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How to Survive Your First Year as a Lawyer

How to Survive Your First Year as a Lawyer on bossreporting.com

There’s a lot of pressure to say yes to everything, but burn-out is not what anybody wants for you

Ever notice that the most prestigious professions seem to start out with a bang? The bang being in the form of an infamous time period where it’s all about showing you’ve got the right stuff. Lawyers certainly go through something like this.

The first year is supposedly what’s going to make or break you. It’s all about doing the right things and being in the right places with the right people. Every successful lawyer has his or her own collection of “first-year” stories. Distill them down and they provide common tips on how to land on your feet and get a great review when you hit your anniversary mark.

Learn to be okay with not feeling secure

You graduated. Then you passed the bar exam. But, guess what? All you’ve got at this starting-out point is a lot of knowledge. You haven’t applied it much. The application comes with time and experience. In the meantime, you will be far more respected for understanding what you don’t know and asking for guidance than proceeding and possibly jeopardizing a case – which will jeopardize your burgeoning career.

Pursue substance

Briefs have formats. It’s crucial that these formats are followed. After all, you’re presenting information that has to be consumed, referenced, and compared. Don’t follow your own layout or design preferences with written documents. Does the punctuation go inside or outside of the quotation mark? Now you’re moving past form, and it might be time to stop and think about what’s important. Pay attention to the substance of your communication. Let your word processing software keep track of the format.

Pay attention to the timing cycle of your mentors

The right mentors can make all the difference during your first year as a lawyer. And while it might feel as if a mentor with decades of experience can offer you the best advice, you may discover that a mentor who is just a step or two ahead of you can be a better choice. What you’re going through is still fresh in their mind.

Make paralegals and legal assistants your new best friends

Let’s be honest. Who really does the grunt work? Who really knows the inner workings and the politics of the firm? Who often doesn’t even have to pause and think about it in order to advise you on who to talk to when you need something for a case? These employees are often overworked and underappreciated, and often they have some of the highest seniority in the office. Approach your relationships with these support professionals with care. They have it in their power to help you succeed.

Don’t expect anyone to set your boundaries

This is the year you prove yourself, right? You unfurl your sails and take on as much as you can to show the decision-makers you’ve got the bandwidth. There’s a lot of pressure to say yes to everything. Keep in mind that the people you’re trying to impress are also watching and gauging your ability to say no. Burn-out is not what anybody wants for you.

Take advantage of life hacks

If you want to be judged well at the end of your first year, you’ve got to optimize your output by minimizing the amount of work you put into everything else. You’re probably dealing with the reality of paying off student loans, but don’t discount the return on investment in using a professional laundry service or having a house cleaner. This money spent outsourcing activities that detract from a focus on your job is money well invested—even if it’s just to help you get a few extra hours of downtime.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

How Attorneys Can Find Balance Between Work and Life

How Attorneys Can Find Balance Between Work and Life on bossreporting.com

Your perspective changes when you focus on managing your activities, rather than attempting to manage time.

It’s a myth. If you’re an attorney, there’s no such thing as work-life balance. That’s how it might seem from the inside—especially if you’re just starting out practicing law.

Is it really even possible to have a successful career as a lawyer while also enjoying a satisfying personal life? It is. And while it might be easier to attain if you’re further along in your career than when you’re just getting started, there are simple and attainable things you can do to find that balance.

Synergy

It’s likely we don’t think work-life balance is possible because we don’t quite understand the concept, to begin with. Simply put, it’s a synergy between your career and the other commitments you make in your life. These would include your family and friends, as well as your health and fitness and your social activities.

When we think of balance, we may envision equal parts. That 50/50 partition is something to shoot for, but you might find you’re just as happy with a 60/40 split, too. This is especially true for lawyers, who do spend more time on the job than those in other careers.

This balance makes the assumption that you have enough time in your day to accomplish your work-related tasks, and then participate in the activities representing your other commitments. When this doesn’t happen, we often chide ourselves. We’re not able to manage our time, we say.

It’s impossible to manage time. We all have all the time there is. More cannot be made. Truly, the only thing you can control in this regard is what you do with your time. Your perspective changes when you focus on managing your activities, rather than attempting to manage time.

