Morgan Lewis Brings Bingham Lawyers Into Leadership Fold

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In the span of two days, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius made changes to leadership in nine of the firm’s 28 offices, with many of the changes adding a recently hired Bingham McCutchen partner to co-lead with an existing Morgan Lewis managing partner.

The moves are part of Morgan Lewis’ overall effort to integrate the more than 500 lawyers who joined the firm in a mass lateral move from Bingham on Nov. 24. Along with including Bingham attorneys on the firmwide management committee and making office leadership changes, Morgan Lewis has also charged its legacy attorneys with serving as a “buddy” to Bingham lawyers to help them in the transition.

Jami Wintz McKeon, who took over as chairwoman of Morgan Lewis in October, has plenty of experience with integration, instituting similar programs at the firm when she helped bring 150 Brobeck Phleger & Harrison attorneys on board more than a decade ago.

McKeon said in a statement to The Legal on Jan. 23 that the firm regularly changes office leadership roles, and often at the start of a new year.

“This year, in addition to making those changes, we decided to add co-managing partners in those cities where we have many new colleagues, and in particular, in offices that have grown considerably in size,” McKeon said. “This is good both for integration purposes and also because it lets us take advantage of new talent in our firm.”

McKeon said the firm has also added new practice leaders, in some instances because the firm gained new practices in the deal and in other instances because Morgan Lewis wanted to increase leadership in practices significantly expanded by the Bingham additions.

“One of the areas that we are the most focused on is a seamless integration and, in our experience, we have found that the buddy system is a great way to welcome new colleagues,” McKeon said. “I am happy to say the buddy system is up and running and we have received very positive feedback on it.”


Joseph Altonji of LawVision Group in Chicago said integration is critical whether it be a one-off lateral partner or a merger, though with slightly different approaches. And unfortunately, he said, it is often something that is an afterthought for firms, getting little consideration until after a deal is done.

Altonji said he isn’t a huge fan of co-leadership positions, at least for a long period of time, because it confuses things and can diffuse responsibilities. That is particularly the case at the practice leadership level, he said, where a merger that does not include office overlap could see integration stifled when co-leaders of a practice stick to managing their respective, legacy territories.

Office leadership is more of an administrative role than a strategic function, he said, making co-leadership of an office seem like job multiplication. Though he again noted that it is important to get new lawyers in such a large acquisition into leadership positions, he cautioned that it shouldn’t be joint leadership for an extended period.

“I would focus on trying to get to integration first, efficiency second and ultimately clarity on who is responsible for what fairly quickly,” Altonji said.

As to the timeframe for the co-leadership positions, McKeon said in her statement to The Legal that “the roles do change on a regular basis, but we plan on maintaining dual managing partners in our offices where it makes the most sense for the near term at least.”

As McKeon noted, Morgan Lewis has created dual office leadership in some of its largest offices, such as Washington, D.C., where it has 400 lawyers, and New York, where there are 300 lawyers.

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China’s Biggest Law Firm Nears Deal With Dentons


The largest law firm in mainland China has struck a deal to combine forces with Dentons, an expansion-minded global law firm, a novel tie-up that could signal a growing desire by Chinese officials to give their fast-growing companies easier access to Western markets.

But it comes at a time when other ventures by Western firms in China have often proved unprofitable, partly because China places strict restrictions on Western lawyers working in the country. This week, New York-based international firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP said it would effectively shut down its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices after about a little less than a decade in Asia.

In the deal, which has been approved by the partnerships of both firms, Dentons has agreed to combine with Dacheng, a firm of approximately 4,000 lawyers spread mostly throughout China.

Dentons, a firm known for its bankruptcy and mergers-and-acquisitions practices, among others, is itself the product of several mergers in recent years. It was formed in 2013 by the three-way merger of Canada-based Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP; Salans, a firm founded in Paris with offices throughout Europe; and SNR Denton, the product of a 2010 cross-Atlantic merger.

The combined firm, with over 6,500 lawyers spread across more than 50 countries, would be the largest law firm in the world, by lawyer head count. The deal proposal awaits approval from Chinese regulators, which management teams from both firms expect as soon as early next week.

Dentons, which represents a roster of large multinational companies, including Coca-Cola Co. , Total SA and HSBC HoldingsPLC, had revenue of about $1.3 billion in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.

