RSS

Paths to Success: An Interview with Larry Zelle

 

Larry Zelle

It is clear that the successful and prominent attorneys in our community are gatekeepers to success. They have attained achievement and are formally and informally chosen to be mentors for younger attorneys amongst their ranks. Cornell Moore, Board member of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice from Dorsey & Whitney LLP, along with associates, William Hughes and Mike Blackmon, recently sat down with Larry Zelle, co-founder and partner, of member firm, Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP, to hear what he had to say about his path to success, his mentors, and what challenges young attorneys face in today’s legal market.

1. Please tell us about how and where you began your legal career?

I began my legal career in private practice at the law firm of Robins, Davis & Lyons (now Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP) after clerking at the Minnesota Supreme Court for Justice William P. Murphy.  I knew that I wanted to be a trial attorney, and I appreciated that I was able to start trying cases early in my career.  I believe that my early mentors and clerkship with the Minnesota Supreme Court were both instrumental in affording me the opportunity to begin trying cases within my first year of practice, during which I tried a total of ten cases, two of which were in federal court.  I also was able to make appellate arguments because of my experience gained from clerking for Justice Murphy.  By the time I was thirty, I had already obtained a $100,000 verdict, which in today’s dollars would probably be over $1,000,000.

2. As a young lawyer, tell us about mentors that were instrumental in your early development.  What type of guidance did they provide?

Robins, Davis & Lyons co-founder Solly Robins, along with then managing partner Bud Orren, and Minnesota bail bondsman Bud Goldberg, were invaluable early mentors for me.  From Solly Robins, I learned to be a perfectionist about my work.  He taught me that my work product should have at least four drafts before the final is submitted to a client or the court.  Although my early court appearances as second chair to Solly were great learning experiences, he cautioned me not to emulate him.  Instead, he encouraged me to find my own style and develop my own techniques in the courtroom.  As managing partner, Bud Orren was a guide whose leadership pointed me in the right direction.  Similarly, Bud Goldberg was instrumental in my development.  I met Goldberg after arguing a motion in District Court.  Shortly thereafter, he introduced me to most of the Hennepin County judges, clerks, and bailiffs.  That enabled me to feel more comfortable in court early in my career, and helped me learn my way around the courthouse.  Moreover, Bud Goldberg was a lifelong friend to whom I could turn whenever I needed help.

3. Have you thought about intentionally repaying the help you received as a young lawyer, and if so, how have you helped young lawyers transition into legal practice, and what types of leadership, mentorship, and advice have you provided?

I started mentoring others early in my career at the Robins, Davis & Lyons firm.  It has been very fulfilling to see my mentees grow and take leadership positions as their careers have progressed.  Several of my mentees actually became partners at Robins, Davis & Lyons and departed with me to become the leadership of Zelle Hofmann.  My mantra for mentorship has been to give young attorneys an opportunity, responsibility and guidance.  In some instances, mentoring has gone far beyond mere legal career advice, and I have developed close relationships of trust with those mentees.  The greatest piece of advice that I can provide to young attorneys is to take virtual ownership of every client matter and case in which you are involved.  In other words, imagine that you have primary responsibility for the particular matter on which you are working.  Through this process, one will be stimulated to think more critically, ask better questions to the assigning attorney, and have greater development in one’s career.

4. How have you provided leadership and mentorship to young attorneys?

After I became Co-Executive partner at Robins, Davis & Lyons, I began to work with many young attorneys who were assigned to some of the larger cases I handled.  Many of those attorneys have since achieved their own successes, and are now partners at law firms throughout the Twin Cities and elsewhere.  In working with attorneys, I gave extensive responsibilities to all associates, allowing them to make meaningful contributions to the cases.  They knew that their work was valuable and communication was encouraged.  Beyond creating an environment that fostered the professional development of attorneys in the legal sense, I developed a relationship of trust with younger attorneys that also fostered the professional growth of my mentees.

5. What is one of the biggest challenges that you see young attorneys facing, and do you have any advice as to those who are facing such a challenge?

Among the biggest challenges is making certain you are able to gain significant and meaningful experience early in your career within the given practice area you are involved, whether that is in the transactional or litigation realm.  It is important to take virtual ownership of the matters in which you are involved, even at the beginning stages of your career.  This will enable you to become fully immersed in the issues, and make you more comfortable when asking informed questions or making intelligent suggestions to the assigning attorney.

