Friday, August 28, 2009

I am a Survivor

Okay, day 15, and I think I succeeded in the Blawger Challenge. I know I am exhausted. Not only did I manage to get all 15 posts in, but I also billed my quota at work and managed to take a three day weekend, rode the horse about ten hours in total over the course of the challenge, continued to supervise the construction of my new house, spent time with girlfriends, and kept my kids and husband relatively happy. Obviously I haven't slept much in the last three weeks. So today I was going to write about the importance of sleep to the proper functioning of the legal mind, but I'm too tired to look up some statistics and data to support my ideas.

A more timely topic fell into my lap instead so I'll just go with that. My most excellent librarian sent me a link to Robert J. Ambrogi's thoughts on why Half of Blawgs Fail in First Year posted at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch on Monday this week.

I agree with the comments that note that blogging is work, but I don't think it's necessarily a lot of work. Some of my posts in the Blawger Challenge did take a long time—especially the compilation of resources for lawyers with substance abuse questions (all 50 states plus DC) but others that are announcements of events or contests (The Philanthropist, PAR Call for Nominations) and of course Haiku, take only a few minutes. The trick, as in all things, is to find balance. For me, blogging has become a habit, and I collect ideas to write about throughout the week. Jotting them down in a post takes about as much time as would writing in a journal. The days that I post photos or video (see e.g. Chick Flick) I do spend a little more time on the post, but that's usually fun, not work.

I've also discovered that the more often one posts, the more traffic to the site, the more comments and contributions I get from others, and those inspire more, and better, posts. So it is a nice cycle of inspiration, writing, and listening to others for more inspiration.

I still wouldn't try to trace new, billable work to blogging, but I do think that some clients have gotten to know me better by reading what I've written. And I am absolutely certain that I have learned many new things and become more relevant as a legal professional from having immersed myself in social media by blogging, twittering, and listening to the chatter.

Cynthia

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Philanthropist

I don't often write about the actual legal work I do, but some of you may know that my particular specialty as a lawyer is advising philanthropists and tax exempt organizations on business and tax law. Today I want to promote a special panel presentation in San Francisco that may be of interest to leaders, if not lawyers.

The Commonwealth Club is hosting a special - and timely - program with philanthropic leaders who will discuss the economy's impact on community, nonprofits and giving. The panel will look at how civil society may look when the world emerges from the financial crisis. Find out how philanthropists and other organizations and individuals can best position themselves to fulfill their missions.

The program, Philanthropic Response to the Economy: Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Actions - Partnerships, Innovation and Collaborations, is on September 9, 2009 at 5:30 P.M.

I hope to see you there.

Cynthia

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Legal Rebels?

The ABA Journal's newly launched Legal Rebels project promises to profile 50 of the profession's leading innovators over the next three months. The first seven profiles are now online, and at least three new profiles will be added to the site every week until Thanksgiving.

What's that you say, you are a rebel and want to know how can you participate? Oh there are lots of opportunities. Since it is nomination season, of course you want to know if you can nominate a legal rebel. Yes, you can.

You can also:

Sign the Rebels Manifesto

Ride shotgun on the two-week Rebels Tour, kicking off Sept. 14.

Stay connected to the project on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Follow the buzz--what lawyers are saying about the Rebels.

Shop for the Rebels T-shirt, a mouse pad, or even a Rebels skateboard.

Okay, I'm really not sure how this whole idea will pan out, but let's follow it and put it on the calendar to revisit in 2010, to see if it's still alive.

Cynthia

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Calling All California Leaders

Must be nomination season...

The James Irvine Foundation annually recognizes four to six leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to critical issues for California's future. The award aims to recognize successes, and to advance the solutions the leaders have implemented. Nominees for the award may be working in any field, such as education, health, housing, economic development or the environment, in the public, private or nonprofit sector. The award isn't focused on women or lawyers, but I can think of many women who, notwithstanding the handicap of also being lawyers, certainly do advance innovative and effective solutions to critical issues in California!

Detailed information about the call for nominations for the 2010 Leadership Awards is at the Irvine Foundation website; nominations must be received no later than 5 p.m. PDT on October 13, 2009.