MergerIn recent years, Dacheng has represented a host of big Chinese companies, including China Railway Construction Corp. , China Development Bank and Sunshine Insurance Group Corp. Revenue figures for the firm weren’t available.

For decades, Western lawyers in China have generally been barred from appearing in court or from appearing in front of the government—restrictions that often lead Western firms to hire “local” Chinese counsel to handle issues inside the country.

“It’s an extremely difficult place for Western firms to practice and to practice profitably,” said legal consultant Brad Hildebrandt.

But the Dentons-Dacheng deal, if approved, will allow Dentons clients access to a stable of lawyers cleared to practice in China without hiring another firm, according to Joseph Andrew, the global chair of Dentons.

The firm involves an increasingly common structure known as a verein, an association between partnerships that share a common name, but remain financially independent. The only other combination between a Chinese and a Western firm—the 2012 deal between King & Wood, based in Beijing, and Australia’s Mallesons Stephen Jaques—was also structured as a verein.

Law-firm mergers, even those following the looser verein structure, sometimes suffer from insurmountable cultural differences or other problems—such as approaches to partner pay. Deals that span time zones and involve language barriers can be especially tricky to pull off. Another possible issue, according to some law-firm experts: worry by some clients that sensitive information passed to firm lawyers may fall into the hands of Chinese competitors, or even the Chinese government.

A spokeswoman for Dentons said that the firm has developed a “comprehensive” cybersecurity approach, and that “only lawyers and professionals who need to know the client’s business…will be able to access client information necessary to collaborate in serving the client.” The firm will be known as Dentons outside China and Dacheng inside China. The firm’s logo will include the Chinese characters for Dacheng, followed by the Dentons name.

Mr. Andrew said the deal would give the firm’s clients “unparalleled access” into an economy that has witnessed explosive growth over the past decade—and stands poised to keep growing.

The president of Dacheng, Peng Xuefeng, said that the deal would bring the firm’s clients in much closer touch with the rest of the world. “Now is the time for Chinese enterprises to go outbound, to invest in the rest of the world,” he said.

Top Litigation Firms by Law School Pedigree


Lawyers as a group dislike uncertainty, and “prestige”—whether of schools or firms—serves as an organizing principle and social validator, letting everyone know where they stand. The lawyer hive mind consistently orders itself in precise ways: consider how the U.S. News “T14” is basically set in stone and how the Vault rankings remain remarkably stable year after year. As late as 2015, Biglaw remains as clubby as Bertie Wooster.

There are two broad ways to think about this phenomenon:

  1. The practitioners of law at the highest level exist in a sort of closed loop and that is how it should be. The filter of “prestige” is a necessary thing. While the most talented and capable people will presumably succeed regardless, we need some way to differentiate among the rest. But when a person’s talent level is fundamentally unknowable, prestige might not be a perfect tool, but it is what we have. The assumption that one must be doing something right in order to become associated with prestigious institutions is rational.
  2. This obsession with credentialism is harmful to the profession. This nebulous concept of “prestige” is too dubious a metric upon which to base the choice of a school or employer.

Whichever camp you fall in, there is no gainsaying the outsized role prestige plays in both the educational and professional wings of the legal industry.

A glance at these rankings shows that boutiques dominate the top of the list, “outperforming” their larger competitors in terms of credentials. Of course, some might say it’s inapt to compare boutiques and Biglaw as they have such distinct recruitment models. (For example, large firms don’t have to fill up summer associate classes.) Yet if Biglaw serves as the talent funnel for the high-end boutiques, then either the prestige of law school really does correlate with eventual attorney quality OR the boutiques are as beholden to the entrenched credentialism as the rest of the profession, only maybe more so.



