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When was the last time you thought about your own career path in law? Was it in the last week? Perhaps last month? Or even as long ago as at your annual appraisal/practice review meeting?

When I practised as a criminal barrister, I recall it was at most annually, in a brief conversation with the Senior Clerk about how I thought my practice was going and how he thought it should develop. I don’t recall ever really being asked how I thought it should develop, or what I personally hoped to achieve. When did you last ask yourself where you were headed and what your Professional Business/Career goals were, and how to achieve them?

As an enthusiastic, go-getting 22 year old, I had a clear career objective. I wasn’t going to let long-in-the-tooth-lawyers’-talk of anti-social working hours and cuts in fees at the UK Criminal Bar put me off my ambition to defend those facing injustice. After a 3-year law degree at Balliol College Oxford and another year doing Bar Finals at the Inns of Court School of Law, London, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And so I did. For 19 years, I practised as a Criminal Barrister at Broadway House Chambers, Bradford.

Reality Bites

3 years in, I experienced a curve ball – an unexpected chink in motivation and drive. Prosecuting in local Magistrates courts, day after day, left me under-utilised and unfulfilled. I used this as time to reflect.

Goal Setting/Action Planning

In 2000, I set about a plan to make my career more stimulating. Over the next 4 years, I completed a 3 months Scholarship to New Zealand working with a Silk (Queen’s Counsel) specialising in Maori Land Law, and over a period of 18 months made countless pro bono visits to the then murder capital of the world, Kingston, Jamaica, to assist attorneys in the Defence of Capital Cases. Wow. What a difference. I was on fire with energy and passion for the work that I was undertaking, voluntarily supporting those in absolute desperate need of justice.

The Importance of Personal Congruency

Fast forward to 2004. A return to the UK, and some incredible career successes: I became the most junior Grade 4 Prosecutor in Chambers, and unusually early on in my career, a Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Prosecutor. With this, the daily diet of Child Sexual Abuse trials created within me a conflict as to the worth and value of my UK practice compared to that in Jamaica. It was at this point that I first experienced Coaching, understood the process of going “From Good to Great”, and began working with more purpose, vigour and personal congruency.

Making the job work for you, rather than you working for the job

Over time, I found a way to make the job “work”: a fancy car, Caribbean holidays, and (being really honest), good food/wine. But where did that leave me in terms of my personal congruency? Was I being authentic?

The financial/ lifestyle incentives worked for me for a while. However, over time, it became apparent that within me personal incongruence persisted; my motivations were not in sync with my values and beliefs. I had a strong desire to help people in an authentic and positive environment, which was not being met in law. Countless colleagues of mine also continued to bemoan the unpredictability of the lifestyle and fees.

Keeping your “Why” under constant review

I made a plan. Between 2010 and 2012, whilst still working full time at The Bar, I trained to become a Corporate and Executive Coach with the highly-acclaimed Coaching Academy, and an Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner with the NLP Academy, sowing the seeds for my specialist Corporate and Executive Coaching business, Nikki Alderson Coaching.

In 2012, I started a family. During 3 periods of maternity leave, I had cause to reflect further on my situation, my skills, my training, and most importantly my values and beliefs. I acknowledged that my priorities, and the route to how I would achieve my goals, had altered. These had altered dramatically when comparing the aspirations of a fresh faced 22 year old law graduate with those of a 40-something Criminal Barrister with 3 children under the age of 5, a husband working away mid-week, and significant responsibilities both at work and at home. There is a certain inevitability around the flexing and changing of goals over a period of years. Important then, to keep them under review.

Getting back in Sync

On 10th February 2018, I left Chambers after a career that commenced September 1996. The strangest sensation? No histrionics, no drama, just an overwhelming sense of internal calm, and the realisation that without hesitation this was totally the right thing to do. Now I am back in sync.

Creative thinking, hard work & courage to take an authentic path

As long as we think creatively about how to make our legal careers work for us, and are prepared to put in some hard graft re-training if we decide it isn’t in fact for us, then either way, we will be keeping up positive momentum towards a defined goal: for me, finding a means by which to be authentic. Without a goal, it is difficult to score.

Be courageous in finding forward movement. As the Yogi Berra saying goes, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

Empowerment through Coaching

I have learnt a lot from my successful career as a barrister, having gained great insights into the responsibilities, pressures and “expected” career paths, particularly of women working in law, and from personal experience can recommend coaching as a means by which to achieve synchronicity and personal congruency, within the legal profession – for nearly 20 years- and then outside of a career in law.

The post A Fork in the Road: Navigating a Career in Law & Taking Your Authentic Path appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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In 2007, at the age of only 35, Drew Houston founded Dropbox. Following a recent IPO, it is estimated this Silicon Valley entrepreneur is worth a cool $3 billion.

Whilst Drew has nothing to do with law and lawyers (though he must have instructed many of our profession), his life and work can undoubtedly inspire us. Here are 6 key lessons lawyers could learn from him:

  1. Learning doesn’t finish at college or university

Lawyers are no strangers to professional development; we all have to stay up to date with changes in our field. But this point runs deeper than that.

Drew is evidently quite the bookworm. He encourages everyone to read and to read well. The multi-billionaire puts some of his success down to his habit of reading great, instructional books. How many lawyers read outside of their area of law, or non-legal development books?

To be super successful, we lawyers need to read widely, taking inspiration from the top people in other disciplines. Amongst the books which Drew recommends is one which would be of use to every lawyer: The Effective Executive by management guru, Peter Drucker.

  1. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know

In a recent interview on the Tim Ferris podcast, Drew explained how, time and again, he relied upon brilliant, helpful people to achieve his success. MIT, where Drew studied and where he gave the commencement speech in 2013, has spawned many highly successful people, including Buzz Aldrin, Kofi Annan and Richard Feynman.

Similar parallels can be drawn with many prestigious institutions, such as Eton School in England, which has churned out more Prime Minsters than any other school in Britain. For Drew, it’s who he met and bonded with at MIT that helped with his success.

“One thing I’ve learned is surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard.”

It certainly helps who you know. Your circle pushes you to be better. But you don’t need to have attended an elite learning institution to meet brilliant people. Anyone can meet talented people and cultivate connections with them.

  1. Email can be evil

Law was much easier to practice before email came along. Of course, it isn’t just in the field of law that email is so disruptive. Imagine the volume of emails – often emails begging for help – that an internet billionaire receives? Drew has some very wise words:

“I think email is good for quick, discrete tasks where you’re holding someone up by not doing them. Then I think it’s also useful for broadcast […] if you have some long-form, written direction that you want to give a group of people, then that’s a good use of it.”

Although many lawyers try to reduce meeting and email overload, particularly on return to work from a holiday or a trial, it can be an uphill struggle. Drew has advice for inbox management.

“If you’re getting a lot of little requests, it’s better to just batch them up and have some kind of weekly cadence where you can deal with a lot of quick requests without having the overhead of email.”

  1. Don’t forget to do the important-not urgent stuff

Legendary US President and World War 2 commander, Dwight D Eisenhower, famously invented a matrix to help him to plough through his never-ending ‘to-do’ list. Tasks would be split into four squares: important and urgent; important and less urgent; less important and urgent; and less important and less urgent. Drew is a fan of this line of thinking, as he explained to Tim Ferris:

“the biggest crisis of prioritization is […] how do you make sure that you elbow out time for the important, not urgent, stuff? Because the important and urgent stuff will get taken care of but then you end up with a lot of stuff that’s not important; urgent, not important; or not important, not urgent.”

So, when faced with an overwhelming task-list, you could do a lot worse than trial methods which have worked for a billionaire has and a former US President.

