Susan Smith Blakely

Why Young Lawyers Need Business Plans

As a young lawyer, a business plan may be the farthest thing from your mind.  Billing hours, making your numbers, trying not to look stupid to the partner and, well, just surviving in law practice in the early years are what occupy you.  I understand and remember. But, don't dismiss having a business plan as some other-worldly exercise that is not worthy of your time.  It is more than worthy. I have been preaching --- yes, preaching --- to young women lawyers about the importance of career plans for over a decade, and business plans are the same thing.  All…

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Susan Smith Blakely

A Case of Outrageous Advice for Women in Business

Consider this advice for women in business: Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus.  Men’s brains are more like waffles.  They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square. Surely this would be from some gender-insensitive and stereotype-infused speaker or handbook of yore.  That is what you would think.  And you would be wrong. And then imagine me as so completely shocked, dismayed and outraged when I read this quote in a recent article in Huffington Post Business that I let out a primal scream.   For over a decade…

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Susan Smith Blakely

How Women Lawyers Are Perceived:  The Double Bind

Perception can be more important than fact.  I learned that when I was Chief of Staff for an elected official.  Politics is ripe for misperception, but the applications go far beyond that setting. Women often are the unfortunate recipients of misperceptions.  And that is especially true of women lawyers.  For example, women lawyers often are judged in a harsher light than their male counterparts when they display assertiveness, self-promotion or anger, according to a survey conducted by the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of Law for the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Young Lawyers Should Reach for Their Dreams:  The Example of Belva Lookwood

This blog post is not only for women lawyers.  It is for all young lawyers.  It just happens that Belva Lockwood is one of the best examples of reaching for dreams of practicing law --- because of the lack of opportunities for women during her lifetime. So, you say, "Who is Belva Lockwood?"  If you attend or attended George Washington University Law --- where she graduated from a predecessor law school there and where the Belva Lockwood Society is very active --- you would know.  If not, it is much less likely that you ever have heard of her. I am fortunate…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Are You Addressing Your Workplace Wellness?

Wellness is a big deal in the legal world today.  Not wellness as in healthcare law.  Wellness as in the mental and physical health of lawyers. We know that statistics support a concern about drug and alcohol addiction among lawyers, but until recently the effects of anxiety and depression had not gotten as much attention.  It was a 2016 landmark study by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation that revealed to me just how widespread and alarming the problems have become among lawyers. Anxiety and depression experienced by law professionals are serious and…

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Susan Smith Blakely

The Importance of Feedback for Millennial Lawyers

Millennial lawyers need feedback from supervising attorneys on a project basis --- not just once or twice a year in scheduled reviews.  That is well-established.  People in positions like mine hear it all the time, and we know how important feedback is to junior lawyers --- especially those who were raised with an abundance of feedback and mostly praise. What does not get as much attention is the critical failure by law firms to revise review policies and mentoring efforts to meet the feedback needs of young lawyers.   As I have stated to law firm and bar association audiences…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Young Lawyers:  Ask for What You Want!

Asking for what you want?  Ah.  It is much harder than it sounds.  But, you must master the fine art of identifying what you want and asking for it.  Especially at work where every opportunity lost can negatively affect your career path. My friend Anne Loehr just posted an article about this, and I thank her for that.  As a leadership consultant to companies and firms, she has done a lot of thinking about this.  She isn't always writing for lawyers, but the same rules apply throughout the working world. Anne rightfully points out that the response "I don't care" is…

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Susan Smith Blakely

What All Lawyers Need to Know about Origination Credit

If you are a lawyer just beginning your career, you probably don't spend a lot of time worrying about origination credit.  In fact, maybe you never heard of the concept.  That makes sense.  You have a lot of other things to worry about that affect you on a daily basis in pursuit of improving your skills and becoming the best lawyer you can be. But there is a difference between "worrying about" and "being informed about."  As far as I am concerned, every private practice lawyer, regardless of experience, needs to at least be familiar with the concept of origination…

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Susan Smith Blakely

The Future of Billable Hours—- What All Young Lawyers Love to Hate

Billable hours.  Ugh.  The end all and be all in most law firms today.  Together with client origination, billable hours have been the measure of success for law professionals for generations. 2200 annually.  2000.  1950.  It really doesn't matter.  The ounce of flesh that is exacted to reach those numbers is considerable and should be of primary concern. Wellness of professionals, wholesome law firm values, training young lawyers to become law firm leaders, and client service should matter most --- not billable hours. Despite these countervailing considerations, we keep concentrating on leveraging and law firm profits, all of which derive…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Law Firms Should Follow Corporations In Looking Beyond Self-Interest

Law firm greed.   I have been writing about the negative impact of greed in the law profession since 2016.  It was then that I first discussed how the greed manifested by large law firms is undercutting the professionalism of the business of law.  Those comments appeared in an article I penned for Corporate Counsel in its September issue that year, and I have discussed the concepts many times since in articles and remarks to legal audiences. In essence, I argue that it was the greed of Wall Street that brought our economy to its knees in 2008, and it will be the…

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