6. What advice do you have for young attorneys who may not have identified a mentor but are interested in doing so?

Make certain to first answer for yourself the area(s) of the law of interest to you that you would like to pursue.  Once you have made this determination, it is important to seek out the attorneys who have created a successful career in those areas, and whom you admire.  It is important to keep in mind, also, that you will want a mentor who has a commitment to your professional development, will advocate for you, and has the willingness to advise you with candor.

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

Moneyball Studies: Lessons Learned

What do baseball teams and law firms have in common? Probably not a whole lot, but as Monique Drake of Lawyer Metrics LLC told us at the Leadership Summit on January 25, legal employers can learn a lot from the Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane and his moneyball hiring strategies, where he constructs a baseball team built strategically for success. Both in baseball and law, employers need to identify real correlations and eliminate outmoded identifiers of success.

Billy Beane, General Manager Oakland Athletics

In baseball, you have statistics like runs batted in or home runs  which are may be indicative of a star player, but these statistics may not yield the maximum impact for the health of the team, overall. For instance, is it a good trade-off, if for every home run that a player hits, he strikes out five times? Probably not, right? Consistency, or on-base percentage, will likely be a greater predictor of overall team success, while home runs will indicate an individual with great statistics.

Legal employers can have their own moneyball statistics too. Professors Marjorie Shultz and Sheldon Zedeck of the University of California at Berkeley released a study in 2003, “Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness: Broadening the Basis for Law School Admission Decisions”, which identified 26 effectiveness factors by which to evaluate attorneys and potential hires, including, Analysis and Reasoning, Stress Management, and an Ability to See the World through the Eyes of Others. The traditional hiring attributes, like grades, law review, and class rank have the potential to be like home runs or RBI – the qualities of a star – but they may not be the qualities that are the most effective for your team.

The key to finding what skills will be the most effective begins with identifying what makes someone the most successful at your individual organization. Here is what Drake recommends:

  • Step 1: Identify measures of success.
  • Step 2: Identify your most successful attorneys based on these measures – perhaps your top 20 to 40 – depending on your size.
  • Step 3: Analyze the background of your most successful attorneys for common traits that positively or negatively predict success.
  • Step 4: Develop an effective interviewing process to determine if a candidate has these skills or traits.
  • Step 5: Implement the process!

After you have identified your definition of success and implemented your process, it is important to follow through with intention. In baseball, it is important to place your newly acquired talent where they can be the most effective in the batting order, so you can minimize the talent’s weak areas, while they are being honed. Similarly, it is important to give your attorneys the best opportunity to succeed, so they can be great members of your team, on a long-term basis and attract clients/fans!

Monique Drake   Lawyer Metrics LLC

To ensure your talent is the most effective, Drake challenged employers to integrate your new factors of success into all of talent management and development and to communicate the factors regularly to the organizations attorneys and work them into your organization’s culture. Drake also urged organizations to refine how work is allocated to ensure associates are able to receive feedback and can be sponsored or championed by rainmakers and partners of influence, rather than only by service partners. Finally Drake pressed attendees to identify the traits in your corporate culture that may be barriers to success and to provide development opportunities to help alleviate their influence.

While baseball and law may not have (m)any direct links, the comparison between building a strong team is pretty uncanny. Knowing what best prepares your attorneys for a successful career in your organization is imperative for retention and the long-term vitality of your attorneys – both minority and majority.

For more information:

Lawyer Metrics LLC | http://www.lawyermetrics.com/home.html

Shultz & Zedeck | https://breakintolaw.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/predicting-effectiveness-shultz-zedeck.pdf

What has your law firm or corporate legal department done to help choose successful attorneys? What have you done to make relatively unsuccessful attorneys turn their career trajectory around?

 

Tags: , , , ,

Pipeline: What is it and why does it matter?

While the Keystone XL oil pipeline may be a controversial oil transportation project periodically in the headlines, a completely different pipeline has an immense impact on the racial and ethnic demographics in the Twin Cities legal industry.

According to 2012 data from the National Association of Legal Professionals (NALP), approximately 6.49% of attorneys in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are people of color*. The statistics become even more alarming when you break this number down further to see how many Partners of color are in our community, particularly women of color. In comparison, the Twin Cities metro, overall, has a population of 23.59% people of color^. Not only does this tell us that racial and ethnic minorities are vastly under-represented in the legal community, it shows us that there is a lot of work left to do.

One way to achieve greater, more representative numbers, is to hire our way to a representative sector. Essentially, we can try enticing attorneys and law students of color from outside of the Twin Cities to move here. While this may work in the short term, not only will it be harder for attorneys with no connections in the community to build a client base, it will also be harder to get them to stay. As such, a more sustainable method to increase representation is to address root causes of the problem, like the vast achievement gap in the Twin Cities, and working with youth to realize that a career in law is a viable and appealing option.

Realistically, building a pool of our own talent will also be difficult. The Twin Cities’ achievement gap in education is startlingly high. When looking at 2011 high school graduation rates in the Twin Cities, 82.5% of White (non-Hispanic) students graduated from high school, compared to 72.8% of Asian students, 48.0% of Black students, 47.7% of Hispanic students, and 35.9% of American Indian students**. Building a pipeline, or a path, for young people of color to become members of the legal community is key, and it starts at the earliest stages of their lives, to provide them with the environment and support to learn, graduate from high school, attend a reputable undergraduate institution, and find the right law school. The construction of this pipeline is vital in order to make the Twin Cities legal community more representative of the population, in a sustainable manner, with the worst case scenario of building a strong pipeline, being a more equitable education system.

Below are some great pipeline organizations that Diversity in Practice recommends. They all do great work and have opportunities to donate or volunteer!

1. Joyce Preschool

2. Minnesota Urban Debate League

3. Big Brothers Big Sisters/Hennepin County Bar Association

Do you have questions about the idea of legal pipeline, or do you want to know more? Visit the resources below or leave your questions and comments on this post!

1. ABA Council for Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline 

2. Example National Program: Legal Outreach 

Any other great pipeline organizations that you know of and would recommend? Leave them in the comments below!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Dialogue with the Deans: Legal Education & Diversity

As many current law students and recent graduates know, the legal hiring market has been particularly difficult for the last couple of years and is only slowly rebounding. We see a smaller number of clerkships at large law firms and employers that are more tentative in their hiring practices than they were in the early 2000s. As more law students are having issues finding a job, word has gotten out to potential students, and the number of people applying to law school has declined, nationally.

Dean Eric Janus

Dean Eric Janus

Associate Dean Ed Butterfoss

Associate Dean
Ed Butterfoss

As fewer people apply to law school and local law schools are accepting fewer students, we wanted to know how this is affecting diversity at their schools. In a recent roundtable discussion, leadership from the four Twin Cities law schools discussed practices and policies that they have implemented to address this new normal in legal education and the lack of diversity in the legal profession pipeline.

The roundtable participants – Associate Dean Ed Butterfoss (Hamline University School of Law), Dean Eric Janus (William Mitchell College of Law), Director of Diversity Artika Tyner (University of St. Thomas School of Law) and Dean David Wippman (University of Minnesota Law School) – cited various strategies that laws schools use to try to attract a more diverse pool of J.D. candidates, including scholarships, programs highlighting what makes the Twin Cities great, law school fairs from other regions of the country, and law school prep programs.  Despite these strategies, however, with a reduction in the incoming class size at each school, comes a decrease in the total number of diverse law students entering law school in the Twin Cities.

Employers are also increasingly seeking graduates with practical skills, reports Dean Janus.  Each of William Mitchell, Hamline and St. Thomas have implemented additional curriculum, extern- and internships and certifications aimed at developing skills law students can use to hit the ground running after passing the bar. In addition, the University of Minnesota now offers business development programming, Hamline is hoping to launch a master’s program in the study of law, and law schools offer targeted study groups and academic support for students.

Dean David Wippman

Dean David Wippman

Artika Tyner, Director of Diversity

Artika Tyner
Director of Diversity

Dean Wippman noted that the recent expansion of generally available online courses (a phenomenon also known as “MOOC Mania” for the massive open online courses, often offered free of charge) may also cause law schools to rethink the basic model of legal education, as these courses could cover topics only previously offered by law schools.

Questions from attendees spurred discussion about a recent study by Professors Schultz and Zedeck which challenges the premises underpinning law school admission decisions. Leadership, recruiters and law schools in the local community should think critically about traditional admission, recruitment and hiring models based on the competencies highlighted by this research.

By the Numbers:

Students of color make up 24% of the 2012 class at Minnesota, 19% at Hamline and 13% at each of St. Thomas and William Mitchell.

Do you want to read the results of the Schultz and Zedeck study on what makes a successful lawyer? Find out more information at the link below!

Predicting Effectiveness – Shultz & Zedeck

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 Ways to Have Fun & Make Your Network Grow

There is one word that nobody trying to find a job or advance in their career is looking to hear less than Networking. It’s a buzz word, so often used that it instantly clicks peoples’ brains to the off position. But if networking is so ubiquitous, then why are so many people so bad at it?

