Making Work, Work

The Purposeful Lawyer: Discovering (or Rediscovering) Your Raison D’Être in Law

Do lawyers need a purpose to drive them in their career? There is, in our view, more driving lawyers to battle against the burnout, the long hours, the sexism, to stay and thrive within the law. The career choice is about more than money, and goes further than prestige. For many lawyers there is strong purpose and real impact to be made through the work they do.

But how many are fulfilling their purpose? What is the reason, for example, that such high percentages of Gen X and Millennials are feeling dissatisfied in the law, according to this Nimble Services LLC 2018 Lawyer Happiness Survey? It found more than 66% of Generation X lawyers plan to leave their current organisation, and only 40% are satisfied with the culture of their organisation.

Many respondents cited remuneration, workplace culture and resistance to change as reasons behind their lack of engagement, but does it go deeper? In a groundbreaking 2015 in-depth study of lawyer’s happiness, it was determined that a sense of autonomy and self-determined job motivation are vital components in career satisfaction and wellbeing – they want to be in control of their development and set value-aligned goals. Lawyers, just like so many other professionals, want to make a difference in their chosen area, and have something to prove – even if some haven’t quite figured out what that is yet.

Chances are as a legal student you went in with a particular idea of your career goals and purpose, but that, along with the perception of the reality of the work, changed along the way. Changing outlooks and goals is not unusual or indeed a bad thing, but if you are feeling a sense of loss of purpose or drive it might be time to reconnect with your sense of self and why you went into law in the first place. Here are some ways you can do that and become a lawyer with purpose once more.

Define What You Want Your Legacy To Be

It’s time to get specific about how you want to be remembered. Leaving a legacy is something we have covered in detail previously on The Attic, so take some time to read if you missed it. It’s never too soon, or indeed too late to consider what mark you want to leave behind on the world. The biggest part of your legacy is the impact you have on others, so when it comes to considering what that is, think about the impression that memorable people have left with you. What feeling do you think you leave behind after you have left a room? Ask a trusted confidante their honest opinion of their initial and current opinion of you. And without being maudlin ask yourself, how would you like your eulogy to read? How is it exactly that you want to be remembered in your life and work? This will help you to drill down to what achievements matter most.

Examine Why You Excel At What You Excel At

Professionally, knowing what skills we have and what we can contribute in our job role is part and parcel of our development. But how often do we really ask ourselves why we are good at these things and have honed those particular skills? Go right back to the root: what is it about your personality and character that has led you here? What are the values and principles you hold that have influenced your skills and where could that, combined with the experience you have gathered so far, take you in future? For example, We can look for inspiration amongst our lawyers who are changing the world for the better, such as Victoria Anderson whose early passion for education and diversity led to a student volunteering project at law school, which became a fully fledged charity.

Remember Purpose Is Not Happiness

Well, not exactly. Purpose is essential to overall happiness, but we should remind ourselves that feeling happy is not a constant state of being, it is a moment. We can’t be happy all the time, and worse – we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve with too much focus on trying to be happy constantly. Happiness shouldn’t be the goal when it comes to finding your purpose – view it as a wonderful by product and a reward for the more mundane and difficult times.

Ask What You Can Change

In an industry that can be resistant to change, this can seem an insurmountable task. But having purpose means you see something that needs your unique input – it doesn’t have to be world-changing (see below) but the intention must be to have an impact on the little corner of the world you are working in currently. Is it something in work culture, local community, that you and/or your organisation can play a bigger role in? Or is it something more personal? To work out what to focus on, decide what is within your reach, what it could be in the future, and what is probably unrealistic.

Purpose Doesn’t Have to Be Big, Or One Single Thing

Purpose isn’t always about following one road, there are multiple purposes to be served in work and life, and those purposes will change as life goes on. So there is nothing stopping you identifying lots of different, small drivers that you want to work towards.

It doesn’t always have to be something big, either. When we talk of purpose, it can often appear to mean something lofty and idealistic. But purpose can be large or small.  Real purpose is grounded in what is within our grasp and what we believe can become reality with our input.

Even when it comes to the bigger picture, being purpose driven requires small daily actions. And yes, you’ll be pleased to know there is an app to help you take those small, daily steps – the On Purpose app is a simple tool for crafting a powerful and personally meaningful purpose statement and then keeping track of how aligned your daily life is in relation to that purpose. The app is based on the graphic novel by Professor and Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Vic Strecher.

Purpose Should Be Shared

Finally, finding and following a purpose shouldn’t be a solitary activity. Shared purpose is in fact vital for motivation and engagement in work – so engage colleagues, verbalise what what want to achieve and how you see that fitting within the organisation. If your purpose falls outside of the organisation you currently work for, seek out relevant like-minded groups. Thankfully, there are many local and national membership organisations and community groups of all kinds within the law, which can be a valuable source of inspiration and help you regain your sense of self and give you renewed purpose in work.



The Legal Update Trending

The Attic’s 15 Best Legal Podcasts for Lawyers to Listen to in 2019

Are podcasts a part of your daily life yet? Research suggests that there are over 630,000 podcasts in existence today in more than 100 languages. In South Korea, 58% of people are podcast listeners, while the UK languishes behind at 18%.

In the legal sphere, there is also a growing number of engaging and diverse podcast series covering topics ranging from criminal cases-  such as popular modern podcast pioneer Serial – to industry current affairs and wellbeing.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, relax and broaden the mind. If you’re looking to increase your podcast listening this year, start with our list (in no particular order) of the best podcasts for lawyers we’re listening to in 2019.

#1 Resilient Lawyer

The resilient lawyer in question is Jeeno Cho, partner at JC Law Group PC and co-author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation. Cho’s podcast share tools and strategies for finding more balance, joy, and satisfaction in your professional and personal life. She talks to lawyers, entrepreneurs, mentors and teachers about their approaches to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing while navigating the demands of their professions.

#2 Legal Current

A staple for many podcast-loving lawyers, Legal Current by Thomson Reuters makes the list again as it continues to run a series of commentary on the business and practice of law. Based in the USA, it has a global outlook and explores many issues that affect legal practitioners in other countries.

#3 Legal Toolkit

Legal Talk Network’s Legal Toolkit is a comprehensive resource for people in law practice management. With a new episode every month, Jared Correia invites forward-thinking lawyers to discuss the services, ideas, and programs that have improved their practices. In January’s episode, Sarah Schaaf talks about how lawyers can optimise their payment processes with technology and automation.

#4 Sworn

From the makers of Up and Vanished comes a new series pledging to pull back the curtain on the criminal justice system. Host Philip Holloway is a defense attorney and former prosecutor with a background in law enforcement. He delves into the legal aspects of major cases as well as discussing the emotional consequences of their outcomes.

#5 Beyond Brexit

If you haven’t read/heard enough about the latest Brexit updates and opinions, check out PwC’s Beyond Brexit discussing all aspects of how life post March 29th 2019 will impact life and business in the UK. GDPR, trade negotiations, the economy and immigration are all discussed in depth with experts to provide some clarity in the face of increasing uncertainty.

#6 Happy Lawyer Happy Life

Of course we endorse the message Clarissa Rayward brings, and the infectious energy she brings to each episode will hopefully help you manage different life stresses, deal with grief, or give you the advice you need to launch a legal start-up, Happy Lawyer Happy Life makes for great listening and the popular Facebook page is very lively.

#7 The Gen Y Lawyer

This forward-thinking blog continues to explore the new age of law, with the first episode of 2019 focusing on Twitter and how Jaime Santos and Kendyl Hanks (appellate advocate and appellate litigation associate respectively) created their movement to highlight women in law and call out sexism in the industry.

#8 Modern Law Library

A great podcast by ABA Journal for lawyers who are avid readers as well as listeners. Lee Rawles interviews authors of recently published books to hear their unique insight on the next additions to your to-read list. Recent featured authors include Stewart Levine author of The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness,  and Nancy Maveety author of Glass and Gavel: The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol.

#9 West Cork

An Irish true crime series made by a British couple, if you didn’t get a chance to listen to one of the most talked about podcasts of 2018, now’s the time. Even gaining praise from documentary high king Louis Theroux himself, West Cork puts the victim of the crime at its heart, with the makers ensuring heavy involvement from Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s family and their solicitor. Without the sensationalism that sometimes features in podcasts of this genre, the 13 part series explores the complexities around the unsolved murder and the accused’s High Court action against the State for wrongful arrest.

#10 The Happy Lawyer Project

Moving back to happier subject matter, Okeoma Moronu Schreiner continues her mission to help young lawyers find the formula for a happy life of accomplish and contentment in law. Through her podcast we hear the stories of legal professionals who have worked for change in their industry and community, and who have managed to find a way to create balance in their own lives. It’s an inspirational and uplifting series that will motivate you to refocus on your own personal priorities.

