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Stand Against North Carolina

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The State of North Carolina can go fornicate with itself. I can’t believe the bigots in power over there not only passed HB2, but their governor signed it! (At least when the bigots in office in Arizona voted in favor of SB 1062, our moron governor was smart enough not to sign it.)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this new law prevents municipalities from passing LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and it requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex indicated on their birth certificate.

This law makes me so angry. It’s hard to believe people still have these backwards beliefs. I don’t know what y’all in North Carolina do in bathrooms, but I use them to use the toilet, wash my hands, and check my hair. In the 36 years I’ve been using public bathrooms, I’ve never had an issue with another user.

Being that I’m across the country, I felt somewhat powerless – but then I thought about what little things I could do:

I can choose not to attend events in North Carolina until this law is repealed. If there’s an event I feel compelled to attend, I can require a North-Carolina-Bigot fee in addition to my usual speaking fee.

I’m not licensed to practice law in North Carolina, but I can do federal work from anywhere. I can choose not to accept clients from North Carolina, or limit my engagement to clients who have anti-discrimination policies and practices that include gender identity and sexual orientation.

I can have similar rules for products from North Carolina. (Don’t think I’m joking about this. I boycotted all the sponsors of the Sochi Olympic Games who didn’t openly oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT laws for the duration of the games.)

As a lawyer, I started thinking about contracts. I would support clients adding a provision to their contracts that requires clients to have anti-discrimination policies that include gender identity and sexual orientation and that the company must publicly oppose all applicable state and federal laws that would permit such discrimination. (Now my head is spinning with other ideas – like equal pay for men and women within the company.)

Until this law is repealed, I hope someone makes a video similar to this, asking people if they brought their birth certificate to government buildings to verify that they’re using the appropriate bathroom – much like this guy asked white people if they were immigrants in the SB 1070 days in Arizona.

My hat goes off to the many companies that have already spoken out against this new law including Marriott, Apple, Google, PayPal, and the National Basketball Association. I hope more people and companies will do what they can to influence this situation. Every little bit helps.

Reinventing Professional Services – Top 5 Tips For Lawyers

Photo courtesy of Ari Kaplan Advisors

Ari Kaplan’s new book, Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace addresses the question of how professionals can integrate new technologies into their businesses to be more influential and effective.  Loaded with resources and stories from professionals in all industries, Ari’s book provides suggestions about how to use social media, blogging, e-newsletters, and video/audio recordings that makes them less daunting.

As I read this book, I reflected on the legal profession, which has the stereotypes of being dignified and particular, and where deviating from the norm is often frowned upon.  Many lawyers and law firms shy away from online resources and tools.  Perhaps this is because of the strict rules in the profession about advertising and soliciting clients, or because members the profession have a low tolerance for making mistakes.

I’ve compiled the top five lessons lawyers can integrate from this book into their professional lives.

1.       Social Media is a Tool, not the Goal.
It seems that a lot of professionals think that having a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or a blog is enough, but then they never use them.  Doing this is like buying a hammer and never building anything.  These professionals do not understand that these are tools to communicate more effectively with other professionals and clients.  These are merely channels to “cultivate relationships.”  These are fantastic tools for building trust by being genuine and consistent.  Using these tools is not a one-time event; it requires “habitual participation.”

2.       Be a “Visible Enthusiastic Expert.”
This is one of the best lessons I took from this book.  Being a visible enthusiastic expert means being part of the online conversation on topics where you have interest and expertise.  It’s important to contribute “rich content” and to convey your passion.  Conversing with other experts in an online forum is an effective way to become associated with them.  Even the simple act of sharing a link to another’s work shows that you are aware and informed about a topic.  Additionally, being transparent about who you are and what you can do without being a salesperson conveys to others that you care about a particular issue or population.

3.       Pick Your Targets.
Having a solid online presence is a good start, but it’s not the end.  When there are people you want to connect with, you have to reach out to them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.  Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are instant ice-breakers for introducing yourself to new people.  They provide comfortable opportunities to ask a person for advice or for an informational interview.  If your first attempt at interaction fails to produce the desired result, be sure to follow up.

