My Shingle

Open Letter to New Lawyer: You should be dragging me into the 21st century not the other way around

by Carolyn Elefant on January 17, 2013 · 36 comments

in Encouragement, Questions & Advice, Solo Inspiration, Trends

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Dear New Lawyer,

At 48 years old, I am old enough to be your mother.  And you should be ashamed of yourself.  Here you are, coming to me for a legal job when you don’t know the first thing about RSS feeds, blogging (reading them, let alone writing them), Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.  And what’s more, you have no comprehension of the importance of these tools to my practice and seemingly no interest in learning how to use them.

Just out of law school, your skills are of minimal use to me.  Nothing you research or write will be worthy of filing without significant oversight and feedback. And that’s okay.  Starting out, I wasn’t very useful myself either. But each time my research memos and briefs came back blushing with redline (or back in my day, red ink), I learned just a little bit more about how to craft a solid piece of work product.  Within time – a matter of months, (and hours and hours of practice on my own time) – I could soon produce a file-ready document on my own.

These skills are what I’m willing to teach you. It’s part of my professional obligation as a lawyer to see to it that new generations learn the craft.  But what I can’t abide is having to teach you how to tweet about current events.  How to set up an RSS feed. How to track and stay on top of news from two or three industry blogs.  Supposedly, you grew up on this stuff.  So why do you need to take instructions from someone old enough to be your mother on how to use tools that should come as second nature? You should be coming to me with a week’s worth of proposed blog posts. You should be streaming out a dozen tweets on industry developments and setting up RSS feeds to share with me – not the other way around.  You should have as robust an online footprint as I do, or more – yet I’ve got thousands of blog posts to your…zero? You should be able to figure out, in a snap, how to use video editing tools if you don’t already and volunteering to create cool informational videos so I can market my firm and generate more business that will support more new hires.

Yet somehow, there’s a disconnect.  Are you living in a cave? For gosh sakes, Justin Bieber, the biggest rock star of your generation was discovered on YouTube? Don’t you understand how powerful this stuff is?  Even putting myself in your shoes, I just can’t comprehend why this stuff doesn’t matter to you. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt so social media doesn’t wow you the way it does me, but even so, you’re 25, not 85; too old to be so jaded.  You should be dragging me into the 21st century, not the other way around. 

That’s how it worked, even in the stone ages when I came of age and when technology didn’t have nearly the power it does now.  Back in 1987,  as a summer associate at big law, my fellow summers and I were routinely tasked to research extensive complex memos. We’d take notes on photocopies of cases and draft up the memos on legal pads for the secretaries to type.  Though none of us had our own personal computers or laptops back then, we’d grown accustomed to using computers to produce our papers in law school, so handwriting drafts for someone else to type seemed inefficient. So we set up a meeting with the managing partner to ask for access to a computer so that we could type our work product, which would save time.  The managing partner refused; said that we couldn’t possibly type as quickly as the secretaries and our time was better spent focused on being lawyers.  Still, at least we tried.

I’d love for someone working for me to set up a video channel or newsfeed or help me install a system to video chat reliably with clients in a way that looks professional. Introduce me to technology that I haven’t yet met. I’m not all that cutting edge and for every piece of tech that I’ve mastered there are dozens of platforms that I’ve never heard of.  Bring ‘em on!

Some of you newbies have told me that law school discourages use of technology. That career offices tell students to stay off Twitter and not to blog for fear of creating an adverse paper trail.  To heck with that! You’re only young once; might as well use the facility for picking up new ways of communicating and make a few mistakes along the way then act like a middle-aged lawyer before you reach that point.  And by the way, you shouldn’t need someone my age to tell you to defy conventional wisdom either.

Newbie, there’s an  amazing future  that lies before you; opportunities to reinvent the law, to make it more  accessible than I ever dreamed back in the day when I plugged in my humble little Mac and changed my own destiny. I may be progressive for an oldie, but let’s face it; I’ll never see the world as will your generation.  Why don’t you step up and own it?