Networking, in it’s lowest form, is simply making basic, human connections with people in the community. That’s it! It’s getting to know people and getting people to know you and having them like you enough for them to remember you. Networking in positions where you need to make sales, like as a lawyer in private practice, will become even more beneficial, because not only will you be able to use your connections to find employment or opportunities for professional advancement, you will also be able to use your own personal network to drive business and/or get earmarked for work assignments.

As a lawyer, networking starts in law school. Your fellow classmates will one day be your future colleagues, future clients, and future bosses. And since everyone that you meet could someday be a potential client or be connected to someone that can get you further on your path toward your goals, you might as well enjoy the time that you spend building relationships and making acquaintances and friends!

Are you at a loss for fun or interesting ways to meet new people and build relationships? Here’s a couple of ideas to help get you started.

1. Young Professionals Organizations

Young Professional organizations oftentimes give you the opportunity to show your leadership skills, when if you are just entering your field, you may not get the same opportunities at work. In addition, your work with these organizations may satisfy your need to give back to the community, if you aren’t able to do that with your job, as well!

If you live in the Twin Cities, here are some great examples:

AZUL (Minnesota Zoo)

GenYWCA

The Scene (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

Young Professionals Minneapolis

YPro (St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce)

2. Non-profit organization Boards

There is something to be said of being on the Board of a non-profit organization. Being an active, engaged, and thoughtful member of a Board will give you the opportunity to connect with fellow Board members as well as members of the community. Board service also gives you the opportunity to work on projects that you are passionate about!

Interested in Board service? Check out the Minnesota Council of Non-Profit’s job/volunteer board!

3. Sports teams

One great way to meet people is to join a sports team. Basketball, slow-pitch softball, kickball – whatever it is that you find fun. Not only can you find it enjoyable  and get in a little exercise to help reduce your stress, you can show your teammates    that you a fun person to be around, you work well on a team, are reliable, and have passion! Check with your employer to see if they ave any established teams or what their policy is for sponsoring a team. If you still live near the law school that you went to, they may have an alumni team that you an join, too!

4. Affinity bar organization galas and events

So, maybe sports aren’t your thing. Instead of putting on a team uniform, throw on    our favorite formal clothes and attend the galas put on by the various affinity bars or   other organizations around town! Some of them likely have a cost associated with attendance, but the money generally goes to a good cause! It’s important to note     that you usually don’t have to belong to the affinity group that is hosting the event, as long as you have a ticket!

For links to the local affinity bar association websites, click here!

5. Peer Mentor groups

Friends of friends are also a good place to start! Gather a group of people who you would consider peers and discuss topics that are important to being successful in your job! You can talk about time management techniques, balancing work with having children, generational differences in communication, or effective branding techniques.

6. Meetup.com

Are you brand new to the Twin Cities and don’t know very many people? Check out www.meetup.com to find groups of people who are interested in doing the same things that you like doing! Groups in the Twin Cities include a Salsa dancing group, language conversation groups, “The Monthly Pint Group”, and even a paranormal research society. Browse through the available groups, and if you don’t see one that you like, make your own!

7. Diversity in Practice events

And there is always Diversity in Practice events! Come to our annual Summer Social, sign up for our Mentoring Circles or Ambassador Program, or join one of our committees!

Do you build connections with people through any of these ways? What other fun ways do you get to know people?

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Program Rewind: When Generations Collide

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”  

– George Orwell

With the each new generation entering the workforce, comes new styles of communicating, new perspectives on the world, and new ideas of what is considered the right way to get things done. Oftentimes, ignorance about these varied ways of communication can lead to tension in the workplace and sometimes unfortunate perceptions of entire generations. Who is to say that communicating only via e-mail with colleagues is wrong, even when they are just down the hall? Who is to say that holding a meeting to prepare for the upcoming Board meeting is a waste of time? Each of these concepts is actually common among the generation of people that use these methods the most – Millenials and Baby Boomers, respectively.

Recently, Diversity in Practice brought in Amy Lynch, of BridgeWorks, to come address a group of attorneys as a part of our Professional Development Series. Amy stressed the importance meeting in the middle when working with colleagues from different generations. No generation has a monopoly on what is right, rather, each style of communication has its separate contexts, which make it applicable to daily life.

Do you find yourself working with people from different generations? Here are some examples on how to meet them in the middle.

