Networking For Lawyers: “It’s All About Relationships!”

A young lawyer recently called me to meet with him over lunch. I had referred a client to his partner, and I had never actually met this young lawyer, who had been practicing for less than two years. The purpose was simply to network.

After having lunch, I reflected on all the great questions he had asked me. If only I’d had the good sense to network more with other lawyers and ask these questions when I first started practicing law. “What are the biggest challenges young associates face in your firm?” “What networking activities have worked for you?” “Have you participated in any particular organizations or civic groups that helped you with networking?” There were many more; I even stopped him at one point and told him, “You ask great questions!”

I am not sure how much help I was to this young lawyer. I told him that young associates sometimes struggle with the practical aspects of the practice of law: relating to staff, deciding what to delegate, and to whom. He also asked about our expectations of associates for developing new business. We talked about that and ideas for his own networking activities. I also mentioned that young lawyers often do not realize how much time it takes to build the skills to be a good lawyer. Young lawyers (and older ones, too!) struggle with maintaining balance between this learning curve and the demands for personal productivity in the law firm.

I concluded our lunch by remembering some good advice I read in Jim Durham’s book, The Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering. Durham wrote, “Clients speak highly of lawyers who understand the importance of relationships.” They want their lawyer to be someone with whom everyone in this business likes to work. Clients hire lawyers who they like and trust. It’s all about relationships!

Better Legal Writing . . . From The Adobe Legal Department

Whereas, the legal profession needs someone to help us write more clearly, and less lawyerly,

Whereas, we want to be understood when we communicate with a client or the court,

Whereas, we do not want others to search a legal dictionary for definitions,

In acknowledgement hereof, the Adobe Legal Department has made its Legal Style Guide available free of charge.

We here at Abnormal Use have reviewed the Adobe guide and highlight several of our very favorite suggestions.

Format your document so it is easy to read.

Use informative headings that clearly signpost the main messages.

Break text into small units—use short sections, or subdivide longer ones.

Use short sentences.

About 20 words per sentence.

Include only one idea.

Break a long sentence down into manageable parts by using further numbering, bullets, tables, or lists.

Avoid legalese or archaic English, and use everyday words.

Among; not amongst.

That/these; not aforementioned.

Above or below; not hereinabove or herein.

Omit surplus words, and use shorter words or phrases.

Then; not “at that point in time.”

Since/because; not “inasmuch as.”

Because; not “in light of the fact that.”

Do not turn verbs into nouns.

Conclude; not “arrive at the conclusion.”

Apply; not “make an application.”

Consider; not “take into consideration.”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

(Hat Tip: Bob Ambrogi).

Public Service Announcement: Gateway And Beautiful Music For Beautiful Minds

Courtesy of our own Stuart Mauney, we offer this Abnormal Public Service Announcement. Much has been written about our lack of access to quality and affordable mental health care. Where do you go if you are so sick you cannot hold a job or need help with finding a place to live? Schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, major depression and bi-polar disorder (manic depression), are all serious medical illnesses which can be difficult to manage. These individuals often struggle with homelessness and hopelessness if they do not have the support they need.

In the Greenville, South Carolina area, a non-profit clubhouse, Gateway, provides rehab services to the chronically mentally ill, including those with these diagnoses. I am proud to serve on Gateway’s Board of Directors and chair its Development Committee.  As with any non-profit, community support is vital to the development of Gateway’s programs. On August 7, 2015, Gateway presents “Beautiful Music for Beautiful Minds,” featuring the music of Fletcher, Bell & Ward from Nashville. This community event will be held at The Poinsett Club in Greenville, South Carolina. Tickets are $75.00 each, and include hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and beverages. All proceeds benefit Gateway.

You may buy your tickets or make a donation online at gateway-sc.org or by calling 864-242-9193.

Here’s a bit more information on Gateway from its website:

At the Gateway clubhouse, which is the center point for all assistance and activities, participants are not called patients or clients; rather they are called members. Gateway serves more than 130 active members, with an average daily clubhouse attendance of close to 90, offering a variety of programs to help members develop social, educational and employment skills – and gain friends, opportunities and self-confidence along the way.