Know a female lawyer leader who fits the bill? Nominate her at www.irvine.org/leadership.

Cynthia

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Seat on the Bus, or Under it?

The August 23,2009 New York Times Magazine focused on global poverty, with a focus on helping women in the poorest countries. In particular, The Women's Crusade by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is a must read.

In his latest On the Ground blog post, Kristof announced the "Half the Sky" contest for readers with stories about work done to alleviate poverty and lift up women in the poorest countries. He writes:

"Have you had some poignant encounter underscoring the importance of educating girls in Nepal? Any aid organization you’ve seen (or worked for) that is in the trenches doing amazing work in Kenya? Any one you know who is fighting sex trafficking in the United States? (And if you’re reading this by candlelight in the maternity clinic you’ve started in Timbuktu, tell us about yourself!) In short, we’re looking for personal stories that show the work being done in this field around the world, and the possibilities of change."

Send in your nominations!

Women attorneys first got a seat on the law firm bus in a meaningful way in the 1970's. By the '80's more women got on, but they were still relegated, by and large, to the back seats. By the 90's they started moving to the front in meaningful numbers, and in the late 90's we were sitting in the front seats, in meaningful numbers. But it is still very few women who are allowed to drive the law firm bus as a leader, much to our frustration.

Remember, however, that millions of women and girls are still thrown under the bus in most third world countries. Women's issues around the globe, and in the poorest countries, should be as compelling to us as the civil rights movement was to the lawyers in the last century.

Cynthia

Friday, August 21, 2009

Word of the Day: Perseveration




In the Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop, Natalie Angier writes for the New York Times about the effects of stress on the mammalian brain. She described experiments by Nuno Sousa of the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute at the University of Minho in Portugal and his colleagues, as reported in the journal Science:

"[C]hronically stressed rats lost their elastic rat cunning and instead fell back on familiar routines and rote responses, like compulsively pressing a bar for food pellets they had no intention of eating.

"Moreover, the rats’ behavioral perturbations were reflected by a pair of complementary changes in their underlying neural circuitry. On the one hand, regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors had shriveled, while, conversely, brain sectors linked to habit formation had bloomed.

"In other words, the rodents were now cognitively predisposed to keep doing the same things over and over, to run laps in the same dead-ended rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener sewers. 'Behaviors become habitual faster in stressed animals than in the controls, and worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviors when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. 'I call this a vicious circle.'"

Two of the types of stresses placed on the rats appear to qualify as torture (moderate electric shocks, prolonged dunks in water) and are perhaps not equivalent to the workday world of most lawyers. But the third, being encaged with dominant rats, is. And anecdotally, it's easy enough to observe plenty of lawyer rats who keep marking down billable hours even for rewards they know they'll never be able to eat.

According to the researchers, what the rats need, in order to refresh problem solving skills and break the vicious stress cycle in the overstressed little rat brains, is a vacation. And that is exactly what I am going to do for the next three days: I'm going off the grid and into the forest. No cell, no computer, no clients, no stress, for the next 72 hours. See you Monday morning.

Cynthia

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box; or, When "Marketing" Doesn't Help

Last summer a young man came to my home selling magazines. Not being a big fan of paper media distribution, I hesitated to buy from him. But he was really quite nice, and clearly trying to be productive with his summer. I didn't really think I'd ever see the magazine. The only magazine on his list that I didn't already dislike was Inc., because I'd never read it before. I admired his polished marketing pitch, it was a hot summer day, and he was pounding the pavement selling over-priced magazine subscriptions in a neighborhood where most information is acquired on-line. I bought a three-year subscription and paid in cash.

Sure enough, months later Inc. started arriving in my mailbox. Although its focus is on small businesses that bear little resemblance to law firms, there are still plenty of interesting articles and ideas. In the September issue that arrived at my home last weekend, columnist Joel Spolsky writes in "Setting the Right Priorities" about a revelation he had several years ago when managing his start-up software firm. After a number of marketing efforts failed, the business finally took off when his team developed better software.