#11  UK Law Weekly 

Hosted by former university professor Marcus Cleaver, UK Law Weekly is a great resource for studying and practicing lawyers alike. The series focuses on the week’s legal decisions and news, therefore giving listeners analysis not just of topical talking points but specific cases that have recently gone through Supreme and other UK courts.

#12  Thinking Like a Lawyer

Hosted by Above the Law’s Ellie Mystal and Joe Patrice, this podcast takes on a range of topics that are talking points amongst the wider population, and in their own words ‘shine it through the prism of a legal framework.’ This results in lively and fascinating conversations around issues as broad as free speech, drones and droids, weddings and parenting. Definitely one for broadening the mind!

#13 LeGal LGBT

LeGal was one of the USA’s first associations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) legal community, and this podcast consists of lively discussion with LGBTQ lawyers, policy experts and activists on the latest legal news affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the US around the world.

#14 The Docket

Canadian Criminal Defence Counsel Michael Spratt discusses the intersection of the law, the courts, and government. He has spoken to guests such as former Canadian Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and topics include political scandals, best fictional lawyers, and women and the law.

#15 Talking Law

The youngest podcast on our list, Women in the Law UK launched their new series on 7th January 2019. It is hosted by Women in The Law UK’s founder, the award-winning barrister Sally Penni, and produced by the BBC Radio5Live presenter Sam Walker. The first episode interviews Jodie Hill, managing director of Thrive Law.

Bonus: First 100 Years

To add to your ‘one to watch’ list, First 100 Years has recently launched a series of 10 podcasts following the course of the 100 years of women in law. In collaboration with Goldman Sachs and Linklaters, it charts the history of women in the legal professions. Progressing decade-by-decade, the podcasts will be 45-minute discussions between legal pioneers, historians, academics and legal practitioners based on key themes, including gender stereotypes, work/life balance and diversity.

Do you have an essential listen to add to our list of podcasts for lawyers? Let us know @ObeliskSupport

Making Work, Work

Pledge to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone in 2019

Can you believe we are already a whole week into 2019? How are those New Year resolutions shaping up? Are you, like many lawyers in our network trying to adopt healthier habits, or have you pledged to declutter and organise your workspace? Perhaps you have something bigger in mind, such as a change of career path?

It may be too soon to judge whether a resolution is on track to succeed, but if you are already finding things aren’t quite working out as you’d have hoped, it may be time to scrap the list and focus on one single goal: to step outside of your comfort zone more.

Comfort: the enemy of progress

Resolutions have merit as general guidelines to what kind of year you want to have, but as a checking off list they can sometimes have a negative effect on our long term motivation. If we don’t achieve all that we have listed in the speed and manner that we had hoped, we leave ourselves feeling as if we have failed, and can overshadow the real, tangible progress we have made all year.

There are others reasons so many of our New Year Resolutions are doomed to fail. One is the tendency to see January 1st as a giant reset button. The start of a new year is of course a logical time to commit to starting a new project or hobby, or begin work on a long thought about goal. However, our lives don’t begin with a clean slate once the clock hits midnight. We are the same people as we were last year, and the year before. We still have the commitments and responsibilities and problems of life that we had a few hours ago in 2018. Life as we know it goes on, and the feeling of ‘business as usual’ can be at odds with both the big and small things we have pledged to changed or take up from January 1st.

But by far the biggest barrier to changing habits and achieving long-held goals is staying within our comfort zones. There is nothing wrong with having a comfort zone – we all need a state where we feel secure and grounded with familiarity – but we all need to find the will and ability to step outside of it on a regular basis to keep moving forward and growing as individuals.

Keep the resolutions by all means, but add these tips for stepping out of your comfort zone to the top of your list…

#1 Stop being ‘busy’

Yes, finding time to do what we want to do is an issue for all lawyers, but often we can get so used to being ‘busy’, we lose sense of what are necessary tasks and what we do to feel and appear productive. Making time for your personal goals will help you continue to be truly motivated and productive person. Take a look at these time management tips from to help you free up time and headspace for achieving new goals.

#2 Get to know your fear state

There is a science behind stepping out of your comfort zone which suggests you need to find the right level of anxiety that will spur you on – too little and you won’t make the move, too much and you’ll freeze on the spot. Knowing how you reflexively respond to unfamiliar and difficult circumstances will help you identify just how far you should be pushing yourself.

#3 Change up the daily routine

The best way to get out of your comfort zone is to make small changes to your overall routine. Start the day with a walk instead of emails, take the scenic route to the office, try to visit a different lunch venue each day of the week, walk into an exhibition on a whim. Make differentiation the norm in your life.