Traditionalists (born prior to 1946)

  • Respect that many Traditionalists view their legacy at work as very important.
  • Face time is key. Look to Traditionalists as mentors and allow them to pass on their knowledge to you, while showing your worth by imparting knowledge about how to use new pieces of technology that your office has implemented or other things that may be beneficial for them to know.

Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)

  • Baby boomers entered the work force before the idea of a work/life balance.
  • While Boomers may have mastered the art of voice mail, digital everything may still be a little beyond their comfort zone. If you need something reviewed, try sending it via email and following up with a paper copy.
  • Baby boomers love to meet, and holding meetings may be important to gain their buy-in. For those of you who dread meetings, be prepared with a precise agenda that limits the need for follow-up meetings.

Generation X (born 1965 – 1981)

  • Gen X generally yearns for efficiency and doesn’t want to stay in the office all day. Limit ineffective meetings and be prepared.
  • Feedback is important, and often wanted immediately. Set a time with Gen Xers to determine the best time for feedback.

Millenials (born 1982 – 2000)

  • Millenials often do not look at work as a function of life, rather as part of their reality, and thus want their work to have meaning. Make sure to show them the importance of what they are doing.
  • Millenials grew up in the era of the 24 news cycle and the Internet. They are used to quick and constant communication and being able to be heard with the click of the mouse. Give Millenials an outlet for their voice to be heard.

Interested in more ways to learn how to work with other generations? Check out the books written by the Bridgeworks team:

Also, check out our Facebook page for photos of the Amy Lynch event!

What have you noticed about other generations’ communication styles? How have you adapted your behavior accordingly?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

8 Tips for Success in Your First Year of Law School

With the unoffical end of summer gone by, the official beginning of school is here for students all around the country. For many law students entering school, this can be a stressful time. Perhaps you have moved your family across the country, set aside a stable career, or are beginning your 18th first day of school in a row. In any event, you are starting on a journey that is bound to be different than your last endeavor. Law school can take up so much of your time (and money), that we want to make sure that you are equipped with the tools to do it right and find success!

1. Get Organized.

If you aren’t a planner, you need to become one. Organization will be key to reaching your potential in law school and keeping track of classes, assignments, and other appointments will be vital. In the beginning build into your plan that all that you do will take you longer than you can imagine. Some classes will come easier than others but all will require time.

2. Effort now, or pay later.

Unlike what you may have experienced as an undergrad, you cannot wait to study and outline your courses.  If you wait until exam time to figure this out, you will end up paying with your grades. Try different approaches to studying and class preparation, but make sure to not just go with the flow! Find study methods that work best for you and stick to it.  Your new best friends may all love to study together, but make sure not to compromise your success, if that method doesn’t work for you!

3. Gain respect, not friends.

Become involved in activities that you are truly committed to and gain respect from those communities.  While you need to have interests that renew your energy, be strategic about those and ensure that you are professional, even in the school setting. Being connected to your classmates is crucial to finding success after law school.  These are your future colleagues and your reputation is formed now.

4. Treat networking as a course.

The old adage about “it’s about who you know” isn’t completely wrong. Meeting lawyers at events like bar association events gives you the opportunity to build connections with in the legal community who can give you good advice on doing well in law school, getting a job after law school, and succeeding in that position.

5. Focus on your grades.

Seriously. With the current hiring market and the reality that is the new normal in the legal industry of running a firm with fewer attorneys, making sure you are as high in your class as you can be is vital, even if you are in a Top 14 law school.

6. Don’t overjoin.

No matter how many extra-curricular activities you have, being in the bottom half of your class will make it extremely difficult to find employment. Find a few activities that are meaningful and interesting to you and do them well. Signing on to too many activities will not only leave you stressed out, it won’t give you enough time to study or sleep.

7. Visit Career Services.

Prepare your resume and sample cover letters as you would a brief.  Then visit your Career planning office for review and advice on planning your career. The general rule is that Career Services can begin meeting 1L students on November 1. Try to get into their office soon after to start thinking about your plans for next summer! Most legal employers cannot accept your applications or resumes until December 1, but when that rolls around be ready to go!

8. Take some time for yourself.

Take a break! It is important not to lose sight of things that you were interested in before starting law school. Exercise, watch reality TV or your favorite movie, play a mindless video game, or attend the latest play at your local theater. It’s easy to get bogged down in everything that you have to do, but maintaining parts of your life that you enjoyed before law school is important to remaining who you are!

What other tips do you have for incoming 1Ls? Is there anything that worked well for you in your first year?

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 12, 2012 in For Students, Tips & Tricks

 

Tags: , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.