  • http://www.rainmakervt.com Mike O’Horo

    Clap, clap, clap. Gotta love the tough love.
    Reminds me of the verbal wakeup call delivered to John Mahoney’s character by Olympia Dukakis’s character in “Moonstruck”: “Snap out of it!”

  • Alison Monahan

    This is so spot-on. And it’s not just schools handing out terrible advice to stay off Twitter and avoid any public statements that might later be used against you. I hear this at mainstream conferences all the time. It’s appalling!

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  • http://twitter.com/murphynickles ellen murphy

    Just shared this with my Wake Forest PR class.
    Thanks.

  • Disgruntled_Senior_Associate

    I call B.S.
    1.  How am I suppossed to bill 2300 hours a year when I am constantly checking RS feeds, e-mail, facebook, voicemail, twitter, etc., attending marketting meetings, consulting with my “personal brand assistant,” much less concentrate on a single task for .1 hours.
    2.  Having an “online footprint” is great until you stick you foot in your mouth, which you eventually will because facebook/twitter are inherently spontaneous, whereas any decent legal commentary requires substantive thought and analysis.
    3.  Commenting on random newsarticles is great unil you find out that partner 34 has a client whose business interests are directly adverse to what you wrote and now you have no job. Or you wrote about a contraversial topic in lawschool and your post went “viral” and now no law firm will touch you.
    4.  Learning from redlines would be much easier if it were just redlines, not redlines, greenlines, an bluelines with 15 different sets of conflicting comments from the “team”–all of whom are billing for the same thing.
    5.  You can write all the crap you want online and have 1mil followers and “friends” and “twats”, but none of that is going to get you clients unless you:  a) do outstanding work; b) have enough experience to know what you are talking about; and c) have enough personal skills to meet someone face-to-face and earn their trust.  Do you want me actually being out in the community, making connections, meeting people, learning what they need, or spouting BS on a computer screen all day long?
    6.  Seriously, I really think some of you old folks suffer from new flashy wizbang gadget syndrome…..Ohhhh…its new…..we must have it.   We have to be first!  Some blog said we all have to blog, so now we must all blog.

    How about instead of wasting my time having me tweet, facebook, blog, youtube, or whatever else is the latest trend, you actually take me to court or a deposition so I can learn something useful?   How about you introduce me to some of the people in the industry you represent so I can better assist you and you clients?  Apparently, that is too “old school.”

  • Carolyn Elefant

    I said in my post that I am willing to train. those who work for me attend client meetings, have direct client contact and I pay to send them to industry events. that’s all on my dime because with the exception of proofing, basic summaries and filings, I wind up losing money on junior people who work for me. So in exchange for the experience, it would be nice to have, for example, a summary of the industry event so I can use it for marketing. A constant presence on Twitter to enhance my firm’s visibility. I do this stuff myself. Ive driven 6 hours round trip to give a presentation or spent a day on a power point presentation for a webinar. Shouldn’t the people who work for me be hustling more thn I am? BTW – it does seem that your comments are from a more traditional large firm where you are billing big hours I don’t have 2300 hours of billables to farm out si I can’t keep anyone that busy.

  • http://twitter.com/Lieslaw Liesbeth van Leijen

    Yeah! So true (I’m turning 47 this year). Great article and also very applicable in The Netherlands, where I’m having my lawfirm.

  • Frank Pipitone

    This site is geared toward solos.  Just look at the title.  If you are just another tool in the shed at a 100+ attorney law firm, than perhaps these “tech” skills are not as valuable.  You are not going to be spending your time tweeting/blogging/podcasting.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), as a solo practitioner, these tools are invaluable.  You can be the biggest, baddest attorney out there, but in 2013, you cannot just hang a shingle and expect to be successful.  The “community” has changed drastically.  I know from personal experience that these tech skills have kept my practice open and running in my first year as a solo.    