Cleaning out the closet

Here’s an analogy if you need it. Think of time as something tangible. It’s a container, and the laws of physics dictate that only a certain number of items can fit into a container.

It’s like saying you are going to manage your closet. We know what we mean is that we are going to manage what is in the closet. If we want more clothes or shoes to fit, we’re going to have to get rid of some of the stuff already in there.

If you want to bring more balance to commitments other than your job, you’ll need to make room in that closet by getting rid of a few things.

More billable hours

It’s estimated that a full-time attorney typically billed 1,300 hours early in the 1960s. Large practices today have pushed this up to 2,000 hours or more—which translates to 60-hour workweeks. This is an even higher priority for associates, who want to show they’ve got what it takes to be a partner.

There goes the whole make-room-in-the-closet analogy; might as well just light a match and throw it in.  But try this before you start a bonfire:

Balancing checks

How do you know if you’re moving toward managing your activities instead of your time? You need a few balancing checks—or stop points where you can assess and re-plot your course if you find you’re not moving toward a work-life balance. Use these activities to create balancing checks.

  • Define your priorities and values. Many things you do on a daily basis as a lawyer contribute little toward what you care about. But you don’t realize this because you probably haven’t defined what matters to you. Clarify them. They determine what becomes a priority.
  • Identify and isolate your distractions. The biggest obstacle to work-life balance is not the lack of time. It’s the abundance of distractions. The majority of these distractions are expectations you place on yourself to please others at work and at home. Your job as an attorney is to advocate for others. You won’t find balance in your life unless you advocate for yourself, too.
  • Create weekly time blocks of personal time. You’re already used to slicing up billable hours into 15-minute increments. Book a few of these—no less than 30 minutes each—as non-reschedulable appointments. Do anything you like with the time, as long as it’s not work-related. Maybe it’s actually sorting through the clothes in your closet.
  • Create boundaries around your personal commitments. If you are good at your job, there will always be more work to do. You will discover this earns you additional respect, rather than disappointment. And, for good reason. You’re displaying an important leadership quality. You can only offer stability from a firm foundation.

These balancing checks give you an opportunity to assess the direction in which you’re traveling. Work-life balance for attorneys is not a myth. It won’t be a reality, either, unless you renegotiate your relationship with time—which will reset your approach to how much of it is appropriate to give to your job vs. the rest of the commitments in your life.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner!  For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

5 Ways Criticize Others at Work Without Making Them Feel Bad About It

5 Ways Criticize Others at Work Without Making Them Feel Bad About It on bossreporting.com

Focus your observations and attention on the problem, rather than the person.

It is better to give than to receive. Unless it’s criticism. Then it’s pretty much a losing proposition on both sides of the coin. Most people will admit that being on the receiving end of even constructive criticism stings. What about giving it? Is there a way to go about it that helps the recipient feel okay?

There’s one thing totally outside your control. Choose whatever words you like, but you still will not have total control over how someone will interpret them. You mean well, but they don’t have to take it that way. Here are 5 ways you can offer constructive feedback to coworkers without making them feel bad about it.

1.  Nothing personal

How can someone not take constructive criticism personally? Nobody said deciding to offer criticism of any kind would be easy. It’ll be taken personally because it is aimed at someone specifically.

Trying to deliver your criticism in a way that won’t be taken personally may not be possible. You can, however, separate someone’s work behavior from their personal behavior. Focus on highly-specific actions so that the person receiving the feedback doesn’t convert it into a general observation.

“You’ll have less trouble with the accounting department if you respond to their expense report questions as soon as you get them,” is specific. “You’re slow to get back on some things” leaves plenty of room for interpretation.

2.  Keep it inspirational

Criticism is useless unless its objective is to seek mutual improvement. Do you really want to help this coworker improve? Make sure your intent is communicated. It’s the reason why they call it “constructive” criticism.

The objective is to volunteer positive feedback—as well as suggestions—that identify a problem. Focus on the problem and not the person. The more targeted and specific you can be, the less the recipient of the criticism will feel as if they are being personally singled out and made to feel bad.

