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.