In any event, how is a software entrepreneur's marketing experience relevant to lawyers? Do you know any lawyers who are struggling in this economy to bring in clients despite spending significant amounts of time on "marketing?" Hmmm, could it be that they need to be focusing instead on building better legal skills?

Yes, we know, we know, the economy has been sluggish and there is more supply than demand for legal skills. If your stepped-up marketing efforts still aren't working for you, take a page from the small business playbook: could it be that you might be better off spending time improving your product, or re-tooling your focus to what the clients need, rather than what you want to sell? The marketing will be a waste of time and money if your legal skills aren't as good as they need to be, or if you're selling something nobody wants.

I may be a pushover for a young guy selling magazines door to door; my motive for buying an overpriced item I didn't need was to encourage him to keep trying. But I don't think many buyers of legal services will buy your time, just because you showed up at their door step with a fine marketing pitch.

Cynthia

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chick Flick

First, a disclaimer: I am not a professional movie critic. Some movies I like, some I don't, and my preferences have little to do with the sorts of things that people who are paid to promote or critique movies write about. If you want to read a real writer's review of Julie & Julia, Two for the Stove gives a professional's view.

Now, for today's theme: Girlfriends. My mare was reunited with her best friend GG Tuesday morning so she is very happy. Here is a picture of the two of them in the morning sun:




Back in Walnut Creek Tuesday evening for girl's night out, a pal and I went to see Julie & Julia:




There are so many ideas in this one movie to blawg about: strong women who persevere despite men (and women) who tell them they can't, sweet and supportive husbands (just like mine!), real and imaginary mentors, politics, copyright law, partners who are slackers and how to confront them, girlfriends and penpals, goal setting and blogging. This one movie alone could keep me in front of my computer for days!

But, mostly, the movie is about food, and now I'm hungry. Time for breakfast.

Cynthia

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Survey Says...

I used to think those surveys that pop up on websites after I order something were a clever, direct way to evaluate customer satisfaction. But they have become ubiquitous (there was even one on the Inc. magazine site Sunday night when I wrote my missive for tomorrow), plus, I'm a little paranoid. I suspect that the polls are somehow infecting my computer and harvesting data about my keystrokes, so I don't respond to them anymore. And some of them are downright tedious.

But I also think that client feedback is extremely important to lawyers and law firms. Some time ago I tried to work out a way of surveying clients when matters were completed, both for marketing purposes, and more importantly, at the time, for risk management purposes. I thought it would be great to develop some information about how satisfied clients were (or weren't) when we finished their project.

I did a little research with other lawyers through LinkedIn, and found that some lawyers do use surveys in practice areas that are amenable to written or electronic surveys, primarily consumer-type practices. Many say that the most useful survey information apparently is derived from just one simple survey question: Would you recommend us to a friend?

Of course, we all know who our best referral sources are; the clients who are most satisfied keep sending more work. But as a practice group or firm leader, wouldn't it be great to know a simple satisfaction rating? I sure think it would be useful information, but it's not always easy to ask the question directly.

Cynthia

Monday, August 17, 2009

PAR Call for Nominations

Here's an interesting statistic: Since 1985, law schools have been graduating classes of new lawyers that are 40% or more female. According to Catalyst, in 1996, only 14.2% of law firm partners (equity and nonequity) were women, and in 2005, only 17.2% were women. At this rate of increase, women should make up half of law firm partners by the year 2115. Seems to me that projection continues to be reasonable only if one assumes that the lawyer layoffs in the past year have been proportionate among men and women.

In many ways, the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) attempts to help improve that statistic, and hasten true parity in the legal professions by keeping women in the legal work force at times when they are likely to drop out. One effort in that area: their recently announced call for nominations for the 2009 PAR Flex Success Award.

The PAR Flex Success award will be shared by:

• A partner in a PAR member law firm who is working or has worked a reduced hour arrangement that is considered successful by the firm, the attorney and clients; and

• A client, to be chosen by the attorney and/or firm, who contributes to the success of the arrangement.