Attorney Count

Median Rank

Mean School IQR

1 Bancroft PLLC 15 2 4.8
2 Willenken Wilson 13 4 3.9
3 Kellogg Huber 69 4 4.5
4 Bartlit Beck 79 4 6.0
5 Lankler Siffert 26 4 6.3
6 Morvillo Abramowitz 35 6 5.1
7 Keker & Van Nest 82 6 5.9
8 Williams & Connolly 117 7 6.4
9 Covington & Burling 401 8 7.5
10 Bird Marella 35 8 8.1
11 Boies, Schiller & Flexner 227 8 12.2
12 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher 490 9 9.2
13 Zuckerman Spaeder 76 9.5 9.8
14 Yetter Coleman 32 10 10.4
15 MoloLamken 22 10 10.9
16 Jenner & Block 257 10 11.6
17 Morrison & Foerster 380 10 11.6
18 Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan 201 10 13.5
19 Goldman Ismail 18 11 9.6
20 Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr 633 12 12.9
21 Kobre & Kim 45 13 14.0
22 Weisbrod Matteis 19 13 14.2
23 Hughes Hubbard & Reed 218 13 16.1
24 Gibbs & Bruns 32 15 15.0
25 Arnold & Porter 399 15 16.4
26 Beck Redden 46 15 28.0
27 Paul Hastings 347 16 16.9
28 Horvitz & Levy 36 16 17.4
29 Browne George 14 16 17.5
30 Crowell & Moring 277 20 20.8
31 Fish & Richardson 266 20 23.6
32 Alston & Bird 398 20 24.3
33 Steptoe & Johnson 308 20 24.6
34 Winston & Strawn 514 20 26.2
35 Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner 283 20 27.4
36 Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell 289 27 31.3
37 Bickel & Brewer 44 28 34.8
38 Kilpatrick Townsend & Stocktown 288 29 25.2
39 Faeger Baker Daniels 356 29 31.7
40 Barnes & Thornburg 292 29 41.9
41 McKenna Long & Aldridge 268 36 38.0
42 Levine Lee 10 36 39.7
43 Baker & Hostetler 456 36 41.3
44 Lee Tran & Liang 30 38 34.1
45 Pepper Hamilton 291 49 43.8
46 Jackson Lewis LLP 252 56 57.0
47 Blank Rome 285 61 59.3
48 Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart 401 61 60.1


Can Millennials Disrupt The Biglaw Status Quo Bias Toward Diversity?

We’ll never be younger than we are today. Our youth and prime of life are fleeting. As George Bernard Shaw famously declared, “youth is wasted on the young.” Our generation, the Millennials, is said to be the most racially tolerant of any generation. However, we may not be Diverse Attorneysas racially tolerant as the media triumphs, or as we are led to believe. Still, in 2009 45% of Millennials believed in “improving the position of blacks and other minorities ‘even if it mean[t] giving them preferential treatment.’” Contrast our support with Gen Xers (30%), Boomers (27%), and the Silent Generation (25%) and you might believe our belief system and social construction could be quite different than of those before us. As Brian Easter, CEO of Nebo Agency, asks, “So the question is… can Millennials’ beliefs be turned into actions? Or, like the pigs of Animal Farm, will they become what they despise?” Of the 223 firms The American Lawyer surveyed, minorities account for just 14.1% of all attorneys. Among partners, only 7.6% are minorities. According to NALP, only 5.4% of partners at the 200 largest firms are minorities. In other words, 92-94% of Biglaw partners are white. When it comes to diversity in the legal profession, the status quo is our enemy. How can we best deal with this reality? We must begin to ask the hard questions if we want to understand the true causes. We should strive to discover the most optimal ways to influence change in the industry. As agents of change, our success is incumbent upon those willing to swim upstream, against the current. Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer at Acumen Fund, has highlighted four things that are necessary for social change to happen. He derived these four keys from a speech by Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson’s TED talk about America’s justice system has attracted more than two million views and “inspired one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in TED history.” As noted by Dichter, Stevenson states the four things required for social change are:

  1. We need to get proximate to injustice. “The only solutions that work are the ones that are developed when one has an up-close view of a problem.”
  2. Change the narrative. “What is really going on when, say, a 14 year old black boy lashes out and throws a book at a teacher? Is the solution to incarcerate that child or to ask what happens to a child who has lived for 14 years surrounded by violence?”
  3. Keep hopeful. “We give up on issues that we believe are hopeless, wrongs that we tell ourselves simply cannot be righted. ‘Injustice prevails when hopelessness persists.’”
  4. Do uncomfortable things. “Whether it is the people who led or joined the civil rights movement (or any other movement that created large-scale change), each and every person made a decision at a critical juncture that they were willing to be uncomfortable and put themselves on the line.”

