Friday, May 27, 2011

Remembering our Troops

In honor of our military veterans, I'm reprinting below a message from ABA President Steven Zack calling for legal help, and providing some resources for lawyers who want to get involved.

Dear Colleagues:

On this Memorial Day, the American Bar Association is calling on all members to assist in a critical effort to support our nation’s veterans. Service men and women have devoted their lives to our country and to protecting our freedom. Now, we ask you to donate your time to assist them.

Veterans face a wide array of legal issues created by their unique circumstances, including challenges in obtaining medical care, disability benefits, reemployment rights, as well as help with consumer, housing, criminal and family law matters, but often are unable to afford legal counsel.

There are many ABA programs making an indelible difference in the lives of our nation's veterans. Our Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services web portal provides an entry point for attorneys seeking program information and volunteer activities.

The ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs to launch a national pro bono project providing critical legal assistance to our country's more than 100,000 homeless veterans. This initiative is cited as Signature Initiative #1 in the Administration's plan to end homelessness.

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging has provided four capacity-building mini-grants to non-profits and bar associations to recruit attorneys to provide veterans with pro bono legal assistance. This effort has allowed us to develop VA-accredited video training materials and webinars on veterans’ benefits.

The ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice's Veterans Committee works alongside important groups like the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Department of Veterans Affairs on efforts to improve administrative procedures in the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Current efforts are aimed at methods to streamline the appeals process, eliminate lengthy delays in decision-making, and reduce the number of remands to the Board. Proposals for expanding the jurisdiction of the CAVC to provide for de novo review of fact finding by the Board as well as the Federal Circuit, and to provide class action authority for the CAVC are under development.

These ABA programs along with a number of important state and local bar association programs are only effective with the strong commitment of volunteers. We ask that you consider giving your time to aid veterans. To volunteer for an ABA program, visit or send an email to For a list of programs you can volunteer for in your area, view the Directory of Pro Bono Veterans Resources.

We encourage you to get involved by serving those who have served us.


Stephen N. Zack

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Proactive Messaging--Overcoming Misconceptions for Working Moms who are Lawyers

Many of you working mom lawyers I am sure are familiar with the feeling that no matter how hard you try to keep your professional colleagues informed of your commitment to practice, someone will always doubt it. It's a by product of the maternal wall, stereotypes, and prejudgments that stick with working moms. 

Recently I've heard it from several different partners at my firm that people would accommodate my schedule since I don't work on Fridays.  Isn't that considerate--except that I have never in my career regularly worked a four day work week, and I've never told anyone I don't work on Fridays.  Yet the myth persists.... and it's not because my billable hours are low (they've been more than anyone in my department for the last ten years!)  My youngest child is 16 (YEARS, not MONTHS), and except for the family leave I took when we first brought her home, I have worked a full time schedule ever since.  Sure there are Fridays when I'm not in the office, but that is as likely to be due to travel to a bar association meeting as it is in the hopes of catching a long weekend once in a great while.

I think there are other working moms who struggle with overcoming similar misconceptions.  I'd love to hear from you, and hear any strategies for correcting the record.  All I've been able to come up with is a good-humored banter back about how much I would like it were that the case, or that it is remarkable how many hours I manage to work in a four day work week.

Or, perhaps, I should post my schedule in Haiku:

Yes, I work Fridays
Mondays, Tuesdays, Weds, and Thurs,
And Weekends, Got it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Awesome Haiku

Here's an incredibly fun site:  Supreme Court Haiku, The Law of the Land in Seventeen Syllables.  Houston Lawyer Keith Jaasma brilliantly crystallizes his thoughts in a magnificent collection of Haiku on Supreme Court decisions and the Justices who decided them.  It's the most entertaining legal reading I've come across in quite some time.  And he's expanded his reach with both Facebook and Twitter pages.

I've commented a few times in the past about how blogging can be an effective tool for marketing. But it only works if you like to write and if you have an inspired topic.  Keith seems to have found a niche for himself that may or may not lead to new work.  But if it's fun, supports the practice in some way, and gives the writer something to talk about at networking events, then it has served its purpose.

Here's an index of my early attempts at Haiku.  There was a theme in all those, although it's probably not apparent to any of my readers and none of them were particularly good.  But with Keith's great lead, I realize what I really need is a catchy and fertile theme to keep me going.  Stay tuned, I am sure I'll come up with something.  Perhaps Haiku on tax provisions?  Marketing for lawyers? Women lawyers?  Hmmmm.... I'll keep working on it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

To all the working moms out there, keep the faith, there will be days when things aren't so tough.  Like today--breakfast in bed, slept 'til noon, cut roses in the garden, played with my horses, both sons called home and the daughter refrained from snark pretty much all day.

Tomorrow, though, it's back to work.  The bus dev agenda this week is almost as intense as last week (hosted an event at the firm one evening and attended a fancy schmancy gala on another, which explains the need to sleep-til-noon today).  This week calls for just a day trip to LA to do a 2 hour conference presentation and meet with a referral source.  And Friday there's another awards gala to attend.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy these things when I am working the crowd and meeting new and interesting people.  But it is hard and time consuming to add on top of a regular work week.

The tough thing is that these events generally come along in one of two ways.  Conferences and speaking opportunities are planned months ahead of time, and of course the calendar always looks clear so it's hard to say no, I think I'll be too busy.  Other events, like galas and client sponsored dinners and the like, are opportunities I just can't, and don't want to, pass up.  I can't say I'm too busy for those either, no matter how busy the work load is at the time.

Which all goes to my main business development point today:  You do have to get out there and network no matter how busy you are, or you think you'll be.  A rainmaker attitude prioritizes the good venues no matter the cost. in time or money.  A minder or grinder lawyer thinks of marketing and business development is something to do in spare time, with spare change.  Which do you want to be--finder, minder, or grinder?