eyes open

eyes open
"know thyself" is the cure, the answer, the process, the goal, the result


Trust Your Gut--Always. Always. Always.

I remember the story about Winston Churchill's most famous commencement address. You must have hear this story.

This is long after his days as wartime prime minister. By the time of this speech, he was now revered to an almost cultlike degree.

After a lengthy and florid introduction by the University President, the venerable minister walked ponderously up to the podium. He carefully removed his hat. He slowly hooked his walking stick to the podium's side and slowly checked his watch. Then, he glared out at the audience of apple-fresh faces ready to hear one of his famously motivational (and usually fairly long) speeches. He began in a small voice: "Never give up." A long pause. Then he continued, louder, clearer: "Never give up." Then he nearly shouted "Never give up!" Then he retrieve his stick and hat and left the podium to thunderous and prolonged applause.

Of course, I entirely agree with his sentiment. Never give up! But I would give you something to do on--to add to Winston's motivational, but somewhat enigmatic injunction. Never give up . . . . what?

The way to know is to know and trust yourself. Listening to your 'gut' is a skill that must be learned. We aren't born knowing how to use it. Usually, it is an almost physical experience.

Last weekend I was at a famous guru's ashram listening to a two-day seminar on meditation. Actually, I loved it. But during the exceedingly well-crafted two-day experience, I could almost see a small white feather in my mind. In the upper-right corner of my interior gaze, I could see this small token, which I took as a subtle, gentle warning. Of what, I didn't know.

I meditated on what that could mean. Slowly, it dawned on me. A particular business enterprise I had been contemplating and seemed very attractive had some major drawbacks that I was considering overlooking for the sake of the deal and the compensation. My gut said to hold back, do nothing. I did, and it fell through--much to my relief.

Your own experience will be different. But I can tell you. Trust your gut. Trust your gut. Trust your gut!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As an aside, there are as many brain cells in your digestive track as there are in your spinal cord (which is to say, many). So 'trust your gut' may not be as metaphorical as we may think.

Just something to meditate on. Good luck and good hunting!!!!


You Are Already There--You Just Don't Know it Yet

Executive Summary: I'm on the move. Look for me at a theatre near you. Soonish.

Long version:

I've been having TONS of fun by presenting my seven-part lecture series on professional development to folks at a special program set up between the City of San Francisco and the local Goodwill.

We have an ever-growing group of individuals who are interested to hear all about growing professionally 'from the ground up.' It is so motivating and encouraging to hear their stories and their new-found motivation.

Looks like we're going to be having a chance to record the sessions in a two-day weekend format and even invite the paying public for the chance to hear about how folks can revolutionize their job-search and their professional networks, and themselves as professionals to boot. That professional production may be soon finding its way across this great country and, what the heck, the world. Watch this space!

The secret revealed in today's lecture: You are ALREADY "all that and a bag of chips." The idea is to do the work to let our exo-skeleton of denial, fear and trepidation melt away, or at least open a crack.

Get yourself out there and make it happen!

On the other hand, you also need your posse. Get a coach (consider your humble servant for that). Get someone in your industry that can give you pointers. Bottom line: we are 'sharks' in the professional sense: we have to keep moving, growing, eating, adding skills, experiences and colleagues. If we try to stop, we start atrophying. And that can get serious.

No need! You already have what it take to succeed! Now just get the right folks around you to help you let that light shine.

Go for it!


Not your usual blog post: But Let's be Colleagues Anyway

I've been told that no one wants to read a blog about ideas, philosophy, art, culture: you know, boring stuff that "doesn't make money."

We'll see about that. In my view what we need more of if folks who are busy thinking about their respective industries--and their respective lives, cultures, countries, political parties and favorite novels---and start putting it all together. What do you say? Shall we start a dialog about life, zen, business and sales all at once? I think so.

I can tell you this: And I've said it elsewhere in this blog: You need to start thinking about the 'colleague' paradigm. Every person who meet in a business context or any superficial social context is a potential colleague. What is a colleague? It's someone who talk to about business; someone who exchange interesting and pertinent articles with; it's someone who swap leads with; it's someone who eventually wind up doing business with.

But keep the crazy stuff to yourself--or your 'secret' blog.

Bottom line: you need like, oh, 500 'colleagues'---folks you can call, remember their kids names, remember their company's last merger (it's all written down in your notes, dammit!) and think about ways to help each other out. It's an economy of give and take. Not take. That's over.

It's especially over right now: "jobs" are not only scarce, they're almost a thing of the past. The concept of "contract" work, "project" work, "consultancy" is king. It's more than that, it's king, queen, jack and 10 of spades. Get affiliated with a quality agency, and start getting work and experience in a safe, legal and gratifying way (might I suggest my own business here?).

Let's face it---everything, everything, everything is up to you---so start GETTING relationships started. Oh. Did I mention this is time-consuming! That's right. Hours. Hours you didn't know you have. Surprise! You just found them. I did!

Write your experiences below. I'm interested to hear what you think?

(The photo above? A 'great wealth talisman'--slap it on your own site!)

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Big-Law Refugee Advice

I'm providing several lists of opportunities for attorneys who no longer have their 2008 platforms. Scroll down if you are in a hurry. This installment is for the big-law types that want to stay there (or return). Options for other categories follow in upcoming posts. The below is largely from the associate perspective, with some info for partners as well.

Introductory remarks: Decide. Now!

Since I have last posted, roughly 10% of 'big-law' attorneys lost their positions. Probably more than that. Most of those individuals have already begun in earnest their job search. Most have been told by recruiters that there is nothing that can be done (by them).