Change rarely consists of an episodic narrative, but rather it often takes a critical mass or impassioned minority over time to invoke a difference. There are early adapters to every disruptive technology, activism is no different. As Robert Louis Stevens once said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”


Anything we accomplish will be because we have stood on the shoulders of giants. Anything the generation after us accomplishes or strives to accomplish can help be determined by us, and those that came before us, as well. Perhaps Bob Marley captures this idea the best when he sings, “Rise up fallen fighters. Rise and take your stance again…. As a man sow, shall he reap, and I know that talk is cheap. But the heat of the battle is as sweet as the victory.” Many people, especially in my generation, misconstrue Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. (cash rules everything around me) philosophy to mean that one’s own ultimate goal should be the almighty dollar. But as RZA has stated, “‘C.R.E.A.M.’ really says what we went through to get this money. And cash does rule everything around me, but it don’t rule me. That’s how come we got it. It’s good because we came from the bottom of the bottomless pit. . . . when Wu-Tang came together, we vowed brotherhood to each other. When you stick together with your brothers, man, you can’t lose.” Last Sunday, numerous minorities were nominated and awarded Golden Globes from the film industry, a notoriously tough industry for minorities to break through (e.g., #OscarsSoWhite). Just as 94% of partners at the largest 200 largest firms are white, so too 94% of Oscar voters are white — only 2% are black and 2% are Latino. The Oscar Academy Awards won’t nearly be as diverse as the Golden Globes Awards. Correlation or causation? Remember my theorem? Anyways, three speeches at the Golden Globes really caught my attention. The speakers were diverse, but the message was singular. Just as Wu-Tang preached brotherhood, so too did the speakers reiterate the same sentiment — we are all our brother’s keeper. In her inaugural appearance, Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy. In her acceptance speech, Rodriguez declared, “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to be seen as heroes.” Backstage, Rodriguez teared up and stated “the nomination alone was a win for me because it allowed Latinos to see themselves in a beautiful light…. We are dealing with a society that is so diverse, so beautiful and so human. We need to remember that we have the same stories, and see it as such.” Fargo was awarded the Golden Globe award for best TV movie or TV mini-series Sunday night. Creator Noah Hawley said the award was a tribute to “the heart of what Fargo is about – that you can change the world, not through grand acts of heroism, but just by being decent to people…. As Marge Gunderson [Fargo’s main character] so eloquently put it: ‘There’s more to life than a little money, you know.’” Selma’s “Glory” won the Global Globe for best original score in a motion picture. In his acceptance speech, Common proclaimed, “As I got to know the people of the civil rights movement, I realized, I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity… Now is our time to change the world, Selma is now.” Accidental activists do not exist. We cannot hope our way to change. Diversity needs to be fought for, it needs a voice. As Common raps in “Glory,” “No one can win the war individually. It takes the wisdom of the elders’ and young peoples’ energy.” Can Millennials disrupt the Biglaw status quo bias toward diversity? Yes, we can, and we will.

Litchfield Cavo Logo

Litchfield Cavo is Shaking Up the Law Firm Experience

Flexibility is the name of the game for Chicago-based firm, Litchfield Cavo.  In 1998, Litchfield Cavo was formed by a group of attorneys who were frustrated by the structures and policies of the typical American law firm.  The founding partners felt some firms of the time lacked synergy and true ambition for the future.  They sought to create a firm focused solely on client service in the areas of defense litigation, business litigation, and insurance coverage on behalf of the insurers which streamlined the legal process.  They soon realized they had created a firm culture which was highly desired in the legal community.

The firm soon grew from a small group of attorneys with a dream to the National Law Journal ranked firm of today.  The members of the firm grew their ranks by networking with attorneys they believed would thrive in their culture and business model.  Alan Becker, the firm’s Managing Partner, recently told Nancy Grimes, a legal recruiter for GLI, “the type of professional who is often interested in the firm is an up and coming partner in another firm who has begun to develop business but whose firm bases compensation on seniority.”  In situations such as these, attorneys feel undervalued and feel less obligated to perform excellent work.  Often attorneys in situations like this thrive in a business model such as Litchfield Cavo’s because they are able to perform superb work for their clients while they are compensated accordingly.

Litchfield Cavo operates as a meritocracy.  The leaders of the firm value contributions more than the age or reputation of an attorney because they want to see results.  In this firm where partners outweigh associates, the youngest partner can be the highest earning.  Compensation is transparent and determined based on contributions to the firm.  This approach allows the firm to be effectively entrepreneurial and appealing to potential attorneys.

