Support Your Local Bar Association

If you’re newly admitted, recently moved, or just transitioned to private practice the best way to get connected to your new community is to join the local bar association.

A quick visit to the Oregon State Bar website reveals that not all local bars are active at this time, but don’t despair.

If your local bar association is up and running

Join!  Attend events, including social gatherings and CLEs. Get involved and meet local judges and practitioners.

If your local bar association is inactive

This is your golden opportunity to get it up and running.

  • Hold an open house at your office
  • Organize and deliver a CLE
  • Host an after-hours social event
  • Invite locals to a no-host coffee hour at a local business
  • Organize a themed lunch gathering where attendees share tips on marketing, technology, or other relevant subjects

Don’t let inertia prevail – find ways to connect!  Get started by introducing yourself to the local judiciary and courthouse staff.  Visit local law offices (if geographically feasible). Otherwise, make calls and send emails or even letters.

One easy way to find other lawyers in your area is to access the Member Directory PDF behind the secured login on the OSB website.  Listings of lawyers organized by city begin on page 278.  Take note that the directory does not include the latest contact information.  Another option is to search by city using the online directory. 

Given your objective, you should also consider contacting Member Services at the OSB.  They may be willing to pull a current list of attorneys by county or city for you.

Local bar associations offer many advantages

  • Community
  • Networking
  • Local cost CLE
  • Member benefits
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Connection to the local judiciary (for discussion/resolution of practice issues in the judicial district)
  • And more!

Join started today!

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Choosing a Practice Area

Last week I made an impassioned plea encouraging you to create a business plan.  A big part of the planning process involves selecting an area (or areas) of practice. Sounds easy enough, but is it?

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Don’t Choose a Practice Area Because…

Someone else said you’d be good at it, a law professor recommended it, everyone else is doing it, or family members and other influencers practice in the area.

Think About the Kind of Clients You Want to Represent

This step is often overlooked, but deserves your consideration.  Take time to reflect on who you want to serve, rather than what you want to do.

  • Do you want to represent businesses or individuals?
  • Start-ups, small family operations, or evolving companies who might need help with mergers and acquisitions?
  • Individuals?
  • Low income or high income?  Elderly? Young? Vulnerable?

Consider Client Characteristics

While it is possible for any client to display these characteristics, they do appear more frequently in certain areas of law:

  • Emotional (angry, fearful, crying, upset) – Family law, criminal law
  • Impaired or mentally ill – Family law, juvenile law, criminal law, poverty law
  • Distressed – Family law, criminal law, poverty law, personal injury, workers’ compensation, social security disability, products liability
  • Confused – Elder law, estate planning, probate, poverty law
  • Vulnerable – Elder law, juvenile law, family law, criminal law, poverty law
  • Demanding – business law, corporate, real estate, intellectual property

Do You Naturally Lean Toward Litigation or Transactional Work?

If you like ever-changing clients, taking risk, working under pressure, and constant challenge > you may be better-suited to litigation.

If you prefer working with repeat clients, minimizing risk, a steady workflow, and predictability > you may be better-suited to transactional work.

Let’s Play Match Game

What is your tolerance level for working longer hours?  Dealing with gray areas of law, high stakes, or deadlines?  These can also influence a practice choice.

Long Work Days

Working longer hours is often associated with family law and criminal law where emergencies occur in the evenings and on weekends.

Gray or Concrete?

If you don’t mind dealing in gray areas, family law, litigation, trusts, estate planning or immigration may be good choices.  If you prefer things to be more concrete, then consider regulatory law, tax law, or administrative law.

High Stakes

The stakes are higher in criminal law, immigration, and family law.  You will need a reservoir of resilience to practice in these areas.

Deadline Driven

Arguably, this is just about every area of law but litigation reigns supreme when it comes to deadlines.  If you are organized, manage workflows well, and have good time management skills you’ll do well in litigation.

Other Stuff

I should also forewarn you that any area of law where your fee is contingent, like personal injury, means an unpredictable pay day.  Honestly assess whether this is something you can handle financially.

The Informational Interview is King and Queen

Doing informational interviews with other practitioners in an area of law that interests you is – without a doubt – one of the best ways to narrow down your list.  Not sure who to approach?

  • Ask for referrals or suggestions from your first level contacts – people you know personally.
  • If your first level contacts don’t know anyone in the area(s) of law that interest you, ask them for names of other lawyers who might know a practitioner in that area.  Keep asking and pursuing leads.
  • If you don’t know anyone who knows anyone who might know someone who practices in an area that interests you, start reaching out to known experts.  Bar groups – state, local, and specialized – are organized into sections and committees, usually by different areas of law or subspecialties of law.  Who are the leaders of those sections and committees?  Who speaks at CLEs for the various bar-related groups?  Who writes articles in bar group publications? Who writes chapters for OSB BarBooks?

