Wednesday, February 25, 2009

9 to 5? Try 8 to 2

We work long hours most days. Sometimes we leave the house at 7am and don't return until 10pm. But sometimes you run into people that make you grateful you are not them. At a party recently, I met a young lawyer who graduated the same year that we did. She said that this was the first social engagement that she had attended in a long time.

She tells me she works at Paul Hastings. To be honest, I tell her that I have not heard the name of the firm, although today I notice the name plastered on the side of a high rise in downtown L.A. It's comical how lawyers always expect that you have heard the name of their firm. As if my entire existence is to memorize the names of big firms that I would never want to work for.

As we are chatting, the topic of hours comes up, and I ask her how long her days are. She tells me "things have been really busy lately" adding, "I usually get into the office at 8 in the morning and leave at 2" By 2, she means 2am. It's hard to contain the horrified look that spreads across my face.

Now, I know that large law firms rely to a major extent on the air of prestige to carry them through. But what is prestigious about making this poor woman work those types of hours? What is to envy about her life? I find out later in the evening that her work is boring, she never gets to court, never meets face to face with clients, and that the office is a complete meat grinder, forcing her to work sweatshop hours. Throughout the evening she takes several breaks to check her Blackberry and respond to messages from superiors. Gag. Me.

Elizabeth and I are working very hard, and there are days when we wonder if we're doing the right thing. But we both agree wholeheartedly that we'd rather be doing this than that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What can I say?

We've been blogging lately about all of our new pals in our new town, the wonderful people we've met, the Networking Olympics, and the like.

Now, a tribute to some wonderful friends from our Pre-Firm days. Unless you are living under a rock, you know what how tough the economy is out there. And believe it or not, it is really tough for lawyers. Several of our law school pals are struggling to find meaningful work.

They're open to pay cuts, volunteering in hopes of landing a paying gig, and applying to all kinds of lawyer positions they wouldn't have even considered a few months ago. Some of our friends who are employed with firms are beginning to loathe their lot in life, but are keeping a stiff upper lip because while it may not be pretty in the office, it is ugly in the hallway.

I, unfortunately don't have any great pearls of wisdom, except that I think of these friends often. I wish they could find a fantastic job that was 9am-5pm, on the 35th floor in a 700 square foot office, facing the ocean. Lunch would be catered every day. There would be a gym in the office. Fresh flowers on their desk.... They deserve it!

A salute to our friends, and a sincere hope that something good comes to each of us, sooner rather than later.

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Friday, February 20, 2009

Branching Out

As fun as it is to meet with attorneys, we've determined we'll need to branch out beyond the legal arena to connect with people who may give us clients. However, I still give my gratitude for attorneys, because it was an attorney who put us in touch with the man I'm writing about.

Today I met with a guy who owns a company which provides home care services to the elderly. His company will bring aids to the homes or assisted living facilities of elderly people to take them to the store, play cards, eat together, etc. This allows elderly to stay in their homes longer before heading to the oft-dreaded nursing home. He has been at this for 5 years and now has 150 home aids working for him. He suggested we work together to give presentations at senior centers and the like. Bingo!

With today's families being crunched on both sides -- their aging parents on one side, their children off to college on another -- his business plan is a smart one. It is affordable and provides peace of mind to families.

A quote not so much inspirational, but beautifully written:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.
~Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Networking Superstars

Excuse me, but I'm a networking superstar now. Today I had two meetings (it was a light day) so I got in some time with my soon-to-be 95 year-old grandmother. She's a bit out of touch with reality. I told her I was volunteering at a luncheon next week because I couldn't afford the tickets (they were $250 a wack--shocking, I know). But she was uber-shocked that people today will pay that for a luncheon. I tried to explain it was a fundraiser, but it did not make a difference.

Tomorrow both Paul and I are SLAMMED. At 7am, we're both attending a meeting. At 9am another meeting with an attorney in town. At noon I roll out of town for a college alumni gathering and Paul splits for a local music conservatory luncheon. Then, at 5:30 I have a happy hour mixer and Paul has a different mixer (mine is more social, his is more networking). It's going to be a long day, particularly because these different events are in all parts of town, meaning lots of time spent in the car. Thank God for NPR.

Allow me to introduce you to Rex Gradeless (if only law school had been Grade-less!). He is the mastermind behind the Social Media Lawyer blog, which encourages lawyers and law students to get out there are use technology to save time and money. He particuarly enjoys blogging about social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). I'm on all three, thank you. It's a great blog because Rex shows people how to use these types of technologies to grow your business, not just how to make a profile or post that you're "doing laundry."

Final note: we got our pictures for our website. Lookin' good! This is us, hanging out at the entrance to our office (that's a joke, folks). Photography is credited to the fabulously talented Jordana Hazel of Hazelnut Photography.

The way of the world is meeting people through other people.
~ Robert Kerrigan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Linking Our Firm to the Universe

I've been digging through cyberspace looking for blogs about law firm marketing. We've looked into the traditional methods, but they can be quite expensive. As in, blow-our-entire-budget-for-the-next-six-months (assuming we don't get any clients) expensive.

Hence, the search. Thanks to a blog titled Law Firm Marketing, I was informed that we can put our firm on Google, Yahoo, Super Pages, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc. for free as a simple business listing. Free is a very nice word. Thanks to Randy for the tips!

Another tip came from Larry Bodine's Law Marketing Blog, about how to utilize and clean up our LinkedIn pages. I'm not quite sure how effective LinkedIn is. Sometimes, I feel strange about asking people to be in my "network" if we haven't worked together for a long time, or I've only met them once or twice. It's a bit more formal than Facebook. Sometimes I'm dying to link with a fascinating person I've met only once, but I feel as though it's like asking someone out on a date! Sometimes even if I know the person well, I ponder, am I worthy? Does anyone know LinkedIn etiquette?

Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.
~Clarence Thomas

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Are Not Alone.

One of my favorite blogs, Above the Law, has profiled two friends who opened their own law firm after they couldn't find attorney positions in their town. Check out their story here. I say "Way to go Buckley & Hutchings!!!"

Major difference between these women and our story is that it was our dream to open our own shop from the beginning of our first year. We scraped money together for it, talked to many many attorneys who were in solo practice (and/or had opened shop right after law school), and we focused on what areas we would want to practice in.

Below is a quote I resent, however.
[F]reshly minted lawyers may know legal theory, but they rarely know the more practical stuff: how to bill clients, for example, or how to navigate the court system. Also, running a law firm is closely akin to running a small business. Few young lawyers learning the ropes of their profession could handle the added burden of keeping the books and being sure the light bill gets paid. [emphasis added]

Um, if we can pay our personal electric bill and manage our own own bank account, we think we can do the same for our firm. Why do some people act as though this is rocket science?

And practical stuff? That's what the internet is for! It's what making friends with more experienced attorneys is for! Come on, folks.

Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.
~ Cheri Huber

Monday, February 2, 2009

Merci Beaucoup!

I wrote several Thank You cards today. (Sidenote: I was raised never to buy cards that say "Thank You" on the front. This lesson has stuck with me, although I am unsure why it is uncouth to send cards with "Thank You" on them. Now it is a pain to find nice blank cards!)

Excuse my digression. The thing is, I have had the good fortune to run into several amazing women since we've moved here. These women are very well connected in our community, and are active in several organizations to which we have recently joined. But what makes them extra special is their inclusive nature towards me, a lowly newbie outsider.

These women, in their own unique ways, have taken me under their wings by introducing me to people, welcoming me to the organizations, telling me how fabulous the venture is which Paul and I have taken on, and always having a smile and a warm welcome for me. It has made the networking process much easier for me. It has made events enjoyable. It has made me feel more connected to this community (as cliche as it sounds).

Years from now, when gold bars sit lazily on our office desks, I will remember these women and look forward to how I can help the newbie in the group feel welcome. Gold bar, newbie?

When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.
~ Anthony Robbins