The Daily Lawyer is many things. He is a real person and a practicing lawyer at a biglaw firm. He is also a rare breed of practical philosopher, life coach and inspirational figure. Every day, he sacrifices valuable billable time to write for the audience he cares about most –lawyers and other people who like to read tips for lawyers. His daily tips aim to inspire excellence in the legal community and provide insight into the challenges real lawyers face. He has been lauded as someone who “drops truth bombs constantly.” He has also been called a “douche-canoe” who “has probably never practiced a day of law in his life.” Decide for yourself.
Lawyers will frequently find themselves tasked with sending reminder, follow-up or check-in emails to opposing counsel, in an act known as “pinging”. A masterwork of passive-aggression, the well-crafted opposing counsel ping email must simultaneously cast blame (“with reference to the comments expected several days ago”), convey extreme urgency (“please provide us with an update as soon as possible, as this matter is extraordinarily time-sensitive”) and highlight your own unimpeachable responsiveness (“we will revise immediately upon receipt and are happy to have a call to discuss at any time of the day or night”). Combining these three elements will often cause the recipient of the ping to respond rashly with a pledge to get the requested item to you in a timeframe they cannot possibly meet, thereby exposing themselves to another brutal pinging in the near future.
As a recently minted lawyer, you will spend a significant portion of your time on conference calls, often in a silent background role as partners and senior associates do the bulk of the talking. While you may not contribute much to the substance of these calls, one effective way to leave an impression is by having a strong presence during the moments when a call is ramping up and winding down. Proactively announcing your presence in detail (“This is Jim from the corporate team at Firm X, dialing in from our New York office”), aggressively keeping track of other entrants to the call (“Who just joined?”, “Did I just hear a beep?”), jumping in to flag unwanted noise (“Could whoever is in an airport please mute your line?”, “I’m hearing an echo—is anyone else hearing an echo?”) and joining in effusively as a call wraps (“Thanks so much everyone and have a really great weekend!”) are effective tactics that will quickly get you noticed by the higher-ups.
One of the great things about modern technology is that the billable hour can now happen anywhere and at any time, theoretically creating a lot of flexibility. You should therefore register for a bunch of extracurricular activities like office sports leagues, book clubs and stuff like that. You will find you never actually get to participate in any of these activities, but the sense of community involvement created by getting emails from these organizations will be well worth the registration fees.
Beginning an email with “my apologies” is a great way to ease a client through their frustration with a delay or mistake. However, I prefer to refer to a third party the client doesn’t know in such cases. For example, I would begin such an email, “With apologies from Dennis, . . .” Now, you are the hero fixing Dennis’s delay or mistake.
When reviewing documents, you will from time to time catch an obvious typo in another person’s work. A normal human would kindly correct the typo and not make a big deal out of it. But, now that you are a lawyer, you must behave differently. I recommend responding to such person by email, cc’ing their supervisors and colleagues and asking, “Was this intentional???” Now you are the rockstar.
As a lawyer, one of the only ways to carve off a little personal space in your day is to place a few fake meetings on your calendar and disappear during such times. The best way to do this is to title the fake meeting with a four letter abbreviation such as “HGFY – Meeting” or “PFNB – Meeting.” It can be any four letters, but it is important to use the abbreviation rather than an actual name because it provides those who manage your schedule with some plausible deniability as to where you are. I typically use these fake meeting timeslots to satisfy basic human needs like eating.
If you are on a conference call with a large group and you are directly asked a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t panic and simply sit in silence. Eventually, someone else in the group will chime in and then you simply say after they are done, “Apologies everyone, I was on mute and was talking to myself there for the last few minutes!” Then, say that you basically agree with what the person who chimed in had said, “subject to some caveats that are best taken offline.” Silly mute button. .
Image via Shutterstock