A Formula For Cold Calling

There is an art to cold calling.  (And by the way, a call is generally better.)  Here are the steps:

  1. Do your homework first.  Visit the interviewee’s website.  Look her up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.  Run a Google search.  Read what she’s written.
  2. Review steps three through six below.  If you find cold calling intimidating, rehearse a few times before you pick up the phone.  This will be helpful if you end up leaving a voicemail.  Better to spend time practicing beforehand than to fumble and mumble in your recorded message.
  3. When you reach out, be clear from the beginning that you are not seeking a job and this is not a request for a job interview.  Rather, you are interested in the area of law the interviewee practices and would like to learn more.
  4. Briefly explain why you are reaching out to this particular interviewee. For example, you read her article in the Bar Bulletin, noticed she spoke at at CLE, saw that she wrote the chapter on XYZ for BarBooks, etc.  (To state the obvious, this is where the homework comes in.)
  5. Be respectful of the interviewee’s time.  Spending 60 minutes with your subject would be optimal, but may not be possible.  Let the interviewee know that you are looking for 30 to 60 minutes of their time and stick to whatever time limit you agree upon.
  6. Consider extending a breakfast or lunch invitation. Everyone has to eat.
  7. Prepare for your informational interview.  If necessary, repeat step one in greater depth.  You should come to the meeting with a list of questions you would like the interviewee to answer.  In fact, you may want to have some questions written down before you even pick up the phone and extend the invitation.
  8. Send a handwritten thank you note by postal mail after your meeting.

If you encounter a gatekeeper – receptionist, paralegal, assistant, secretary – bend over backwards to be polite, thank them for their time, and do your best to leave a complete, but brief message.  Make sure the gatekeeper understands you aren’t cold-calling for a job interview.

You might wonder:  why can’t I just shoot off an email?  You could.  And it may work. But remember: your interviewee is busy and already buried in email.  Your message may not get read or may get caught in the spam filter.

Experience shows that calling and following up by mail is more effective.  Both are more personal than email and require more effort – which doesn’t go unnoticed. Calling means the staff person or lawyer to whom you speak can hear your tone of voice.  Your gratitude and appreciation come across in a way that email can’t match.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Postscript

What should you do if you leave a message and don’t hear back?  Don’t be discouraged. The majority of people you reach out to will be gracious and understanding.  Move on to someone else in the same practice area.

Social Media Bill Passes Oregon Senate

Today the Oregon Senate passed HB 2654B which would forbid employers from demanding access to potential employee’s social media accounts. Read the full story at KATU. Maryland started the trend, which has spread to other jurisdictions. Twenty eight states are entertaining similar legislation.

For a related discussion, see this post.

The Meet and Greet – Networking for Introverts

We all know how important networking is as part of an overall marketing or job search strategy.  But for some, the prospect of a “meet and greet” is incredibly unappealing.  Here are some words of wisdom from Ruth Carter of The Carter Law Firm, excerpted from the “Introvert’s Survival Guide for Networking Events,” which appeared in the September 2012 issue of In Sight, published by the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

  1. If the event room is loud and crowded, head for the hallway. You will find your fellow introverts there, enjoy­ing their space and speaking at a normal volume for conversation.
  2. If the event has an educational component, go to it. It will give you a smaller group to start with and a basis for starting conversations.
  3. Go to events for business profes­sionals, not just for lawyers. Lawyer groups can lead to referrals, but business groups will put you directly in front of potential clients.
  4. Attend groups and events that interest you. When you’re comfortable, you’ll be more effective at networking. When you go to events that interest you, you’ll be more likely to meet people who are like-minded and more likely to hire you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond the traditional networking events. Some networking groups do more unusual things like go-carts instead of happy hours. You can also network at sci-fi conventions, hiking groups, and book clubs.
  6. Go to lunch and breakfast events. You might be more comfortable talking to people over a meal with your hands oc­cupied with silverware. These events tend to be smaller, too.
  7. Give yourself permission to leave early. It’s okay to set a goal for the num­ber of contacts you want to make and leave once you achieve it.

What good advice!

If you are beginning to build your network and ramp up your efforts, try one or two (or all seven, please!) of Ruth’s tips.  As your confidence grows, so will your comfort level with new “meet and greet” events.

Networking and Career Building for Lawyers

If you are actively engaged in a job search, then you already know about the importance of networking.  The question is: what have you done about it?

On April 1 the Oregon Federal Bar Association and Oregon Attorney Assistance Program co-sponsored a program on networking and career building for lawyers.  This program was a fine follow-up to last year’s Job Search 2010 for Lawyers and Law Students, also sponsored by the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

If you were not able to attend Networking and Career Building for Lawyers, I encourage you to order the free CD or DVD from our Web site and download the handout.  In addition to the Keynote Address by The Honorable Ann Aiken, you will hear about:

  • Building Your Career One Lunch at a Time
  • Getting in the Door: How to Find Firm or Other Employment
  • Life as a Contract Attorney: Benefits and Opportunities
  • Networking through Community Involvement
  • Attorneys in Government (counsel positions)
  • Serving in State and Local Government (non-counsel)
  • Opportunities for Private Industry Attorneys
  • Attorneys Working at Non-Profits
  • Attorneys Working at Universities and Colleges
  • International Opportunities for Lawyers
  • Serving as an Administrative Law Judge or Pro Tem Judge
  • Developing Your Career through Pro Bono Opportunities
  • Taking the Plunge: How to Start and Develop a Solo Practice

Job Search 2010 for Lawyers and Law Students is also available on the PLF Web site free of charge.  This full day program included the following topics:

  • Conducting an effective job search
  • A systematic approach to conducting informational interviews
  • Networking for introverts
  • Resume and job interview prep
  • Views of the legal market from law school career services professionals
  • How to effectively use the Internet and social media in your job search
  • Job search success stories
  • Taking care of yourself when you are unemployed and looking for your next job

I hope you take advantage of these resources and the free career transition services offered by the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis