Follow-up from the NALP conference

Last Wednesday, I attended the NALP Annual Education Conference.  I wish I’d planned to be there for the whole conference, because I met some fantastic people (including Steve Seckler of the Counsel to Counsel blog) and read about a number of presentations that I would have loved to attend.  But, I’d budgeted only one day, and much of that was taken up with final preparations for the presentation I made with three delightful colleagues.

I was able to attend the keynote speech by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, two women who, following their service as U.S. Marine officers, have dedicated themselves to advancing women as leaders.  They spoke on several of the leadership principles in their book Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women; the principle that caught my attention was to seek to take responsibility before seeking to place blame.  (Their wording is no doubt catchier, but that’s the gist.)  I’ve seen too many instances in which teams of lawyers turn on one another when there’s a problem, and application of this principle might help teams resolve problems.  I plan to read the book, and I’ll post a follow-up review when I do.  At a minimum, attending the keynote was a well-spent hour.

And then I caught up with my co-presenters: Jory Fisher, Associate Dean for Career & Professional Development at Liberty Law School, Ann Skalaski, a consultant for law schools and law firms as well as a recruiter and career coach, and Dayle Savage, Professor and Director of the Peabody Career Center and Vanderbilt University and a a coach and consultant with spiraLearning.  It was a pleasure to work with these bright, personable women!

Our topic was Facilitating a Successful Transition from Law Student to Lawyer.  I would guess that close to 100 people attended the program, and we engaged in a rich discussion about what law schools and law firms are doing right and what each could do better to help students make the leap.  The conclusion that each of us reached is that it’s critical to bring law schools and law firms together so discuss expectations for new lawyers, as well as to address what each side can and should do to help new lawyers accrue the necessary skills for success.  In the course of the presentation, we shared several resources, one of which I’d like to highlight here:

Best Practices in Attorney Professional Development: Heading Off and Handling Wrong Turns, prepared by the ABA Career Resource Center with the cooperation of the Professional Development Consortium.  Numerous law firm recruiters and professional development coordinators contributed to this book that presents best practices for lawyers, law firms, and professional development specialists.  The contributors provides practical advice on a variety of situations that associates may encounter, such as how to handle mistakes, how to request and implement feedback received from supervising lawyers, and how to maintain an appropriate workload.  Also included are suggestions for law firms (such as using a competency model to build a high performance culture and creating effective lateral transition programs) and advice, job descriptions, and advertisements for professional development specialists.  The book would be useful for both attorneys and administrators, and it’s worth every penny.  As I described it during the program, it’s like a mentor-in-a-book for associates.

Our time was short — the 90 minutes allotted flew by — but the attendees both offered and received some terrific ideas for enhancing professional development programs.  I understand that NALP makes notes and handouts from the conference freely available on its web site, so if you’re interested in more information, you may want to visit the NALP website in 2-3 weeks.

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