Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's a Wonder, Woman

Very exciting news, Wonder Woman has had a makeover and now sports a new modern look as she celebrates her 30th 39th birthday.  In Makeover for Wonder Woman at 69 we learn that today DC Comics published the 600th edition of the famous heroine's comic book. The artist who designed her new look, Jim Lee, reported that ultimately he wanted her to look strong "without screaming, 'I'm a superhero.'"  Her new costume is still a bit inappropriate for a lawyer, but perhaps there is something in her look that could be copied by those of us who want to sport a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners litigator look. 

Just kidding, don't worry.  My suggestions about what women lawyers should wear hasn't changed a bit.  Here are my collected opinions on what not to wear. 

But I am still shopping for that look that simply whispers "superhero."  I think it is a combination of shoes, a crisp tailored modern suit or dress, and most importantly, a bright smile. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Info Overload

This post ran for the first time in October 2009.  As we head into the summer vacation season, it seems particularly appropriate to run it again.  And, as a matter of fact, my husband still doesn't read this blog, and he's still a saint. 

My husband is a saint. Don't worry, he doesn't read this, so he doesn't know I hold him in high regard. But in his gentle, peaceful way he told me this week that I have a serious information addiction and have fallen into information overload. As is usual, he communicated this very carefully, by leaving a copy of an article for me to read, as he left for the airport for his 8th weekly roadtrip in a row. He didn't say, as he was leaving, that I should put my Blackberry down and wish him safe travels; he just pushed the magazine in my direction as we each headed out the door, I with my thumbs twitching on the keypad, he with suitcase in hand.

In any event, the article is Infoglut, in the October issue of IEEE Spectrum. Author Nathan Zeldes discusses the pernicious and unhealthy addiction that many of us have fallen into with our crackberries, twitter accounts, blogs and RSS feeds, personal and work email accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. He notes that information overload isn't just about having too much email, voice mail, and text messages, but that it is a more complex problem that takes a substantial toll on the bottom line, and employee well being.

All these social media and Web 2.0 tools are useful, of course, when used appropriately and in moderation. But like many people I know and that Nathan describes, I've gotten to the point where my BB is the last thing I look at in the evening and the first thing I look at in the morning (at least, when the Master of the House is out of town). Problem is, I sometimes forget he (or my daughter, or any other actual physical person) is present, and I check instead on the virtual status of all the other personalities that I orbit, or that orbit me.

What to do? Like Zeldes, I do believe that leaders in the information professions need to start modeling healthy and constructive behaviors around information technology, access demands, and the like. Law isn't the only profession where this is a problem, of course, but lawyers, especially in this economic environment, are loathe to let any communication go unanswered. Law firm leaders would do much to improve lawyer effectiveness and efficiency if they adopted constructive policies for information technology, and modeled healthy behavior as well. Here are some ideas:

1. Ban all messages to "all". Personally, if I never get another email about baseball, football or basketball tickets, available lunch reservations at a chi-chi spot, a "friend's" need for a referral to a DUI or divorce lawyer, or whatever, I will consider that a true improvement in my quality of life. No one should be permitted, in a professional environment, to send communications to *all* other professionals about any such extra-curricular entertainment or disaster. I love Zeldes' suggestions about software that requires an extra step before such broadcast messages transmit.

2. Refuse to allow attorneys to take their BBs on vacation. Seriously, attorneys really don't need to be "on call" when on vacation. If they are critical to a deal or case, they should not be on vacation; if they aren't critical, then the idea of needing them to be available when out of town is silly. Firm management should never require attorneys to respond, and should in fact prohibit virtually all attorneys from responding to emails, when on vacation. I've heard, more and more often, the request or expectation that an attorney must keep a project moving while taking personal time off. That's just not appropriate, and firm leaders should neither expect nor demand it. It's not in the best interests of the lawyers, nor the clients.

3. Plan a "zero email day" where everyone in a work group commits to communicating in person on a given day. Wow, what a concept. Zeldes explains how it's done.