  1. Lawyers, and their logical way of thinking, have a crucial role to play

Smart, brilliant billionaires-to-be like Drew have major blindspots; they don’t always consult us lawyers before making some seismic decisions. As Drew explained to Tim Ferris – without any degree of embarrassment – that when deciding to go with the Dropbox brand, the company owned some Dropbox domain names, but they didn’t own www.dropbox.com. What’s even more surprising is that Drew hadn’t secured the trade mark when creating the Dropbox brand either.

The individual who actually owned Dropbox.com refused to sell the domain to Drew. It was only through the help of a specialist IP expert that the situation was resolved. Drew’s company paid $300,000 for the domain.

We lawyers need to remember just how useful our logic is for others: we all would have foreseen the trade mark and key domains as issues well before this very smart man and his team realised it. We are smart, smarter than we often give ourselves credit for.

The post 5 Things the Billionaire Founder of Dropbox can Teach a Lawyer appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Profile

Lee Phanurat-Bennett

Managing Director, Barrister, Attorney & Counselor At Law (New York)

Accordant Co., Ltd

Based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hi Lee, can you describe Accordant Co., Ltd?

We do business with, and act for, clients internationally, including high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth persons, corporations, SME’s, startups, and others.

We are a Thai company involved in the import and sale of high-end products and professional services. We have our own client base and deal flow, and additionally we work very closely with the family companies in Asia. As part of our group we have a substantial network of salespeople across Thailand and other countries in ASEC. Our team of experts works across our portfolio of professional services. Additionally, I also have a dedicated team of four support staff who makes up my personal office and who assists me directly as necessary.

We arrange, project-manage, and oversee our clients’ various deals and business interests, including negotiation and settlement of contract terms, providing counsel, due diligence, creating and implementing action plans, instructing and overseeing other professionals on our clients’ behalf, acting as our clients’ advocate and representative, and ensuring our clients’ objectives are achieved according to specific criteria and within their desired timeframe. We also match high quality startups and established businesses with high value investors globally.

Part of our portfolio of services also includes helping our clients (up to C-suite) to harness their communication and public speaking skills to deliver effective pitches, presentations, and keynote speeches, to achieve their goals (including gaining traction with investors, customers, and others). With our internationally renowned business psychologists we also provide bespoke selective psychometric tests and in-depth profiling tools to assist companies in the recruitment, retention, and training of their staff right up to C-level. These tools are also used to assist with public speaking, pitching, presentation skills, leadership, teamwork, and motivation.

What work do you perform in your organisation?

I lead the day-to-day management, operations, and strategy of the company, and its relationship with the family companies, clients and business partners. I counsel on domestic and international strategy, marketing, business development, and negotiation and settlement of commercial terms with our partners, suppliers, and clients.

I have also partnered with Gavin Opaswongkarn on various global business projects. Gavin has previously worked at Morgan Stanley, Abraaj Group and Asia Plus Group Holdings. We currently both represent our mutual client Mr Itthipat Peeradechapan, CEO of Taokkaenoi Food & Marketing Plc.

Lee Phanurat-Bennett and Gavin Opaswongkarn at the offices of Asia Plus Securities

What is your educational background?

The usual path in the 1980’s: ’O’ levels, ‘A’ levels, Law LLB in London 1987-1990. BVC at Inns of Court School of Law.  Then New York Bar Course.

When did you qualify?

I graduated law in London in 1990. I then attended the Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law. I was then called to the Bar in England and Wales by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, and also went on to pass the New York Bar examination and was then admitted to the Bar of New York state.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Variety. I may be in a meeting discussing a $100m investment deal one minute, followed by a marketing session for one of our product lines, followed by a meeting where I am negotiating and settling Heads of Terms for a potential investment deal on behalf of an investor client, followed by a meeting with a CEO of a Plc to discuss status on their company projects; and then move on to a pitch or public speaking session with a C-suite client who needs help with public speaking or pitching, or a company who wants an assessment of their investment decks and team pitch.

I also attend around 5 or so trips a year that are arranged by the family company to various countries around the world. They will take clients, salespeople and staff on a tour abroad; many countries have been visited including Japan, USA, UK, Austria, Czech Republic, India, Switzerland, Laos, and Myanmar. We were in South Korea in January of this year with 50 of the team from Laos. While in South Korea the company finalised a contract with Julia Cosmetics Co., Ltd to add their beauty and skincare products to the family company’s portfolio of products sold in Thailand and other countries in Asia.

As well as key events throughout the year where I will deliver various company presentations, I also attend the company’s annual conference and themed gala dinner and party which takes place over the course of a weekend in January each year.

I have a presentation to deliver this coming weekend to the Thailand sales team at our weekend conference. I will be talking about one of our new well-being products the company has imported to Thailand and which we have exclusive rights to sale. I sourced the product after meeting the CEO of the company in London, and I then negotiated, brokered, and settled the contract terms for the companies. The product is a unique soft gel turmeric lozenge that has so many health benefits – and tastes delicious!

Describe your typical day? Wake up and bedtime times?

Typically, I am up at 7.00am followed by gym. I have always been an early bird and having two Scottish terriers who need their morning walk has enforced this habit!

I will have meetings throughout the day with clients, partners, prospective businesses, and with family. I have a very flexible regime and I am not ordinarily tied to our office buildings, and will have meetings wherever I happen to be, which may be in a hotel bar/restaurant or poolside. Evenings may involve the inevitable business dinner and drinks, but I try to be home in the evening for dinner and relaxation with husband and family; family is very important to me.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Not being available to speak with everyone who wants to speak with me.

What is the most memorable case you have worked on?

I spent several years working on a substantial £1.59 billion confiscation case which was certainly one of the largest cases I have been involved in.

But I would choose a case I worked on a few years back where I represented around 20 companies and the directors of those companies who were threatened with substantial claims for alleged breach of contract and misrepresentation; the potential consequences were very serious for all.

After detailed preparation, I conducted a one-day negotiation session with the other side and their lawyers on behalf of my 20 company clients and the directors who were squeezed around the boardroom table. I successfully halted all action against my clients and the matter was ended to their relief and satisfaction.

Lee Phanurat-Bennett and his husband Nuk (5th from right in purple),  his mother-in-law Mrs Rudi Rungklin, President of MLH (6th from right), and some of the team donning traditional costume for the company AEC Summit dinner.

What would your clients say about you?

One of my clients (partly in jest) would refer to me as “the smiling assassin”.  My clients would say that I am dedicated to achieving their objectives in the most effective and ethical way possible.

And what would your competitors say about you?

Probably “the smiling assassin”!

What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?

That lawyers fight for truth and justice.

What advice would you give to your pre-law school self?

Go away and study something interesting first and come back in a few years time.

Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?

Always remain calm, diplomatic, in control, and reasonable; and put everything in writing. If you demonstrate a thorough grasp of your case, both factually and legally, and clearly present the most viable solutions, then you are less likely to encounter a difficult client.

What’s the longest day you’ve ever done?

5.30am – 9.30pm, meeting clients and travelling with them by train to a Court hearing while working with them en route; and then a post-hearing conference that evening with the legal team to carry out a post-mortem and prepare for the next day at court.

What case do you find most memorable in your jurisdiction?

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] S.C.(H.L.) 31.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?

Don’t presume that you are entitled; there is no shortage of lawyers out there, so you have to work hard and remember that you work in a business whose aim is to acquire clients and then retain them by impressing them with your quality service. You must be commercially minded, charming, credible, and honest. Perfect both your legal skills and interpersonal skills.

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

I am a Trustee of the Aanchal Women’s Aid, a UK charity that assists women affected by physical as well as mental, financial, sexual and emotional domestic abuse. As a law undergraduate I did my thesis on domestic violence.

What has been your worst day in the job?

When I was with a QC working on papers and found a discriminatory homophobic note written by one of the partners in the law firm (Bivonas LLP) whom I worked for at the time.

What has been your best?

Successfully winning my claim for discrimination against Bivonas LLP, Anthony Brown, and John Bechelet (who wrote the discriminatory note) with the three judges unanimously finding in my favour.  Unfortunately, they appealed against the unanimous judgment against them. But they also had their Appeal unanimously dismissed by the three judges in the Appeal Court. My personal case made me truly appreciate the emotional roller coaster ride that clients go through, and just how long the journey to victory can take.

What do you consider to be the secret to your success? 

My ability to connect with people from all cultures, putting them at ease and quickly building up a genuine rapport and mutual respect. Whether I am with a CEO of a Plc, an Ultra-high-net-worth individual, an SME, the founder of a startup, a politician, or someone who sees themself as ordinary and just trying to survive each day in our crazy world, I always treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect. I expect the same!

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

Yes. I always wanted to pursue the law as a discipline. I also enjoyed lecturing law at postgraduate level too. But I have always been more attracted to the business world.

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

The ability to put things into perspective and see the bigger picture.

Which key skill is most essential for your success as a lawyer?

The ability to communicate effectively.

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

The late Sir Desmond Da Silva QC KStJ, former United Nations Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone, who sadly passed away recently. I was fortunate to have instructed him on several large cases. I also had the pleasure of dining with him as his guest on several occasions, including at the Cavalry and Guards Club and the In & Out Naval and Military Club in St James’s, where we shared a few bottles of wine and anecdotes. He was a man of great integrity and humanity who possessed a wicked wit and super sense of humour, and he was always willing to provide advice and assistance to others, to pass on his experience and wise counsel.

In 2015, when I was Chair of the Advisory Board of an international leadership magazine covering business, politics, and the law, I asked Sir Desmond if he would be willing to be interviewed by the magazine and to be featured in the next issue. At that time he was advising the government of Sri Lanka on allegations of War Crimes against its forces in the war that ended in 2009. He was very busy working with his secretariat on preparing a report to go to the UN that year. Notwithstanding his very busy schedule and commitments he put aside time to be interviewed by the magazine, where he talked about human rights, pursuing Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, and his time as a UN Prosecutor. He sent an email to me afterwards saying he looked forward to having a bottle or two with me in Blighty on his return from Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, I relocated to Thailand later that same year and we never got to crack open those bottles.

What makes a brilliant lawyer?

Identifying the key issues in a case and effectively communicating the potential solutions to your client in the most appropriate and understandable way possible no matter how complex the case and irrespective of whether your client is a CEO of a FTSE company, owner of an SME, or an individual employee seeking to enforce their legal rights against their employer.

What’s the most amusing anecdote you have about the law?

It comes from my own personal claim for discrimination that I brought against Bivonas LLP, Anthony Brown, and John Bechelet. During the trial Anthony Brown of Bivonas LLP tried to persuade the three judges to watch the Ali G DVD, Ali G IndaHouse, as part of his defence. He turned up to court with the DVD and a DVD player and wanted to play it to the judges at Court to demonstrate, as I understood it, that the phrase “batty boy” was not necessarily discriminatory. The judges quickly declined this request to watch Ali G.

Then Anthony Brown, while still in the course of giving his sworn evidence, asked the judges if he could be allowed to speak with his barrister. Needless to say, the three judges also declined this request. The requests did cause some amusement both during and after the hearing. So I have to say this has to be up there in terms of amusing legal anecdotes. This is the first and only time I have ever heard of a witness ask a judge for permission to speak with their lawyer while they are in the course of giving evidence. I also believe it to be the only time that a party has tried to introduce an Ali G DVD into evidence as part of their defence.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

Marrying the love of my life.

 

Lee and his husband relaxing in Halstatt, Austria

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Enjoying life to the full. This is no dress rehearsal; so I will continue to make every second count.

What is your morning routine?

Check emails. Gym. Watch UK news and business and swiftly read over several newspapers online while eating breakfast and then checking more emails.

What is your bedtime routine?

Reading for pleasure and/or watching Netflix with my husband. Usually go to sleep around midnight or later.

What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?

I go to the gym at least 5 times a week. I eat very healthily. A very good friend of mine in London is a nutrition and health expert who provides me with excellent guidance to ensure I maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Living in Thailand means I have some of the best seafood in the world to choose from every day.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

I guess what I am now; involved in business and entrepreneurship. But if I weren’t a lawyer or involved in business then I would definitely have pursued acting and/or writing fiction; writing is still a possibility – and I have plenty of experiences and raw material to draw upon.

What do you believe that nobody else believes?

4 + 4 = 5

Is there a quote which defines you?

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

Which book have you found most influential?

Too many to choose from for so many different reasons but…:

The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli.

Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

1984 – George Orwell.

Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens.

I will happily read anything by Shakespeare, Dickens, or Trollope.

Do you have any political aspirations? 

As a student I was selected to represent Inner Temple for the UK in the world debating championships at Trinity College, and then again at the International Debating Championships at Yale University. The debating crowd had quite a few political aspirants. At one time I toyed with the idea of politics. I am not impressed with the quality of politicians in the UK generally, and also very mindful of Enoch Powell’s view (which other politicians have subsequently quoted) that “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure,….”.

Who do you admire most and why?

My husband who uplifts me every day, and can also bring me down to earth if need be.

What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?

My husband. My iPad. A 177ft motor yacht fully equipped with crew, food, and a fully-stocked bar.

How do you think practising law has changed you as a person?

Law undoubtedly makes you cynical; after all you become privy to the darker side of human nature as you peek beneath that thin veneer of respectability that hides the truth. Some of the cases I have been involved in over the years have involved some very unpleasant and traumatic facts. However, as well as witnessing the worst side of human nature you also see the best side of it too.

If money was no object, how would you spend your time? And would you still be a lawyer? 

I am currently blessed to be involved in business and to a large degree I have the independence and control to do as I please.

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

Leaving the law full-time and going into business. Business is much more fun and relaxing; the rewards are greater and one doesn’t have to worry about billable hours.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘lawyer’?

Jarndyce v Jarndyce.

What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?

The potential to do a lot of good or a lot of bad; and often times a mixture of the two.

What is the best lawyer joke you’ve heard?

I don’t know if this is the best joke I have heard.

Q: What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer?

A: A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer.

How do you balance home and family life with your job?

I don’t consider what I do as a job. I am lucky that I can balance my life and time as I wish. My husband, who is a senior executive at Saint Laurent in Thailand, has a busy schedule so we have to make sure we have time to relax together; we indulge in our mutual love of fine wine and dining, and we spend time at our place on the beach, on the islands, as well as trips abroad, including visiting family and friends in the UK. It’s important that we ensure quality time together is built into our schedules as I may be away on business trips abroad for several weeks at a time and my husband may also fly off to Paris, Hong Kong, or Singapore for Saint Laurent business as well. Fortunately, I have a very good team around me, and I strongly believe that good leadership is about many things, including delegation and empowerment.

Thank you very much for your time, Lee.

 

To find out more about Lee and his work through Accordant Co., Ltd, visit the Accordant Co., Ltd website.

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews Lee Phanurat-Bennett appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Working within the legal accounts sector is always challenging; no one solicitor operates in the same manner, and attempting to change their procedures and protocols to a more streamlined, straightforward approach can take time and attention.

In this blog I will outline some of the key areas we focus on when taking a new client under our wing – and how you can make these changes to your own business to help yourself (and your bookkeeper!)

Time:

Time is so precious to us all, especially when you charge by the hour. We have seen it time and time again (no pun intended!): solicitors leaving their accounts until the last day of the month to be suddenly confronted by a mountain of papers and confusion. This may work for you, however 9 times out of 10 it usually does not.

Our experience has taught us that our clients are much more content with life when they set aside a small amount of time, either daily or weekly, to get on top of their accounts. It sounds simplistic but the best rules in life usually are, and it really does work for them.