  • Disgruntled_Senior_Associate

    I don’t disagree that tech skills are important.  But there has been this disturbing trend of stressing marketing and internet presence at the expense of gaining substantive legal experience.  I don’t disagree that substantive blog posts about topics that affect your clients are effective.  But this constant emphasis on trying to be “visible” comes at the expense of developing substantive relationships with actual people and skills.  Tweets/facebook posts, etc. are so ubiquitous now because everybody is jumping up and down screaming “pick me, pick me, pick me”; “I’m an expert, I’m an expert.”  Anyone with an ipad and a few spare moments on the throne can pop off tweets, but that doesn’t mean they are worth anything.

    My point is:  Why post a bunch of garbage online as a young attorney when you don’t have the knowledge, relationships, or skill set to be relevant to potential clients?  And, If I am interviewing new attorneys, I don’t give a rats a$$ about how many facebook followers they have or how many of their worthless opinions they have posted online.  They don;t know anything to make their opinions of any value.

     I care if they can actually write briefs and do substantive legal analysis…which it appears law schools have stopped teaching.  I’d rather have a first year associate that knew how to file and serve a complaint or respond to a discovery motion than one that sits in his/her office tweeting about how “great” they are with their non-skillset and non-experience.

    IMHO, this whole “profession” is being transformed by a bunch of marketing zombies from skilled advisers and advocates into a bunch of empty suits jumping up and down trying to be noticed.

  • http://www.rainmakervt.com Mike O’Horo

    Disgruntled:
    Your comment seems rooted in two assumptions:
    1) Practicing law and business development constitute an “or” condition.
    2) The purpose of online communication is to speak about the law or one’s expertise.

    1) Whether lawyers like it or not, the glorious era when business just strolled in the door without any effort on the lawyer’s part is over. The 20-year Seller’s Market for legal services has matured to a Buyer’s Market, permanently, as have all markets throughout business history.  Now, lawyers have to play by the rules that their clients have played by forever.  In that world, marketing and sales are mission-critical functions for every business, as is having a product worth buying (which in this case is you).  You have to do both.  Figure out a way to allocate sufficient time to get good enough at both, or fail. Markets are ruthless.  

    2) Social media is an electronic conversation among people with shared interests. It’s not a personal broadcast platform to proclaim one’s expertise, even if the expertise is real and impressive.  Participate in online conversations the same way you’d participate in real-life conversations, by contributing something to the conversation that others would reasonably appreciate receiving.  

    The easiest way for a young lawyer to do that while they’re earning their technical stripes is to become knowledgeable about your would-be clients’ businesses. There’s a predictable progression of attributes you have to earn: 
    - Relevant
    - Useful
    - Valuable
    - Indispensable

    The last one is every lawyer’s Holy Grail.  The only one you can control or influence is relevance.  The others are perceived or attributed by your audience.  If, as a result of your participation in the industry conversation, you’re perceived as relevant, you’ll get a chance to be useful.  If your usefulness results in positive impact on the client’s business, you’ll be perceived as valuable.  If you’re consistently relevant, useful and valuable over a long period, you may become indispensable.

    None of this is easy, but it can be simple.

  • John Kilpatrick

    The only way to get people with those skills is to stop hiring those without them. Once the schools and grads find out that these are skills that firms want, they will put more emphasis on those.  Either that, or hire an engineer :-)

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  • Susan Gainen

    Thank you thank you thank you. 

    Of course your advice applies to law students and to new professionals and employees of all stripes.

     It is particularly relevant to creatives (artists, writers, etc.), who in past centuries had two business models: have a patron or starve in an attic. Today, without a trust fund, we must paint/write and tweet and blog.

  • A different opinion

     If a new lawyer had all of the skills you mentioned, they wouldn’t need to come begging to work for you.  Further, if they could blog as well as you or better, generate as many clients as you or more, and have a stronger online presence than you, all you would be doing is training your own replacement or future competition if you did hire them.  I get your point that young attorneys should be all over this technology.  However, the hidden blessing to older attorneys is that they are not.