4. Require all attorneys to actually call clients or other team members about critical communications, rather than relying on email. I continue to be astonished every time I hear an attorney insist she's communicated about an issue by hitting "send"; that's not communication, that's bouncing a ball back to someone else. PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL. Yes, there are good reasons to send an email. But much of the fluff and spam is generated by people who don't really want to communicate about hard things, don't want to solve a hard problem, but do want to push the responsibility onto someone else's desk. That's not effective legal work, or any other form of work. That's laziness. And it contributes to someone else's information overload.

Those are my ideas, you all may have more. Or maybe you disagree. In any event, take a look at Zeldes' excellent article, and let me know your reactions.

Now, I need to send some emails about projects I didn't get finished today…

Cynthia

Monday, June 21, 2010

Haiku #18

Summer solstice should
be a happy day, but no
It begins the end.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eggs and Baskets

Its amazing how knowing something about a person's parents gives new insight into the person.  Today's column by Nicholas Kristof sure added a new dimension to his public persona, what a beautiful tribute to his dad.  Last year I wrote about my Dad, and I'm happy to report that we had a nice talk on the phone today; he'll be here for a visit in a few weeks.

I also went and checked on the chicks today, they are growing up nicely.  Soon we'll have eggs.  As I pondered Father's Day and chickens, I was reminded of one of my Dad's favorite admonitions--don't put all your eggs in one basket.  He used that for just about everything, but I think it's also a great reminder for any lawyer hoping to make her way in the dog-eat-dog world of private practice.  So today's marketing tip:  diversify.  It's never healthy to rely on one partner, one client, one referral source, heck, even one practice area.  A healthy and sustainable practice has to have many varied, and hopefully inversely correlated, sources for new and interesting work. 

Thanks, again, Dad.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's New In Social Media

In short:  A Lot!  Sometimes I wonder whether Twitter is a passing fad, Facebook will someday go the way of MySpace, and blogs will fade away as so, well, turn-of-the-century quaint.  But then I see that many of my clients tweet, have facebook accounts, and are posting to them regularly.  I find myself researching potential new business relationships by checking out their feeds.

And then I read thoughtful pieces like the second edition of Reed Smith's  Network Interference, A Legal Guide to the Commercial Risks and Rewards of the Social Media Phenomenon.  Although focused on commercial businesses, most every lawyer would benefit from reading it.  The technologies are still evolving, and I can't even imagine where social media will take us in the next decade.  It's really fun to be part of it, and I for one am going to enjoy the ride. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Change is Good

Do you like the new look?  Blogger has some new design ideas so I think I'll spend my blog time this week playing with the new designs to see if I find something that suits me.  Check back daily and comment if you particularly like (or dislike) a design. 

And on the topic of change, are you feeling stuck in a rut in practice development habits?  I sure am.  The things I used to enjoy (speaking engagements, networking lunches, bar association events) aren't quite as entertaining as they used to be.  Not quite sure what to do about that.  I enjoy the work as much as ever, but perhaps not so much the chase.  I think that probably means it's time for a vacation.

In any event, watch for new designs this week, and vote early and often.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quotes--January through June 2010

Here are the quotes used in this blog from January through June this year.  If you don't recognize the woman quoted, click on the name for more.

"Women and girls are one of the world's greatest untapped resources and a terrific return on investment."  Hillary Clinton


We will keep focusing our strength on this, helping people. That is our marketing."  Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva


In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it.  Jane Smiley


And actually it turns out I'm fully capable of changing a light bulb all by myself.  Eve Ensler
No social movement, no matter how liberating, can bring permanent happiness to the people it touches. We grow old; we lose loved ones. We fall short of our greatest goals and fail to live up to our most optimistic visions of our own character. Gail Collins

There's nothing better for sharpening your ability to predict outcomes than living through some period where things went wrong. You've learned that no matter how smart you are and how hard you work, you have to anticipate things that can go against you.  Meridee A. Moore

The journey for women, no matter what venue it is—politics, business, film—it's, it's a long journey.  Kathryn Bigelow

One can perhaps please one's self and earn that slender right to persevere. Marianne Moore
Poetry was not around me to any great extent. But, of course, language is always available, even to the poor, and you can have as much of it as you want. So I went out seeking it.  Kay Ryan

