Newsletter

    December 2016 Print

    Community Service

    Our community connection is expanding. We added quarterly charities this year in addition to our long standing Hubbard House focus. The new charities this year were Foster Closet, Re-Threaded and Angels for Allison.  The annual Christmas party was held on December 8th with each person bringing a gift that was donated to Hubbard House.  Members and Business Partners attended the party at HobNob Restaurant.  The members had a great time. Please give us your suggestions for your favorite charity in 20171

    Jean Pimental & Mary Wimmer

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    Information Nuggets

     Did you know? 

    • Less than 50% of our members attend the chapter monthly meetings.

    • Usually only 4-6 people attend the happy hours.

    • You can invite a guest to our monthly meetings? Bring an office manager or legal administrator from a firm who is not a member and let them see what we are all about.

    • There are opportunities to serve on a committee or the Board.

    • Looking for a new job - Did you know what that there is a Career Center on www.alanet.org?

    • Legal management professionals and support staff can post their résumés online in either a public or confidential manner.  Job Seekers can also search through job advertisements placed by employers.

    • There are podcasts available on the ALA website?

    • You can locate a fellow ALA member on the website by searching under the member directory.

    • You can take a BP to lunch and the Chapter will reimburse you up to $30 ($15 each).

    • The 2017 ALA Annual Conference & Expo is in Denver, Colorado.

    Jean Pimental & Mary Wimmer  

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    Business Partner Event

    Did we have fun? Yes, we did.  The golf carts lined up, ready, set, go and we were off. It was a beautiful day at the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club and my ride in the golf cart was, well, the words roller coaster comes to mind.  Erin is heavy on the gas and fast on the turns. I am a rookie so Erin drove (big mistake) and I ran the signs to the holes. I gathered golf knowledge along the trip. My vocabulary grew and now includes words like longest drive, mulligans, birdie, bogey and chip.   The golf course was beautifully landscaped taking advantage of the local plant life and topography, unexpected for me. A nature walk would be just as appropriate as a round of golf. The hours passed, the scores were counted and the winners posted.  As we relaxed with beverage and food in hand, the winners were announced. All in all a rewarding event.

    Mary Beth Wimmer

     

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    Special Article

    Legal Management's Digital Edition FAQs

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    Legal Management

    Article from ALA Legal Management Magazine

    Among the skills critical for the 21st-century legal professional are technological competence, business savvy, emotional intelligence, communication, relationship building and project management. But traditional recruiting and training methods may not be structured enough to cultivate a successful talent base.

    SHIFTING PRIORITIES POST-RECESSION

    The economic decline accompanying the Great Recession spurred both law firms and their clients to rethink the costs of legal services.

    Since the recession, law firm clients have had lower budgets for outside counsel. Clients became less inclined to hire law firms, and since then the market has seen a continuing trend of lower or stagnant expenditure on legal services.

    “There was an economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, and it caused everyone in America — including law firm clients — to ask, ‘Do I want to pay for that?’” says David Sanders, Chief Talent Officer at Faegre Baker Daniels. The recession prompted clients to rethink how they operated, consider whether they could accomplish certain tasks themselves and question whether they were gaining value from firms’ work, he says.

    Not surprisingly, law firms have tried to distinguish themselves from other firms, assessing how they can offer competitive pricing and value to clients

    CRITICAL SKILLS FOR MODERN LAWYERING

    With client demands changing the legal talent landscape, the need for multifaceted attorneys has become essential. An exceptional pedigree is no longer enough — firms are increasingly seeking candidates with interpersonal, business and technology skills to increase effectiveness and efficiency.

    “What is being asked of the modern lawyer is really more than what was asked of them before,” says Terri Mottershead, Principal of Mottershead Consulting.

    Amani Smathers, Associate Legal Solutions Architect with SeyfarthLean Consulting, describes this phenomenon as T-shaped lawyering. A T-shaped lawyer combines his or her legal expertise with knowledge spanning different disciplines.

    “The whole idea of the T-shaped lawyer is you still need the deep legal expertise, but in order to be successful, you need shallow expertise in other areas to allow you to collaborate or have a better practice,” says Smathers.

    Some firms have found that experience, first and foremost, breeds attorneys with these sought-after skills.

    “What we’ve seen over the past couple of years as a continuing growing trend is law firms looking for candidates who have four, five, six years of experience,” says Charles Volkert, Executive Director of Robert Half Legal. These attorneys not only have the ability to jump right in, but also may possess the people skills, business acumen and ability to deal directly with clients that are all increasingly important for the new world of lawyering, says Volkert.

