In November, 1981, I gave a presentation to the Virginia Road Builders. I knew this presentation would shape the future of my career, and I prepared and prepared and prepared. I wrote every word I intended to say and then made the presentation with no notes. (We didn’t have PowerPoint presentations then and I didn’t want to use an overhead projector.)

Presentations I gave made my career. I sensed that if I could get in front of a group of contractors, I could demonstrate my knowledge of their business. Presentations may make your career. In this blog and others, I want to share how to deliver a remarkable presentation.

When possible, I liked to arrive early. I did it for several reasons. First, I wanted to know how the room would be set up. Second, I wanted to make sure the technology was working for the video and audio I usually included in my presentation.

Once I was confident everything was working, I went out into the audience and introduced myself as people arrived early. I did this to create a connection with the audience. I did my very best to remember the names of people I met.

I rarely if ever used a podium and you shouldn’t either. You do not want the podium to block you from the audience. A podium also can be a crutch for you to lean on holding it with both hands. If you are not planning to use the podium let the event coordinators know that in advance and ask for a lavalier microphone.

I urge you also to speak on the floor level rather than on the elevated stage. Why? You will get better eye contact and engage the audience more effectively when you are on their level and walking around. It is nice to be able to advance the slides with a remote when you speak from the audience level. So, find out if they have a remote, or if you will need to set up your computer on a table.

Here is an example of me speaking at a Bar Meeting on the floor level with a lavalier microphone.

 

The first 90 seconds of your presentation are critical. During that time the audience is asking themselves: “What is in this for me?” You need to give them an answer. I urge you to spend a great deal of time creating an answer to what is in it for me in those first 90 seconds.

Engaging your audience keeps their interest. When I spoke to contractor groups, I frequently used short little case studies and I would say: “You be the judge. How should this come out?” I wanted to create a discussion with my audience. In the video clip above I asked the audience a question to engage them.

Lawyers tend to use a linear structure to their presentation, giving background information first and then leading up to the main point. Your audience does not want to know the history of Swiss watch making, they just want to know the time. Giving background information also violates my 90 Seconds rule. The better structure is to pose a problem and then offer a solution.

Do you have an opportunity to make a presentation to your target market? Take time, make it the best they have ever heard from a lawyer.

 

My birthday is today. If you are a long time reader you may know I keep track of my age by the most famous football player to ever wear the jersey number reflecting my age. This year that player is John Hannah. You can read about him and see his jersey number with the link on his name.

Today, I begin by asking: Have you defined what success is for you? Why should you?

In my law career I mentored, coached and led as a practice group leader dozens of young lawyers. Over the years, I noticed that many unhappy young lawyers let others define success for them, or they compared how they were doing with how others were doing. Both approaches led to dissatisfaction.

Several years ago I listened and read the book: “The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Moment.” I became interested in this book for a couple of reasons.

First, the book is based on experiences in the Personal Creativity in Business Class at Stanford University.

Second, I wanted to learn how I can best help young lawyers discover their own highest goal and find the fun and joy practicing law and helping clients that I experienced.

After listening and reading the book, I shared ideas that enabled young lawyers to focus on their highest goal. If you want to learn more about Professor Ray and his Stanford class take a quick look at a Fast Company article: The Most Creative Man in Silicon Valley.

Here is a short video clip discussion of The Highest Goal.

Professor Ray lets us know that it is challenging for us to figure out our highest goal and that is ok. Take a look at the Fast Company book review and I think it will give you some ideas on how to figure out your own highest goal.

Think back to when you were young and had a meaningful experience. What was it for you?

For me it was teaching and coaching young kids 8-10 years old to become better baseball players. I believe that is why I gave up my law practice after my best year to teach and coach young lawyers.

At the beginning of chapter 3, he asks a very thought provoking question:

What is the one recurring problem, issue or obstacle in your life that if you solved it, overcame it or dealt with it would lead to an immeasurable improvement in your life?

Professor Ray says that in decades of teaching creativity at Stanford and asking this question, he finds the source to be one of the following life challenges:

  1. Finding prosperity
  2. Dealing with time and stress
  3. Developing relationships that work
  4. Achieving balance
  5. Bringing creativity into the world

I think he has accurately identified the potential sources of many issues young lawyers face.

So, what is your highest goal and what are you doing to achieve it?

I want to recruit lawyers who have given those questions a great deal of thought. If  you want to send me and email and share your highest goal.

A young associate asked:

Which extracurricular / community activities would be the most beneficial in my overall client development and how such activities can lead to client development (specific examples and/or stories would be great?