Office Staff

Another characteristic of Litchfield Cavo which goes with their flexibility is their agility and lightning speed reaction time when special circumstances dictate it.  Becker takes pride in the firm’s terrific support staff, which is able to provide quick turn-around.  Just last year, the firm was able to add a team member and provide them with their own email address, office and support staff in just a matter of days.  Becker attributes much of the firm’s flexibility to the office staff who makes it all possible.  Becker says that he is focused on recruiting and developing the best office support possible for his firm.

Apart from the firm’s flexibility, the firm also enjoys stability.  The firm does not try to tempt fate by adding new offices; they simply open new offices as they are needed.  The offices are then built up through networking.  Typically, a chain reaction begins with a new hire: the attorney becomes a part of the firm, is impressed with the firm’s management and culture, calls other attorneys they know to tell them about the firm, and the firm makes another new hire through the networking process.

An additional stabilizing factor is the firm’s lack of debt.  The firm is completely self-capitalized, apart from office lease obligations.  This lack of debt allows its members to have comfort in knowing there is a Litchfield Cavo office today and there will be tomorrow.

Unlike so many other firms where the Managing Partners seem to be viewed as the “Great and Alan BeckerPowerful Oz,” Becker ensures he is personally involved in the decision making for all new employees.  If the recruit is in Chicago, Becker personally does the first interview.  He also participates in a teleconference interview for those who are not local.  Since Becker’s implementation of an electronic voting and partner nomination system, the firm can guarantee quick firm-wide decisions.  The firm’s flexibility also expands into their two-tiered partnership.  The firm is able to quickly bring new members on board who will be participating partners.  Qualified candidates may also come aboard as capital partners, although the interviewing process is more extended.

Becker believes the most challenging part of being a managing partner is maintaining the firm’s overall profitability.  He understands the more the firm makes, the more the firm’s partners will make.  Alan Becker has been the Managing Partner of the firm since its inception in 1998.  On top of managing the firm, Becker also maintains a full case load.  He believes that no matter what other responsibilities he has, his clients always deserve his best service.



11 Health And Fitness Apps That Achieve Top Results

It’s 2015. It’s time to take your future and your health into your own hands. No, literally. Fitness and nutrition is now readily available at the touch of a button thanks to the numerous health and exercise apps available for your smart phone. But with hundreds of thousands out there to choose from, it’s hard to be motivated to pick one, let alone actually put it to use. Not to fear. Here are the top 11 hand-selected health and fitness apps proven to be the most effective in terms of execution and, of course, results.

1. Cody

It’s like Facebook for fitness. Cody offers users inside connections to a fitness community where they can share and complete workouts by following new and old friends. This app allows people to track their own progress through a timeline and other users can like and comment on your daily workout activity. So, all you gym goers that like to videotape each other working out daily can congregate in one place!

Cost: Free. Available for iOS.

2. Hot5 Fitness

Hot5 Fitness app offers high quality step-by-step workouts led by the top trainers in the industry. From abs and core to yoga and flexibility and everything in between, Hot5 contains pages and pages of 5-minute video workouts of every variety and difficulty level. Whether you’re looking for a quick 5-minute core blasting after a long run or a full 45-minute yoga session in your hotel room, this app offers something for everyone. It is incredibly simple to use with a beautifully designed and user-friendly interface. Even the least tech savvy person will be able to navigate this app in no time. Best part? No WiFi needed! You can literally do it anywhere.

Cost: Free for limited use or 2.99/ month for unlimited access. Available for iOS.

3. Pact

For those who value money as incentive, this one’s for you. Formerly known as GymPact, this app encourages users to put their money where their mouth is. Users pledge a set number of days they plan to workout that week along with an amount of money they must put up. Users must pay for each day they miss, but they get paid every time they complete a workout. Pact now features the option to connect with other tracking apps. A nutritional option is now available, too. Commit to eating healthy or pay the consequences.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.

4. Carrot Fit

If you’re not into all the fluff and puff, this may be a good option for you. But be aware, this app is not for the feint of heart. Think less cheerleader, more fitness drill sergeant. A judgmental weight tracker, this CARROT character dishes out harsh criticisms to those wanting to drop pounds. With thick sarcasm and motivational smack talk, users must drop a pound to learn new workout tips. While it may not come free (it costs 2.99), carrot does promise that losing weight will ‘suck so much less.’

Cost: $2.99. Available for iOS.