#4 Recall previous accomplishments

Take note of how you felt about yourself at the time, what steps you had to take to get there, the luck or good timing that was involved. This will help you to visualise how to create a similar situation again.

#5 Sit back and observe

While self reflection is vital in this process, you may also need to step out of your bubble. Slow down and take time to see how other people make decisions and try new things – there may be something to learn from watching others navigate their own fears and obstacles.


What’s the worst that could happen?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean taking a huge bungee jump off the edge of it (though it absolutely can mean that if you want it to!). The first seemingly insignificant small step is as important as the one that really makes you say ‘wow, I can’t believe I just did that.’ Doing the thing that scares you e.g. public speaking (a big one for many lawyers) might involve gradually conquering the fear through practice and building resilience. Whatever it is that you have actively avoided doing in your life, or have never given yourself the chance to try, start with small steps to take to achieve it – such as going along to a local Toastmaster’s event or doing a speech at a social gathering.

The Obelisk team has a range of different health, travel and personal development resolutions we want to accomplish this year. All will involve a small or bigger step out of our comfort zones and routines. Last year, one small-yet-big thing I did that was outside of my comfort zone was ask people in my network for help with work. It paid off – I realised the worst that someone could say was no, and in fact it was a truly pleasant surprise to see how someone took the time to recommend me to their peers. I have pledged this year to support more people in what they do in any small way I can, all part continuing to try to stretch my comfort zone by reaching out to people and communicating more.

Make the New Year not about new beginnings, but continuing on a positive footing, whatever that may entail. With a promise to yourself to do at least one thing this year that takes you outside of your comfort zone, the rest will follow.

Women in Law

Must it Be Lonely at the Top? Creating Better Support Networks for Female Leaders

The journey to the top of a profession is often accepted as being a lonely one, particularly for women. It is one that involves fighting the status quo in small and big ways every day at every step of the way. The perception of the unapproachable, uncompromisingly independent woman going it alone persists in popular culture, and still permeates into real life. Rather sadly, a detailed study by HBR of female CEOs across industries found that most respondents expected little or no support both at home and at work, relying only on themselves to get to where they wanted to be.

Is this the harsh reality, and are there actions ambitious women (and men) can collectively take to change the picture? Obelisk Support places great importance on providing a support network for our consultants, and seeking opportunities to connect with leaders and mentors in the legal field. We believe no woman should have to go it alone while carving out a successful career in law. Here is some advice on creating better support networks for aspiring female leaders.

Advocate for Yourself – and Others

Forming a network that supports your efforts to move up and provide greater value to an organisation and/or clients often means speaking up that little bit louder about what you are doing, rather than waiting and hoping for people to notice and to care. We are all too often reluctant to self-promote – a trait that is more likely to be seen as negative in a woman than it would be from a man. However, female CEOs interviewed by HBR described how self promotion coupled with internal acceptance of their leadership ambitions ‘unlocked their ability to take charge of their own development: seeking out stretch assignments, learning on the job, and learning from the people in their networks.’

Of course, it is easier said than done. If you find the idea difficult, one place to start is with your social media posts. See it not as self advocacy or promotion, but as your story to tell. Sharing the highs and lows of your career journey within an online network can help you become more comfortable about selling your strengths and your ambitions in the workplace.

An important part of advocacy is holding up other people as examples and supporting them too. That can include people you work with, people you know, or people outside of your circle whose work you admire. The more you make a habit of talking about the efforts of others, people are more likely to take interest in and rally round those of your own.

Nurture Informal Support Networks

Your career support network must not simply consist of professional associates – your family and friends also play a significant part. Aoife Flood, Senior Manager of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Programme at PriceWaterhouseCoopers identifies support networks as a series of circles – personal support and advocacy as the widest circle, then professional and workplace, with you the self-advocating individual at the centre.

As a mother and a member of a family or partnership, you cannot get to where you want to be in isolation. Sometimes, this will involve difficult conversations at home about expectations and roles within the family environment. Sharing the emotional labour load is a challenge for many professional women, so be honest about what support you need. Outside of the family, talk to your friends about ambitions and life goals on a regular basis – when you are going through a difficult patch you need the people who know you best to reaffirm your aspirations and offer an outside view on what can help you get there.