One of the key programs is called the Work-Ordered Day, where Gateway members use their special gifts, talents, and skills while working side-by-side with staff to help operate the clubhouse. This can lead to transitional and supported independent employment. Along with these work-focused programs, there are educational programs, housing assistance programs and social interaction opportunities all built around helping those coping with mental illness lead lives that are as independent as possible.

The Clubhouse Model and programs have been so successful, that Gateway has gained an international reputation – creating a demand for colleague training. To date, more than 2,000 colleagues from 40 states and 16 countries have been trained by Gateway in the Clubhouse Model.

On behalf of the Gateway members and their families, thank you for your support!

Thoughts On The Charleston Shootings

In the early evening hours of June 17, 2015, a young white man walked into the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat down with a group of church members, including the church’s pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina state senator, for Bible study. After listening to the discussion of Biblical principles, perhaps love and forgiveness, and maybe even praying together, the man stood up and began shooting the church members. According to one horrifying account, he reloaded five times, killing nine people, including Reverend Pinckney. According to some reports, he later told police that he almost did not go through with it because they were so nice. But, he killed them anyway.

All of the victims were black. Based on news accounts of the shooter’s racist views, that was not an accident. The shooter was quoted as saying he was there to “shoot black people.” He said, “You’ve raped our women and you are taking over the country.” Before leaving the church, he menacingly told one of the survivors to tell everyone what he had done. The shooter was later captured and charged with murder. He has reportedly confessed to the shootings. Federal authorities are investigating the shootings as a hate crime. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said, “The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying, is hate.”

In response to this tragedy, President Obama called for tighter gun control laws. Others have said that South Carolina should remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds as a tribute to the victims and their families. Yes, we should take the opportunity to talk about race relations and how such hatred can be harbored within the borders of our state. Yes, we should talk about our state’s policies and how they can be used to promote unity and not division. Yes, we should have a civil discourse on the meaning of this event.

But first, the citizens of South Carolina have taken to the streets! We have taken to the streets . . . to pray. We have taken to the streets . . . to hold hands. We have taken to the streets . . . in love and forgiveness. We have taken to the streets . . . in peace and unity. We have filled our churches and public halls . . . to honor the memory of the victims.

At the shooter’s bond hearing, victims’ family members said, “I forgive you.” Yes, they expressed their hurt and sadness, but they responded with an attitude of forgiveness. “May God have mercy on your soul.” “You hurt a lot of people, but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

I am proud to call South Carolina home.

All In!

ALL IN! Coach Dabo Swinney has claimed that exclamation as his mantra from the beginning of his tenure as head football coach at Clemson University. He demands a commitment from his players, staff, and coaches: a commitment to be “ALL IN” all the time. The “A” is for attitude; the first “L” is for leadership. The next “L” is for legacy. The “I” is for improvement and the “N” is for new beginnings. Nothing can be accomplished without a good attitude and capable leadership. Coach Swinney asks his players what their legacy will be when they leave Clemson. Will they leave the football program better than it was when they first arrived? Will they have made a difference in the lives of others? To leave such a legacy requires constant improvement, every day at practice, and at every game. Finally, there is always hope for a new beginning.

Coach Swinney knows all about hope for a new beginning. From an early age, he had a front row seat in watching a family destroyed by addiction. His father was an alcoholic; Coach Swinney said he was a good man and a good father, but sobriety was a constant struggle. Coach Swinney knows the shame and embarrassment of having to knock on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night to ask for help. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to throw all of your belongings into the back of a pickup truck when the family home is taken. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to hear sirens as the police approach your house. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to sleep on the floor of a small one bedroom apartment.

In the midst of this tragic childhood existence, Coach Swinney found hope for a new beginning. Words of encouragement from friends and coaches; a helping hand from a special neighbor or family member. Coach Swinney was able to take the liability of this experience and turn it into an asset, using his platform as the head coach of a major college football program. Coach Swinney currently serves on the board of directors for The Family Effect, a non-profit in Greenville, South Carolina, that works to reduce addiction as a leading cause of family collapse and harm to children. They operate Serenity Place, a residential treatment program for pregnant women, young mothers, and their preschool age children. The program at Serenity Place is focused and intense, providing treatment for addiction through individual and group counseling. They provide therapeutic child treatment and the family builds long-term skills for strength and self-sufficiency. For older boys, age 13-17, The Family Effect operates The Academy, a residential treatment center. The boys at The Academy have experienced significant problems with addiction and receive a wide range of counseling and treatment options. Among the outpatient teenagers, 80 percent are less likely to be using alcohol thirty days after treatment, and 97 percent are less likely to be using drugs.

