chilling story.  Just another reminder to treat “auto-address” email features as anathema.

Tuesday Shorts: 2/5/08 (diverting from law school, alternative careers, leadership question)

Just a few shorts today…  First, thanks to all who completed the 2007 Life at the Bar survey!  I appreciate the feedback and your suggestions, and I look forward to bringing you more of what you’d like to see.  Congratulations to the lawyer who won the drawing for an Amazon gift certificate; for privacy’s sake I won’t announce his name but will share that he’s counsel with a large firm.  Now, onto today’s shorts.

Law School Naysayer:  I hold that lawyers who chose to go to law school primarily because they didn’t know quite what else to do are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their careers than other lawyers.  And now, Kirsten Wolf is a BU Law grad who is campaigning to keep others from sliding into a career that won’t be a good fit:

I’m on a one-woman mission to talk people out of law school. Lots of people go to law school as a default. They don’t know what else to do, like I did. It seems like a good idea. People say a law degree will always be worth something even if you don’t practice. But they don’t consider what that debt is going to look like after law school. It affects my life in every way. And the jobs that you think are going to be there won’t necessarily be there at all. Most people I know that are practicing attorneys don’t make the kind of money they think lawyers make. They’re making $40,000 a year, not $160,000. Plus, you’re going to be struggling to do something you might not even enjoy. A few people have a calling to be a lawyer, but most don’t.

Or choose a non-practicing position: It probably isn’t news that not everyone who goes to law school ends up practicing law.  JD Bliss has profiled four lawyers who’ve chosen non-practicing roles:

Meet four law school graduates who are doing something different with their legal education.   They are in the minority, but these doctors of law are pursuing a diverse array of careers, including:

  • financial planner,
  • owner of a real estate investment business,
  • campaign worker for presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, and
  • consultant for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

The reasons for these mavericks’ selections of nontraditional career paths are as varied as the positions they currently hold.

And a question for you to consider: When you think about your approach to your career (or just about anything else), are you playing to win?  Or are you playing not to lose?  I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but the question itself — and what it says about your leadership, whether of yourself or of others, may be illuminating.

Tuesday Shorts 1/29/08 (for new partners, retention, recession)

Letter to a new partner: Blawg Review #142 featured letters to new lawyers.  What about new partners?

While some tasks and concerns certainly continue even after a lawyer makes partner, the elevation brings with it a host of new duties and issues.  (In fact, new partners comprise one of the largest groups of lawyers who contact me for coaching.)  And now, Brian H. Corcoran, a partner with Katten Muchin Rosenman, has written a Letter to a New Partner.  His tips include listening to less senior lawyers, being a great mentor, remembering that you’re a professional and not “just” a business person, and having fun.  Although there’s a lot more that goes into making the transition, this letter is a nice transition marker.

Does associate retention matter if we’re in a recession?  Carolyn Elefant recently posed this question:

I wonder whether we’ll see much of these kinder, gentler law firm policies designed to keep associates around.  Many of these programs are an added expense to firms, either in the form of additional implementation costs or at the least, foregone billable hours.  When firms are laying off associates to stay afloat (or, for the more cynical, to preserve profits per partner), will they still care about associate happiness — or be grateful to see associates leave voluntarily to spare themselves the negative publicity of announcing mass terminations?

It’s an interesting question, and the answer will depend largely on what sort of associate retention policy is at issue.  As Carolyn notes, retention programs often do add to firms’ expenses, and it may be difficult to see which add to the bottom line over time, though those are the kinds of programs likely to succeed and to ensure that, recession or no, the right associates stay.

And speaking of “recession”… I appreciated a post on Robert Middleton’s The More Clients Blog (not a lawyer-focused blog), which suggests that recession-talk can be a self-fulfilling prophecy but that each professional has an opportunity to apply tested marketing techniques to attract business.  This is true for lawyers.  What’s your plan?

Tuesday Shorts: 1/22/08 (leadership, work/life, writing competitions, Blawg Review)

After a semi-brief hiatus, Tuesday shorts are back.  This is a roundup of interesting things that have caught my eye but didn’t result in a full post.

Duke Law Leadership Experience:  Last Friday, I was privileged to be a part of the Second Annual Duke Law Leadership Experience .

I served on a panel with Cait Clarke, Director of Public Interest Law Opportunities for Equal Justice Works, and Jay Moyer, Special Counsel to the NFL, in which we addressed “Leadership in Practice.”  Moderator Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer for Duke and copyright expert, kicked off the conversation by asking, “Can you discuss what leadership means within your own work?  What are your goals as a leader?  How can those goals translate to other legal occupations?  What is generic about leadership and what is particular?”  The conversation touched on principles of leadership and the “road less traveled” in practice, and the theme that emerged was focused on development of leadership style through authenticity and self-awareness.  Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham Law whose interests focus on ethics, delivered a fascinating presentation that focused on the ethics and leadership concerning actual innocence discovered post-conviction.  And finally, Angela Oh, a civil rights attorney with LA-based Oh & Barrera and a priest with the Zen Buddhist Rinzai Sect presented a fascinating keynote speech titled, “The Inevitable Journey – Lawyers as Leaders.”

