If you do not follow the Medium Blog, "Rethink the Practice," do yourself a favor and start today. This post on the potential role of luck in the outcome of high-value legal matters is a thought-provoking read. To summarize, the article explores the concept of "the paradox of skill," which suggests that as skill increases, luck plays a more essential role. For example, in baseball, as more batters and pitchers hone their skills, luck increasingly becomes a determinent in a hitter's batting average. Read the full post:
It's tax filing season, but did you know that it is also phishing season? Tax phishing scams abound at this time of year, and each year they grow more sophisticated. Historically, these scams were aimed at individuals, but there are now scams involving companies as well.
If I could be you
And you could be me
For just one hour
If we could find a way
To get inside
Each other's mind . . .
-Joe South, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes"
If I were to guess, your legal department is managed by Boomers and Gen-Xers, but many of the lawyers in your group are millennials. The law firm world is no different, although I believe we are mostly boomer-led. Have you caught yourself telling your millennial direct reports, "When I was your age, we never (or always) . . . "? (P.S. Are you sounding more and more like your parents every day?) Or maybe you love working with millennials, but there are moments when you clearly have trouble seeing the world from their perspective.
Millennials, do you feel that your boss places too much importance on face-time in the office? Are you having trouble getting regular feedback on your performance?
On the surface, these may seem like first-world problems. Don't marketing people invent these generational labels anyway? Isn't it all just a matter of people doing good work and trying to get along with one another? Well, yes . . . and no. No one wants to work on a dysfunctional team or even an unhappy one. Also, retention is important because recruiting and training good people is very expensive. As we've written here before, our feelings about our work and the people we work with impact our productivity, and negative interactions can sap our sense of mission and motivation. Perhaps above all else, we all learn a great deal from people with different perspectives.
We have all experienced profound changes in our working lives in the past 20 years, primarily due to technology and globalization, but I would wager that the legal profession is one of the more extreme examples of change. Take, for instance, the change in the sheer number of lawyers in the country in 1980, which was 500,000, and compare that to today's number: 1,000,000. Another powerful work trend is our 21st century 24/7, always connected mentality. Lawyers have always worked long hours, and technology has exacerbated this tendancy. Many lawyers expect their teams to be connected to their email and cell phones even on vacation. Add to that, the millennial perspective that maybe work isn't everything, and you have a recipe for conflict within inter-generational teams of lawyers. There are so many other differences between 1980 lawyering and today: the high cost of law school, the vastly different set of job options after law school, diminishing law firm partnership possibilities. This is a long, long list, but it wouldn't hurt for us to try on those other shoes for size.
In January, we hosted an event with the Northeast Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) on cyber security. Matt Field, a cyber insurance expert, participated on the panel, and we are thrilled to offer you a Q&A with Matt on the basics of cyber insurance. Matt is Woodruff-Sawyer's New England practice leader. He is expert in complex risk management and insurance areas, including cyber, D&O, clinical trials and reps and warranties insurance. He works with companies ranging from start-ups to large publicly trade global entities. Find out more about Matt here.
I haven't been able to stop talking about an article from this Sunday's New York Times, "What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team." We in the legal profession are generally not as adept at working in teams as the Googles of the world, so I thought this article might help CLOs and other in-house legal managers (in addition to law firms!).
We are currently digesting the ACC Chief Legal Officer Survey, which was published this week. There are many interesting takeaways relevant to our mission on InhouseGo2, one of which is the topic of professional development, management and leadership. In 2015, headcount in corporate legal departments continued to increase, and many indicated that they will continue to hire in 2016. In addition, according to the survey, many CLOs consider attracting, retaining and managing their talent a top priority. Perhaps the only thing more complicated than a difficult legal issue is managing people on a day-to-day basis. It's harder still to push ourselves and our teams to grow. In the end, managing is just, well, managing. Our leaders want us to optimize, lead and excel relative to the competition.
Law firms are in the midst of this challenge too, so let's share our resources and understanding of the topic. Below are some great articles for you to use in your legal department. Two are from Harvard Business Review and two are from our very own Director of Professional Development, Ojen Sirin.
What will be the top issues for in-house counsel in 2016? From data breaches to securities laws, there will be no shortage of interesting legal questions to confront in the coming months.
One of our priorities is tracking the big issues affecting in-house counsel, and since 2015 seems to be the year of the “Top __ List,” we thought it would be fun to jump on that bandwagon too. It’s helpful to understand your legal department’s goals, challenges and priorities in the context of the greater legal profession and the business world as a whole. And isn’t it also kind of fun at this stage of the year to look back at the various twists and turns we all lived through or at least thought we might have to get through?
Sullivan & Worcester was a sponsor of the ACC Annual Meeting in October in Boston, and we launched InhouseGo2 during the same week. We were looking for a substantive and meaningful way to connect with ACC members at our booth in the Exhibit Hall at the Annual Meeting. Everyone at the ACC loves a good prize drawing, so we decided to give away an Apple Watch. We asked ACC members to submit a blog topic for InhouseGo2 and in return, they could enter our Apple Watch drawing. It was a tremendous success for us: We gained more than 100 topic ideas and we connected with ACC members about their challenges, questions and opportunities. One unexpected takeaway was that we got an overall sense of the issues that are keeping in-house counsel up at night. We thought it might be interesting for all of you to get a summary of what your colleagues submitted. Our respondents were from a wide variety of industries and company sizes. In addition, their seniority levels ran the gamut from more junior lawyers in large departments, to solo lawyers within small companies, to mid-level lawyers, to CLOs of large departments. Here is a snapshot of our findings: