"Here I'm stuck in central Pennsylvania, not Inside the Beltway."
"I'm not one of those members of The Lucky Sperm Club."
Those are the classic excuses lawyers and law students use to explain their lack of progress in branding themselves in ways that attract jobs in law or ease the way in transitioning to other lines of work. Well, a small Catholic university in rural Pennsylvania has just deep-sixed that kind of excuse-making. The university is my alma mater Seton Hill. It is dominating the news, starting yesterday, through a good idea, well-executed and brilliantly timed.
Seton Hill University will equip each incoming freshman with an iPad and Mac. Among other benefits, students can then download textbooks from their iPad. In addition, reports Jill Laster in THE CHRONICLE, the institution will implement "a completely wireless campus, quadrupled bandwith, and faculty training in advanced technologies." This is all part of its mission to create digital literary. The Seton Hill University brand is now golden.
Any lawyer or law student could mirror this strategy of positioning and packaging themselves in ways that create unique value for their career paths, be they in or outside law. To do that, of course, they have to break out of the conventional mindset that success is a result of the right school, the right location and/or the right pedigree with its well-placed contacts. Seton Hill, as well mavericks such as media star Sarah Palin, Washington insider Ana Marie Cox, and Jones Day partner Mickey Polh, prove out that success is more likely the result of what we put together and put in plenty of sweat equity to sustain and grow. Stars are not born. They're self-made.
Note: Pohl had been Chairman of the Board of Seton Hill when it made its transition from a women's college to a coed university.
Thanks to Overpartnering during the boom years, it's expected that 2010 will be the year that some of those who became partners will be hit with stealth layoffs. Few are talking openly about this but everyone knows it's happening.
However, those job losses are balanced by the good news that there will be a job GLUT. Here are those studies by policy experts Barry Bluestone and Mark Melnick predicting that by 2018, about 14.5 million addition nonfarm jobs will be created.
Those over-50 will be needed to fill them, reports Chris Farrell in BUSINESS WEEK. That's because the generation following the Baby Boomers - the Baby Bust - is too small in numbers to bridge the coming gap between manpower demand and manpower supply.
Given the paradigm shift in the legal profession, those jobs probably won't be practicing law. But there will at least be work for former partners. My new book explains the art of getting, keeping, and moving on to better jobs. The book is OVER-50: HOW WE KEEP WORKING.
Digital sites live their lives in dog years. Once wildly popular, Gawker.com now keeps struggling to retain a distinct identity, hold onto readers, and attract new ones. Politico.com, which ate the WASHINGTON POST's lunch, is losing key talent such as Michael Calderone. And DrudgeReport.com lacks excitement.
It's occurring to me, a rabid fan of Abovethelaw.com, that maybe that site is also past its prime.
For one thing, the number of comments is leveling off. Its post "Nationwide Salary Watch: Morgan Lewis Raises Salaries" has 9 comments, "Gay Justice Could Be Coming" has 52, and "Career Alternatives for Attorneys" has 14. Not too long ago posts could register comments in the three digits.
In addition, in the past 18 months its reason for being seemed to be attorney layoffs after the bubble burst in legal services. However, that once-shocking phenomenon has been absorbed. Therefore, the site could be losing some of its pull power.
No surprise, it's experimenting with new items for the menu such as a career center and bit of match-making.
The issue is whether ATL can reset itself to stay a must-read for young lawyers and law students. One of the few sites which has been able to reinvent itself and at the same thing increase readership is Huffingtonpost.com.
On Abovethelaw.com, David Lat introduces being a private investigator as an alternative to lawyering. On "The Good Wife," Kalinda the firm's PI makes it look interesting and a way to create unique value for the practice of law. But, she gripes to partner Diane that she earns peanuts compared to the lawyers.
In addition, some of the work involved can be tedious. I looked into this about six years ago when my communications boutique collapsed. The PI firm seemed to be profitable but those they employed weren't getting rich. Also some of the assignments were stake-outs, that is sitting in one's car with a video camera, waiting for the miscreant to enter or depart a motel room. I ruled out that career path.
Foley & Lardner is not following the model of increased profit on a decline in revenue. In THE AMERICAN LAWYER, Michael Goldhaber reports Foley & Lardner's PPP was down 7.9% and gross revenue 8.8%.
No surprise, its bankruptcy practice was doing well. At some firms, lawyers in that practice are billing at an average hourly rate of $500 and up to almost $1000, as with the Tribune Company bankruptcy.
Tiger Woods is not the only golfer with troubles. The son of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani Andrew filed a lawsuit against Duke University for ousting him from the golf team. It was dismissed. Several years ago, reports Alex Pareene on GAWKER, Andrew expressed interest in becoming a professional golfer.
At the time even plaintiff attorney Bill Marler was on the fence about raw or unpasteurized milk. That was several years ago when I was assisting his law firm Marler Clark with some digital assignments. We discussed the raw milk issue, particularly from a sociological perspective.
To some the ability to buy and consume it represented a sort of CounterCulture 2.0. On the other hand, Marler had witnessed first-hand with his clients the illnesses caused by the E. coli in the raw milk. Eventually, Marler became more wary of the risks associated with raw milk. Currently, as Laura Landro reports in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, one of Marler's clients Kalee Prue could be in for long-term kidney illness. She had consumed raw milk here in Connecticut from a Whole Foods store.
The FDA and well as businesses which have to deal with the high costs of liability insurance are deciding against raw milk. And with good reason. Landro tells us that last Friday, the FDA identified 12 new cases of illnesses in the Midwest caused by consuming raw milk.
My read is that the tolerance that was shown toward raw milk will not happen again. No beverage or food will be allowed such a benefit of the doubt. The FDA and businesses's position will likely be: When in doubt, leave it out.
You bet, Marler called this one right. I am proud to have done work for him in the past.
Hilderbrandt Baker Robbins and the Private Bank division of Citigroup called it: The flat year of 2010, when partners would be targeted as a cost-control measure. Previously, it was associates who were the focus of reducing costs.
According to Liz Kurtz of TECHNOLAWYER, encouraging partners to leave, de-equitizing them, demoting them to Of Counsel, or trying to restore them to high performance again has been a stealth process. It makes other partners in the firm uncomfortable and those partners affected usually won't discuss those changes. In her article on this "overpartnering," the partners she interviewed will only speak anonymously.
However, this purge is not a measure taken to ensure survival in tough times. A Connecticut law firm partner observes, "We're facing the prospect of painful contraction in the legal profession." Yes, downsizing manpower at all levels, including that of partner, will be long term. Will partners, like associates, begin to make public announcements on what has occurred to them? And will how this is being done and to what extent come out of the closet? That will be interesting to observe.
Meanwhile, this Thursday on April 1st, the New York State Bar Association has a program for lawyers in transition. It's jointly sponsored by the Committee on Lawyers in Transition and the Senior Lawyers Section of the NYSBA. I am one of the presenters. Here are details, including for registration to attend in person or view the free live webcast. Following my presentation, I will post a copy of my remarks on this site.
Another resource for partners whose career paths will be changing is my new book OVER-50: HOW WE KEEP WORKING. I contend we Baby Boomers have an edge in the workplace. Here are the book's Preface, Introduction and Table of Contents Download Over50prefaceintrotoc.