The key point to consider is that, if you update your accounts regularly, all the relevant information is then at the forefront of your brain and the unknown details are limited to a very small amount, if any, resulting in peace and calm. When this process is deferred over a month or more, every transaction becomes a distant memory, a blur of numbers, which in turn takes you more time to decipher any issues that arise. Cue mild hysteria and panic! It may seem simple but a little attention, paid on a more regular basis, really works.

Compliance:

Compliance is key. Solicitors are governed by a very strict list of rules whether be it the SRA or CLC. It makes our life easier when new clients fear these rules – the way you used to fear your parents shouting you by your full name! These rules should not be overlooked or taken lightly, this is our best advice. Learn to adhere to them and do not be the one having to find ways around or looking to circumvent them for any reason.

Our management team’s years of experience in our current and previous organisations, has led us to cross paths with every scenario possible. What have we learnt? Your practice is too precious to be put at risk, there is a very real threat of being shut down or struck off, so plan wisely and remove the danger.

How can you stay compliant? It’s easier than you may think: simply keep everything up to date. This links back to our critical first point – spending that small amount of time on a regular basis to keep everything up to date can save you.

An example; you write a cheque from office account to pay your rent, you mistakenly write it from client account. When is this detected? That depends on how you manage your accounts, if you’re making the effort daily, then it is rectified the following day, if you’re the monthly type of person -well now you’re in trouble!

Are we making money?

This is a question we are asked on a regular basis. Month-end is the best time to check this, everything is finalised and you are able to see an overview of how everything is going.

Things to take note of are large expenses and large receipts. For example, if you have paid your rent for the next 6 months, this will distort your figures. Simple accounts journals can show the expense in the correct months giving you a more precise reading.

Understanding how to read your management reports is very important. It’s something we invest a lot of time in with our clients, teaching them how to use and interpret them. Once you understand what you are reading, you then have a good grasp on your business. This is where it gets interesting; cost-cutting and cracking the whip may be necessary, as most good businesses question the necessity and size of every expense and cost.

Software:

Finally, software is such a vital part of your business it has to be correct for your business needs. The worst thing you can do is look at the price tag when deciding on software, instead of looking at its ability to grow and fit in with your business.

Historically it was always the accounts department who were the driver behind the choice of accounts software. However as times have changed, it is now the fee earners who are making these decisions. This is where case management packages excel, streamlining processes and allowing your fee earners to concentrate on making money.

Whether you are a Sole Practitioner or a Partner/Director at a larger firm, these are all valuable lessons to take on board. We have worked with every type of law firm imaginable and on almost all software platforms available on today’s market. Understanding a few important things can make everything run more smoothly and in turn help you make money.

Numero’s top accounting tip

When you are doing your client to office transfers, make sure you transfer the VAT element into a separate account. Never consider this as your money. This way, at your VAT due date, there is no panic about having to make the due payment.

The post Behind the Books – Bookkeeping Tips all Lawyers Should Know appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Raymond Ikechukwu Nkannebe

Associate Counsel

Synergy Attornies

Based in Lekki Peninsular, Lagos State, Nigeria

Hi Raymond, can you describe yourself and your job at Synergy Attornies?

I am a young lawyer of about two years post-call. I am also a socio-political affairs commentator and write a column for a UK based online medium─ Politicoscope. I am regularly published in a number of Nigerian online mediums where I weigh in on developments in the socio-political scene.

In the jurisdiction where I practice, that is Nigeria, there is a fusion of the professional roles of the barrister and the solicitor, unlike in other commonwealth countries where both roles are divorced. So I am a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Can you describe Synergy Attornies?

We are a leading law firm located in the heart of Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre -Lagos State. We also have a sister office located in Nigeria’s capital city – Abuja.

We are a law firm with a robust pedigree. Boasting a vast array of professionals working in synergy, true to the name of our firm, in order to meet the demands of a growing and ever-demanding clientele. We have a wide practice area ranging from Arbitration, Labour Law, Corporate advisory, and Energy Law. We operate a Solicitor’s advisory support service on the legal aspect of emerging local and international investment opportunities such as power, oil & gas, and telecommunication. We also deal with International Finance Law; Statutory reform advocacy and legislative lobby; Constitutional litigation and advisory services.

We have a team of 17 lawyers led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the equivalent of a QC in England. We also have a crop of 9 support staff at our corporate headquarters ─ a large ultra modern facility east of the peninsular that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

What work do you perform in your organisation?

As  counsel, I am involved in the litigation and dispute resolution department of the firm.  I attend court proceedings on behalf of clients in court and I am also heavily involved in the preparation of court processes in a jurisdiction still characterised with too much paperwork. I also assist in legal research to develop content and context for the cases handled by the firm across different areas of practice.

What is your educational background?

Nigerian Law School (2015-2016) BL;

University of Maiduguri, Borno State (2010-2015) LL.B (HONS)

St. Joseph Minor Seminary, Zaria, Kaduna State (2001-2007) SSCE

Kings Nursery and Primary School, Kano State (1996-2001) First School Leaving Certificate.

When did you qualify?

I was admitted into the Nigerian bar on the 29th of November, 2016. So it is safe to say that I am still a greenhorn of sorts.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It has to be the ability to look through the body of existing laws to  find legal solutions to meet the needs of clients. And yes, I am a stickler for legal research, with an uncanny patience to keep looking until the shade of the law that answers the proposition of a case is found.

Describe your typical day? Wake up and bedtime times?

My typical day starts at about 6: 15 to 6:30 am with a short prayer. From there, things move to the bathroom where I freshen up for the day and then off to the office, or to the court as the case may be. Lagos State, where I practice, has a peculiar traffic congestion being an overpopulated city. So on days I have a session in court, I tend to wake up even earlier in order to beat the traffic as much as possible. I usually leave the office between 6-8 pm and expend the remainder of the day catching up with dinner; making rounds on the dailies; reading a chapter or two, off the many books on my To-Read list; and eventually crash-landing on the bed when I can’t go further.

What is the hardest part of your job?

[Laughs] It has to be the troubles of trying to make a point off a bad case. And the more you try to do that by burying your head in the library, the more you get to see cases and principles that make your troubles even more difficult than Sisyphus with his boulder in Greek Mythology. But then, as my boss and mentor would always admonish us, such cases are those that eventually distinguish a lawyer from his contemporaries. Yet that doesn’t take away the fact that it remains the hardest part of the job for me. Sometimes it’s akin to facing the court to  argue a new mathematical thesis that ‘one plus one equals three’ – against settled canons of mathematics if one is allowed to say that.

What is the most memorable case you have worked on?

It has to be a dispute resolution action out of court between a leading automobile company and its disengaged staff, who were laid off without their full benefits against their terms of employment. I was among the team that defended the action at a labour court for the disengaged staff.  The action got settled out of court on the strength of the masterstroke diplomacy deployed by my team in getting the automobile giants to agree to settlement terms favourable to our clients. Now, this case was quite a memorable one as we acted for indigent clients who lost some of their colleagues while the action dragged on in court.

What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you as a lawyer?

I don’t think I have really had any such embarrassing moment in my professional life. Most of my colleagues, who are fresh at the bar, often cite their first day in court as their most embarrassing. But this was not the case for me.

What would your clients say about you?

I should say that the few clients I have had to deal with in the few years of my practice think of me as an honest and hardworking advocate who always tries to make a positive case out of an impossible situation. I was particularly inspired when I received a call one afternoon at my current office, and at the other end of the conversation was this client I had represented in a libel action, who called to confess his satisfaction with my services when he learnt that I had left the office.

And what would your competitors say about you?

Well, I can’t really say. But certainly, assuming I have any, they should think of me as one tough guy! [Laughs].

What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?

That being a lawyer is an ‘El Dorado’ of sorts, as many people who are not, think of this way. Especially in my own part of the world.

What advice would you give to your pre-law school self? Why is that?

To do everything that could be done within the limits of academics, to finish with a suma cum laude. This is because that is the easiest way of making it into the top law firms. But that is not to say those who don’t finish top of their class aren’t smart chaps. I guess, on another day, we shall talk about how examination is not the true test of knowledge or eventual success of one’s professional life.

Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?

Giving them a listening ear. Seeing the case from their own perspective but not at the detriment of their case in court, and winning them over on the strength of the superiority of your own opinion or arguments. Not being too emotionally attached to the case. And of course the heavens would not fall if you decline further representation of such clients in a worst case scenario.

What’s the longest day you’ve ever done?

A time sensitive brief was due for filing in court the next day. We didn’t want to ask for an extension of time. So I had to work from 7:00 am to 11:30 pm on this particular day in order to meet up with the deadline.

What case do you find most memorable in your jurisdiction? Why do you think that is?

That has to be the ‘notorious’ case of Amaechi v INEC (2008) 5 NWLR (pt. 1080). This is because it broke ground in many ways.  The Supreme Court of Nigeria, in that landmark decision, returned the Appellant, whose name was controversially substituted for another candidate by his political party in a gubernatorial election despite having won the party’s primary election.  For the first time the Court returned a candidate who didn’t participate in all the phases of the electoral process in a graphic case of substantial justice as against technical justice which has become a chorus of sorts in the Nigerian judicial choir.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?

I should advise young lawyers like myself just starting out, to keep their feet to the ground, open their eyes and make the profession their oyster. There is a certain tendency for young wigs to emphasise money instead of adding value to themselves in whatever way they could while still new at the bar. This attitude must be eschewed by all means. If there is a profession where things get better with time, it must be this profession of wig and the gown. They should read and master the principles and intricacies of the law, to equip themselves for the promising future ahead of them.

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

Yes. I am a community person and I volunteer for a number of non-governmental organizations in the area of human rights and advocacy. In the future, I hope to set up a centre that would champion this causes.

What has been your worst day in the job?

Are there really any yet? I don’t think so.

What has been your best?

Being involved in a very controversial case, at my former office, that ended up in a judgment in our favour.

What do you consider to be the secret to your success? 

I think this is where I would pull a peculiar Nigerian stunt: where questions are answered with a further question. And here we go: Am I really successful yet? [Laughs]

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

Not really. Having being trained in seminary facility during my post-primary school education, I had wanted enrolling for a theological seminary towards becoming a roman catholic priest. But at some point, I had a change of mind, and settled for law.

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

Many people say I have my way with written words. Others think I am a sweet talker. So there is it; my advocacy skill; written or oral, are my best tools. And to be sure, I have deployed them tactically on occasions.

Which key skill is most essential for your success as a lawyer?

Writing I should say. I am a connoisseur of words of sorts. And as a foremost Justice of the Nigerian Supreme Court once observed: language, and not arithmetic is the lawyer’s tool.

Which experiences have been most significant in forming you as a lawyer?

Growing up under parents who are themselves dispute resolution experts, even though without a formal legal training. As a young boy still battling with my lunch box, I could still recall images of my parents sitting in judgement over different members of my local community who came to them for solutions to their problems. This environment must have shaped, even if subconsciously, my legal antennae.

 

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

Easy one! Mr. Abiodun Jelili Owonikoko; SAN.  One of the brightest men I have come across. Intelligent, assertive, humble, unassuming and strikingly innovative. Within the short period of being under his tutelage, he has shaped my  career beyond measure. He is one of the few practitioners in my jurisdiction who still practice the profession with a dignifying ambience.

What makes a brilliant lawyer?

The insatiable hunger to push the frontiers of knowledge and stay relevant in an increasingly dynamic world.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

Being a role model to many people of my generation at what I consider quite a young age.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself as a senior associate in a law firm rendering top-notch services. I also hope to have built a reputation in Labour and Constitutional Law so as to become a ‘go-to’ expert in those often contentious areas of legal practice in my jurisdiction. And, lest I forget, I hope to have bagged a Masters degree in Law before then.

What is your morning routine?

Waking up at about 6:00 am. Getting things squared with the wardrobe. Running off to the office and getting on with the business of the day.

What is your bedtime routine?

Making rounds on both local and international media and reading articles on front-burner issues, both in local and international politics, via my mobile phone – and of course dozing off!

 

What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?

I hit the gym around my neighbourhood during the weekends to spend some time on the treadmill. Lift some weights and then play what the Chinese call ping-pong. I love to eat good food. And I often see myself as the man in the anecdote about the way to a man’s heart. [Laughs]

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

Perhaps a reverend father of the Roman Catholic Church, or a media personality anchoring programs on TV.

What do you believe that nobody else believes?

Well I think many other people out there share this belief too. It is that, there is no particular religion that guarantees access to eternity in heaven, as is peddled by extremist members of the world-leading religions.

Is there a quote which defines you?

It has to be this: that examination is not the true test of knowledge. A senior colleague of mine who is currently undergoing training for his Masters degree at the University of Cambridge once told me, that in the nearest future, I’d be the epitome of ‘grades don’t define a person or determine their progress’.

Which law would you change and why?

The law that makes appeals from decisions of state High Courts in my jurisdiction fall to federal Courts of Appeal. This is because it makes nonsense of Nigeria’s federal system and, to a great extent, throws spanners into the wheels of justice, as appeals from over 36 state High Courts fall to fewer appellate courts and from there, to only one Supreme Court located in the federal capital.

Which book have you found most influential?

The late Professor Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’.

Do you have any political aspirations? 

Yes. As some point in my evolution, I hope to get involved in local politics in my home state of Anambra to see how much impact I could make with my brains and brawn to the further growth and development of the state and her peoples.

Who do you admire most and why?

Late literary maestro, Professor Chinua Achebe. And that would be for his compelling storytelling, riddled with graphic imagery that leaves a lasting impression on the mind of the reader. Beyond his fictional works, all of which I have read, his scathing essays such as the popular ‘An Imagery of  Africa; Racism in Henry Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’ which bore out the pan-African and revolutionary side of the man albeit with  words,  all of which make him an unmistakable literary legend of the African race, nay the world.

What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?

A book, a smart phone and a machete!

How do you think practising law has changed you as a person?

It has increased my level of consciousness and awareness of my environment and has also made me a more responsible person, coming from a jurisdiction where it is a taboo for a lawyer to be seen on the wrong side of the societal equation.

If money was no object, how would you spend your time? And would you still be a lawyer?

In a lengthy essay published on my Face book timeline on the day of my call to the bar, I made it explicit that my eventual decision to train as a lawyer was not informed by the lust for lucre, but to use the law as a tool of social engineering  in the thought of  Roscoe Pound, to better the lot of my immediate society. And so if money were no object, I’d still have been a lawyer. And I would spend my time studying and understanding society and devising ways to leave footprints in the sands of time.

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

That has to be finally electing to train as a lawyer.

What is the most beautiful/inspiring thing you’ve ever seen?

The sight of the mother hen protecting the young brood.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘lawyer’?

An often misunderstood character!

What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?

An individual whose job thrives on the strength of compelling arguments to make the justice, or otherwise, of a case manifest- for the judge on the hallowed bench, armed with the gavel, to rule one way or the other. Put in its less litigious construct, a trade of diplomacy and masterstroke advocacy, geared towards bringing warring parties together.

What is the best lawyer joke you’ve heard?

One day in a Contract Law class, the professor asked one of his better students, “Now if you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?”

The student replied, “Here’s an orange.”

The professor was livid, “No! No! Think like a lawyer!”

The student then recited, “Okay, I’d tell him, ‘ I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claims, titles and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything hereinbefore or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding…”

How do you balance home and family life with your job?