The 2009 award will be presented at the PAR Diversity & Flexibility Connection Conference on October 29, 2009, at Dickstein Shapiro LLP in Washington D.C.

The nomination deadline is September 18, 2009.

Cynthia

Friday, August 14, 2009

Haiku #8

Blawger survivor
Day five—only ten to go
To finish, to win!

For more fun, Friday Haiku: Twitter Fame

Happy Friday!

Cynthia

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tips for Avoiding Personal Blawger Hell

One hot topic for CLE providers these days is legal issues for lawyers who post, and their law firms. See, for example, Social Media: Understanding the Legal Issues Surrounding the Social Networking Websites that Teenagers and Employees Love, and the upcoming Social Media: Risks and Rewards . I am sure there are other local programs available as well. Even lawyers who aren't active with online social networking should have a modest understanding of the legal issues, and how these tools and technologies are changing the world in which we practice. Or if you want to ponder these things in the privacy of your cubicle, visit with Doug Cornelius at Compliance Building, there is a lot of good advice there.

Having spent quite a lot of time (years, actually) dealing with risk management and liability issues for my law firm, I'm not actually all that concerned about law firm liability arising out of blogging activities. As I've written before, the risks are really risks to the lawyer/blogger's reputation and employ-ability, not the firm's malpractice risk. But in any event, here are my seven secrets to steering clear of personal blogger hell:

1. Never post (or tweet, or comment, for that matter) anything that you don't want your mother, your partners, and all your clients to read. Remember what mom told you: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

2. Never post about current client projects, even the form of research or the type of problem. I see a fair amount of this, and although the lawyers are usually describing the work in an anonymous sort of way, it still seems inappropriate. And it is easy to slip and mention a detail that would allow someone out there to put the client together with your work, and you'll have spilled the beans.

3. Don't steal. Probably not a necessary admonition to most lawyers, but it does bear mentioning. Copyright laws exist for a reason.

4. No sarcasm. Period.

5. Humor? Probably not. If it's self-deprecating, and you're a man, then it might be okay. But most women need to steer clear of self-deprecating humor (we have enough trouble being taken seriously without inviting disrespect.). Other types of humor usually just aren't funny, unless you're a professional comedian.

6. Keep it brief, and edit ruthlessly. The writing should have no typos, no awkwardly written phrases, no reasons for the reader to click away before she finishes reading your brilliant ideas. Your reader's attention span is about 30 seconds; use that time wisely.

7. If you don't want to see it in print, don't put it in writing. That's a version of the New York Times test. If you don't want your missive on the front page of the one remaining widely read news paper, then hit the delete key.

Cynthia

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

FAQs re Blawging: How to for Novice Blawgers

Yesterday I promised some FAQs for novice blawgers, from a novice blawger. Here are the most frequent questions people ask me, and one girl's opinions:

How do I choose a topic? The topic of your blog can be as narrow or as broad as you like, but it does need to have an angle. Think about what you most like to talk about, and what you are most interested in reading about. Do a few searches using the key words for your interest area. When I started, back in October, I was looking for blogs and websites on an area of great interest to me. I didn't find anything that was right on point, so I decided to try to become a resource. I may not have a large readership (well some of my readers are large, but the aggregate number of readers is not great) but that wasn't my goal to begin with. Before starting your blog, spend some time researching different angles, until you come up with one that interests you. And it's got to be something that really interests you, or you won't keep writing, and what you write won't be very stimulating. If you think of it as a chore, don't bother. If you think of it as a way to combine your hobby with your profession, then it just might work.

How long does each post take to write? Where would I find the time? I spend between 30 minutes and a couple of hours on each post. Some are easier than others. The key for me is to get the ideas written somewhere when I have the inspiration, and then to write the full post when I have time. Often I'll tap out an outline while commuting, then I'll fill it out and post it later in the evening. Once the idea of posting becomes a habit, you'll find inspiration throughout the day, and then the writing will come easily once you sit down at your computer.

