Monthly Archives: December 2011

Overcoming fear of rejection

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Something about law school changes our attitudes as we turn into lawyers. We often maintain a need to take a position and zealously defend it, regardless of its weight. This can cause us to work extra hard to avoid losing. We can learn how to take calculated risks and accept “no” without imputing failure; the lawyer might otherwise avoid potentially losing positions and might miss a great opportunity.

There are a few confidence situations where we need to remember to bring our “A” game:

Job Hunting – you can’t say the wrong thing if you’re honest.
Do you really want to work somewhere you have to lie about your values or belief systems? Why would you agree or disagree with an interviewer just to get a job? Smart lawyers recognize pandering and it serves no one well. If the job is not a match, keep hunting. It is OK not to fit with everyone.

Networking – if you are a friend first you make an easier referral.
People do business with others they know, like and trust. Spend time getting to know people at networking events as friends first. Likeable people are more likely to receive follow up phone calls. Balance your time in networking conversations between what you do and who you are and vice versa.

Volunteering – even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you still win.
Don’t shy away from volunteer and pro bono opportunities simply because you don’t have a mastery of the subject matter. If organizers expected perfection they would have hired experts. Volunteer experience also allows us to break away from our daily roles, which creates a good environment to meet others and get to know them in a neutral atmosphere.

Collaboration – none of us knows everything so roundtable your issues.
The smartest person is often the one who asks the most questions. The best lawyers know the limits of their knowledge and experience. We all benefit from floating ideas around and hearing some fresh input. By including others and seeking collective intelligence you will always come out on top.

Personality – help people remember you among the competition.
You don’t have to be dry, even despite your practice area. Some of the most dynamic attorneys work in otherwise stale practice areas. The dynamic person makes their work seem interesting. People with passion for their work get noticed. So much of life as a lawyer is a confidence game.

Your Client Wants to Talk To The Press: Ethical Considerations in High-Profile Matters

Debra Pickett is President of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

Let’s assume, for the moment, that your client is NOT Rod Blagojevich. 

 Still, if you handle issues that get public attention, whether over the neighborhood grapevine or the national news, you’ve probably been faced with clients chomping at the bit to get the facts out and tell their side of the story.  Your first priority, of course, is the legal issue at hand.  And your next, quite naturally, is avoiding any trial publicity that might threaten the fairness of the proceedings in the matter.  So, your instincts (and experience) might tell you that it’s best to keep your client away from reporters and social media entirely.

 Certainly, there are plenty of good reasons to be concerned – you don’t want or need to see your legal strategy laid out in a public forum before adjudicative proceedings even begin.  But there are also some great advantages, for your client and you, in keeping some channels of communication open.  How can you best advise your clients in these situations, while still doing your most effective and ethical work?

 First, know the relevant codes of professional conduct and understand how they come into play.  What information is off-limits in extrajudicial statements?  If there has been recent adverse publicity – not initiated by you or your client – Illinois’ rules of professional conduct do allow you to make public statements that protect your client from the prejudicial effects of that publicity.  In other words, silence is not the only ethical response.

 Second, consider your client’s temperament and how you can help mitigate risks and limit exposure created when he or she speaks publicly.  Does your client need a “minder” to be present during media interviews or should someone offer coaching in advance of a conversation to clarify what needs to be kept confidential?  These services might be available to your client through a public relations firm already on retainer or through resources connected to your own marketing department.

 Third and finally, take a moment to talk with your client about the long-term and strategic impact of the public statements they wish to make.  Are there implications for their relationships with customers, employees and neighbors?  While the immediate instinct to respond to negative publicity by “fighting fire with fire” is certainly understandable, there are probably more productive ways to engage in civic conversations about important matters.  Finding ways to promote your client’s overall image in the community and nurture key connections can go a long way towards mitigating the damage done by rumors and concerns over a contentious matter.

 After giving some attention to these three considerations, you’re in a great position to help your client make good decisions about how to communicate with all the various stakeholders and constituencies interested in the high-profile matter you’re handling.  Now, of course, if our first assumption wasn’t valid and your client actually IS Rod Blagojevich, well, that’s an entirely different advice column!

Becoming a good story teller

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Yesterday I spoke at The John Marshall Law School on publicity and media relations for lawyers. A central theme in our workshop was learning how to spot your own stories and how to tell them. I realized most attorneys are storytellers, but they don’t always capture and share the story.

I have a few tips for becoming a better storyteller:

What are you going to say?

Lawyers are always telling war stories to each other. Try hanging out with divorce attorneys, you’ll get an earful. Without breaching confidence, you can tell people about the types of legal issues you encounter in your practice. You have to assume for a moment that other people aren’t sick of hearing about your cases. If you are passionate about being a lawyer, that passion will come out in your stories.

To whom will you tell?

Most clients come from referrals sent by friends, family and colleagues. These people are your good-will ambassadors and they want to see you do well. When you tell your closest people the stories of what you experience, they get a better idea of what you do and how you approach situations. Assume everyone you tell has a neighbor or friend who needs a lawyer.

Where will you tell it?

Your blog is a great thing when you use it frequently. I know it can be tough to find time to write and tell stories. You must allow yourself time for storytelling (Yes, this is your marketing we’re talking about). Keep things short and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details and focus on driving home the general rule of law or advice for life generally.

Why will readers care?

When you offer valuable content to people and speak to them, not at them, they appreciate your time and consideration. Many laypersons shy away from asking what they think might be silly questions. Save someone from asking and offer up some tricks of your trade. Studies show people feel positively about others who trust them with knowledge.

And then there were comments!

If you see another blog or news article that piques your interest, take the time to jump in to the comments section and offer your thoughts. People often read these comments, especially the articles’ author/editor. Keep it short and succinct and drop a link to your website to point people to your contact information if they want to continue a dialogue.

The future’s so bright, you have to wear shades

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Last night I attended a bar association holiday party, and I am optimistic about the 2012 job outlook. I attend enough events and talk to enough people to be a reasonably accurate judge of the state of our legal market here in Chicago. I hear people talking about hiring again. I hear people discussing moving and expanding. I hear people who are very busy with new work.

There are a few possible explanations for an increase in law firm hiring. First, news outlets are reporting economic growth, and the law firms might be responding positively to good news. Second, firms hit hard by the rough economy could have restructured their financial and production systems to make room to rehire lost associates. Third, consumers of legal services are likely returning to spending as usual after adjusting their habits. My advice for 2012 is to forget about 2008-through 2011.

Nick’s school of business psychology recognizes that people don’t like to dwell on the negative and are quick to forget unpleasant conditions. Stop singing the blues and start polishing your interview shoes. During recovery times, most business like law firms pursue economic opportunities to recover from recent loss periods. If forward progress is a function of confidence, then reminders of fear are obstacles.

Look, everybody knows that times were bad, but they don’t need to be reminded of loss. If your resume has gaps, fill them with the development, pro bono or other positive activities and highlight your resiliency. There are several people out there who whine and complain about hitting the job market at the wrong time, missing the big opportunity or who are otherwise upset with economic factors beyond their control.

By always focusing on what is within your control, you have the best shot at keeping the positive attitude that hiring partners seek during recovery periods. If my indicators are correct, we should be past the toughest times. I wish us all the best in 2012.

Modern Family and ‘Fessing Up

Nancy Glazer is manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The goal of Legal Launch LLC is to provide uplifting, career counseling for 3Ls, recent law school graduates and experienced attorneys.  Nancy offers her clients endless ideas and possibilities to help land them the right job in a competitive market.

I’m not a big fan of evening television programs, but the DVR is always set to Wednesday night’s Modern Family.  If you watch it, you know what I mean; it’s laugh-out-loud funny.  The show hits close to home for most of us because we are the characters or we know them.

Most of us who watch the show grin when we watch the neurosis of Claire, a helicopter parent, navigating every step her children take.  We all know someone like Jay, a divorced father with grown children who married a much younger woman the second time around.  Some of us know what it’s like when our new step-sibling is the same age as our youngest child.

Adding to the show’s popularity is the fact that the writing is so honest.  The characters tell the truth about situations that all of us encounter every day.  For example, we can relate to second wife Gloria’s sweeping regret after the angry, cathartic email she wrote to her daughter-in-law is mistakenly sent.  We understand the disappointment our son feels when he can’t get the attention of the girl he likes.  Perhaps, too, we know how it feels after spilling red grape juice on the one-of-a-kind white living room rug at the home of our 2-year-old daughter’s new friend.  We feel the panic and embarrassment; we feel the stress of making a familiar stinging situation better. 

 I think that the success of Modern Family is that it makes us feel both comforted and validated to see familiar dilemmas happen to someone else —  even fictional characters.  In fact, it’s funny.  We laugh.

A recurrent theme in Modern Family is the notion of “fessing up.”  While we laugh when the characters are doing their contortions and dancing around the truth, we are also relieved when the real story is publicly shared.  We get the truth. 

How does Modern Family pertain to lawyers?  

One of the first things I learned from senior lawyers when I started practicing law was to ‘fess up quickly if I made a mistake.  I learned that there is usually always time to fix an error.  The sooner you own up to a problem, the sooner a remedy can be made.   If you drafted the wrong part of a contract or if you omitted a good argument in a brief, you shouldn’t dance around the truth. 

We’ve all been there.  We all understand making a mistake.  It’s the truth, what really happened, that always makes perfect sense.  We get it.

If we ‘fess up, our colleagues know they can trust us; we’re not hiding anything.  Firm partners know they can trust us to be real with them and with their clients.  They trust that we have good judgment, something that is not reflected by our law school GPAs.  The mistakes we make in law can typically be fixed.  Often, they are not a big deal.

Like the characters and situations created in Modern Family, we can all relate to making mistakes.  It is our actions after we discover those mistakes that measure our character.  Hopefully, after the dust settles, we can laugh.

Use holiday parties for event mining

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Many attorneys in transition are those who build books of business through community activities and presentations. I like the “everyone has a neighbor” rule of thumb: assume that everyone you talk to is a few degrees from being your next client or referral. This holiday season we all have social events where we might meet people to work on event collaboration. They key to collaboration is an open mind and an ear to the ground so that we don’t miss great opportunities to tell people what we do.

If you follow a few points of advice this holiday season then you will likely start the new year with some events to plan and execute.

First, talk to engaging people. The best way to find engaging people: be approachable. When I’m at an event where I don’t know anyone, I hang out by the food. Someone will approach me and strike up a conversation. I listen and ask questions. As others stop by to say hello, I often find that I haven’t moved from my spot since arriving. By developing rapport and trust, new people are more likely to talk to you after the event.

Next, don’t make presumptions about referral matches. How often do you ask, “What does your spouse do?” The people you meet at holiday parties are likely a few steps away from target client matches – all you have to do is ask smart questions and find a connection. If you consciously try to remember an engaging person, you will likely run into someone who might be their match. Most referrals come from those people – the unanticipated client generators.

Then, look for mutually beneficial business interests. When you explore mutually beneficial exposure opportunities, consider your ideal client and your new friend’s ideal client. Ask yourself, what if anything do our potential clients have in common? When you spot common client attributes, think about who might be the right person to influence a common client; contact that individual to help sponsor or advertise your event.

Finally, don’t forget to tell people what you do and to identify an ideal client. Whether in writing or conversation, tell people who’s presenting, what they do, and identify ideal clients. Use open-ended language like, “Bob is a consumer protection lawyer who helps people fight big companies who steal big by stealing a little from many.” (See how this is better than saying that Bob is a class action plaintiff’s lawyer – only other lawyers know what that means). Be proud of our careers and share with others so we can help each other.