Wisdom of the best:
In my posting yesterday, I wrote about Professional Generosity. There is nothing more rewarding and little more personally satisfying, as a lawyer, than helping others—other lawyers individually, or through bar activities; presentations and roundtables; helping clients through training; and helping young lawyers through mentoring.
Over the next two days, I am going to offer you commentary from some of the finest lawyers in the country, men and woman who distinguish themselves in so many ways. In particular, I selected individuals who I know understand the concept of Professional Generosity, contributions of time and talent, gratis, to members of the bar, to the community, to clients and to others. If you don’t know these lawyers, your professional and personal life will be enhanced if you read their fine words and even more so, if you get to meet them.
I am lucky to call each one of them a friend.
I sent out a note to a few of them on this past weekend, knowing that they would share their wisdom on this topic with the many who have been reading this blog. Without exception, they each responded, immediately with a willingness to share. That’s who they are; and from their words, you’ll see that there are all kinds of ways to engage in professional generosity.
With one exception, that of Frank Ramos, whose words I offer first, I bless you with the advice of these sage lawyers, alphabetically:
Francisco (“Frank”) Ramos Jr. defines what it means to mentor young lawyers. He is truly one of a kind.
Frank is the managing partner of Clarke Silverglate, where he practices in the areas of commercial litigation, drug & medical device, products and catastrophic personal injury. In advance of the firm’s mission for its lawyers to be leaders and mentors, Frank has been President of the Florida Defense Lawyers Association and the 11th Judicial Historical Society and has served on the board of the Defense Research Institute, Florida International University’s Alumni Association, Florida International University’s Honors College, Parent to Parent of Miami, Miami-Dade Defense Bar Association, Miami Legal Services of Greater Miami and Florida Christian School.
More than that, there isn’t a single lawyer I know who has spent so much time in written and electronic media mentoring and guiding young lawyers. If you want to hear from someone who lives and breathes in the beauty of mentoring young lawyers, just look at his words:
Each of us, one day, will breathe our final breath. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be after a long life and we’ll be on our death bed surrounded by our loved ones. And in those final moments, we will look back and reflect on our life. And in those moments, we will not regret not billing more hours nor not spending more time at the office.
We will not think about our car, our house, our boat, or whatever other toys we accumulated. We will ask ourselves if we made a difference—a difference in the lives of others, in our community and in the world. We will reflect on whose lives we improved, whom we mentored and helped, whom we empowered, taught and encouraged.
I mentor because in my heart of hearts, I’m a selfish man. I mentor because the real value in life is not found in what we keep, but in what we give away. Real joy and peace doesn’t come from doing for yourself, but from doing for others. I mentor because I want joy and peace, and love and understanding to bubble over in my life. I do it for others, sure, but primarily, I do it for me, because the feeling I get when I help someone eclipses the feeling I get when I buy myself anything or do anything for myself. Find other lawyers and help them achieve their goals. It’s the most selfish thing you can do.
You can find Frank all over the Internet and LinkedIn. You can also reach him at [email protected].
Rina Carmel is a senior counsel in the Los Angeles office of Anderson, McPharlin & Conners LLP. Her practice focuses on insurance coverage and business litigation. She represents insurers in coverage litigation, defends extracontractual suits, analyzes coverage for complex claims, and counsels insurers on claims handling and regulatory compliance.
With the American Bar Association, she was the Founding Members of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee Publications Content Board and former Editor-in-Chief of Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee website. With the Defense Research Institute, she is the Chair of the National Publications Board and Publications Subcommittee Chair for its Insurance Law Committee. She reminds:
First, it’s not just payback (on page 1). It’s pay it forward. Take and return phone calls and emails from other lawyers. Maybe someone, even someone with more practice years under their belt, is looking for a 101 on how things work in your state, exemplar language, procedural guidance, or the name of a good attorney service. Be sure to volunteer tips on things they haven’t thought to ask about, because in other states, or in working with an unfamiliar type of policy, we often don’t know what we don’t know. We help not only each other, but the industry, when we spend time assisting other lawyers.
Rina’s contact information is [email protected].
Andrew (“Andy”) Downs, a partner in the San Francisco office of Bullivant Houser Bailey, P.C., has been litigating and counseling clients regarding complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation, including the defense of class actions, for over 35 years. He is licensed to practice in both California and Nevada and practices throughout both states, having appeared during the course of his career in over 30 different courts. Andy has served on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, and was the Program Chair for the Federation's 2015 Annual Meeting. He also served as Chair of the Federation's Social Media Committee and was its voice on Twitter. Andy is a Fellow of the American College of Coverage Counsel and currently serves on its Board of Regents.
Andy’s offers a discussion on what he calls, “internal professional generosity”
[T}his involves leading from the front, or what some call servant leadership. Given the caste system in law firms between those with licenses and those without them, the newer lawyer has two choices, reinforcing that caste system or undermining it. My vote is for undermining it. Treat everyone equally. Recognize your assistant and paralegal are smarter than you in a number of areas critical to your success. Again, this isn’t about you—it’s about building loyalty and avoiding resentment. And, it will pay tremendous dividends.
With everything we do, we should seek to leave things in a better condition than when we found them.
Never ask someone else to do something you’re unwilling to do yourself (and if you don’t know how to do it, learn). In the old days of paper filings, all newer litigation lawyers handled a filing at the courthouse, at least once, because the newer lawyer would then have a greater understanding of all the things that must happen after he or she hands off the “completed” pleading to a staff member.