5. Human

For those seeking a more casual approach to exercise, this might be further up your alley. Human simply encourages you to reach your “Daily 30”—30 minutes of physical activity—whatever that may be for you. Whether it’s running, dancing, or doing jumping jacks, all that matters is that you are being active for 30 consecutive minutes at a time. Human will track your movements and let you know when you’ve achieved your goal for the day.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS.

6. Moves

This one serves as a reminder that all those little steps add up. This pedometer tracks your day, minute by minute, and gives you a summary of all your movements, steps, stairs, and even pedals. It calculates your calories burned and presents it as an easy to read timeline to keep things simple and distraction free.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS.

7. LoseIt

This one basically does all the work for you. (Well, maybe not ALL the work). It does create a specific weight loss plan custom for you and your busy life, though. Think of it as having a personal trainer and nutritionist at your disposal at all times. Just plug in your weight loss and general health goals, et voila! Not only does it track your calories, it gives you a barcode scanner to get more specific with what you are consuming, focusing more on nutritional value in addition to just calorie intake. It connects to other apps and devices as well to make it extra handy.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS, Android, Nook, and Kindle.

8. Noom Weight Loss Coach

Noom combines a pedometer and a nutritional coach into one. It allows the user to log meals and workouts, while it simultaneously counts your steps throughout the day. Not only does it offer positive encouragement, but it sends you wellness articles as well as nutritional recipes to keep you on track and away from boredom. The food in the database is all color coded, teaching the user which foods are healthy and which foods are not so much.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.

9. Healthy Out

Want to enjoy a night out without the guilt? Now you can. Healthy Out gives you nutritional labels and healthy options at all of your favorite restaurants. Find your restaurant and then specify your restriction or nutritional need, whether it be fat free, gluten free, heart healthy, or a specific diet like Atkins or Paleo. This app can suggest modifications to dishes or break down the calories, carbs, fat etc.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.

To download, click here.

10. Zipongo

We know how expensive it can be to eat healthy. This app is perfect for those wanting to eat clean on a budget. It alerts the user of digital coupons and weekly in-store items on sale to help keep your diet and your wallet on track. It also has a database of ‘GO foods’ that are recommended for their vitamins and nutrients.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and coming soon to Android.

11. Mindshift

Mindshift is a health coach app designed to offer people struggling with anxiety a way out. Both adults and teens alike can learn from their strategies and advice about coping with anxiety in both social and professional situations. It aims to change the way the user thinks about anxiety. Instead of trying to run from the situation, you can learn to face it.

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.


Learning How to Become a Leader

By: Dorie Clark

As we rise into leadership roles, it’s not always easy to walk the talk. Of course, we want to be wise sages, counseling our charges and inspiring them to greatness. But that’s easier said than done. The challenge was particularly acute for Karl Allen, co-founder and CEO of Planet Jockey, a company that creates management courses in the form of online games. He knew it would be a sad irony if the head of a company selling leadership games wasn’t much of a leader, himself. So he vowed to step up – and here are the lessons he learned through playing his company’s games and vowing to become the right kind of CEO.

Recognize where you’re starting. Planet Jockey’s game teaches the principles of “buoyant leadership” – what Allen describes as “a concept whereby, as a leader, you float [on top] because the people you lead believe you deserve it.” (The concept is discussed in depth in a book called The Case of the Missing Cutlery by Kevin Allen, Karl’s partner in business and life.) But Karl recognizes that while buoyancy is the goal, he won’t always be perfect. “I can do it at times,” he says. “But sometimes [negative] instinct takes over, and it takes over really fast.” These days, he can recognize when he feels his temper rising at work, and can guide himself back into a more inspirational mode of leadership.Lets talk

Say what you mean. In evaluating his leadership style, Karl Allen recognized that sometimes in the past, he’s prioritized being ‘nice’ – which has driven him to avoid saying what he really means. That doesn’t serve anyone, he’s concluded. He recalls one incident where he felt one of Planet Jockey’sUdemy classes wasn’t gaining traction fast enough. The best possible reaction, he says, would have been to tell his staffer, “You’re doing an amazing job, and I’ve got a great idea for all the ways we can grow further.” He also could have directly discussed the critiques he had of the marketing. Instead, he recalls, “I phoned her up and said, ‘I think we’re really dropping the ball.’ It’s passive-aggressive, because when I say ‘we,’ I mean ‘you.’ And that’s terrible and destructive.” Planet Jockey’s games have helped him to realize where he went wrong.