  • R.J.

    Dear Disgruntled:  I agree with you , buddy.  I have 20 years of experience, 6 on my own, and I don’t think the technological stuff is worth a damn, sorry, Carolyn.  Start out on your own and launch a expensive website, start a Facebook page, do “Twitter” and none of it’s likely to get you anywhere.  (Why would anyone follow a lawyer’s Twitter page, for God’s sake?) What does get you somewhere?  The traditional, “hard” networking: join local groups, get to know people, get to know other lawyers who might refer you work.  They’ll see you, they’ll get to know you, they’ll trust you.  

    Plus it’s not phony like all the Internet stuff. For example, if you join a local networking group, you don’t even have to talk about what you do that much.  Just become friends with people; they’ll come to you when they need you.  The point is that you don’t even have to be a phony salesman-type like you do on the Internet.  Or join a group that has nothing to do with networking.  Last year, I received the biggest case (a large appeal) I had gotten to date, with the best retainer I had gotten to date.  You know how I got it?  A local well-established lawyer (whom I had done per diem work for) told the client that if he (the lawyer) had to be represented by someone, he would pick me.  The client trusted this lawyer and retained me.  That type of referral is as good as gold.  Do you think the client cares that my website sucks? Do you think he even bothered to look at it?  Nah…  Ten years from now we’ll all be talking about the latest in technology but the fundamentals of getting business will be the same…  

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  • RAFIV

    I am neither a grizzled veteran nor a clueless
    baby attorney, but it seems that there is one key element to surviving in the
    legal profession and it is one that many of us lack: honest self-assessment.
    Acknowledge what you know, strive to master it, and build on it. Acknowledge what you don’t
    know, then shut up, listen to those who know more, and keep working at it day
    and night. Works when you are an associate and works as you develop your skills
    or practice.  

  • http://twitter.com/NiHyland Nicole Hyland

    I would add that they should be mastering the law and technology of e-discovery and should make it their business to stay up-to-date on the ethics of using social media.

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  • Jordan Rushie

    When I was a a young strapping lad working for a firm, it kind of went down like this:

    Jordan: “James, you should really consider (using cloud technology, VOIP phones, electronic faxing, incorporating Apple products, having a website, PDFing correspondence, PDFing everything, filing electronically, buying a smart phone). It would probably make the firm run more efficiently.”

    James: “That all sounds very modern, but no one cares what you think. Try a jury trial before telling me how to run the place. Now Please have that brief finished before the end of the day.”

    That’s a true story. 

  • myshingle

    Jordan

    You’ve blogged enough about your boss that I believe your story. Certainly that was his prerogative. My business is different — I am often marketing to regional firms in need of energy counsel or new companies that aren’t hooked into the energy scene. So personl referrals don’t cut it (except for the landowner rights work I do which is almost entirel word of mouth for various ressons). In any event, without a strong presence online in the form of articles, newsletters and blogs, I am toast.

  • Erik H.

    Feh.  This is completely wrong.

    Your business model can be summed up as “promote the value of sales over the value of product.” 

    I understand the temptation.  After all, it’s a heck of a lot simpler to become very good at self promotion or sales, than it is to become very good in a specific area of the law.  And it’s simpler to sell your skill at self promotion than to sell your skill at being a great lawyer–just look at what happened to Alexis Neely.

    So for a new solo who doesn’t have either legal or sales skill, it’s certainly a great feeling to think “hey, I’ll start blogging and tweeting and ACTING like I know something, and maybe clients will hire me for that reason!”  And I’m sure it’s more entertaining to go to a legal tech show than it is to sit and study a law book; it’s more fun to tweet than it is to go to CLE; and so on.

    Maybe they’ll read your blog and be convinced that it’s the way to go.  But I sure hope not.