I recently attended The Family Effect Transformation Breakfast, “a celebration of what works for children in crisis.” Coach Swinney shared his personal story, demonstrating why he is “ALL IN” for families and children living with addiction. You can find out more about the mission and programs of The Family Effect, volunteer opportunities and community impact by visiting its website at www.familyeffect.org.

Underage And Binge Drinking: Where is the Outrage?

Officer is Charged with Murder of a Black Man Shot in the Back.” This was the headline from The New York Times on April 8, 2015. A white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina was caught on video shooting and killing an unarmed black man while he was running away. This was the lead story on “The Today Show” the same day. On April 9, Matt Lauer interviewed the young man who captured the video. The entire nation is engaged in a fierce debate over the appropriate use of deadly force by law enforcement. The White House created a task force, which is recommending changes to police policies. The Attorney General is visiting cities all across the country, soothing the tensions between the police and minority neighborhoods. This South Carolina incident reminds everyone of the recent use of lethal force by police in New York, Cleveland, and Ferguson, Missouri. We are outraged!

Coroner: USC Student…Died of ‘Toxic’ Blood Alcohol Level”. This was the headline from The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina on April 8, 2015. The University of South Carolina freshman was found dead last month at a house commonly used by a USC fraternity. According to The State, he “had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal driving limit at the time of his death.” A toxicology report showed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.375 percent; the coroner said this was a toxic level, which “ultimately” caused the student’s death. The coroner further commented that “There is no way to tell whether that amount of alcohol was ingested voluntarily or by force.” The coroner called the death “tragic and totally preventable.”

The coroner went on to say: “It is something that I think we see too often. Everybody’s drinking and having a good time, and somebody says, ‘Well, my friend passed out. We’ll let him sleep it off.’” Watts said, “They’re not going to sleep it off. They’re going to die. Some type of medical intervention needs to take place in a lot of these cases, and it didn’t.” The coroner concluded that a blood alcohol level that high would often be the result of binging or chugging.

Where is the outrage over this young man’s tragic death? Where is the outrage over underage drinking? Where is the outrage over binge drinking on college campuses?
There was no headline in The New York Times. There was no lead story on “The Today Show.” Matt Lauer did not interview anyone about the incident. The White House did not create a task force to study the problem of underage drinking, binge drinking on college campuses, or our collective casual attitude toward alcohol abuse. The Attorney General has not visited our state or the USC campus to express his concern.

Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage over the fact that four out of five college students drink alcohol with about half consuming alcohol through binge drinking? Where is the outrage over the thousands of college student deaths between the ages of 18 and 24 each year from alcohol-related injuries? Where is the outrage over the students between the ages of 18 and 24 who are assaulted by another student who has been drinking? What about the students between the ages of 18 and 24 who are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape? Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage over the fact that 34 percent of eighth-graders reported drinking in the past year? Where is the outrage that 64 percent of eighth-graders say that alcohol is easy to get?

Medical research on alcohol and the brain is clear. First, the earlier a young person starts to drink, the more likely they are to have a drinking problem later in life. Second, research shows that a teen’s brain is not fully developed until well into the twenties. Indeed, as with other teens, my 14-year-old’s brain does not have a “stop button.” The teen brain simply does not have the wiring necessary to tell them when to stop. As a result, teens act impulsively and often seek out dangerous situations, including drinking alcohol.

While college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older. Where is the outrage? Where is the outrage over the fact that about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinking? Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes. Where is the outrage? Binge drinking costs everyone; where is the outrage over the fact that it costs the United States $223.5 billion from losses in productivity, health care, crime and other expenses?

Where is the outrage over our failure to implement evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking? Where is our outrage over the failure to hold alcohol retailers responsible for the harm caused by their under-age customers? Where is the outrage over our failure to consistently enforce laws against under-age drinking and alcohol-impaired driving? Where is our outrage at our failure to screen and counsel for alcohol misuse?