Currently not being married, I am saved the drama of finding a truce between work and family life. So for now, it’s all about me getting myself equipped as much as I can, and hopefully, when we get into the family drills, we’d somehow find a way around that. [Laughs]

Thank you very much for your time, Raymond.

 

To find out more about Raymond and his work at Synergy Attornies, visit the Synergy Attornies website or Raymond’s blog: nkanneberaymond.blogspot.com.

 

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews Raymond Nkannebe appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Profile:

Francisco Ramos Jr.

Managing Partner

Clarke Silverglate

Based in Miami, Florida, USA

Hi Frank, can you describe Clarke Silverglate?

We are a boutique litigation law firm in Miami with 9 lawyers and one paralegal.

What work do you perform in your organisation?

I am the Managing Partner of the firm and handle a wide variety of litigation matters.

What is your educational background?

I attended Florida International University, where I earned my B.A. in 1993 Summa Cum Laude and attended University of Miami Law School where I earned my J.D. in 1997 Magna Cum Laude

When did you qualify?

I was admitted to the Florida Bar in September 1997.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to tackle difficult cases, and develop a case strategy to define a win with the client and achieve that win.

Describe your typical day? Wake up and bedtime times?

I’m generally in the office by 7:30 a.m and spend the day handling various litigation matters, addressing firm management issues and working with colleagues in various voluntary bar association matters.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Finding the time to balance work, firm management, business development and home life.

What is the most memorable case you have worked on?

My most memorable cases are ones where we’ve had the privilege to represent our clients at trial and present our case to a factfinder.

What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you as a lawyer?

As a young lawyer, I was still developing my skill set and I made my share of mistakes along the way.  I could have been more effective arguing motions and taking depositions.  My client relation skills needed improvement.  Today, I write regularly for young lawyers so they can learn from my experience.

What would your clients say about you?

They would say I am creative, imaginative, hard working and that I get them results.

And what would your competitors say about you?

My competitors say I’m dogged.  Once I sink my teeth into a case, I don’t let go until I reach a favourable resolution for my client.

 

What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?

It’s not like television.  You’re not always at trial.  You spend a lot of time in the office and at court reporters’ offices taking depositions.

What advice would you give to your pre-law school self? Why is that?

I would tell myself to spend more time learning the “soft” skills, like public speaking, networking and business development.

Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?

Take the time to understand where they’re coming from, what their motivations are and what their goals are.  The better you understand your clients, the better you can serve them.

What’s the longest day you’ve ever done?

I’ve had trial days which have started with prep sessions at 6 am and didn’t conclude until after 11 p.m.

What case do you find most memorable in your jurisdiction? Why do you think that is?

Cases that pursue new causes of action, whether suing talc manufacturers and suppliers for personal injuries or suing opioid manufacturers and distributors for alleged damages.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?

Take the time to learn the craft and seek out mentors who will teach it to you.

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

I spend a lot of time mentoring young lawyers through my writing and through “coffee chats” where I mentor them over a cup of coffee.

What has been your worst day in the job?

Days where you have multiple deadlines can be very demanding.

What has been your best?

Whenever you secure a favourable outcome for your client is rewarding.

What do you consider to be the secret to your success? 

Hard work, perseverance and learning from my failures and mistakes.

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

Since I was young, I wanted to be a lawyer.  Like many my age, I watched lawyer serials on television and was drawn to the excitement of the courtroom.

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

My colleagues with whom I discuss my ideas, theories and themes for my cases.

Which key skills are most essential for your success as a lawyer?

Imagination and creativity.

Which experiences have been most significant in forming you as a lawyer?

Having mentors at the firm investing in me as a lawyer.

 

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

Spencer Silverglate, our firm’s President, who has spent countless hours mentoring and developing me as a trial lawyer.

What makes a brilliant lawyer?

Being able to tell one’s client’s story in a compelling persuasive manner.

What’s the most amusing anecdote you have about the law?

Every lawyer, sooner or later, will make an assumption about his/her case which is incorrect which can lead to some interesting depositions.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

Having a loving family. I have been married 24 years and we have two boys, David, 20, and Michael, 17.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Continuing with our successful law practice and continuing publishing legal and business books.  So far, I have written 7.

What is your morning routine?

Get up early.  Get to work early.  Use the time before the business day starts to set goals for the day and pursue them.

What is your bedtime routine?

Get to bed early and read the news.

What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?

I walk my dog regularly and avoid fatty and fried foods.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

A writer.  I love having an idea and letting the idea grow and flourish and share it with others through the written word.

What do you believe that nobody else believes?

We all have a purpose and we can’t truly be happy until we figure out our purpose and pursue it.

Is there a quote which defines you?

Leaders are servants.

Which law would you change and why?

I would spend more time speaking to others about pursuing their purpose.

Which book have you found most influential?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R Covey, and Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.

Who do you admire most and why?

Those who pursue their life’s purpose wholeheartedly.

What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?

The Bible, a water purifier and a Swiss Army knife.

How do you think practising law has changed you as a person?

It helps me define problems and find solutions for them.

If money was no object, how would you spend your time? And would you still be a lawyer?

I would write, both non-fiction and fiction.  I would love to write legal science fiction, where a fictional law firm addresses legal issues in the future.  The intersection between law and technology is something I am fascinated by.

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

Spending more time writing.   I’ve been focusing on non-fiction and hope to start writing fiction in the not too distant future.

What is the most beautiful/inspiring thing you’ve ever seen?

Folks taking the time out of their busy schedules to volunteer to help those most in need.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘lawyer’?

An advocate.

What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?

Some who lends his/her voice to the voiceless.

How do you balance home and family life with your job?

I carve out time to spend time with my family and invite them on work related travels.

Thank you very much for your time, Frank.

To find out more about Francisco and his work at Clarke Silverglate, visit the Clarke Silverglate website

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews Francisco Ramos Jr. appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Chris Lipscomb is COO of Blue Pencil, a global legal recruitment company. Aside from advising clients on suitable candidates for their opportunities, Blue Pencil provides interview skills training and coaching/development for lawyers in the UK and globally.

Writing a blog for lawyers can seem like an intimidating brief. However, having spent the last 10 years working with lawyers, I do feel qualified enough to share some observations which I hope you will find helpful.

Prior to working within the legal sector, I have worked with a variety of different occupational groupings. These range from civil servants, through to doctors and head teachers. If I had to single out one group I found most interesting to work with, it would be lawyers. Some may find this counter intuitive as lawyers themselves know they can have a reputation for being challenging to work for.

To put this in context, my experience of head teachers was that a disproportionate number of them were highly directive individuals who were often unwilling to hear intellectual arguments that contradicted their views. This is generally not the case for lawyers who have a ravenous appetite for analysis and like to reflect before taking a stance. My own experience also highlighted that lawyers can be surprisingly open to persuasion if they feel someone has value to add.

Chris in his office

However, it is because lawyers are clever people that their development needs in key areas can easily be overlooked, especially at partner level. The partners of a law firm are responsible for driving the overall employment experience for others. This is no mean feat and requires a broad understanding of how you can effectively manage people.

Any lawyer’s experience of the firm they work for is related to the way in which they are managed – hence the old adage that “people leave managers not companies”.  The consequences of poor management for morale, employee wellbeing, productivity and ultimately the firm’s reputation can be very serious and are usually reflected in high staff turnover.

As lawyers develop their careers, the real challenge they face is that senior law firm positions are less about technical prowess than they are about managing others to succeed. For lawyers, this inevitably means being placed in situations removed from being subject matter experts to ones that are more “shades of grey” because they relate to people.

Chris chatting with an aspiring young lawyer

Dealing with those you are responsible for and helping them to contribute effectively places a premium on your “emotional intelligence”. How we “read” people and understand the impact we have on others are all part of this. For most of us, managing people requires an additional skillset that is often overlooked.

