The topic this week is PROFESSIONAL GENEROSITY. This one is so important that I’ve broken it down into several days. Today’s observations are my own. The rest of the week will include the wisdom of good friends, lawyers that many of you either should know or do know and they are some of the most professionally generous lawyers I know from around the country. I asked them to share their views and they were delighted to help educate young lawyers and law firms in the importance of giving back.
For those who came in late to this discussion, this will be the eleventh+ chapter in my non-scientific, experience marketing blog for young lawyers. As many have said to me, the topics discussed, and the suggestions provided are equally applicable to more “mature” (avoiding the politically-incorrect “older”) lawyers, who like “mature” dogs, can learn new tricks. I appreciate the wonderful feedback from so many, publicly and privately.
I believe—and my colleagues who will add views tomorrow beleve that as a lawyer, we have an obligation to help others. Yes, there may be mandatory pro bono rules that may apply in your jurisdiction. I wasn’t thinking about those, in this context. I was talking about our duty and responsibility to help those in our professional community.
You are fortunate. If you are a young defense lawyer working for a firm, or behind a shingle, you are, hopefully, gainfully employed, with a roof over your head and food on the table. A paycheck comes in with some regularity and you work in pleasant surroundings, with people you like and who are kind enough to send you some regular (or irregular) business. We are indeed a fortunate profession; it’s good clean and interesting work and comes from insurance companies, corporate clients or individuals who need our services. Indeed, we are happy to provide good legal counsel for fair compensation and work with other lawyers in our community, state and around the country who share similar attributes.
I say to you, from my soapbox, “that’s not enough.” I challenge you to be professionally generous, if you are not already so. It’s the right thing to do and, while it isn’t the reason to do it, you will benefit professionally by doing so.
What is “professional generosity”? I found a great definition from an Exter, UK Early Years Foundation Stage school teacher, Sarah Vickery, @Sarah_L_Vickery
What is professional generosity? It’s the exchanging of ideas (networks, forums, symposiums, conferences), being generous with your own ideas and time, building relationships to share information, connecting and collaborating with other people in your field of work.
As a lawyer, we can do all that, using our time and talents to help those in our profession as well as those we represent. These are not activities for which we send a bill. This is our payback for the wonderful contributions these organizations, and those they represent give to us. For example:
Assist Industry Organizations:
Do you know the trade organizations representing those in the insurance industry? Those folks put bread in our breadbox. Professional generosity suggests easy quid pro quo. Ask yourself, what have you done for them lately, or ever? You’d be delighted to know that many would love your help. I work with several, in New York State, and nationally and all the things I suggest here we’ve done countless times. And, by the way, do not charge for any of these things!
How do I help them? How can you? The links below tie this blog into previous ones.
- Work behind the scenes, where they need your help. This isn’t about YOU, it’s about THEM. Let them know you are available to assist in any of the ways described here or otherwise. If they have membership opportunities for lawyers or law firms, join. If they publish, advertise from time to time.
- Present at their conferences—both live and by webinar—on topics of timely interest. [that’s me, second from the right].
- Write for their publications. Let them know of new cases, new trends, new developments and write articles and alerts they can use with or without attribution. As an information resource, your finger on the pulse on judicial pronouncements and legislative agenda can be invaluable.
- See if they need help in drafting or evaluating legislation or assistance in developing position papers for or against bills under consideration. The organization may not appreciate the nuance in proposed legislative language.
- Offer to participate in roundtables, discussion groups, committees, etc.
- Help plan their programs or conferences, offer to assist in finding speakers (from, yes, OTHER law firms) to cover topics of interest. I’ve been working with one particular national organization, as a planning committee member for its national claims conference, for the past 11 years. During the year, I am delighted to help their staff lawyers work through sticky legal issues These folks have become great friends, as well (and they occasionally speak well of me to their carrier members who are looking for counsel).
Assist your sisters and brothers at the bench and bar:
Professional generosity means helping those who might otherwise consider competitors or opponents and doing the same for the judiciary. When is the last time you volunteered to speak at a local, regional or state bar association CLE on a topic in which you have developed considerable expertise and concentration, especially, if it is a subject about which you have passion?
Other than the traditional city, county or state bar associations, there are other very valuable professional organizations that may well need your talents and participation. Work on committees, help with planning, assist with publications. A couple of years back, a judge called for advice on a tricky no fault insurance coverage issue with which he was grappling. (Yes, even judges and their law clerks can lean on you from time to time, if they know you are willing to assist.) After taking him through the paces on the issue, he asked whether I would be willing to speak at a local chapter meeting of American Inns of the Court because, he believed, that many judges—and the lawyers appearing in their courtrooms—had either struggled with this issue or had misapplied or misunderstood the law. The program was very well attended and well received, with many lawyers, judges and judicial law clerks in attendance. Organizations like DRI, FDCC, IADC, ADTA, ABA/TIPS and ABOTA and others need you as much as you need them. If you don’t know those organizations, you should!
Join, participate and give of your time and talents to national defense organizations. Remember, this is about them, not about you. Don’t expect to be up on the national stage at your first or second meeting, by the way. Toil in the fields; again, participate in committees; help in program marketing; do the grunt work; demonstrate to others that you fulfill your commitments by doing exactly what you have promised to do and, most importantly, set your ego aside and have an “organization-first” mentality.
Assist the local media:
The print and broadcast press need help in recognizing, understanding and reporting on breaking stories. Develop a reputation for assisting the media in areas where you have an interest and special knowledge. If you’re a product liability maven, let them know when an important decision comes out of an appellate court, or a significant trial is about to start in your jurisdiction or elsewhere. Help them put a new statute in context so that they can understand its important and report accurately. Soon you will become a reported and quoted information resource, which will add to the respect in which others hold you.