4.       Do Not Be Afraid to Fail.
Law students are instilled with the notion that they must always be perfect – perfect appearance, perfect cover letters, perfect work product, etc.  They graduate thinking the worst thing they could do is misspell a word on an email.  This can make them gun shy to try new things.  Ari’s book demonstrates that most of these new tools are easier to use than you think.  He encourages readers to consider who they want to connect with, where they are interacting, and to join the conversation.  He promises that you will fail some of the time, and that’s ok.  If you try using an e-newsletter and it doesn’t work for you, you can use another tool like blogging or LinkedIn to reach your audience.  Figuring out what works for you and your business is part of the process.

5.       Never Forget the Value of In-Person Contact
Using technology to communicate with someone is less intimidating than picking up the phone; however it is more impersonal.  Nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact, which is more personal and memorable.  It is important to look for opportunities to meet people in person whenever possible and to continue to build relationships with thoughtful follow up.

Using these tips and tools requires willingness and commitment.  The potential benefits of using technology should overpower any fears that come with trying new things.  Always keep in mind that these tools are to facilitate interaction, not for self-promotion.

Ari Kaplan, a Fastcase50 honoree, is the principle of Ari Kaplan Advisors in New York City and the author of The Opportunity Maker, Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2011).  I bartered this blog post in exchange for a copy of his new book. 

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Seeking the Road Less Traveled in the Legal Profession

Last semester, I had a powerful conversation with my friend Julia while we were sitting outside the law library during a study break.  I looked up at her and said, “I don’t want to be a traditional lawyer.”  She responded by giving me a look that screamed, “Duh.”  I was spending the semester working part-time at a big law firm in Phoenix, and while the people and the projects were top-notch, it was not an environment I could thrive in long-term.  I understand that being a lawyer involves a lot of research and writing, however I am not meant to spend my waking hours alone in an office surrounded my other people who are equally isolated in their offices, and where there is little collaboration.  I realized that I need human interaction and laughter to be happy.

Fork in the road south of Keyingham, East Ridi...
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One of my classmates told me that there used to be a law firm where the lawyers frequently shot each other with Nerf guns.  Unfortunately, that firm no longer exists, but I was so glad to hear that there are non-traditional lawyers out there.

Despite how untraditional I am, I thrive in structure.  I like guidelines, road maps, and guarantees when it comes to achieving my goals.  In law school, there are suggested strategies for getting a job.  The ideal way is to work a summer job at a firm between your second and third years of school where they offer you a job for after graduation.  Having a job offer like that provides a huge sense of security going into the last year of school.  For me to say that I don’t want to be a traditional lawyer or work at a traditional law firm makes me feel like I’m operating without any type of structure, a road map, or any sense of security when it comes to building my career.

It’s a bit frightening to operate with only vague ideas about what I want to do career-wise.  I know that I want to work on problems that have a significant impact on people’s lives, and not just a significant impact on their wallets.  I like the idea of trying to figure out how the law applies to situations that lawmakers never imagined when they were drafting the laws.  I have mental image of my clients calling me on my webcam and saying, “Hey Ruth.  We have a great idea for X, but we need to know how to do it without getting sued or arrested.”  I want clients who want to push the envelope without crossing the line.

I appreciate Google’s dress code policy.  According to rumor, their dress code is simply, “You must wear clothes.”  They encourage employees to do what they need to do to be effective and creative whether that means showing up in a suit or pajamas.  Some law firms believe that they get higher quality work when their lawyers wear suits and professional attire every day.  I work better when I’m comfortable.  If I’m not meeting with clients, I’d prefer to work in jeans and a hoodie.

When I think about seeking a firm that suits my personality or hanging my own shingle, I have fears about money and having enough work to make a living.  I try to temper those fears with the excitement and freeing sensation that come with the prospects of being professionally happy.  When I worry, “What will happen if I try for my dream and fail?,” I try to counter it with, “How much will I regret it if I don’t try?”

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