    But firms have also looked beyond recruiting to their own training, focusing on developing desired skills in-house.

    “Ten years ago, the focus on training was really on substantive skills,” says Carolyn Older Bortner, Director of Lawyer Development at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliff LLP. “The move has really been to skills training in the area of leadership, developing client relationships and strong communication skills.”

    Industry experts have identified the following as crucial for meeting the demands of modern legal services: technological adeptness, business understanding, emotional intelligence, communication, ability to forge relationships and project management.

    Technology

    Technology has become essential in everyday life, and it is no surprise that this trend has carried into the legal practice. In fact, Thompson Reuters’ Midsize Law Firm Survey found that 84 percent of respondents adopted new technology to enhance efficiency.

    “This is a growing demand that I don’t see slowing any time in the near term, or ever,” says Volkert. “[Technology is] one of the areas that we continue to see in high demand.” Firms desire attorneys that are tech savvy, understand software, and are highly skilled in e-discovery, among other skills, says Volkert.

    Technological efficiency saves money for firms’ clients, which is essential in this competitive market. This idea is not limited to high-level technological skills, and it applies to all staff. Technological proficiency is essential in everyday work, such as editing documents and preparing filings. Understanding how to navigate one’s computer system and word processing programs, as well as organizing email alone, can greatly enhance efficiency.

    E-discovery is another critical area for today’s attorneys. Since e-discovery is such a large part of today’s practice, attorneys and management staff should be familiar with accepted and emerging discovery practices — such as strategic keyword searching and predictive coding — and the repercussions of these processes on the legal industry. Taking that a step further, attorneys also must be aware of how issues like metadata and native files affect the e-discovery process.

    Attorneys should not only understand what metadata encompasses, but also be able to recognize its dangers and how to address potential issues. And that goes beyond a casual computer user’s ken.

    Attorneys can also benefit from mastering skills like social media and cloud computing for interacting with clients. But if they use such technologies without first gaining expertise with them, they risk running afoul of ethics rules or placing their clients’ confidentiality at risk.

    Lacking technological proficiency may actually be viewed as an ethics violation. Comment 8 to ABA’s Model Rule 1.1 indicates that attorneys must “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” Potential violations may lurk anywhere, from electronic document vulnerability to improper document format to poor organization.

    Attorneys should strive to educate themselves regarding technological issues or seek the assistance of technology experts within their firms, who should already be familiar with these issues.

    Technological expertise doesn’t only help law firms avoid pitfalls; it can also set them apart from competitors.

    “There’s a question of what do you actually need and what do you need to be competitive,” says Smathers. Firms have an opportunity to excel and provide enhanced services to their clients if attorneys and staff develop specific technological expertise.

    Business Acumen

    Having a business background is a major asset in today’s legal industry. Business and financial knowledge are useful tools in providing clients with appropriate counsel to reach their objectives.

    More than ever, clients desire attorneys with such skills. More than one-quarter of chief legal officers surveyed in Altman Weil’s 2015 Chief Legal Officer Survey indicated they would like law firms to place greater emphasis on understanding the business.

    “I think it’s important to understand the context in which law firms operate,” says Mottershead. “It also helps enormously when working with clients. You need to understand their business and know it very well.”

    Many attorneys and firms recognize the need for business literacy in legal practice. In a 2013 Harvard Law School survey of attorneys practicing at large law firms, 72 percent of respondents indicated that their firms provided business-methods training. Further respondents rated accounting and financial reporting, as well as corporate finance, as particularly valuable law school courses to prepare future attorneys.

    While most law schools have not abandoned their traditional coursework to a more business-focused approach, many have begun to offer practical business workshops and “boot camps.” For example, Brooklyn Law School works with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to provide a business boot camp, focusing on topics like accounting and reading financial statements. Similarly, Cornell offers a three-day weekend course called “Business Concepts for Lawyers.” And last year, Harvard Law began offering students access to Harvard Business School’s business fundamentals program, HBX credential of Readiness, which is an 11-week program focused on business analytics, economics and financial accounting.

    Emotional Intelligence

    Also critical is taking time to understand other people, especially clients. According to Jordan Furlong, Principal at Edge International, emotional intelligence encompasses a range of attributes, including empathizing and sympathizing with others, listening to others, and listening and hearing the client — not just the client’s problem.

    “Leadership or other development programs relating to emotional intelligence can have a huge impact,” says Sanders, who explains that while attorneys may be intellectually brilliant, they may not be successful if they cannot relate to juries or to their adversaries in negotiations.