Motivational experts often call this the “sandwich approach.” Your likely-to-be-construed-as-negative criticism is positioned between two positive observations:

Compliment | Criticize | Compliment

The delivery may help to soften what might feel like personal attack. It also can help with retaining their attention. Many people tend to tune out when they start hearing things they don’t like. The most important thing to remember about the sandwich approach is that you must be sincere with your positive observations. Otherwise, your sandwich is more like throwing gasoline on a fire.

3.  Skip the instruction

Don’t tell me what to do. We hated it as a kid, and we develop no love or tolerance for it as adults. We especially don’t appreciate being instructed by coworkers.

Stick with observations. Be specific about how your coworker’s actions impact you. Here’s the big, important thing: Don’t offer advice on how the recipient should fix the problem. Observe. Simply identify the issue.

Then, volunteer to help your coworker fix the problem. Skip the instruction. Offer only support. It’s already bad enough that you’ve brought something negative to their attention. Now you’re going to offer them advice on how to fix it, too?

4.  Phrases to avoid

There are certain approaches to constructive criticism that just set you up for a fall. As you formulate your observation, steer clear of these phrases:

  • You should…
  • I wish…
  • You never… or you always…
  • I can’t believe…
  • How can you not see…

5.  Steering clear of judgmental language

Keeping it about the situation and not the person means navigating past any type of accusatory language and moving toward neutral statements that communicate nothing but an observation. Try approaches starting with:

  • I’m curious about understanding…
  • I’m feeling disappointed because what’s important to me is…
  • I notice that…
  • Can you help me understand…
  • What happened?

Offering constructive criticism means you will be dealing with ego. Emotion takes over and it’s difficult to continue at a logical level. Even so, you’ll find offering constructive criticism works better when you remember to keep it as a conversation. The person to whom you’re giving the criticism should be doing as much talking as you.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

So Long, Partner: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Departure of a Member of Your Legal Team

So Long, Partner: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Departure of a Member of Your Legal Team on bossreporting.com

5 Tips that revolve around 2 words: Roles and Responsibilities.

In a perfect world, you get plenty of advanced notice. Hand-offs are planned. Caseloads are balanced. A partner’s departure from your legal team is unfortunate, but it doesn’t create chaos.

We don’t live in a perfect world. Often, there’s little notice. Opportunities come quickly, and people have to act fast. Or, it’s an unplanned, abrupt termination. In either case, your best bet is proactive planning so you can compensate for these sudden absences. Follow these 5 tips.

1. Keep a company voicemail login information sheet

The confidential nature of client information means that much of it may be exchanged using the phone. You’ll want to make sure you have access to a departing partner’s voicemail to access the messages and their chronology.

2. Have your IT department clone their email

Back to that perfect world scenario. Malice and professionalism are mutually exclusive in the legal field—so it’s unlikely that it’s much of a concern. It’s more likely that a departing colleague accidentally deletes important email content with the intent of getting rid of clutter.

It’s in your firm’s best interests to decide which email messages are important and necessary, as you’ll be taking over for the person who’s moving on.

3. Ask them to list usernames and passwords for any external sites where case and workload information is stored

Your firm may already have policies in place that determine the allowable places where partners can keep digital storage. It also means your IT department should be able to access these files if necessary. Make sure, however, that your departing colleague shares any and all sources where they may have stored client- or case-related information.

This includes popular commercial sites, such as Dropbox. Don’t forget to ask them if they’ve stored any voice memos or notes on their mobile devices.

4. Ask them to or have your IT department delegate control of their docket calendar

There are discovery deadlines, depositions, closings, and all kinds of client meetings—and many have been on the schedule for months. They can’t be missed, so you’ll need to make sure they’re assigned to other partners.

5. Make delegated roles and responsibilities clear to those who assume them

Partners are busy, and assuming the caseload of a departing colleague only adds more tasks. It’s wise not to assume that someone should know the peripherals of what’s landing on their plate—especially if your firm decides to reassign responsibilities instead of entire cases.