    Because if that new lawyer is going to be working for someone other than you (or an equivalent legal-marketing sales person) then your advice is dead wrong.

    You propose that they use their time and energy to speak out–but that’s utterly ridiculous.  Here’s a more reasonable version which I might write:

    “You should be
    ashamed of yourself.  Here you are, coming to me for a legal job when
    you don’t have basic skills yet.

    First, go learn how to do research.  If you can’t answer basic questions then I don’t really care about your seminar in South African Economic Law.  Take a Westlaw / Lexis course.  Learn Boolean searches.  Set up bookmarks for your state’s corporations division and registry of deeds and online statutes, and know how to use them. 

    Learn to use Google and the basic Google tools like “site:” and date limitations.  

    Learn to use your browser efficiently, tabbed browsing and keyboard shortcuts. If I ask you a question about mass laws 186 s 15B and you can’t have the statute on your screen in 30 seconds, you’re incompetent.  If you’re one of those “find the mouse with your hand; find the arrow on screen; click ‘file;’ read the menu as if you’ve never seen it before; decide on ‘new tab;’ click it; return to the keyboard” people, you’re incompetent.  Tweet all you want and that competence is still lacking.

    While you’re at it, spend an hour or so a week learning to type, and learning to use Office properly.  Again, these are free skills which will serve you well basically every day of the rest of your career.  You can’t justify a secretary of your own, and you might be called on to perform secretarial work for me.  If you don’t know the basics of how to write a business letter and if you can’t type faster than 10 WPM then I don’t give a hoot if you upload 5 Youtube videos every day using only your pinky.

    Those skills make you a better employee, and also are basic skills for being a solo.

    When you’re done with that, learn to read.  And learn to write; I suggest you start at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon for advice. ”

    Want to take a bet whose advice is going to produce a happier and more successful solo?

  • myshingle

    I don’t know who you are but you certainly don’t read my blog. I have never encouraged solos to prioritize marketing over mastering skills or to learn new technology for just to look cool. At the same time, technology is a reality in the practice of law and can improve the quality of legal services that we deliver to clients. For example, you mentioned taking classes on Westlaw and LEXIS to improve research skills. Many solo and small firm lawyers can’t even afford those products. Today, there are many more options, from Google Scholar to Fastcase, that offer cost effective substitutes. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but they are much better than what many solos used to do in the way of research which is to skip it entirely or do manual search which is not cost effective. Moreover, the ability to focus on the content-oriented aspects of social media – knowing which blogs have good content or what news stories are relevant – is an important way to stay up to date.

    My business model has always been about exceptional quality. That’s why I am able to take on AmLaw 100 firms in a complex practice area and do so on a budget that is accessible to smaller clients. Technology did that for me too.

  • http://www.rainmakervt.com Mike O’Horo

    “After all, it’s a heck of a lot simpler to become very good at self promotion or sales, than it is to become very good in a specific area of the law.”

    Really?  I’m afraid your comment does little but reveal ignorance about 1)  sales and 2) social media, and the skill and strategy necessary to become adept at either.

    1) On what do you base your facile conclusion about sales?  

    Could it be that, across the global economy, skilled salespeople are in incredible demand because of scarce supply, and therefore tend to be among the highest-paid cadre of people in most companies?  Is that scarcity because it’s so easy that everyone has gotten really good at it?

    Or, perhaps you compared the % of lawyers whose work is billable and collectible (and therefore would be considered very good at some aspect of the law) vs. the % who generate the overwhelming % of that billable work.  No, such a comparison would lead one to the opposite conclusion, i.e., that it’s far more difficult to become very good at sales. Given its obvious economic value, if it was simple or easy, more lawyers would be good at making rain, they’d be in abundant supply, and rainmakers wouldn’t command so many multiples of what their worker-bee colleagues earn.

