Don’t go it alone! Dealing with unemployment (or underemployment) and the job hunting process warrants as much information and support as you can get. That’s why LCL and your Mass. Bar Association are teaming up once again to offer this free 8-session twice monthly series for lawyers immersed in the trials and tribulations of looking for work. The series begins 2/27 and continues on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the months through 6/12/13. It is held from 10:00 to 12:00 at the Mass Bar Headquarters, 20 West Street, Boston, and provides valuable information, mutual support, and accountability. Pre-registration is required. Use this link to the MBA for more information and registration: http://www.massbar.org/publications/e-journal/2013/february/02-21/work-search or contact Nancy Brown at email@example.com or call 617-482-5004.
Volvo is, of course, the car to have if you truly care about safety. But Mercedes means you have style and deserve luxury, and BMW means you’re oh so exacting about the machinery you drive.
Progressive Insurance is the one that provides warm, friendly help (from Flo) while AllState is the reliable authoritative father figure of insurance (Dennis Haysbert) and GEICO is the cute insurance (gecko).
So, what’s your brand as a lawyer? Why would a consumer choose to engage your services rather that someone else’s?
These are among the questions and issues to be faced by solo and small firm practitioners in the upcoming group “Your Law Firm is Your Business: Managing Your Solo Practice.” It’s a free 6-session series starting soon – click here for more info!
The new Cape Cod meeting will be held on alternate Wednesdays, commencing on:
February 27, 2013 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at:
275 Millway, Barnstable, MA 02630
A light lunch will be served. Please let us know if you are planning to attend, so that we can plan the food accordingly.
For additional information, or to confirm attendance please contact:
When Ray Stevens’ so-titled hit was playing in 1968, offering its biting commentary on the plight of the business person, you never thought it applied to you. Well, to be more accurate, most of you had not yet been born, but I remember it well. Anyhow, when you were immersed in your law school curriculum, motivated perhaps by a love of the law, or a desire to do good, or to be a professional without having to take organic chemistry, you may never have pictured yourself worrying about budgeting, marketing, branding (unless you planned to represent ranchers), or networking.
But now you find yourself in a solo or small firm practice, and you discover that mere legal excellence, work ethic, and good intentions do not bring in the clients or pay the bills, at least not to the extent you would like. With or without reluctance, you must face the fact that the lawyer who runs a present-day practice is running a business. What’s a person to do?
Funny you should ask. The same LOMAP-LCL partnership that brought the recent “Getting Things Done” group series to interested solo and small firm practitioners is now gearing up to present, Your Law Firm is Your Business: Managing Your Solo Practice. Like the previous series, this one will consist of 6 sessions meeting every other Friday at lunch time (12:30 pm to 2:00 pm), starting (beware) on March 15. For more information, click here.
Jeff Fortgang, PhD
Many years ago when I was first trained as a clinical psychologist, patients’ interest in self-help books was often viewed as a cheap substitute for psychotherapy, and their requests for book recommendations was sometimes deemed a form of resistance to therapy. In my own memory it was the world of alcoholism treatment, and then the 1980s explosion of interest in adult children of alcoholics, that opened the door to what is sometimes called “biblio-therapy”.
Things have certainly changed, and now, according to a study by psychologists at the University of Scranton, 85% of psychologists polled found that their patients/clients reported benefitting from self-help books, and 57% said the same of autobiographies. Reviewing these results recently in The Register Report, a periodical for psychologists, the researchers have provided a list of the Top 50 Rated Self-Help Books and the Top 50 Rated Self-Help Autobiographies, for issues including grief, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, codependency, eating disorders, anxiety, parenting, and more.
Jeff Fortgang, PhD
As a clinician at LCL, I recurrently have the opportunity to meet lawyers who present with exceptional academic backgrounds, who have excelled in their careers, and who have shown impressive vision and determination in their professional lives. Even so, the matters bringing them to me are reminders that depression, addiction, attention deficit, anxiety, and the like are equal-opportunity problems, and that these individuals are no more immune from them than those whose backgrounds are less extraordinary.
One reason for that is the fact that different parts of our brains are, in some respects, at war with one another. Rationality, decision-making, goal-directedness, etc. are functions that seem to go on mainly in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the cerebrum that is uniquely evolved in humans, and we’d like to think that we employ our cognitive capacities to control our lives. But the fact is that much of our behavior is affected strongly by the limbic system, where we find the influence of emotion and reward.
Lawyers seek to live professionally in the prefrontal cortex, which is essential in the practice of law. But they are human beings as well, and subject to the powerful behavioral impact of feelings (whether or not these are acknowledged) and reward states (such as those that can be unnaturally elevated by alcohol and other drugs of abuse). Thus, we find highly intelligent, accomplished individuals, who have tried to apply their reasoning skills to problems of emotion or addictive behavior only to see these difficulties worsen.
We all have to recognize that there is much of life over which we have little or no control, and that when it comes to those parts of our experience we will probably benefit most from (a) acceptance of our human limitations and (b) willingness to make honest connections to others as sources of help.