Meetings are critical. One of the areas where Allen knows he fell short initially was in running staff meetings. “Before, I’d just get everyone into a meeting and start chatting and people would shout at me and I’d shout back at them,” he recalls. “What I learned after playing the game is that you need some rules. It’s not just about inspiring people; meetings need to be structured. For instance, you need smaller meetings, so you should try to limit it to 6-8 people. That way you know you can get to hear everybody’s point of view and everyone gets a chance to talk.” Overall, he says, “You need to know what needs to come out of the meeting, and have a clear sense of who’s there and why they’re there.magnifying talent

Search for hidden talents. Early on, says Allen, he would sometimes take too narrow a view of what others could contribute. “The game taught me that people within your team have a lot more to offer than sometimes you realize,” he says. As a result, he started a team practice in which staffers sit down and share what they’re doing outside of work. That’s how he learned about one employee’s side calligraphy business, which she was pursuing with a friend who worked at a company Allen was targeting. Allen had always thought of his staffer as being expert in “digital marketing, not face-to-face sales.” But with a little coaching, she was able to persuade her friend to make an introduction at her company. “I realized she has an amazing sales persona,” says Allen. “She built that skill and we got a huge piece of business.”

The conversation is what matters. When it comes to a topic like leadership, there will never be 100% agreement about the best approach to a given situation. That’s how Allen came to realize that the real value of the game is in the conversation it sparks. “The learning from the game wasn’t even so much from the game itself,” he says. “The learning is from the reflection on the game – how well you did, or thought you did…You learn because you have to fight it out and discuss it [with colleagues]. The answers are ambiguous and part of a learning process.”

Becoming a great leader isn’t easy. It’s especially challenging when you’re running a company that’s predicated on teaching others how to lead. As Karl Allen shows, opening up about your mistakes and the learning process along the way is part of what it takes to truly succeed.

Clark, Dorie. “Learning How To Become a Leader.” Forbes. Forbes, 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

6 Factors To Consider When Planning The Path To Partnership

Ask most associates and (if they’re honest) they’ll tell you: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or a dollar today is worth three tomorrow. You’ll “never” make partner, so better to gun for prestige, compensation, a practice you love or some combination of the three, then escape into an in-house career before it’s too late.

Looking at the stats, the majority of associates, oftentimes chasing the immediate gains mentioned above, will lateral a little less than once every three years during their law firm careers, which is to say your average associate (factoring not only those who make partner but also the vast majority who don’t) will be on his or her fourth job before even being eligible to make a run. Needless to say, chances of partnership under such circumstances are an insignificant percentage of miniscule at best, which is why it is important to make only the “right” move (assuming you need to move at all). As an aid to your decision-making, we’ve compiled a list of six things to consider when planning your long-term path to partnership and any lateral moves you might make as an associate.

There’s no substitute for experience. Although it is true that many law firms require a track record of business generation or associated skills and abilities, it is equally true that legal expertise must come with.  In this respect, size can play a role: you want a firm that is sizeable enough that it can provide plenty of support staff for your practice and also where you can get valuable hands-on experience.

Career Direction

Politics may be king. Firms differ in their structure and the distribution of power within partnership ranks. One firm may operate its practices in clearly defined silos, each of which represents its own power base and profit center, while another is more collaborative across practices, encouraging the sharing of credit and the more equal exposure of associates across practice groups to partners of influence. If you’re considering a firm using the former model: who will you be working with? When it comes time to seek support for your partnership bid, which “power centers” will be behind you? For those considering firms of the latter kind: entrepreneurialism, initiative and personal merit factor in that a little bit more.   It is important to choose the kind of firm which best suits your individual style.

Know who is your competition. Believe it or not, answers to this question can range from “other associates” to “other partners” at your current or intended firm, and it is important not to be misled by reference to past partner promotion statistics. Has the firm recently promoted or brought in senior associates and/or counsel? If so, you may be facing some pretty hefty odds at best. Are partners at the firm barely pushing 55? Has the firm recently jettisoned its mandatory retirement policy? If so, you might be in for a longer ride than you had bargained for. Yes, partners lateral away (and often, these days). Still, do not forget that succession plans are paramount.

career competition










What’s their poison? The above notwithstanding, statistics are always worth a quick look. A major question to be asked is the following: from where does the firm in question tend to source its partners? From the ranks of its associates?  From those of other firms? Perhaps even from outside partners and counsel?