Thus, there is a high degree of networking going on, many, many calls being made to contract agencies, many favors being called in, many 'just wanted to re-establish our friendship' coffees. These are all good, of course. A few have hung out their shingles. Some are collaborating in loose associations that they don't call firms. Some have fled the industry. Truly our profession has had more than its fair share of pogroms.

Now what? I don't need to tell you that it is 'gut-check' time. Either you are committed to this industry or you are not. If you aren't in it for the long haul, take a contract position (if you can find one) and look for the exit strategy. Write that novel (I've heard it can be done in two months, by the way), start that business, take a non-legal management positions, etc. If you are committed, it is time to look at alternate strategies.


I've outlined below strategies based on a few broad-brush goals. For purposes of this post, I'm focusing on big-law candidates. I'll focus on other tracks in posts to follow (shortly). Here goes:

Don't kid yourself, you have fewer options. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. No exceptions.

a) Network like mad: Call every friend you know; review the website for all of the AmLaw 200 for all openings; apply for them. If you are not on LinkedIn, are not reading "Above-the-Law", etc., etc., you need a brain transplant (sorry). Get with it. To use the vulgar language of "The Little Red Book of Sales"--if you do not have at least 200 LinkedIn partners, 'you suck.' Fix that straight-away.

b) You may not take a contract position. There MIGHT, POSSIBLY be some loosening of this rule (which before this year (2009) has always been IRON CLAD (contrary to popular belief). However, if I were a betting man, I'd wager rather not. It had better not be document review--it had better be through Axiom or something (fie on them, by the way) or an ad hoc temporary relationship doing what you were doing at the law firm. If you DO take such a position, make sure it is ONLY ONE, and not a serial thing. You may be able to call this hanging out your own shingle, but that's problematic too (see below).

c) You MAY take a non-legal management position (as long as it is high up enough or with a high-tech-sounding company, especially if in the industry that your future firm wants to court--even if that company might not be a potential client). For instance, you may take a position with your cousin's software company (especially if in Silicon Valley or Atlanta, for example)--better if the company makes money, made headlines, etc. In such a case, your particular position is not AS important (although better if you were GC as well as whatever other hat you might wear). But working as even a high-level non-legal manager at, let's say, WalMart is a non-starter.

d) You MAY take a sabbatical.
Doing nothing is actually better than taking a non-big-law position or a non-legal position. Really. Write a book or something. Of course, if you can afford to do that, you might not have read down this far in this article.

e) You MAY take a (paying or non-paying) non-profit position. Permissible. Could be interesting. Try to ensure you are doing what you want to be doing subject-matter wise.

f) Please do not change subject-matter expertise.
Makes for a very messy resume.

g) You may, of course, change markets (LA to NY to Dubai, etc.).

h) You may, possibly, get away with hanging out your own shingle, but I don't advise it. Law firm prejudice against this practice is exceedingly high--UNLESS your client list includes names like APPLE, WALMART, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY; you know, that sort of client. Further, if you have very WEALTHY and SUCCESSFUL high-tech clients; also fine, of course. You'll be expected to bring them with you.

i) If you are a partner: you can go anywhere you like as long as your billing rates don't dip (too much) and you keep your clients. Watch those rates; you'll be in a fix if you've jumped your law-firm ship to save your clients and reduced your rates too much. How much is too much? That's for another article. And, really, too ad hoc to comment upon fairly (go ask www.AdamSmithEsq.com!!!).

Final Injunction:

You WILL NOT be able to simply "sanitize" your resume when this all 'blows over': so the best rule of thumb is to think "would I hire myself with this resume?" AND "everything I've ever done since going to law school MUST be on my resume."

If you have questions or comments, by all means let me know. I've been wrong. Once or twice.

Happy hunting. And believe me: this is war, make no mistake. That gives me an idea for another post . . . .

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No More Waiting.

I've been waiting since November 16th for something to say (date of my last post). That is, something that hasn't already been said 100 times by 100 media outlets. That's because no one has any idea what is going on in the economy. No one knows whether the promise of a crush of new litigation work will materialize. No one knows whether the whole game is going to come crashing down around our collective ears. It has not been easy to make revenue forecasts for 2009, I can tell you!

The only thing that perhaps should be said is that there is no reason to believe that there is going to be any 'closure' or 'resolution' to the current economic crisis anytime soon. We may muddle along for months in this twilit gray-zone of uncertainty. We may have further gut-punches to our GDP and maybe even some kidney-kicks to our productivity. Regardless, we can't collectively hold our breathe. We have to accept the new uncertainty. In a way, the economic meltdown of 2008 shattered the paradigm of our faith in unending prosperity in a way similar to the crash that 9/11 brought to our paradigm of invulnerability to terrorist or other outside threats to the Nation. We're left with fewer economic and political illusions.

Just another way in which we Americans (and/or all those in all continents living the economic dream) share something in solidarity with those in the 'emerging' world.

Thus, we have no choice but to gird our loins and get to work--even if 'get to work' means 'work at finding work.' We have been graphically reminded that there are no guarantees in life; a lesson all of us could stood to have learned without the object-lesson of the mortgage crisis-turned-global economic meltdown. But there you go.

So, there really is nothing new to say. We have to grin and bear it. Nevertheless, marketing, salesmanship, leadership, professionalism, and skill all still go at a premium. The majority of the competition doesn't exemplify these traits. Since there's much less fluff-room for mediocrity these days, there are still opportunities everywhere. We just have to have faith in ourselves.

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