Do something that you are passionate about so that you are motivated to participate and stick with it long enough that you ascend to a position of leadership within the organization.

When I was a young lawyer I was told I had to be in Rotary. I hated every Thursday night when I had to go to the weekly dinner meeting. I also hated the bingo fund raising project, in part because most bingo players smoked. So get involved in a community service activity for which you are passionate.

During my career I taught Sunday School to high school students and Nancy and I were in charge of our church high school youth group. I didn’t do it to get business. I did it because I was passionate about teaching and I wanted to find ways to reach high school students who would rather be somewhere other than church.

I do not recommend that you get involved in community service or charitable organizations to get business. I believe you should get involved because of the joy you feel serving the cause. You may get business because members of the group get to know your character and your leadership skills, but that should not be your motivation.

Neil Carrey, one of my former partners generated lots of legal work from people he met while serving several charities. You can see from his website bio that community service has been an important part of his life. Neil never asked for business or did anything to promote himself. He got the business because business leaders in the charities concluded he was the type of lawyer they respected and trusted.

 

 

 

My Lateral Link colleague Naomi Kaplan is back with her top tips for lawyers interviewing.

The day of the interview:

1. Look (and smell) your best. Dress professionally (rarely will a candidate go wrong in a well-tailored black or navy suit), don’t wear any cologne or perfume or smoke something that might make you smell disgusting to someone whose nose works differently than yours does, and turn your cell phone off.

2. Be early, but not annoyingly so. Arrive 15 minutes early, not 30 minutes early or 2 hours early. Arriving more than 15 minutes early is a huge pet peeve of a lot of my clients who feel pressured into re-arranging their schedules when they hear a candidate is waiting for them in the lobby.

3. Calm yourself. If you start to feel anxious in the car or in the elevator on your way up to the interview, force yourself to yawn a few times to regulate your breathing. Another tip for alleviating anxiety: when you’re seated in the lobby, keep both of your feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep them that way throughout your interview if you can. And try to remember that anxiety is just the evil twin of exuberance; give yourself permission to feel excited!

4. Be friendly. As you walk in the door, remember that your main goal is to go in there and make some new friends. Every single person you meet with (and this absolutely includes the receptionist) is wondering if they’re going to like you. And you should be wondering if you’re going to enjoy their company too. So be genuine, polite, warm, and open with everyone you meet. And think about your body language: don’t cross your legs, do not cross your arms under any circumstances, and maintain healthy eye contact.

5. Mirror. Be acutely aware of your interviewer’s energy and body language so that you can practice something I call mirroring. Here are some examples from previous experiences: If your interviewer greets you with, “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry if I’ve kept you waiting! My baby barfed on my blouse this morning and it took me forever to change and get out the door. What a crazy morning!” you want to match her energy, but in a genuine way. Feel free to share a similar story about your cat spitting up on your sofa just before a dinner party was about to begin (for example). Note that you always want your story to be shorter. And pay attention to your interviewer’s body language as you’re speaking. If her eyes drift away from you, if she keeps glancing at her clock or her computer… wrap it up!

If, however, you meet with someone who is incredibly formal and starts the conversation with a terse “Why do you want to work here?” you will want to stay on your toes and refrain from telling any cat-vomit stories. Pause before answering each question to gather your thoughts—which should be easy, because you’ve already practiced what you’re going to say!

6. Keep it conversational. If at any point your interviewer sighs deeply and says, “So, do you have any questions for me?” know that you have not done your job. You’ve bored your interviewer and haven’t been engaged throughout the meeting. To avoid this deadly situation, do your best to treat the interview as a conversation, asking your thoughtful questions along the way rather than saving them until the end. This means that after your you’ve answered your interviewer’s question about why you want to work at their company, you can ask what drew them to the company and what they like best about working there.

After the interview:

1. Email your thanks. Email personalized and thoroughly proofread thank-you notes to every single person you met with if you were able to get their business cards (yes, separate emails for each person). Email is preferable because the recipients can immediately reply and give you a sense of where you stand. Also—I have to mention this because it’s happened to so many of my candidates in the past—do not use an email address that is overly creative or even vaguely inappropriate.

2. Be patient. Companies can, and often do, take up to a month to extend offers. (Yet once you receive an offer, most employers will require a decision from you within 72 hours.) If you don’t get the position you were hoping for, know that something better is waiting for you. The more interviews you do, the sharper your interviewing skills will get. And the more interviews you go on, the more likely you will be to find a place that is truly a good fit for you. Best of luck!

Naomi Kaplan is one of my Lateral Link colleagues.  Naomi has some great ideas for lawyers interviewing. I asked her to share her ideas in the next two blog posts. Here is part 1.

 

By the end of a successful job interview, you’ve demonstrated that you have the skills and experience to be a tremendous asset to your prospective employer. More importantly, you’ve convinced potential new colleagues that you’ll be a great person to have around the office—that you aren’t the least bit annoying and that you’ll get along with everyone. How did you accomplish all that? You followed these 12 tips, which I’ve developed through years of advising anxious job seekers.

Before the interview:

1. Celebrate. Hooray! You’ve landed a job interview! Someone looked at your résumé and thought, “I’d really like to meet this person.” On paper, your background and skills match up with an opportunity you find fascinating. That alone is a huge accomplishment. I encourage my candidates to feel as optimistic and excited about their interviews as possible. I know they’ll get the job when they’re over-the moon excited—and when they can effectively bring that positive energy with them on the day of their interview.

2. Do your homework. Take time to research your prospective employer and every single person who will be interviewing you. While you certainly don’t want to mention that you thought one of their status updates was funny, you do want to be able to mention during the course of the conversation something from their professional background that you either relate to or find especially impressive.

3. Write it out. I encourage my candidates to write out 6 examples of their professional accomplishments, along with answers to common interview questions. (Google “common interview questions” for an adequate list.) Preparing answers to difficult questions will help you stay calm and focused on the day of your interview. The list of accomplishments will come in handy for behavior-based interview questions. I’ve had numerous candidates turn into deer in headlights trying to come up with suitable examples in response to these types of questions. If you have a list of amazing things you’ve accomplished ready to go, you can easily refer to it and see which aspects of your story align with the question at hand, while effortlessly highlighting the things you’re most proud of.

When it comes to classic interview questions, my candidates struggle most frequently with the seemingly benign, “So, tell me about yourself.” This is not an opportunity to tell your whole life story. Nor is the interview a free therapy session. Instead, this is an opportunity to explain to your interviewer why you’re sitting in their office. For example, I might say “I began my career as an attorney but quickly realized that recruiting is much more gratifying to me. I’ve been in this field for the past 15 years and I love what I do. I decided I wanted to meet with you because your company….”

As you’re crafting your answers, make them as specific as possible. If you’re asked, “What are your greatest strengths?” don’t just respond with a list of adjectives because that doesn’t tell your interviewer anything real about you. Define what you mean by “responsible,” give an example of how you’ve been amazingly responsible in the past, and then discuss what you were able to achieve with your amazingly responsible self. Writing out your answers ahead of time will help you come up with smart things to say, and (more importantly for some of us, ahem) help you to keep your answers concise.

4. Prepare smart questions. How can you demonstrate that you’re assertive and that you’re genuinely interested in a job? Ask lots of thoughtful questions. Go into your interview prepared with a list of diverse, courageous questions. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen candidates make is avoiding talking about the potential red flags they’ve identified. Was there something about the job description that worried you? Have you heard you might be replacing a person who walked on water as far as everyone you’re meeting with is concerned? If you’re serious about rolling up your sleeves and taking on this job, then these issues should be raising important questions in your mind. Ask those questions.

In her next post, Naomi shares her top tips for the day of the interview, and after the interview.

Someone asked me recently, why should a lateral partner or associate use a recruiter? It’s a good question. I can answer by sharing a story with you and simply say that I have only placed lawyers in firms I know well from having coached lawyers and interacted with the firm leaders.

When I was at the top of my game, two large international firms heavily recruited me. Both firms offered me substantially more money than I had made the year before.

Business people in a seminar

I didn’t have a recruiter helping me so I had to learn as much as I could about each of the firms. It took hours, and days and a couple of months for me to get beyond the substantial increase in my compensation that both firms offered and learn what it would be like being a partner in each firm.

One of the two firms was considered one of the fastest growing firms in the world. They had previously started a Dallas office, but it wasn’t much (and still isn’t much.) They offered me big time money, but over the time they recruited me I learned that they were ditching as many partners as they were hiring. I might have been the flavor of the month when they hired me, but if I didn’t; meet their unstated expectations, I would be gone as quickly as I had been hired.

The second firm had a substantial Dallas office. Their managing partner described the firm as being like a large air craft carrier that turns very slowly in the water. The firm seemed less entrepreneurial than the first firm, and my then current firm. They seemed more focused on building teams. Some of that appealed to me. But, then I discovered there were several older partners who had retired on the job and were still being compensated as if they were top producers.

Even though my initial compensation with either firm would have been substantially greater than what I was earning, neither firm was the right firm for me. I urge you to learn more about any potential firm you might join before you make a move. A top notch recruiter can discern whether the potential firm is the right one for you.

 

Want to take a couple of classes that will help you get better at client development? Suppose I told you that the two I would take would be Creative Writing and Drawing. What would your reaction be?

My guess is that you would wonder what in the world either of those courses has to do with client development. The answer is those two courses will better enable you to see the big picture and better enable you to be empathetic and understand your clients’ points of view.

In November, 2018, A Florida State law student wrote: Hidden Lessons: How My Creative Writing Major Helps Me In Law School.  She pointed out many benefits from that major. Take a look and I think you will agree.

If you have a few minutes, watch this Ted Talk: How drawing helps you think.

I read “Making Rain” by Andrew Sobel a few years ago. Then about a year later I read “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. Both books in their own way focused on the importance of synthesis or symphony.

What is that, and what does it have to do with practicing law you ask? Synthesis or symphony is about how well you assimilate the pieces of information affecting your client to see the bigger picture.

To better learn that skill Daniel Pink attended a week long class in New York taught by Betty Edwards “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”

My father was an artist. I didn’t inherit his talent. I can’t draw very well, but I owe my law career to assimilating pieces of information impacting my clients to see a bigger picture. I anticipated what would impact highway contractors before any other lawyer and before the contractors themselves saw the potential problem.

Creative writing and drawing are two skills that will enable you to see things others miss. I bet there is a community college nearby where you could take both classes.

 

Over the holiday while working out I listened to a wonderful interview Lewis Howes did of Simon Sinek. Click here to listen. Simon Sinek has published a new book: The Infinite Game. I haven’t read it yet, but after listening to the interview, I will read it soon.

During the interview, near the end, they talked about the difference between competitors and rivals.

If you go to about the 41st minute of the interview, you can hear what Simon Sinek says on that subject. I will try to paraphrase here.

A competitor is someone you set out to beat. A rival is someone out there you believe is worthy of comparison. A rival forces us to focus on improving ourselves. Someone who is a rival at the top of his or her game who exposes your weaknesses giving you the opportunity to improve.

If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast, or watch the video above, take time to read this Inc. Magazine article: Simon Sinek: Here’s Why Everyone Should Have a Work Rival. In it Simon Sinek says:

“A Worthy Rival can push us in a way that few others can — not even our coaches, mentors or advisors,” he contends. “Traditional competition forces us to take on an attitude of winning; a Worthy Rival inspires us to take on an attitude of improvement. The former focuses our attention on the outcome; the latter focuses our attention on process.”

 

When I was a Jenkens and Gilchrist partner, our firm hired a consulting firm and paid them a lot of money to mostly tell us what we already knew.

One consultant told me I should “sell” our labor and employment lawyers and our environmental lawyers to my construction contractor clients. I replied that if we wanted my construction contractor clients to hire our lawyers in those two practice groups, the lawyers must first demonstrate their expertise and knowledge of the construction industry legal issues.

Later at a firm meeting the consultants shared their findings. After hearing our firm’s consultants talk about how we needed to “further penetrate” our clients,  I created a short plan I called a cross-serving plan. Take a look at my thoughts and use them as a foundation to create a plan for your firm.

Objective: To expand relationships with your existing clients and provide services you are not currently providing.

Main Point:  Selling will not work.  Clients do not want to be sold. They want to buy, but only what they want and need. In order to get clients to buy other services, you must thoroughly understand their business, their perspective and their views of lawyers and of your firm. Here are some steps to follow:.

  1. Identify specific clients and client heads.
  2. For each client research and describe their business.
  3. For each client describe what you know about the client representative.
  4. Identify the legal work being done for the client in the practice areas.
  5. Put together a team to focus on finding ways to add value and serve the client in other areas.
  6. Prepare a client service plan (not a marketing plan) for each client, including specific activities to better know the client, the client’s business and the client representative.
  7. Identify and prepare list of “joint projects” that could be done for a client – not “cross-selling” but rather integrated services.
  8. Identify something extraordinary and memorable to “give” the client from the other practice groups (newsletters, white papers, guides, check lists, etc.). Keep in mind that if it is not extraordinary and memorable it will be ignored.
  9. Conduct regularly scheduled team meetings to discuss what is going on with the client and their business.
  10. If possible, set up meetings at no charge to learn more about the client’s business.
  11. Prepare a white paper on fully integrated services of the practice groups and how such fully integrated services would serve the needs of the clients.