    This is especially true in recent years, when declining demand has made law a more competitive business, a condition that one might conclude would motivate more lawyers to get good at getting business.  Such recently-motivated lawyers, having not been particularly adept at business development previously, haven’t seemed to be able to pick up this simple skill in the four years since the recession began, else we wouldn’t have the constant news of layoffs and compensation cuts affecting lawyers who don’t have sufficient business.

    Don’t equate the rainmaking from 1990-2007 with sales ability. It was an unparalleled period of optimal conditions, i.e., massive demand growth (that AmLaw called “the Golden Age of Law Firms) accurately characterized as the rising tide that lifted all boats.

    2) Characterizing participation in social media as self-promotion reveals complete ignorance of the medium and its purpose.  Success in social media requires one to acknowledge that markets are conversations.  Just as in any social interaction, conversation isn’t driven by talking about oneself; nobody is interested in that in any medium. It’s about adding something relevant to the conversation.  The only way to add something relevant is to actually know what you’re talking about, or to participate as an acknowledged novice who’s trying to learn about the topic, and ask good questions of those who are more knowledgeable.  At least some of those people will conclude that you’re relevant, i.e., you’re interested in the topic and, based on your contributions over time, you seem to be committed to the issue and progressing in your understanding of it.  

    Some of those people may decide that you show potential, and give you a chance to be useful, i.e., work with them.  Others may decide that you’re smart and know what questions to ask, and may give you a chance to perform some research or other small tasks.  You’ve now climbed two steps up the Impact Ladder, which begins with Relevance, then progresses to Usefulness, to Valuable, to Indispensable.

    You might also reconsider the wisdom of making declarations on topics about which you’re woefully uninformed.

  • Erik H.
    Really?  I’m afraid your comment does little but reveal ignorance
    about 1)  sales and 2) social media, and the skill and strategy
    necessary to become adept at either.

    1) On what do you base your facile conclusion about sales?

    I’m torn.  I don’t normally converse with either company shills or opponents who insult me.  But I hate to leave this out there, so I’ll go the short route and clarify with two questions:

    1) Would it be correct to summarize your position as “knowing you’re right to a degree that you can paint all opponents as uneducated?”  Because that’s certainly what it sounds like.

    2) You presumably think you have amazing sales skills, since you run a company that sells them.  How’d that work for you in practice? How much did you make as a lawyer; why are you in sales?

    Could it be that, across the global economy, skilled salespeople are
    in incredible demand because of scarce supply, and therefore tend to be
    among the highest-paid cadre of people in most companies?  Is that
    scarcity because it’s so easy that everyone has gotten really good at
    it?

    I apologize.  I thought that since we were on a law blog discussing law and lawyers, I didn’t need to except for situations which DON’T involve law or lawyers.  Yes: salespeople are wonderful in the global economy.  So what?

    Or, perhaps you compared the % of lawyers whose work is billable and
    collectible (and therefore would be considered very good at some aspect
    of the law)

    In all humor, are you sure you work with lawyers?  i recognize and acknowledge both success and skill, but I’m intelligent enough not to confuse the two.  See, also, your apparent confusion between legal skill and sales skill.

    Given
    its obvious economic value, if it was simple or easy, more lawyers would
    be good at making rain, they’d be in abundant supply, and rainmakers
    wouldn’t earn multiples of what their worker-bee colleagues earn.

    I’m sorry, are we moving the goalposts and discussing out-of-topic information again?  Sure: If you are working at a large firm and/or if you have a staff of people who know how to work, then you can simply concentrate on getting the clients in the door.  You dno’t need to be a good lawyer; you need to be a good salesperson.

    And sure, this can be valuable in limited situations, though as a practical matter folks like you seem to wildly underestimate the ability of clients to suss out actual competence.  The best rainmaker on the planet can’t help you with an intelligent client, if you don’t know how to do legal work.

    But in any case, would you mind explaining how this is relevant to solos, and in particular new solos (which is what this post is about?)

    This is especially true in recent years, when declining demand has
    made law a more competitive business, a condition that one might
    conclude would motivate more lawyers to get good at getting business. 

