Category Archives: Lawyers

In a world of change and transition: Which way forward?

I had an article that appears this month in Bar Leader, published by ABA Publishing for the ABA Division for Bar Services. The publication covers news and issues of interest to elected officers and staff members at state, local, and special-focus bar associations. Bar Leader is available online to constituents of the ABA Division for Bar Services.

In a world of change and transition: Which way forward?

Volume 41 Number 2

By 

Stephen P. Gallagher has a master of science degree in organizational development and is a lawyer transition coach at his consulting firm, LeadershipCoach.us. Previously, he was director of law office economics and management—one of the first bar association PMA positions—at the New York State Bar Association. He also maintains a Facebook page on the topic of lawyers in transition. Gallagher wishes to thank solo lawyer and friend Leonard E. Sienko Jr. for reading a draft of this article and sharing his own insights.

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World

By Don Tapscott (McGraw Hill:NY) 2009.

Don Tapscott believes that the Net Generation processes information and behaves differently than older generations in aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and learning styles that reflect the environment in which they were raised.   The Net Generation (post-Generation X) is parented by Baby Boomers and these generations differ on numerous levels, especially in ways they communicate and how they perform work.  Tapscott believes that “Net Geners” are smarter, quicker, and more tolerant than their predecessors.  He argues that “The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation.”

According to Tapscott, there are four key themes of the “New Generation Gap”:

  • The older generations are uneasy about the new technology (which Net Geners are embracing).
  • Older generations tend to be uneasy about new media (which are coming into the heart of youth culture).
  • Old media are uneasy about the new media.
  • The digital revolution, unlike previous ones, is not controlled by only adults.

The Net Generation creates information rather than just consuming it.  The shift from broadcast to interactive is the cornerstone of the Net Generation.  They want to be users and not simply viewers or listeners.  While past generations subsisted with the telephone and television, the Net Generation has grown up with information technology.  They are well-versed in the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, online communities, media (video and music) downloads, the use of cellular phones, and video games from the very beginning.

Tapscott identifies ten themes of Net Generation culture:

  • Fierce Independence
  • Emotional and Intellectual Openness
  • Inclusion
  • Free Expression and Strong Views
  • Innovation
  • Preoccupation with Maturity
  • Investigation
  • Immediacy
  • Sensitivity to Corporate Interest
  • Authentication and Trust

Characteristics of the Net Generation include being curious, independent, contrarian, intelligent, adaptable, confident, focused, and globally conscious.  The Net Generation is defined by their reliance on and use of technology, their penchant for multitasking technologically and their ability to utilize various media to communicate with the world.  These communication technologies are incredibly different from the ones that previous generations grew up with.  Previous generations have had to learn how to use technology, whereas the Net Generation was raised saturated in technology.  They don’t use it, it just simply is.

What are the Benefits of Coaching?

While coaching does involve teaching the right knowledge, coaching is also heavily process-focused; therefore, the benefits of coaching are in the arena of knowing the practical skill sets or information necessary for sound practice management as well as creating fundamental shifts in perspective, behavior and self-management that include:

  • Clarity of vision and focus
  • Follow-through on a specific leadership action plan
  • Specific action within a Coaching Program structure
  • Breakthroughs in attitudes, behavior, and achievement
  • Courage to take action and follow through on bold ideas
  • Smooth navigation through change
  • Creative problem solving and “out of the box” thinking
  • Specific business planning strategy and tactics
  • Alignment of decisions with core strengths and values

You will benefit from coaching if you have:

  • a goal of increasing income while reducing stress in your life.
  • a desire for moving your professional practice to the next level.
  • a feeling that you want to take charge of the rest of your life.
  • a dream that a successful legal practice can be a fulfilling experience.
  • a belief that you can reach your goals faster and with greater ease with the help of an advocate committed to your cause.

Why Hire an Executive Coach?

An experienced Executive Coach with proven expertise in working through life transitions that will help individuals acquire knowledge, motivation, and accountability necessary for achieving transition goals.