I'm not a very good writer, so how can I put myself out there? I was worried about this, too. Consider that you can start a blog and keep it private. For the first few months, try writing daily and posting only to a select group of people you trust. The blogging tools allow you to do this. And there is no better way to learn to write well than to write often. Also, read Garner on Writing (it's in my Amazon list), or check out Set in Style, for help from time to time.

What about the risks? My firm is very intolerant and I don't want to lose my job over a blog post. Ok, this is a very good question. I have some ideas about that which I'll post on soon; that's a topic in itself.

Have any clients retained you because of your blog? No, but that's not the point of blogging. Blogging is about many things, but it's not about immediate results in the form of client engagements. It is about listening, collaborating, storytelling, positioning, and mostly about learning.

How do I start? Go to www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com. Pick a template, pick a title, and just do it.

What do I do if I run out of ideas? Work out a plan in advance of writer's block. Here are my strategies. First, I have some "regular" features. For example, around the middle of each month, I do haiku. It is silly but allows me to take a breather from trying to think deep thoughts. Second, I read a lot of newspapers and think about the connection between current events and my blog. Third, I follow interesting people on Twitter and also sort the trending themes in my areas of interest. You can find similar mechanisms, if you want to.

What if I build it, and nobody comes? Then you'll have had fun learning something new and practicing writing skills. I suggest that you not start tracking readers for a while--it's discouraging. I didn't start watching my statistics until I'd been posting for several months. And the numbers were really low for a long time. Once you have the hang of writing and posting, then start concentrating on finding places that will list your blog (see, eg. www.blogher.com; www.blawger.com; www.theglasshammernetwork.com) and various ways of promoting it to your audience (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter). But first steps first. You have to be writing interesting stuff, and writing it well. Then work on the audience.

Why pink? I get this question a lot. At first, it was because I wanted to be sure all my readers knew I was a girl, and because I like pink. Now, I'm just too lazy to change. One of these days I will hire a website designer to make the blog look more professional. But that's a topic for another day.

Cynthia

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blawger Survivor

Regular readers are probably astonished to see posts from me on Monday and Tuesday, two days in a row! There is a reason...

It was with some determination that I gritted my teeth and signed up for the Blawger Challenge last weekend. I actually hate competitive events, not because I don't like to compete, but because I really don't like to lose. And I especially don't like being thrown off the island! This, though, is the sort of challenge I can handle: to finish is to win, and I only have myself to depend on. No right or wrong answers, no challenges that depend on physical strength, height, coordination or speed, no politics to deal with.

I do agree with Sean Carter that after three weeks of daily posting, blogging will be a habit, not a chore. When I started my blog last fall, I did post nearly every single day. It drove my family nuts, and the quality wasn't always there. But it did make me start thinking like a blogger.

Over the course of the last eight months (which I concede is a very very short time in the scheme of things) a number of friends and colleagues have asked the same questions about blogging. Although there are loads of bloggers out there, it seems, anecdotally, that very few lawyers are blogging. So tomorrow I'll reveal the secrets of a novice blogger who has posted regularly for 10 months. They're not really secrets though, just the things I've learned.

Tomorrow: Cynthia's FAQs re Blawging

See you then!

Cynthia

Monday, August 10, 2009

Resources for Lawyers with Substance Abuse Questions





The recent tragedy of Diane Schuler reminds us, as leaders, to again address substance abuse in our profession. We all know at least one functioning alcoholic who is practicing law. We also know that there are programs to help lawyers who face up to their illness.

As leaders, it is incumbent on us to look at the problem and take steps to prevent the tragedy of a lifelong illness, ruined marriage, injured family members, affected strangers. From the simple—sponsoring substance abuse seminars in the office as part of firm-sponsored MCLE, to the more complicated—managing or participating in an intervention, it is every attorney's responsibility to do something to protect the innocent.

Here are resources specifically for lawyers with substance abuse questions, in all 50 states and DC:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Washington DC

It's much easier to look the other way and ignore the problem. But that's also wrong. Do the right thing.

Cynthia

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Head in the Cloud, Feet in the Code




For my last post from the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago this year, let's turn away from the problems of the young with cyber and personal presence, to the problems of the very old. Okay, not the very old, but at least to the problems of lawyers who've been around the block a few times.

All firm managers (who do tend to be very old) should be losing sleep over the challenges of Head in the Cloud - Feet in the Code of Professional Responsibility: Managing the Ethical Risks to Lawyers from Web 2.0 Technologies, Portable Devices and Wireless Access; the materials are available at the Business Law Section site. Every partner involved in law firm management should take a few hours to study these excellent materials. I believe the audio will be available shortly; I warn you, though, that the audio is much scarier than the written materials! And if your firm managers don't take the time to become versed in these issues, I guess you better learn it yourself.

In a nutshell, the rapid changes to the information technologies used by businesses and law firms are creating external threats to our ability as lawyers to competently and zealously represent our clients, and protect their information. Presumably we all are pretty well versed in the dangers of email transmission, but those threats are so… yesterday. The new issues raised by ubiquitous portable devices, wireless devices, cloud computing, and social media go far beyond the rudimentary issues raised by faxes and emails.

In any event, this is an excellent use of your mandatory ethics CLE hours. The cost of the materials is well worth it.

Cynthia

Monday, August 3, 2009

What To Wear???

Careful readers noticed that my post yesterday referred to an ABA seminar on social networking for lawyers at Culinary Studio at Macy's State Street in Chicago. Odd place for getting in those MCLE credits, wasn't it? There was a very good reason for this, as it turns out. The Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Profession put together Runway to Success!! , a networking event, immediately after the panel on virtual presence. The networking included the usual good eats, and a wardrobe presentation by image consultant Tracey Thurmond Watts.

As an aside, you should know that several months ago I started tracking hits on my site, and one of the neat features of the statistics counter is the ability to tell me what search terms bring readers to the site. Are you as surprised as I was that the most common Google search that brings readers to this site involve some variation of "what should a female lawyer wear to work?" This is apparently a very important question to a number of people.

Unlike all the other MCLE at the Annual Meeting, Runway to Success was not recorded, so you'll have to find your own fashion consultant. You can also take a look at my earlier posts on the topic, at What (Not) to Wear, and Business Casual, or, What (Not) to Wear, Revisited. Here are a couple of insightful additions from Tracey:

--Ladies, if you are wondering whether to get the skirt or the pants with the suit jacket, buy both. Tracey promises you won't regret it.

--Shoes matter. And so do handbags. Zappos.com. Shoes.com

--Coverage matters. When in doubt, button up or add a camisole. Or a sweater.

--A personal shopper can be a big help. Most Macy's provide a personal shoppers service, as do most Nordstrom's and other department stores.

Legal Disclosure (which may be required by FTC regulations on advertising one of these days), Macy's did in fact give nice discounts to those of us in attendance, but they didn't know I was going to blog on the event and everyone in attendance got the same goody bag. And so I did my duty for my country and took full advantage of the situation.

In any event, I am pretty sure Macy's came out the better for this seminar. As much as I hate shopping and never have the time or energy for it, it's not so bad when I can multitask (MCLE, networking with women lawyers, fashion consulting, and all at the mall in an efficient three hour block of time). I do hope the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity will host a similar event at every Annual Meeting.

Cynthia

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tips for Young Lawyers, Digital Natives

Kitchen Stadium at Macy's State Street in Chicago might seem like a comforting setting for one of the most important ABA Annual Meeting seminars for young lawyers, "What (Not) to Post," but the conversation was anything but comforting. The four presenters, Jamenda McCoy, Michelle On-Ja Choe, Stuart Meyer, and Kathryn Stell, scared the daylights out of the under 25's in the audience. For all you young lawyers who have just finished the Bar exam and think the worst is behind you, you should have been there. Get the program from the ABA when it is posted later this month and in the meantime read on for a summary of their good advice and THEN start your job search:

First, here's the deal: every recruiter at every big law firm and every big corporation is going to search all social media for information and pictures of you before they even bring you back for a second interview. So every tagged photo on a public site, every comment you've made using your own name, your Facebook and MySpace pages, every blog, and so on, is likely to show up. In fact, I learned that even your book searches on Amazon.com may be in the public record.