    …or good at being lawyers, which is ITSELF a great way to get business.  That said, you can’t teach it in an online course so well, so I can understand why y’all don’t really want to go there.

    Such recently-motivated lawyers, having not been particularly adept at
    business development previously, haven’t seemed to be able to pick up
    this simple skill in the four years since the recession began, else we
    wouldn’t have the constant news of layoffs and compensation cuts
    affecting lawyers who don’t have sufficient business.

    Don’t you read the news?  It has nothing to do with business development; it’s about the general crash of the legal market combined with an oversupply of lawyers.

    Don’t equate the rainmaking from 1990-2007 with sales ability. It was
    an unparalleled period of optimal conditions, i.e., massive demand
    growth (that AmLaw called “the Golden Age of Law Firms”) accurately
    characterized as the rising tide that lifted all boats.

    OK, then: you DO read the news.  But I’m still waiting to hear why layoffs from firms which are dying is the result of a lack of business sense rather than a lack of people who are willing to pay $350/hour for a first year associate.

    2) Characterizing participation in social media as self-promotion
    reveals complete ignorance of the medium and its purpose.

    Sigh.  Again with the ignorance thing.  I have a nicely successful online campaign, thanks.  It’s not that I’m ignorant; your advice just stinks.

    Success in
    social media requires one to acknowledge that markets are conversations.

     
    [koff]marketingbullshit[koff]
    sorry, missed that. 

    Just as in any social interaction, conversation isn’t driven by
    talking about oneself; nobody is interested in that in any medium. It’s
    about adding something relevant to the conversation. 

    eh…. well, actually a lot of people get interested by all sorts of things.  But of course this is based on the “markets are conversations” BS above.

    The only way to
    add something relevant is to actually know what you’re talking about,
    or
    to participate as an acknowledged novice who’s trying to learn about
    the topic, and ask good questions of those who are more knowledgeable.

    WE AGREE!!!!   At least with the first part.

    And sure, a bit with the second part: I suppose questions can help things.  A truly great interviewer can really get information out of a subject, just as a truly great attorney can get information out of an expert.

    But it’s rare.  Want to guess about the ratio of
    [relevant questions that help the conversation]
    and
    [dumb-ass questions asked by people who are trying to find something out for themselves but who claim to be "adding relevance" to the conversation?] 
    What’s your estimate?
     

    At least some of those people will conclude that you’re relevant, i.e.,
    you’re interested in the topic and, based on your contributions over
    time, you seem to be committed to the issue and progressing in your
    understanding of it. 

    Interest.  Is.  Not.  Relevance.

    Some of those people may decide that you show potential, and give you
    a chance to be useful, i.e., work with them.

    Sure!  If, that is, you ask intelligent questions.  Which tend to themselves require innate intelligence (often lacking) and a base understanding of the subject area (often lacking) and the communication skills to come across well (often lacking) and so on.  I don’t see you teaching people anything of great knowledge value.  You can’t tell people to talk when they have little to say.

    It’s a bit like the students who “reach out” to me because some marketing hack has advised them of the wonders of personal networking….. but who haven’t learned how to actually hold a conversation.

    Others may decide that
    you’re smart and know what questions to ask, and may give you a chance
    to perform some research or other small tasks.

    Good luck with that.  I’ll  

    You’ve now climbed two
    steps up the Impact Ladder, which begins with Relevance, then progresses
    to Usefulness, to Valuable, to Indispensable.

    [koff]marketingbullshitagain[koff]
    sorry.

    I notice that Competence isn’t on there.  Couldn’t have predicted that one, nope, not at all.  Nice website, though!
     

    You might also reconsider the wisdom of making declarations on topics about which you’re woefully uninformed.

    I do!  And I think others should, too.  Like–ahem–those who are giving a lot of advice to practicing lawyers.

     

  • Erik H.

    “I have never encouraged solos to prioritize marketing over mastering skills”

    Say what?