Jeff Fortgang, PhD
Getting the Job (of Finding a Job) Done (Part 6)
How refreshing it is to hear someone hit a hopeful note, especially at this time of year. At our 6th session of the Managing Your Work Search series, guest speaker Jim Toms, HR Director at Sullivan & Worcester, offered some welcome encouragement in the form of growing legal job opportunities. A survey of the various job posting sites suggested that there were currently 1500 legal job openings in Massachusetts. Although a quick review could not easily assign percentages to full-time vs. part-time, professional vs. paraprofessional, public vs. private, or identify legal specialty, the number was nevertheless heartening. In fielding questions put to him by participants seeking advice in the search and the interview process, Mr. Toms underscored the universal theme of the importance of networking in the job search process. “Simply submitting a resume and cover letter will never get you on the interview list,” said Mr. Toms. He encouraged participants to take advantage of the fact that most people are more than willing to meet you for coffee or lunch for an informational interview, and to follow up with periodic updates to keep yourself fresh in their minds. You just never know where you might find the winning lead, right combination of contacts, or tip of the scales in your favor, but probabilities serve the active networker. Beyond making and maintaining contacts, networking helps jobseekers to clarify their objectives, hone their interview skills, increase their knowledge of the current job market, and in general, become more interesting candidates.
Nancy L Brown, LICSW
On November 7th, we were delighted to welcome back to this series a former speaker, Steve Eichel, Esq., (Partner at Choate, Massachusetts Super Lawyer from 2004-2012, and member of Chambers USA Best Lawyers in America). Steve spoke on a hugely successful networking strategy that has proven very fruitful for him, and has also enabled him to help many colleagues and non-colleagues alike.
The strategy that Steve described and demonstrated for the group consists of 6 basic steps, the initial focus of which are to help you discover how you can help the other, and finally, to enlist their interest in helping you.
Step 1: Inquire of the other person what they are currently trying to accomplish, what is their “top priority.” In a networking event, it’s likely to be work-related, but elsewhere it could be anything.
Step 2: Ask the person what he/she is doing to achieve that goal?
Step 3: Then ask what challenges or problems he/she is having with those efforts.
Step 4: Next ask, “What would help you with that?” You’re trying to identify something very specific, some bite-sized task that you (or someone) could actually do to help.
Step 5: Finally, ask him/her, “What else?” And repeat the process. This increases your chance at being helpful to this person.
Step 6: This is where it is your turn. Ask the person if you can tell them what you are looking for. Be very specific and concrete, so the person can seriously consider how they can help you, or perhaps refer you to someone else.
This is, of course, a bare bones outline, and when fleshed out, could be a 15-minute conversation, or more. When you stay focused on your purpose, listen carefully, and make sure you understand what they are telling you, you demonstrate real interest in the other, and may enable them to think in new ways about what they want. Ideally, you also deliver useful help, whether in the form or an idea, a suggestion, or a contact. In so doing, you have created good will and earned their willingness to return the favor.
This is a strategy that takes preparation and practice, and is worth it. You prepare by making sure you can clearly and concisely answer for yourself the same questions you put to the other, and also clearly and concisely communicate what you want. Practice on a friend or family member, recasting it in your own personality and style.
Networking skills are vital when it comes to finding employment, or building a practice, or developing a career, and having an effective structure to guide you can make all the difference.
Nancy L. Brown, LICSW
Here we are at the time of year when we are occasionally reminded to be grateful (perhaps superseded, these days, by reminders that true fulfillment requires cars, jewelry, or smartphones). And of course the recommendation for an “attitude of gratitude” has long been a prominent recommendation for a sane way of life in 12-step groups. All very nice, but what does it offer the hard-headed professional, such as a lawyer well trained in finding the holes in any argument?
Now there is a growing body of systematic psychological inquiry into “the grateful disposition,” notably in the lab of UC Davis professor Robert Emmons, author of books such as The Psychology of Gratitude (Oxford University Press). He has found, for example, that people who kept gratitude journals reported fewer physical complaints, made more progress toward personal goals, and were more attentive, optimistic, generous, and energized.
Dr. Emmons’ colleagues/collaborators in the field of gratitude include Michael McCullough, PhD of University of Miami and Jo-Ann Tsang, PhD of Baylor University. If you’d like to self-administer the Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6) that they developed, you can link to it here and then find scoring instructions here.
Jeff Fortgang, PhD
Peer support comes in many forms, and one of them is on a professional/career level. Those lawyers who work in law firms have a kind of built-in professional support – if they’re stuck on a case, out of action because of a medical problem, falling down on the job, etc. – there are partners/associates around to notice and to fill in. Those in solo practice have no such back-up unless they find it on their own, and it’s generally a really good idea for them to “buddy up” with one or more colleagues.
Some of the potentially useful functions of your buddy (and of course, these functions are mutual and flow in both directions) are: ▪ someone with whom to brainstorm around business and career challenges; ▪ someone to offer an additional perspective on cases or tasks that present you with a sense of uncertainty; ▪ someone to take over for you in the event of illness or even death (see BBO article on this topic); ▪ someone to hold you accountable for following up on goals for improving your practice.
This last function for a buddy arises in LCL’s Solo Practitioners Group, for which we are about to have the last of six sessions on the subject of “Getting Things Done.” [We do plan another 6-session round of groups in the near future, probably on a different but related set of issues facing solo practitioners, and will likely return to getting-things-done at a later point; if interested, email me at DrJeff@LCLMA.org.]
Jeff Fortgang, PhD