Answering the challenge for the work/life imbalanced:  Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich maintains a blog that often has interesting tips, though I judge that many of the ideas are unworkable for lawyers.    However, guest blogger Anne Zelenka offers 5 Boundary-Setting Tips for the Work Obsessed, with some great ideas for those who would like to take a break from work but find it difficult because work is omni-present.  Her ideas for a solution are:

1.  Choose flow-inducing hobbies that really engage you and pull your mind away from work.  Such hobbies include anything that fully engage you and seem effortless. Examples might include swimming, knitting, or working a challenging puzzle.

2. Set goals in your personal life just like you do in your professional life.

3. Schedule dates with other people for non-work activities.

4. Use tech boundaries to separate your work and your life. You might choose to separate your work and home email accounts, for example, so that you don’t inadvertantly get sucked into work when you just intended to send a quick email to a friend.

5. Decide your “no”s in advance. I actually prefer to frame this item in the positive, and to choose your “yes” list first — spending quality time watching a movie with the family, perhaps — and deciding in advancing that anything that doesn’t advance your “yes” list is an automatic “no.” However this item is phrased, though, the key is to set and maintain boundaries.

Author, author!   “Why do you believe the legal profession is the greatest profession in the world?”  If you’re an ABA member and write the best essay on this topic (entry deadline March 3), you could win $5000.  Alternatively, the Ms. JD blog and the Project for Attorney Retention are offering a $1000 prize for the best answer to, “”How Do We Close the Gap Between Baby Boomers and Millennials on Work/Life Balance?”   Details and links to both contest entry forms here.

Blawg Review #143: Gideon, of the Public Defender Stuff blog, hosts Blawg Review #143 — a special theme for MLK day.  Though Gideon writes that the Blawg Review “reads like my briefs: long, rambling and not always on point,” it’s a well-done issue, focusing on the struggles inherent in criminal defense.

Tuesday Shorts 12/11/07

Survival tips for new associates:  David Dummer, an associate in the Dallas office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, has written an article with 10 survival tips for new associates.  Although the tips are not particularly revolutionary, they set a good framework for new associates and might serve as a reminder for more advanced lawyers.  Some suggestions never go out of style, such as asking questions to clarify an unclear assignment, taking a long-term view of networking and staying in touch with law school classmates, and making an effort to learn the case as a whole rather than focusing on only a discrete project within the case.  And I particularly like Dummer’s final tip:

10. Your nameplate is your shingle. Remembering this mantra will help you learn how to operate in the firm setting. In many ways, you are a solo practitioner, and the partners and senior associates in the office are your clients. Think about what makes these clients want to hire you — consistently good work, value-added creativity and efficiency. Run your office so that you can deliver this type of work product to your clients every day.

How did a small IP firm build a 54% female partnership?  One of the interesting things about having practiced patent law is the overwhelming male domination in the field — though that’s changing.  So I took notice of an article about Lahive & Cockfeld, a 30-lawyer IP firm in Boston that boasts 7 women in a 13-member partnership.  Lahive represents clients such as Biogen Idec, Navartis, and Wyeth and bills over $30 million annually.  It has created a flexible compensation system that rewards lawyers for billing as well as business generation, client maintenance and associate mentoring, and the firm offers a work/life balance-friendly work structure:

“We didn’t want to encourage attorneys building their own practice in isolation,” said Giulio A. DeConti Jr., chairman of the executive committee. “We wanted to encourage being like a firm.”

Lahive fully embraces the notion of full-time flexibility, or allowing attorneys to vary their hours and office time while juggling a full workload.

Today, seven of Lahive & Cockfield’s 13 partners are women and a full pipeline of women are waiting to move up the ranks, including 67 percent of its patent agents and 58 percent of its technical specialists. Patent agents, who can represent patent applicants at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and technical specialists typically have advanced science or technical degrees and are usually attending law school part time. The firm has 18 patent agents and technical specialists.

Work/life fit:  As regular readers of this blog know, I continue to struggle with the term “work/life balance” and seek something more descriptive of the real situation — because “balance” just isn’t it.  I was delighted to discover “work+life fit inc.”, whose tagline is “It’s Fit, Not Balance.”  The company has recently sponsored a survey of 900 adults who work full time, with the following finding:

When asked what is the single most important change they would make to their jobs, respondents (51%) chose options that entailed working differently over making more money. When considering a different work style, 35 percent of those surveyed rated flexibility as most important and 16 percent rated responsibilities that better use their talents.

Of the 35 percent who chose flexibility, only 5 percent said reducing their schedule by more than 10 hours was most important. This was equal for men and women and counters previous research suggesting more people are interested in “part-time” employment. Working the same number of hours but with a more flexible schedule was most important to 13 percent, while 10 percent would opt to cut their schedule by 1 to 10 hours and 7 percent would prefer to work from a location outside the office.

“The perpetuating myths that people want to work significantly fewer hours and that work life flexibility means working less are simply not true,” said [Cali Williams] Yost [president of Work+Life Fit, Inc.].  “Most employees don’t want to work less, they just want to work differently in a way that better utilizes their talents or is a better fit with the rest of their lives’ demands and desires.”