As with most things, it begins at home. We can make a difference by talking to our kids about alcohol. We can start by talking to our kids about alcohol facts, reasons not to drink and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations. We can help by knowing whether our kids are at high risk for a drinking problem, knowing the warning signs of a teen drinking problem and acting promptly to get help for our kids.

Until then, where is the outrage?

One Shining Moment

On Monday evening, April 6, 2015, two teams will take the floor in Indianapolis for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. As the winning team cuts down the nets, CBS Sports will play highlights from the tournament, set to the song, “One Shining Moment”, written by David Barrett. Versions of this song by Teddy Pendergrass and Jennifer Hudson have been used in the past; the most recent rendition is by the late Luther Vandross.

One shining moment, it’s all on the line

One shining moment, there frozen in time

One shining moment, you reached deep inside

One shining moment, you knew you were alive

The highlights will likely include the thrill of victory with upsets by UAB and GA State. There will also be the agony of defeat as top seeded Villanova failed to make the Final Four. We will see the bright faces of the winners and the teary eyes of the losers. Each of these, in their own way, had “one shining moment”.

We have previously written how lawyers are potentially vulnerable to depression, suicide and substance abuse. Perhaps one way to avoid the negative thinking that sometimes pervades our profession is to focus on the shining moments we have had in our personal and professional careers. Maybe we have never hit the winning shot in the last seconds of the championship game, but we all have had our own shining moments. Maybe you met a personal goal after much hard work. Or, perhaps, you won a particularly difficult and hard fought case. Whatever it is, take a few minutes today to remember “One Shining Moment” in your life and career.

Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. – A History

As we recently noted, GWB now has an office in Charleston, South Carolina. With our growth over the last five years, we thought our readers might enjoy a bit of the firm’s history. Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. was founded in Greenville, South Carolina in 1948. The firm practiced general law during this time period and served as the statewide division counsel for Southern Railway Company and general counsel for Woodside Bank. The firm continued as general counsel when a merger created the state’s largest bank known as South Carolina National Bank. Southern Railway Company changed its name to Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1982 and remains a client of the firm today.

In the 1950’s, the small law firm began to grow in number and reputation. The firm expanded to four attorneys and relocated to 128 Boadus Avenue in Greenville in 1958. Greenville mirrored the firm in its growth, becoming known as the textile capital of the world in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

During the 1970’s, the firm continued its steady expansion with the addition of H. Mills Gallivan and Daniel B. White in 1976 and W. Howard Boyd, Jr. in 1977. Mills, Danny, and Howard were the firm’s 7th, 8th, and 9th attorneys. With their arrival, the firm began focusing its practice on business and corporate litigation, trial work, and mass tort litigation, including the defense of personal injury cases arising from exposure to toxic substances, including asbestos.

The firm continued its successes in the 1980’s and 1990’s by steadily increasing its reputation as a leading litigation law firm as well as increasing the firm’s number of attorneys and practice areas. The firm moved its practice to 330 East Coffee Street in Greenville in 1983 and grew to 17 attorneys by 1988. Just a few years later, the firm outgrew its Coffee Street location with its growth to 27 attorneys in 1998. In the early 1990’s, the firm served as lead South Carolina counsel for a chemical manufacturer in the first case multidistricted in South Carolina by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

At the turn of the century, the firm officially became known as Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A., and in 2003, it moved to its current location at Liberty Plaza overlooking downtown Greenville. In 2005, members of GWB’s Commercial Transportation Group served as lead counsel in the emergency response, post-accident investigation, and claims handling for a major railroad company after a train derailment and toxic chlorine release resulted in more than 9 deaths and over 1,000 claims in South Carolina.

Then, GWB represented a Fortune 500 client in class actions brought against it by physicians. GWB was also retained in 2008 to represent this client again in a purported class action of its more than 13,000 policyholders seeking distribution of dividends.

GWB experienced continued growth during this decade, opening its first offices outside of Greenville. While continuing its emphasis on litigation, the firm has also expanded its corporate and commercial transaction practice. GWB grew from 27 attorneys in 1998 to 47 attorneys in 2010, to 61 attorneys in 2015. The firm is one of the Southeast’s leading business and commercial law firms with five offices in the Carolinas located in Greenville, Columbia, Anderson, and Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The firm operates within four major groups—litigation, business and commercial law, insurance practice and workplace practices. Each group is further organized into practice area teams of lawyers who stay informed of the latest developments that impact their specific clients and the particular industries served.