Two examples. My firm’s SF office recently ran out of private offices and in the short term, space expansion is not an option. Someone had to become itinerant. As the senior most full time lawyer in the office, I could have gotten away with not giving up my corner office, taking down my “I love me wall” and becoming itinerant on the days I’m in the office. But, I volunteered to do so—when lawyers and staff see a senior shareholder who just termed out of management after almost 8 years, give that up, it’s easier for less senior lawyers to make similar sacrifices, knowing that we’re not simply treating them poorly so the shareholders can make more money, but instead we’re sharing the necessary pain equitably.
The second example comes for serving as national level meet official for United States Swimming. I put in well over 500 unpaid hours per year officiating swim meets with athletes from five years old to well-known Olympians (and I’ve officiated both in the last two weeks). I started years ago because my daughter’s team needed to contribute an official; I continue to do it long after she switched to water polo.
I get no business directly from doing this, but I’ve met a lot of great people who are neither lawyers nor insurance claims people and I’ve learned many psychological concepts that make me a better lawyer and a better person. And, I’ve found clients and professional acquaintances across the country who are also in the competitive swimming world because their children do or did swim. This has a tremendous humanizing and bonding impact—I was able to provide a client with a swimmer being recruited to a D1 college with information from a parent I know as a fellow official who has a child competing at that college—and I’ve never had a client get upset when I tell them they’ll have to wait an extra day or two for work product because I’m off officiating a swim meet. You truly get back what you invest.
Andy, by the way, was the lawyer who introduced me to Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected].
Ann Evanko is President and Managing Member of Hurwitz & Fine, P.C. Her primary areas of practice are Employment Law & Commercial Litigation. She advises clients on all aspects of employment law issues and defends employers in the full range of litigated matters including claims of discrimination, employment contract disputes and covenants not-to-compete.
Ann is identified by Buffalo’s Business First as one of the most powerful and influential people in Western New York, named to both the “Power 250” list which recognizes the men and women who “wield the most clout in the region,” as well as the “Power 100 Women” list which showcases the region’s most influential and powerful women. In 2016, Business First honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Women of Influence for her contributions to the community, to the women focused charitable organizations she champions and to the firm, and previously recognized her with the inaugural Business First “Women Who Mean Business” Award. She writes:
My partner, Dan Kohane, is a brilliant lawyer, delightful and intuitive teacher, superb partner and friend, and a compassionate contributor to a better community for all of us. I say this with some authority as Dan and I went to law school together and have practiced law together in the same firm for almost 40 years.
What makes him unique? Certainly, an inquisitive intellect. But it is the compassion for others that stands out—he freely provides advice and counsel to his clients, his students and colleagues. He freely volunteers his time with no expectation of anything in return. He wants you to be as good as he is—that’s why judges seek out his advice and wise counsel. They know it will be grounded in truth.
And, yet, what is provided to him in return are graces beyond expectation. He is the premier insurance coverage expert who is highly regarded throughout the country and abroad—everyone knows him because he has given of himself over the years.
When others tell him they “have a situation” he responds immediately. He advises and does not concern himself with, “what’s in it for me?” People trust what he has to say because there is only honesty and integrity at the core of his work—nothing to entice or manipulate under false pretenses.
When one gives of oneself, for the right reasons, one experiences unexpected gifts. Others start to talk about you as the key person to consult with, or the “go-to” person, or the authority on the subject. Or, simply, that even if he knows not the answer, he knows who to put you in contact with to get you the help you need.
It happens not immediately, but over time.
I have always been involved in the community since I was a very young girl because I grew up in a family that naturally gave to others. I was actively involved in giving back through high school and college. Then, as a 2 L and 3 L as those terms are used today, I gave back to the law school by serving as a research and writing instructor when no stipend was provided. As I took on more and more responsibilities, I felt I had less and less to give. Once I joined Hurwitz & Fine, I worried even more about the ever-increasing demands on my time, deadlines, and partner expectations. I felt I couldn’t breathe, so I renewed my yoga practice. I reconnected with the YWCA of WNY with whom I had volunteered as a teen and throughout college and graduate school. I became a founder of the WNY Chapter of the Womens’ Bar Association of the State of New York because I found friendship among other young women professionals. I also thought it important to drive social change through legislative change.
I became a mother.
As more and more demands were made of me, I gave more and more. What I found most interesting is that the more I gave, selflessly, the more I received in return. I attracted clients, I attracted awards, and I attracted and built an expertise that has served my clients and firm well over the years. This would not have happened if I stayed glued to my desk, said “no” more often than not, and lived a reclusive life showing up on email or text (eventually) rather than meeting with clients, developing relationships, or talking with them, speaking or writing in publications or industry events.
I am a strong proponent of understanding and learning the art of “yes” and the art of “no.” We have to set priorities in our lives. That means saying “no” to things that we are not aligned with, and saying “yes” to things that resonate with our core beliefs.
Women cannot have it all—but they can and do and should make choices. And the choices we make will drive our success. It will not be perfect. But I assure you, without giving to our community and to our profession, we will have an unbalanced life. Try it. Surprise yourself. You will learn more about others than sitting in your office. And they will value what you have to give.
Ann can be contacted at [email protected].
Tomorrow, we will feature additional insight from attorneys across the country about what being professionally generous means.