    Maybe your escape hatch here is the use of “over,” and you think that you’d just like both. 

    But you tend to talk about other things than skills.  And since people’s time is limited, prioritizing A is functionally similar to deprioritizing not-A, even if you don’t formally state as much.

    If you really want to prioritize knowledge, you might want some blog edits.

  • Carolyn Elefant

    I’ve been blogging for ten years – covering the importance of building skills would make for pretty boring reading. Yes, I do blog about marketing and tech. But I have always emphasized, repeatedly, the importance of incorporating technology not as an end in itself but to improve the quality of delivery of service to clients. And by the way, I’ve not only written broadly on ethics issues (check the ethics topic) but I participated extensively in the ABA’s Ethics 2020 Commission, commenting on proposed regulations. Few lawyers do that. 

  • Pingback: As Saavy As You Want To Be « A Library with a View

  • http://twitter.com/BruceGodfrey Bruce Godfrey

    Even if not every new associate should be held to this standard, any attorney applying to work with you should care enough about the job to want to hit the ground running by doing due diligence on your practice and public profile. 

  • https://www.facebook.com/daniel.widrew danbot

    if you are encountering so many people of my generation who don’t view social media in the ways that you do, perhaps you have it backwards: the people who show up not caring about blogs and tweets ARE trying to drag you into the 21st century. you may be using modern technology, but you are using it to distinctly 20th century ends. very few of my friends have blogs, but my mother–who cannot turn on her computer without written instructions–does. fretting over your online footprint, smearing yourself across the internet by needlessly tossing content onto as many platforms as possible, is an incredibly neophyte approach to social media, mainly taken by businesses run by people of your generation trying to market themselves as savvy and hip to other members of your generation.

  • myshingle

    Thanks for your comment. This is something worth thinking about. You may have a point.

  • http://californialegalinsurance.com/ Nielsen & Geenty

    I found this post via Jeffrey’s response over on the Droid Lawyer (http://thedroidlawyer.com/2013/01/is-it-legal-malpractice-to-not-be-good-with-computers ) and already left a long comment there. Still, I’d like to add this to the conversation here: while lawyers may be able to get by without understanding Twitter, RSS and all the things you mention, it is essential that they understand the basics of computer security for keeping client information confidential. Too many lawyers have laptops with weak passwords and unencrypted hard drives, have iPhones that automatically log them in to all kinds of sites/apps even over unsecure connections at airports and cafes, and post to Facebook as if those posts are private, while a few recent ethics cases before various bars (Florida Bar comes to mind) show that is not the case.

    So it may hurt their practice a bit to be a Luddite in terms of online marketing and promotion, but being a Luddite in terms of computer security could cause serious damage to their practice if they are found to have released truly damaging client information due to inadequate safeguards on a stolen laptop (and, for that matter, if they have inadequate coverage, it could even impact their personal lives).

  • http://californialegalinsurance.com/ Nielsen & Geenty

    I found this post via Jeffrey’s response over on the Droid Lawyer (http://thedroidlawyer.com/2013/01/is-it-legal-malpractice-to-not-be-good-with-computers ) and already left a long comment there. Still, I’d like to add this to the conversation here: while lawyers may be able to get by without understanding Twitter, RSS and all the things you mention, it is essential that they understand the basics of computer security for keeping client information confidential. Too many lawyers have laptops with weak passwords and unencrypted hard drives, have iPhones that automatically log them in to all kinds of sites/apps even over unsecure connections at airports and cafes, and post to Facebook as if those posts are private, while a few recent ethics cases before various bars (Florida Bar comes to mind) show that is not the case.

    So it may hurt their practice a bit to be a Luddite in terms of online marketing and promotion, but being a Luddite in terms of computer security could cause serious damage to their practice if they are found to have released truly damaging client information due to inadequate safeguards on a stolen laptop (and, for that matter, if they have inadequate coverage, it could even impact their personal lives).

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