But there is also some relatively good news: the recruiters all probably did the same sort of stuff you did in high school and college, so no one is expecting you to have lived as if you were going to enter the seminary or a nunnery. But, and it's a big but, as a lawyer, you are entering into a relatively conservative environment, and most law firms (and lawyers) are extremely protective of their reputation. No one minds a photo of a new associate holding a beer at a party of people with his clothes on; a photo of a half-dressed person hitting a beer bong is another thing entirely.

So, what to do? Here are seven tips for cleaning up, and managing, your web presence:

1. Google yourself early and often. That includes a Google image search. Your prospective interviewers will do the same thing the minute they get back to their office. It apparently takes about 48 hours for stuff you remove to be erased (assuming you get to all the sources and they haven't been republished in places you can't reach), so you need to do this before the interview, not after.

2. Remove photo tags. This is an ongoing project. And ask your friends not to tag you in the first place. And stay out of the photos and videos at the parties in the first first place. But you can still go to the party. You might want to start wearing a mask.

3. Privacy Settings. Check and double check privacy settings on every social networking site. If you really want to do or say things that you don't want the world to know, you've got to be diligent about this.

4. Comments, Please. All of your comments posted under your name should be considered public information. So if you are going to post comments (or Tweets, for that matter) apply the Mom test: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it nice? If what you want to post or Tweet fails on any of those standards, don't post or publish it.

5. If you don't want to see it in print, don't put it in writing. Period.

6. The best defense is a good offense. Manage your web presence, don’t let it manage you. Stuart Meyer described a good way of looking at your web presence: consider one social networking application as the hub, and all of your other applications as spokes. Things might be easier to manage that way. But always remember that the spokes are potentially public; you might succeed in keeping some aspect, even an "anonymous" one, private for a time, but it's entirely possible everything you send out into the cloud will be found by someone you didn't intend to see it.

7. Listen, then Position. The social networking sites are tools, not just toys. Sure, they started out as toys, but they aren't anymore. So once you've cleaned up your act, spend some time just listening to groups on LinkedIn, business sites on Facebook, and business posters on Twitter. After you've got the hang of what business people are saying and doing, then you might find you have some useful, intelligent insights to add to the cloud. And I hope you'll share them.

Cynthia

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hot Topic for Lawyers: Business Development

As you may know, I'm spending my weekend in Chicago with thousands of lawyers. Yes, it's my idea of a vacation. I've been to the ABA Annual Meeting almost every year for the past decade or so, usually just to pick up MCLE but also to touch base with my colleagues in the Nonprofit Organizations Committee. It is great multi-tasking for me, since I can get those dreaded MCLE credits, learn new things, and network with colleagues across the country (especially important in a practice, like mine, that is national in scope). It also usually helps me to keep up with (if not stay ahead of) trends and hot topics. Usually it's substantive legal stuff; this year, NEWS FLASH, it's business development!

I dropped in on several of the standing-room-only business development sessions to see what the consultants are advising. Each of them has their own way of presenting basically the same topics. Like me, you've probably heard and read the same advice many times over the years, but I still suggest that even lawyers who are successful at business development should take a refresher course this year for many reasons. Chief among those reasons: watch your back. Even taking into account that some of the lawyers who've been laid off may leave private practice, there's still a lot of competition out there, and it's good to know what other lawyers (some of whom may be in your own firm!) are doing to try to elbow their way into your client relationships.

I've added to my Amazon list the books written by the two consultants I met this weekend; links to their websites are included too. If you are thinking about engaging a business development coach, I'd suggest you read the consultant's written work first (most all of them have a book, or an extensive website) to see if their style is effective for you, and interview a few personally. I don't know that I'd just follow other lawyer's recommendations, since the teaching or coaching style that works for one person may not work for another. And if working with a consultant isn't your cup of tea, attend a seminar or two, or read a good book on the topic. It can't hurt, and it will be a good use of your time.

Next up: What (not) to Post, and Runway to Success: Virtual and Actual Professional Attire for Female Lawyers.

Cynthia