You’ll also want to clarify what’s allowable or permissible with ongoing communications after this partner has left the firm. Most firms opt to continue those communications only if it’s vital, and they use the ex-partner’s personal contact information. Otherwise, there can be a conflict of interest if the new firm practices similar law.

Consider giving this responsibility to a senior office administrator, or to one of the firm’s partners. It’s something that should be handled firmly and with authority.

Someone leaving your firm shouldn’t be the cause of confusion and lost revenue. If your firm doesn’t experience a regular turnover of partners, you may not have a comprehensive procedure in place. When the time comes, it ends up being hit-and-miss, rather than a comfortable rollover.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner! For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Are You a Fast Food Franchise? Managing Client Expectations on Fees and Pricing

Are You a Fast Food Franchise? Managing Client Expectations on Fees and Pricing on bossreporting.com

They don’t know what they don’t know. Maybe they just need to learn how lawyers charge for their services—and why.

Is there ever just a single way to do something? It may seem that way if it’s the way things have been done since anybody can remember, but seldom are you required to keep on doing it in the same fashion.

This is particularly true if you discover that it’s just not in the best interest of your customers. As long as anybody can remember, law firms have billed clients using the format of the billable hour. There was no a la carte ordering possible. It was like going to a fast food franchise. Sorry, no substitutions allowed. You can have whatever you want, as long as it’s up on the menu board. That works fine for a burger and fry combo with a large soda, but not so well for the often-unpredictable nature of legal proceedings.

Is it a cost, or an investment?

We live in the age of the empowered consumer. While they don’t necessarily expect to tell you how to run your business, today’s clients will press you for an explanation on why your fees are structured the way they are. Take the concept of the billable hour.

How is it possible for them to understand and appreciate the cost of services if they’re focused on the amount of time you’re putting in for them rather than the value you’re creating? What’s more, the rest of the world has become far more transparent, offering customer-centric pricing.

Is it less expensive pricing? Are businesses sacrificing income in order to acquire and retain customers? The answer is a resounding no. All these businesses have done is to set and manage their customers’ expectations.

And that’s important for a law firm. Unless you’re someone who has a constant or ongoing need for legal services, an understanding of how lawyers charge for their services—and why—is a totally foreign concept.

All a new client might truly know is that they should have the right to easily calculate how much this is going to cost them.

The default mode

Like any professional, we have a tendency to immediately launch into doing what we are trained to provide for clients when they seek us out for our services. In doing so, we often skip a crucial aspect that sets the stage of what a client should expect from us.

Do they know?

Are they fully aware of what you will provide for their investment in your firm’s services? You know your full range and capacity. They, however, do not. And often, the only certainty they have is the established billable hour price they will contract to pay.

This sets up a lopsided dynamic. Both you and your client need an atmosphere of complete transparency—but what you may have instead is an unspoken distrust. They might show a tendency to be unwilling to interact with you because as far as they know, every minute is going toward that (not fully understood) billable hour.

There’s a simple solution, and it can go a long way toward establishing your firm’s value proposition. Manage their expectations. Set their mind at ease by taking a zero-based assumption approach. It’s human nature to question and dispute what we don’t know. Often, though, it’s simply because no one took the time to explain it to us.

Your clients may not necessarily be looking for ways to dictate how your firm charges them for services. They could simply be searching for clarification and understanding.

Boss Reporting Asks: Does Your Law Practice Drain Your Employees?

Boss Reporting Asks: Does Your Law Practice Drain Your Employees? on bossreporting.com

Transform toxic and turbulent to inspiring and inclusive!

What would your employees say if they were asked about the culture of your law firm? If you’re cringing at the thought of their feedback, perhaps it’s time to examine what life is like for your team. Lawyers everywhere, especially those who are just starting out, will tell you that between the endless hours at the office, the drudgery and an adverse ambiance, their firm is not only unpleasant, it’s downright soul-sucking.

If it comes as any comfort to you to know that yours isn’t the only company with this issue, great! Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. And if you’d like to come up with ways to elevate the mood among your crew and to transform your company culture, then read on!