Executive Coaching is a unique relationship and process with a strategic partner who is committed to your personal and professional development. Stephen P. Gallagher is an executive coach with over 25-years of experience in working with attorneys in a variety of leadership roles. As your Executive Coach, I will:

  • help you and your firm adapt to change, build a sustainable profitable law firm and support you in achieving balance in your professional and personal life;
  • challenge and support you in attaining the results you desire and deserve in your business, career, and personal life;
  • help you clarify and focus on living life with purpose, passion and integrity;
  • support your behaviors that forward action and progress toward your desired outcomes; and
  • serve as consultant and practice management mentor, offering specific advice about business, leadership, communication, strategy, and maintaining life balance.

    Women's Peloton at Curve off Main 2010
    Manayunk Peloton Main Street turn

Sole Practitioners’ Challenges in Moving Away from Full-Time Practice

My purpose in writing this blog is to highlight many issues that lawyers need to be address in winding-down a law practice. I hope to give readers a better appreciation for the scope and breadth of transition planning as it relates to end-of-career issues. This blog is not necessarily a “how-to” template or a “do-it-yourself” manual for structuring law firm retirement and transition planning. I do hope to provide more detailed instructions for sole practitioners in closing down a practice. This is a too important topic to be left to chance. The hope to build a playbook of best practices for mid-level and more senior attorneys looking for advice and support in transitioning away from full-time law practice.

There are literally thousands of self-help books on finding happiness in retirement. I will be referencing some of these resources throughout my writings, but unfortunately, I have not found any books that address what I see as the somewhat unique needs of lawyers in private practice, and sole practitioners in particular. I hope I will be able to help you develop your own transition/retirement plan.

As most experienced lawyers already well know, the practice of law has become increasingly challenging both professionally and personally. My personal experiences over the past thirty years leaves me to believe that sole practitioners are facing even greater challenges then other lawyers who practice together. The smaller the law firm the greater the challenges to survive and thrive. Studies have shown that lawyers are increasingly dissatisfied with their chosen profession.[1] Sole practitioners and lawyers in small firm practice are not immune to bouts with lawyer depression, stress related physical ailments, alcoholism, drug use, and other self-destructive behaviors and ills. Research is showing that these ills are increasing within the profession at a steady pace.[2] It appears to be a good time to begin planning for a transition away from a full-time practice.

The same ABA survey that showed that 68% of bar membership practiced in solo and small firm settings,[3] asked members whether they had a plan in place to maintain their practice in case of death, disability or Bar discipline. Among those who responded to the survey, 59 percent said they did not have a plan should such a crisis prevent them from practicing law.[4] So, there are many lawyers in communities throughout the Country who need help in planning for life transitions, including those interested in moving away from full-time practice.

[1] See you Patrick J Schiltz, On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, 52 Vanderbilt Law Review: 871, 882 (1999). (For almost 30 years, the University of Michigan law school has been surveying its former students five years after they graduated. The percentage of graduates working as solo practitioners or in firms of fifty or fewer lawyers who were “quite satisfied” with careers five years after graduation fell from 45% for members the classes of 1976 and 1977 to 37% for members of the class of 1990 and 1991.)

[2] See Ted David, Can Lawyers Learn to Be Happy? The Practical Lawyer (August 2001), available at https://www.lawlytics.com/blog/can-lawyers-be-happy/. Out of 105 professions, according to a Johns Hopkins University study, lawyers top the list for major depression. Lawyers are depressed at a rate 3.4 times higher than employed persons generally substance-abuse for lawyers is double the national level.

[3] ABA Press Release, ABA Services Solo and Small Firm Lawyers with New Online Resource Center (1/19/2012) Is available at http://www.americanbar.org/portals/solo_home/solo_home.html. P. 203.

[4] ABA Press Release, ABA Services Solo and Small Firm Lawyers with New Online Resource Center (1/19/2012) Is available at http://www.americanbar.org/portals/solo_home/solo_home.html. P. 203.