    Emotional intelligence is particularly important when it comes to client relationships. “I think lawyers today need to be commercially savvy, and they need to understand issues [from] their clients’ perspectives,” says Bortner.

    Communication and Relationship Building

    While soft skills are not new to the legal practice, there is an increased focus on developing them. These skills include deflecting difficult questions and remarks, collaborating, and building strong relationships.

    It is critical that attorneys learn how to effectively communicate directly with clients, even at the junior level. And in terms of relationship building, attorneys should go a step further and focus on their clients’ experiences.

    “Much more than just relationship building and much more than being responsive … much more than having a business sense … [you must focus] on how your client is experiencing the service that you’re delivering from start to finish,” says Mottershead. That means focusing on the customer service side of lawyering just as much as the legal work itself.

    Project Management

    With firms increasingly outsourcing and delegating portions of their work, project management skills have become key in delivering efficient legal services to clients. In fact, according to Altman Weil Inc.’s 2015 Chief Legal Officer Survey, 40 percent of respondents would like outside counsel to offer more effective project management.

    Many firms appear to be cognizant of this. Altman Weil Inc.’s 2015 Law Firms in Transition survey found that 43.8 percent of respondents are implementing project management training to increase efficiency of legal service delivery.

    “I think [project management] becomes more and more critical as legal services have been unbundled and managed by people outside the firm,” says Mottershead. “The ability to manage a project is more than the work before you.”

    INCORPORATING MODERN SKILLS INTO YOUR FIRM

    With clients demanding more multifaceted lawyering, firms are under increased pressure to offer a skilled legal team. But according to Furlong, many firms do not have mechanisms in place to attract such talent.

    “The spirit is willing,” he says. “The process may still be weak, but I do think there is a recognition — perhaps a dim one — that we probably shouldn’t be looking for the same attributes we used to.”

    But a dim recognition will not suffice as firms strive to remain competitive and service-oriented. Determining whether individuals have certain skills, or creating programs to train on those skills (see sidebar), is not an easy task. Firms must implement competency-based hiring and training methods to find and cultivate talent with the above core skills.

    The standard law firm recruiting model — casual one-on-one interviews and a lunch interview — is lacking when it comes to discovering and assessing a person’s skill set. Firms require more structure and defined purpose to determine whether candidates possess technological abilities, a business background, emotional intelligence, relevant soft skills, project management abilities and any other skills firms may deem critical to boosting efficiency and client service.

    Thus, a firm should implement a structured interview scheme focused on competencies and actual skill assessments, such as writing assignments.

    Through competency-based recruiting — which is popular among Fortune 500 companies and implemented by employers around the world — firms can delineate the characteristics they seek and implement standard behavioral questions to assess whether candidates possess these traits. Candidates are all evaluated based on the same criteria, which allows firms to compare candidates while also minimizing the possibility of bias.

    A successful competency-based recruiting process is not an easy fix. It takes careful planning and dedication to execute. As part of this preparation, firms should train interviewers on the structured interview process, making them valuable in evaluating candidates’ future performance. Firms should also consider ways to customize the structured interview process to make it most effective for their goals. For example, some firms have gone beyond the typical one-on-one interviews and implemented panel interviews and off-site group retreats.

    Firms may also consider assessing applicants’ skills through structured activities, such as writing tests or group projects with other interviewees.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Since the Great Recession, law firm clients have become more focused on price and value, driving firms to seek better methods of delivering legal counsel. This landscape requires attorneys to have core skills that promote efficiency and client service, including technological abilities, business understanding, emotional intelligence, communication, relationship building and project management. To cultivate these skills within their firms, law firms should employ competency-based recruiting and development methods to inject specific criteria and expectations in their talent management processes.

    About the Author

    Mary Kate Sheridan is a writer and attorney with a JD from Columbia Law School and a BA in writing from Mary Washington College. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School.

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    Announcement

    Chapter Dues Renewal Time is Here  

    It is that time of year again, and we have a brand new form! The Jacksonville Chapter ALA's 2017 New Membership Form has fillabel fields and for your convenience, the form can be submitted to Lisa Murphy via email or mailed along with your dues check.   

    The form is also available on our    website at: http://alajax.org/join.php under Membership Renewal Application. Applications are due on or before January 31st.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lisa  or the Chapter's Board at board@alajax.org.  We look forward to our next year together. Happy Holidays!      

    Lisa Murphy - lmurphy@tshd-law.com - Office Manager, Taylo, Stewart, Houston, & Duss, P.A. Jacksonville, Florida 32204

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