As women achieve positions of leadership, be empathetic to the women coming up behind you. Do not begrudge them an easier path than you may have had—that is the goal.  Hilary Krane

The most powerful stereotype in business can be summarized as "men take charge and women take care."  Mary Cranston

If you want to age successfully, you have to look back over the earlier part of your life and understand what it was about. If you can do a life review with a forgiving heart, your last 30 years will be quite transformed.  Jane Fonda

The "ceiling" has been kept in place by the persistence of stereotypical beliefs about men's and women's relative abilities, and for the profession to be truly gender neutral that infuriatingly transparent barrier has not only to break, but to vanish.  Herma Hill Kay

I have no regrets. I don't believe in looking back. What I am proudest of? Working really hard... and achieving as much as I could.  Elena Kagan

No important change in governmental policy ever has been accomplished by waiting for uniformity or unanimity of public opinion. There is always a militant minority on any important public question. But being militant doesn't make them right.  Mabel Walker Willebrandt

Most of us can't even begin to imagine.  Meg Whitman

First, don't panic if you're a little scared. Everybody's scared at some point. Carly Fiorina

Smile at each other - it doesn't matter who it is - and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.  Mother Teresa

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Women's Blogs

Although there have been a few provocative news reports lately, nothing has really struck a nerve with me in a while.  If you want to be incensed about a woman who was fired because she was too beautiful (that's her story, and she's sticking to it) see Maureen Dowd's column in today's NYT and lots of silly lawyer comments on the case at the ABA Journal site.  But if you think that's a silly story then take a look at another ABA Journal attempt to pit women against women--see the "story" on a study by Felice Batlan, an assistant law professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law,that suggests that legal secretaries prefer men to women bosses.  I am not even going to take the bait on that one, but you might want to.

In any event, since I'm in a bit of a blogging funk I mentioned to my husband that perhaps I should say goodnight to you all, but he averred that he thought I still had opinions to share.  Perhaps I will sometime soon.

In the meantime, there are lots of other women lawyers blogging--see the Women in the Law list.  And there are lots of much more interesting women's blogs at Blogher.  Take a look, you might find some interesting columns to follow.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Know Thyself


This post originally ran on March 4, 2009.  It seems timely, once again, in light of the recent articles about Google's increasing international role, and Facebook's challenges in finding the sweet spot between collecting and using its participant's seemingly "private" info.  If you haven't done so lately, it's time to Google (and Bing--I know it sounds odd) yourself again, and think about how you want to appear to the world.

 I spent several hours this afternoon with colleagues preparing a presentation on web presence, social networking, and new communication tools for a firm-wide presentation next week. It was a fun collaboration between the firm librarian (who can find any bit of information, anywhere), the marketing director (who can find any prospective client, anywhere), and the firm IT director (who is THE MOST IRREPLACEABLE PERSON IN THE FIRM). We had a great time talking about linking, connections, friends, cookies, tweets, feeds, blocking, widgets, gadgets, uploads, jpegs and many other things that a year ago meant nothing to me.

At the end of the day, after playing around with all the social networks we know about and the ways they can be used, we didn't all agree on which of the tools has staying power, which networks are toys and which are tools, which ones to recommend and which to abandon. But one thing was very clear to all of us. Every professional has a web presence, either a managed one, or one that is un-managed, and random.

On my drive home I thought a lot about how to help a lawyer begin to think about what she wants the internet to say about her. The firm web page is but a tiny, easily dismissed propaganda piece. When prospective clients, or opposing counsel, or any other professional, looks up a lawyer on the web, there is a presence and a message about the type of person the lawyer is. We can all be sure that people whose views matter will google us. So, in developing a strategy for your web presence, the beginning of the effort begins in the same place it has since the earliest philosophers began to think about self knowledge. In addition to the guidance from the great thinkers across time, here is another bit of wisdom:

To know thyself, google thyself.
Google is a modern mirror of our professional selves. Not the only one, but an important one. For truly deep philosophic thoughts about self-knowledge, there is a lovely collection at LeaderWorks main page.

Gotta go, I need to go look in the mirror.

Cynthia