It is spring and the latest crop of Paralegals and Legal Assistants is close to matriculating from the local business college and my firm is on their radar. I know this because of the stream of blind resumes from plucky new graduates seeking employment with my firm. It is truly odd feeling to be on the receiving end of that stream and write those short notes that say “thanks, but no thanks” in a few brief polite words.
Some of those letters are easier to write than others; it is fairly easy to say no to the Legal Assistant who can’t spell my name correctly or the Paralegal who e-mailed me his résumé in a format that I couldn’t open. I did give extra points for initiative to the applicant who dropped into my office unannounced with cover letter, resume, and references in hand wanting just a few moments of my time – too bad she lost so many points in the consideration category.
The hard letters to write are to those applications who are good candidates, the ones who have taken the effort to research what it is that I do and have crafted their cover letters and resumes to show me how what they have to offer fits with my practice. These are good studious kids entering a tough job market. I wish them the best of luck.
The other day I found myself visiting a business networking group and thinking about the meaning of referrals. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular marketing beast, networking groups are social gatherings in which business people meet, practice their elevator speeches on each other, and (hopefully) pass on a referral or two. These groups can range from (in my sister’s oh so appropriate words) “micro-managed, by-law abiding exercises in pedaling in place” to useful opportunities to build one’s referral network.
The $64,000 question that comes with every referral comes down to “can I vouch for this person?”A referral says that I trust this person, that I know this person is competent. Since my referrals are going to reflect on me – the rural grapevine will be quick to remind you of the time the plumber you referred Joe Bob to caused Joe Bob’s drains to all run backwards – I want to have a track record with my referrals; these are people who pass the “mom test” – someone so reliable, competent and trustworthy I’d have no trouble recommending them to my mother.
Sure there are non-referral referrals – you know the ones where a client asks “do you know someone who…” and you hand them 3 or 4 names of “guys who might be able to help” in an effort more to promote good will with your client than to actually foster a business relationship. The non-referral referral lacks the implied warranty of an actual referral, is much more polite than a curt ”can’t help, go away”, and seems the reason d’être for these business networking groups – a 60 second elevator speech, even if given on a weekly schedule, is not a foundation for a true referral.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. Jane Howard
That the good ol’ boy network is alive and well in rural communities should be no surprise to anyone. Nor should it surprise anyone that breaking into that network is going to be hard for outsiders – an outsider being anyone whose family has lived in the community for at least 3 generations. And frankly, in most small towns there are multiple networks and most consist of dedicated competent people – the days of the rural good ol’ boy network simply being a system used by the incompetent in an attempt to retain social position and power are, for the most part, past.
Seen from the eyes of this male outsider, there are a few ground rules one must know before the doors of any one particular network will begin to crack open. They are: (more…)
How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive? - Matt Groening
Spring here in my neck of the woods is heralded by the annual reconnecting of the TV antenna, the cable having been cut by an overly efficient snowplow operator some time back in November – the first time was a bit of an annoyance but has, over the years, become something of a ritual; a way to mark the passage of the seasons. Spring also brings a brief lull in work – as the rural client base prepares for planting – that makes finding time to attend continuing legal education (CLE) programs a bit less onerous.
For those who have yet to attend a CLE, they are a unique educational experience in which one spends an inordinate amount of time sitting in anatomically incorrect chairs in a room where the environmental conditions (heat, humidity, lighting, ambient sound levels, etc) will not be to anyone’s liking trying to learn something.
For the rural solo (perhaps for most solos), CLEs represent a significant investment in terms of time, travel, and lost opportunity; for me the standard 9 to 5 CLE means I’m looking at a 12 hour day. If the time in incentive enough to cause me to pay attention, there’s the cost of the course, the drive in real rush hour traffic,and the indescribable joy of hunting for parking downtown in a major metropolis – oh, and there is always a chance that, heaven forbid, I might learn something.
So, I am always amazed by the number of CLE attendees who “work” during a CLE session – at least I like to assume that it is work – a much more noble fantasy as opposed to putting the final touches on their fantasy cricket team, or cruising HotLawyerBabes.com.
In a way I have to feel for those lawyers whose schedules are so tight and work loads so heavy that they cannot unplug for a few hours and simply relax and listen. I can understand the behavior; after all the chief requirement to get the CLE credit is to leave breathing so it is quite tempting to do a little profitable work during all that down time. But I am left wondering – is any really meaningful work accomplished?
To be fair, I do have to note that there seems to be a relationship between the substantive nature of the material and the number of attendees doing the work thing. It seems that, no matter how monotonous the speaker, everyone pays attention during case law review sessions, and ironically, the highest number of working attendees can usually be found in sessions covering work-life balance and stress reduction.