I would argue that too few law firms have understood the people nuances that accompany partnership, focusing instead on skills around business planning/development and revenue growth.  Whilst these are all key, they are themselves dependent on a team effort to get their practice where it needs to be and for this it is important to have an awareness of what people look for from managers to perform at their best.

At the point I was leaving my previous firm, I was very pleased to see that there were course modules for senior lawyers on soft skills such as story-telling, ‘meaning making’, as well as coaching and mentoring skills.  We had also jettisoned standard performance appraisals, which partners hated anyway, and replaced them with a new “Open Talk” approach. This approach was based around the latest thinking on techniques to encourage ongoing dialogue – an approach we now advise on at Blue Pencil. A number of large international firms have now started to go down this route but I know from speaking to many lawyers who are partners that communication and soft skills can all too easily be overlooked.

How we relate to each other in any organisation, not just law firms, is a key determinant of success. You therefore need to understand what strategies you might need to employ to manage a diverse cohort of individuals. I have witnessed at first-hand how easy it is for a newly appointed partner to come off the rails when they have had no prior experience of managing others or development to support them with their roles.

Technical prowess is one thing but the ability to motivate and understand those around you is quite something else and should not be taken for granted. Lawyers are clever people but law firms can do so much better if they recognise that even clever people need support as the focus of their responsibilities shift.

At the heart of effective management is the need for managers to be connected to those they manage. Connecting with others requires an investment of time for regular dialogue well as an understanding of the strategies that can help you to maintain effective connections. In many ways, employment relationships are no different to marriage – they need to be continually worked on in order for you to get the best results. By looking at partnership development more holistically, law firms will also be helping themselves to maximise their true productivity.

Chris with the office Labrador, George

I recall when we introduced externally sourced executive coaching for partnership candidates, the initial scepticism was soon replaced by a recognition that this should have been embraced a long time ago. It is only by ensuring that those who manage others have the right skill set that law firms will be able to maximise their true productivity and revenue potential.

The post Are Law Firms Overlooking the Importance of Management Skills for their Partners? appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Profile:

John Gray

Executive coach (and former Solicitor)

www.johngray.org.uk

Based in York, England.

Hi John, can you describe your legal background?

I left the law in 1994, with one year’s post-qualification experience. I was finding those early days very stressful, although I didn’t realise at the time that I wasn’t coping very well, nor that I could have asked for help from my firm. I left the law, and my lawyer’s salary, for a one-year intern role with a non-governmental organisation in Geneva, Switzerland.  Who knows, if I had stayed in the same law firm, by now I might be in line to be senior partner; but I don’t regret my choice to leave.

What have you done since leaving the law?

I’ve done various things since leaving the law and returning from Geneva back to the UK.

I now work primarily for myself. I am an executive coach, coaching leaders in companies and organisations who want to improve their effectiveness, wellbeing or impact at work. I also work part-time for a coach training company; I think and write about leadership; and I have a very part-time role teaching leadership and management at the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights.

What is your educational background?

Law Degree, Lancaster University.

When did you qualify?

1993.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The chance to help good people doing good work to be even better at what they do.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Marketing. Despite all the evidence that people are interested in what I do, it’s still an effort to make contacts or initiate a pitch.

What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?

That winning at law is about justice. It’s just as often about research, case preparation and case presentation.

What advice would you give to your pre-law school self?

“Don’t change your mind”; I’ve never regretted completing my legal training.

Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?

They’re not difficult clients, they’re just clients I find difficult. They’re human, they have rights and needs. So I need to listen well, suspend judgment, stand up for myself and my profession, and be open to compromise.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?

Don’t overdo the sympathy for your clients – you’ll burn out. Don’t be a lawyer just for the money – you’ll burn out. Operate from your humanity and compassion – otherwise you’ll burn out.

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

Plenty, in my local community and in my faith group (Quakers).

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

My best tools include being able to ask powerful questions; to listen behind the words; and to bring my curiosity and empathy without needing to ‘fix’ people.

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

Albie Sachs, a white former South African freedom fighter; he ended up as a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Is there a quote which defines you?

“Be the change you wish to see” Gandhi.

The view from John’s window

Which law would you change and why?

The laws which permit routine detention of asylum seekers in the UK.

Which book have you found most influential?

Too many to mention; but a selection includes:

Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)

The Chimp Paradox (Steve Peters)

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (Susan Jeffers)

Staring at the Sun (Irvin Yalom)

The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron)

What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?

A piano; running shoes; a never-ending book of crosswords.

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

Realising at the age of 16 that I didn’t have to be part of the in-crowd, I could choose to do what I was interested in doing instead.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘lawyer’?

Necessary.

What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?

Magna Carta – the right to be represented, and not to ‘disappear’ or suffer arbitrary detention (as happens in too many countries around the world).

What is the best lawyer joke you’ve heard?

Client: How much do you charge?

Lawyer: £1,000 for three questions.

Client: That’s quite expensive isn’t it?

Lawyer: No, I don’t think so – and what’s your third question?

 

Thank you very much for your time, John.

To find out more about him and the work he does, visit John Gray’s website

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews John Gray appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Profile:

Sandra Wrightson

Barrister and Registered Foreign Lawyer in Spain

De Cotta Law

Based in Nerja, Málaga, Spain

Hi Sandra, can you describe De Cotta Law?

We are a Spanish & English law firm established in 1983. We have four offices and work throughout Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearics. We are 5 partners with 24 staff, lawyers and administrators. We have 10 different nationalities in our team. Our core language is Spanish.

What work do you perform in your organisation?

I am a partner and specialise in Conflict of Laws. This is a broad area which means I can deal with Insolvency, Commercial, Jurisdictional, Family and general civil work. I deal with the majority of first enquiries that are not property-related or Personal Injury. Many instructions come from British law firms and Insolvency Practitioners.

 

What is your educational background?

I obtained a Degree in Arts from the Open University in my 20’s and have an LLB from London University. I studyied for this while living in Spain.

When did you qualify?

I passed the Bar Exam in 1996

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of work I do and meetings with clients, particularly when it involves more than one party in a negotiation.
After more than 20 years working as an English Barrister in Spain, I really enjoy solving problems in cross-jurisdictional matters.

Describe your typical day? Wake up and bedtime times?

My alarm goes off at 6.30 so I try and read if not too tired from travelling or work. When I am working in one of our offices I leave around 8am and return around 8pm. I don’t have too many typical days as I can be at one of three different offices and I travel to the UK and elsewhere quite frequently. Bedtime around 12am to 1pm with an audible book or podcasts.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Definitely trying to explain the delays in Family proceedings in the courts in Spain. We have had clients waiting for more than a year simply to set up contact with their children. There are no dedicated Family courts and you are simply in the queue with mortgage repossessions, civil debt claims, property matters etc.

What is the most memorable case you have worked on?

A major English insolvency involving Spanish property, Spanish state and tax debts, Trust Law and Conflict of Laws.

What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you as a lawyer?

A potential beneficiary quite literally throwing herself at my feet and clutching my knees in a public hospital when she realised the – now deceased – testator had not changed her will in her favour before she died!

 

What would your clients say about you?

Hopefully that I am approachable but give clear advice even when it is not what the client wants to hear. Also, that I am persistent as Conflicts of Law cases can take a long time to resolve.

And what would your competitors say about you?

Hopefully that they also think I am persistent and perhaps a bit of a battleaxe! At 62 that doesn`t worry me.

What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?

That the law has no grey areas. Sometimes I think it is all grey.

What advice would you give to your pre-law school self?

To start the career late and do some other things before the law, and if you cannot do that then maintain other interests which can help to keep things in perspective.

Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?