Define purpose

“What am I doing here?” is one of those questions that creeps into everyone’s mind time and again. Employees who don’t have a clearly defined purpose are less engaged, less happy, and less productive. As management, it’s your job to define the missions and goals of the firm and to communicate these to your team. But it goes even a step further when you’re faced with a culture clash and that’s ensuring that employees understand their part in the mission and why what they do every day is important. Without this, there’s no purpose and without purpose, there’s no passion.

Recognition and reward

Employees who are recognized for a job well done feel happier and more appreciated which always translates into the motivation to work harder. It’s common sense really, but sometimes people get so busy and distracted with the daily grind that they forget that a little appreciation goes a long way. Law firms that implement an employee recognition and reward program see immediate improvement in their culture. Not only are team members inspired to work harder to earn rewards, they’re more likely to appreciate and recognize their co-workers. These are also key elements that go back to how valued they feel and why their role is an important part of your overall mission.

Room to grow

We can all agree that stagnancy stinks. Nobody likes immobility, especially when it comes to their career. Law firms that offer learning and development opportunities for their staff reap the rewards in various ways. First, they have team members that are learning new skills and advancing their knowledge that they can apply to their job and second, these people feel happier and more empowered to perform. Workshops, webinars, industry events, and other similar activities are key ways to provide growth opportunities to your team. Remember, the more they know, the better they can do their jobs all of which has a direct and positive reflection on your firm.

Positive company culture doesn’t always occur naturally. Consider your turnover rate. If you have employees consistently strategizing their exit, it’s time to take a new approach. At a time where companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook set the standard for a progressive, innovative, and open-approach to culture, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you’ve got to keep up. Follow these tips to get started in a new, more positive direction.

Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange

Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 2

Boss Reporting Proudly Sponsors the Florida Court Reporters Association Information Exchange.

Boss Reporting is honored to have sponsored the FCRA (Florida Court Reporters Association) Membership Information Exchange at the Tropical Acres Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale on April 30, 2014. The Information Exchange is an event for attendees to network and hear about issues affecting the court reporting profession today such as e-filing of transcripts and possible certification of reporters.

The Florida Court Reporters Association is a non-profit corporation which aims at advancing and perfecting the science of shorthand verbatim reporting in all its facets, phases, and aspects. They hope to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the court reporting profession, while actively serving the public and judicial system of the State of Florida.

Check out photos from the FCRA Membership Information Exchange below

Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 8 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 5 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 7 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 3 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 2 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 1 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 6 Boss Reporting Sponsors FCRA Information Exchange 4

 

South Broward Bar Association’s 2014 Installation Dinner

South Broward Bar Association's 2014 Installation Dinner Boss Reporting 1

Boss Reporting Proudly Sponsors the SBBA 2014 Installation Dinner

Boss Reporting was a proud sponsor of the South Broward Bar Association’s 2014 Installation Dinner on March 14, 2014, an amazing event with Justice R. Fred Lewis as the keynote speaker. Congratulations to our friend Ken Hassett on all your hard work making the SBBA as successful as it is!

Check out all the photos from the South Broward Bar Association’s 2014 Installation Dinner

South Broward Bar Association's 2014 Installation Dinner Boss Reporting 2 South Broward Bar Association's 2014 Installation Dinner Boss Reporting South Broward Bar Association's 2014 Installation Dinner Boss Reporting 1 South Broward Bar Association's 2014 Installation Dinner Boss Reporting 3

About South Broward Bar Association:

The South Broward Bar Association (SBBA) is a voluntary bar association revived in January 2008, after a thirteen year hiatus, by Kenneth P. Hassett (Past-President, 2008-2010). They welcome attorneys, judges, paralegals, law students, and businesses affiliated with the legal profession to join their organization, and they have had numerous county, circuit, and appellate judges, along with several prominent members from the local legal community, as their monthly guest speakers. The SBBA’s mission is to further the common business interests of members by promoting interest in the practice of law within the state of Florida, seeking improvement to the administration of legal justice in Broward County, Florida, and providing a forum for members to discuss, review, and analyze legal trends, decisions, rulings, and other issues affecting the legal industry.