Don’t forecast the entire decade. In the current climate, you’ve no doubt noticed it’s difficult enough to forecast just one year—think of all the surprise mergers over the last year—never mind the next eight or ten. Firms can rise and fall quickly—Dewey, Howrey? Anyone? Instead, while you’re doing what you can to make the right friends and gain the right experience, make sure, too, that your current position offers a strong foundation and positive growth: a good platform from which to explore partnership opportunities elsewhere if necessary.

For those considering these things: danger signs of firm failure can include sharp drops in PPP, unsustainable leverage, multiple years of gross loss (if not offset by a rise in PPP) and poor profit margins.

What’s your endgame? When evaluating your career choices, it’s important to determine your ultimate goals. If your ultimate goal is to make partner: sketch a rough map of your career and always be mindful of how present actions impact the future, and take those three dollars tomorrow if you can afford it. A partnership will pay more dividends than any associate bonus ever could.

If you are looking for additional career advice, contact one of our career counsellors.  Often times it helps to have a third party to evaluate your situation to assist you in making the best decisions.  Whether you are looking to make a move or just in need of counsel, a call today could make all the difference for tomorrow.

Coping with a Blue Christmas

The song tells us this is the most wonderful time of the year, and for many it is.  Unfortunately, it is also the peak season for those who suffer with depression, anxiety and substance abuse; lawyers being a group that is particularly hard hit at a higher rate than the general population and other professions.

Earlier this year, the ABA announced their partnering with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Legal Professionals Program to conduct a research project on the increasing depression and substance abuse rates among U.S. attorneys.  This, coupled with the lessening of shame surrounding mental illness and emotional struggles, will hopefully be the beginning of the end of this prevalent problem in the legal community.

Lonely Santa girlIn the meantime, if you find yourself feeling lower this time of year, the Mayo Clinic has these tips to minimize stress and alleviate depression:

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.


Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:father-reading-kids

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Additionally, is an excellent resource and community of those who can understand your particular stresses.  With guest articles, book recommendations and an in-house depression coach, you will find evidence that you are not alone.

Here’s to a healthy holiday season and a fresh new year.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Attorney in Your Life

Around this time of year, everyone struggles to determine what the perfect gift would be for their relatives, friends, and spouses.  Typically, you can decide upon a gift based on that special someone’s interests.  But if that person is interested in the law, and you are not a lawyer yourself, it can be difficult to determine what is truly a good gift that will interest and flatter them.  Recently, Above The Law posted a list of holiday gift ideas for the attorney in your life.  You can see the entire list here.  Below are some of our favorites:

Lawsuit Board Game

The LAWSUIT!™ board game makes a fantastic holiday gift for clients, lawyers, friends, and family. LAWSUIT!™ is an award-winning, family, fun game. The game’s setting is the day-to-day operation of a law firm. Players bring fictitious lawsuits with whimsical premises, and can elect to settle or appeal cases. Become a partner and the stakes are higher. LAWSUIT!™ demystifies the legal process, and makes it fun for everyone!

Licensed to Lie

With the foreword written by Alex Kozinski, Licensed to Lie reads like a legal thriller, but it’s the true story of the strong-arm, illegal, and unethical tactics used by headline-grabbing federal prosecutors in their narcissistic pursuit of power, and it names names. Look inside much of the high profile litigation of the last decade.  Brendan Sullivan, Williams & Connolly: “It would be malpractice to litigate against the Department of Justice without reading this book.”


Whiskey is great. Having it delivered to your door is even better. Caskers curates all varieties of craft spirits from around the world and delivers them to your door. If it’s new, impossible to find, or just plain awesome, then chances are that they have it. They’ll even tell you why it’s awesome. Joining is free, and members save up to 40% off retail prices. Use coupon code “ATL10” save $10 off your first order.

Approach the Bench

Elegant and unique, Approach the Bench makes great gifts for attorneys, law students, or anyone in the legal profession. We offer personalized courtroom-themed chess sets, Judge, Blind Justice, and Attorney bottle stoppers and lawyer, Judge, and Blind Justice chocolate bars! All our products are made in the USA.