Explain the legal position in as much detail as you can to give them confidence that you have dealt with every aspect of their case. Tell them honestly if you know they will fail in a claim or have been badly advised before.

What’s the longest day you’ve ever done?

11 hours travelling and 11 hours work in 24 hours with 2 hours sleep. Prepared during the day and was driven by my son from Málaga to Seville for a 9pm meeting, drove to Madrid which takes 6 hours, 2 hours sleep and flew to a London meeting for 10am. That sounds romantic but I can assure you it wasn´t.

Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?

I would say getting along with your colleagues is a priority and courtesy towards your opponent often gets better results than being aggressive. Also don’t underestimate the importance of procedure which can sound boring but rarely is!

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

Yes, as honorary legal adviser to the British Consulate in Málaga I work on hardship cases when legal issues arise, and our firm does pro bono work for some charities and foundations in Spain. I also run fundraising events for a local residential home for the elderly and our local church.

What has been your worst day in the job?

Ask any English lawyer practising in Spain and they will often say their first Notary appointment. If you don´t know the Notary, and have difficult officials, it can be a real baptism of fire. A Spanish notary is an official of the state and the notarial system has many advantages, however, on my first visit I had to abort the signing of a will as the modifications requested by myself and the clients were not acceptable to the notary.

What has been your best?

Achieving a successful outcome between my clients and two other parties – all of whom were sure that we would not reach agreement about a commercial transaction in Spain.

What do you consider to be the secret to your success? 

A good education in Conflict of Laws from John de Cotta who founded our firm and a good sense of humour shared with my colleagues.

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

No – my ambitions have been bus conductor at 8 years old, brain surgeon at 12 ,  art historian at 16, finally lawyer – and I still have an ambition to be a football pundit.

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

Experience of people from many differing backgrounds, nationalities and walks of life.

Which key skill is most essential for your success as a lawyer?

The ability to explain the difference between legal concepts in English and Spanish law.

Which experiences have been most significant in forming you as a lawyer?

Working with John de Cotta who established the firm.  He was an English barrister and Spanish abogado and taught me how to deal with Conflict of Law cases.

 

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

Justice Mumby. Working in a jurisdiction where Judges do not practice as lawyers before entering the profession, I think hearing a Judge prepared to stand up for wronged individuals is impressive.

What makes a brilliant lawyer?

Preparation and persistence.

 

What’s the most amusing anecdote you have about the law?

When I realised that, unbeknown to me, my 12 year old son had inserted the following sentence into an opinion I had prepared and sent to an experienced lawyer client – “……………When I was little I wanted to be a snail – but now I am a boring lawyer……….”

 

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

The beginnings of creating a garden and working on our properties with my husband and sons over the years. From a Somerset cottage to a rambling old property in rural Spain.

Sandra at home

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still doing some part-time work for our law firm, working on reforming my very old Spanish property in the country, gardening, still learning Russian, reading, listening to audible books and music and hopefully travelling.

What is your morning routine?

I try and read or learn some Russian with the early morning tea. I am a great believer in breakfast! Then get ready for work and, as I often have a long drive, listen to some music or podcasts when I am driving.

What is your bedtime routine?

If there has been any football on, I always catch up with it before bedtime, then tea, audible books or podcasts and bed. I am sounding boring now!

What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?

Working on the house and the garden which is heavy physical work. I like swimming and walking. For nutrition plenty of vegetables, marmite and real ale.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

A radio interviewer (which I did for a short time), but I would prefer being a football pundit.

 

What do you believe that nobody else believes?

That prisoners should not have books in jail. Oh no, sorry that was Chris Grayling……

Is there a quote which defines you?

My husband once described my driving as “risky but competent”. That would be a nice epitaph and I think you have to take risks in expanding a law partnership.

 

What law would you change and why?

I would bring in a law to define the matrimonial economic regime in England so that, as in most other countries, a couple would know what the financial split would be on divorce.

Which book have you found most influential?

It may sound a bit predictable – Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. He understood pity and redemption. I think pity, in the broadest sense, is seriously missing in some of the world’s politicians.

Who do you admire most and why?

Sir David Attenborough, to maintain your enthusiasm for the world and have so much to contribute throughout your life and into your 90`s is truly admirable. I think we forget how much impact he has made in the rest of the world, not just in the UK.

 

Do you have any political aspirations?

No – other than to persuade people to reduce plastic in the world which my son persuaded me of before the very great Sir David told the whole world.

What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?

Pen & paper – I hope that is one only?

My favourite gardening mini-hoe.

Photos of my family.

How do you think practising law has changed you as a person?

It has given me a wider understanding of people’s motivations, both admirable and not so admirable.

 

If money was no object, how would you spend your time? And would you still be a lawyer?

I would still like to work in Conflict of Laws but would want more time for travelling, go to watch more football around the world and undertake decent reforms to my old house, as opposed to the current make and mend.

 

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

Marrying a man 27 years older than me Despite all prognostications of disaster, we were married for 33 years before he died at 85.

What is the most beautiful/inspiring thing you’ve ever seen?

A performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontious, at Wells Cathedral.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘lawyer’?

Negotiation

What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?

A bridge or go between.

What is the best lawyer joke you’ve heard?

They are all too predictable, I would love to hear one that wasn’t about money! Perhaps the managing partner who said the position was like being the only lamppost in the street of a thousand dogs.

How do you balance home and family life with your job?

By enjoying the company of my colleagues when I am working; making time to work on my house and garden; keeping close to family and friends; and letting rip at the ref or the opposition at a football match, which is a great way to lift work stress.

Thank you very much for your time, Sandra.

To find out more about Sandra and her work at De Cotta Law. Visit the De Cotta Law website

 

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews Sandra Wrightson appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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Profile:

Christina Lael, CPA, JD

Tax Attorney and CPA

Lael Tax LLC

Based in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA

Hi Christina, can you describe Lael Tax LLC?

I am the CEO and Founder of Lael Tax LLC.  I have 2 other staff members who help me.

I aim to provide high quality tax consultancy, support and results for your law firm.

Using my expertise and experience, I am passionate about helping lawyers pay less in taxes to Uncle Sam.

As a JD and CPA, I use advanced tax savings strategies, allowed by the tax codes and blessed by the courts, to save attorneys as much money in taxes as possible.

When did you qualify?

2010 as a Juris Doctor (JD) and 2002 as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Saving attorneys money in taxes.

Describe your typical day? Wake up and bedtime times?

I usually wake up around 5 – 5:30am.  Work, walk my dog and work out.  I work during the day then try to go to the driving range down the street in the evening and go to bed around 9 or 10pm.

What would your clients say about you?

I’m very personable, nice and always find ways to help them.

Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?

Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

What do you consider to be the secret to your success?

Being willing to fail and to learn from my failures and mistakes.

What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?

My computer.

Which key skill is most essential for your success as a lawyer?

Relating to clients and helping them.

 

Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?

Brian Masterson in Nashville, TN.  He is an amazing, brilliant tax lawyer and has taught me so much!

What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?

I walk a lot, do yoga, lift light weights and play golf.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

An accountant.

Is there a quote which defines you?

I save lawyers the most amount of taxes while keeping them out of jail.

Which book have you found most influential?

Mini habits.

Do you have any political aspirations?

NO!

Who do you admire most and why?

My dad.  He is always so kind, patient, a great golfer and laughs at all my jokes.

What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?

Finishing law school – even when it was tough.

What is the most beautiful/inspiring thing you’ve ever seen?

The ocean sunset.

How do you balance home and family life with your job?

I’m able to work from home and I take walking and golfing breaks.

Thank you very much for your time, Christina.

To find out more about Christina and her work at Lael Tax LLC, visit the Lael Tax LLC website.

The post The Rich Lawyer Interviews Christina Lael appeared first on The Rich Lawyer.

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