GWB’s success and longevity are intertwined with its reputation for providing wise legal counsel and first-class client service. The values that have come to define Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. to its clients and the community are the compass that guide the firm into the future.

Attorney As Counselor At Law

“The practice of law is more than a mere trade or business, and those who engage in it are the guardians of ideals and traditions to which it is right that they should from time to time dedicate themselves anew.”

 –Scottish lawyer Hugh Patterson McMillan, Ethics of Advocacy, 1916

A friend recently suggested that since I was a good listener that I would make a good counselor. My response? I am a counselor!  A counselor at law.  That’s a description for lawyers that is often underappreciated. But I do think of myself of a counselor of sorts, guiding clients through the minefield of risk management with the goal of avoiding the bad things that can happen to an individual or business. I also advise clients on how to escape a legal mess once something bad does happen.

The terms “attorney at law” and “counselor at law” are often used interchangeably. However, they describe different roles for the lawyer. The counselor at law advises and counsels a client on particular matters.  By contrast, the attorney at law acts as the client’s agent, speaking and acting on the client’s behalf, with third parties or in court.

As I reflect upon my 27 year career as a lawyer, I have enjoyed both roles but particularly that of trusted advisor. Sometimes I wonder if lawyers jump too quickly into the attorney role before working their way through the counselor role. Certainly, counseling our clients, focusing on good advice, and working through a solution, can avoid future problems. Sometimes you must move beyond the counselor role, but as lawyers, we would do well to focus on that role and only move into the attorney role when we make a conscious decision to do so.

Remembering the role of counselor can help build trust and strong, long-term client relationships. We can use our experience to educate our clients and teach them ways to avoid unnecessary conflict and minimize risk. If litigation occurs, a lawyer may continue in the counselor role in addition to their role as attorney, wearing both hats at once.

How do you decide which role is appropriate? Do you draw a distinction at all? Let us know what you think!

LinkedIn For Lawyers – Beyond The Basics

I was at a deposition recently when the subject of LinkedIn arose in conversation. After seeing a post I had made on the site, another lawyer said he did not see the benefit of LinkedIn for lawyers. That gave me an opening to share with him why LinkedIn is a part of my marketing tool box. I am certain that this lawyer knew the basics of LinkedIn, as described in hundreds of articles and books. Perhaps you have read some of that material, which includes the following suggestions:

  • Complete your profile, including information on your education and business
  • Use key words in the “background” and “experience” sections to optimize the search results
  • Make sure your “headline” describes what you do
  • Customize your links to websites and blogs
  • Build your network by making connections
  • Regularly share updates
  • Join different “groups” and participate in group discussions

Here are a few suggestions, beyond the basics, illustrating how LinkedIn has enhanced my professional networking.

In advance of a meeting or conference, I may have a list of attendees. It is helpful to search for these individuals on LinkedIn. I can learn about their background, the nature of their business, their hobbies, and personal interests. When I return to the office from such a meeting or conference, I can send them a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

Several years ago, our firm was planning an event in a particular city. Prior to the event, I performed a LinkedIn search on people in that city within a particular industry. What did I find? An individual with whom our firm had a business relationship many years before but with whom we had lost track as he had moved to a different company. I sent him an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, reminded him of our prior relationship, and invited him to our firm’s event. Following his attendance at the event, and other opportunities to reconnect, he is once again a client of our firm.

LinkedIn also provides me with the opportunity to follow individuals from job to job. When a person changes jobs, LinkedIn will notify me. I can then follow up again with “congratulations” on their new position. On more than one occasion, this approach has allowed me to maintain a business relationship when individuals move to a new company.

Finally, sometimes, I just go on there and look around. If I am interested in a particular company, I can check on its corporate profile and see the list of individuals connected to that company. I might cruise through the groups which are relevant to my practice area to see if there is someone there I might know or would like to know. Have fun with it.

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to help develop and maintain professional relationships. Once you have established the basics, you are limited only by your imagination.