Ask Directly for Help

Women in male-dominated spaces such as law are often so used to being grateful for what they have managed to do, in spite of the obstacles, that they forget that they have a right to lay out their long term goals and to tell people what they would really like to achieve beyond what they have already accomplished. They also fear that asking for support may be perceived as weakness or entitlement. But those who have succeeded in their career path didn’t get there without asking others for assistance – from departmental improvements to formal or informal mentorship, sometimes the support is there waiting for us, we just need to take a deep breath and ask for it. That’s a sign of strength, not weakness: female CEOs interviewed by HBR in 2017 showed a higher level of humility and a willingness to learn and improve on the job, ‘[demonstrating] the ability to harness the power of others to achieve needed results, and the recognition that no one person defines the future of the company.’

The response you receive will also give you a definitive answer either way as to whether the environment you are working in is where your talents will be nurtured and valued, or whether it is time to seek a new direction.

Stick to Your Core Values

Resist the temptation to emulate the paths of others and try to completely match the habits of high profile career gurus or influencers – they do of course have some nuggets of wisdom, but ultimately you can only build support networks when people have genuine belief in your authenticity and motivations. If you are not sure of yourself, your values and what drives you, it is harder to align with like-minded people and articulate what you need and what you want. Remember ,your success isn’t someone else’s perception of what success looks like, it is getting where you want to be.

With that in mind, it is important not to force relationships – as per the advice in our article on networking, go in with a genuine desire to meet and learn from others.

You are responsible for your own success, but that doesn’t mean you always have to do it solo. There will be times when the guidance and encouragement of others will be crucial, so keep yourself open to support networks around you. If you are in need of some inspiration, here are some quotes from women who succeeded – in their own way, on their own terms, but by no means in isolation…

What Female Leaders Have to Say

“No matter who we are or what we look like or what we may believe, it is both possible and, more importantly, it becomes powerful to come together in common purpose and common effort.” 

Oprah Winfrey – philanthropist, actor, broadcaster, entrepreneur… the list goes on for the woman who sees nothing as being out of her reach

“To me, leadership is about encouraging people. It’s about stimulating them. It’s about enabling them to achieve what they can achieve – and to do that with a purpose.”

Christine Lagarde, french lawyer, politician and MD of the IMF has never been afraid to speak about the reality of being a woman in a male-dominated space

“I try to seek out and surround myself with people who just percolate fresh, original, and creative ideas.”

Martha Stewart – former stockbroker and model, who created a media empire around her cooking and home improvement talents

“Lead by example: support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow.”

Mariela Dabbah – author and career consultant, and founder of the Red Shoe Movement and Latinos In College, Dabbah uses her platform to support women and Hispanic people on their path to success

“I do have something to say that others will value, whether they are men or women. The first step is really knowing when to speak and the second step is to speak up because it really makes a difference.”

Barbara Humpton – U.S. CEO of Siemens. She has held senior leadership roles at other major technology firms, including Lockheed Martin, and Siemens Government Technologies, which works with the federal government on energy and infrastructure projects.
Making Work, Work Women in Law

Learn to Love Networking: Tips for Lawyers to Make Real & Valuable Connections

Networking is a term that many people have an uneasy relationship with. Most of us want to seem enthusiastic and interested in the opportunity to schmooze with influential peers, but let’s be honest – for most of us, the idea of networking leaves us filled with a sense of dread. For lawyers, more comfortable in front of a screen than in a room full of strangers, networking is an essential business skill to master.

The problem lies in the idea we have of networking. The term has become somewhat tainted, but networking is still a valuable part of your personal development – and it doesn’t have to be an awkward bragging exchange. To truly gain value from networking, it’s important to think #humanfirst (like we do at Obelisk Support) – go in with genuine desire to learn, meet like-minded peers and be ready to talk about you, your life passions and goals. Here are some alternative networking tips from The Attic to help you learn to love the process…

Breaking the Ice – Introductions

Quite simply – don’t overthink it! A simple “Hello, I’m…” and smile goes a long way. If you are attending a talk or seminar as them what they thought of the discussion and take conversation from there. You don’t need to offload your career history; listen first: Ask them who they are, where they’ve travelled from, what brings them here and reciprocate with answers of your own.

Remember to say your full name! Why? Well first, so you can be distinguished from the two other Sophies in the room, and it also makes it more likely for people to commit your name to memory. When it comes to work talk, don’t just provide a job title and company name – briefly explain exactly what it is you do and why it interests you.

Don’t ‘Work the Room’ – Work With People

Aggressive and obviously strategic tactics to get around to everyone you might think is of influence are an immediate turn off. As always in life, authenticity is key. Don’t try to be something you are not or what you think people want you to be. Whatever level you are at, you are in the process of building yourself up – just like everyone else in that room, whatever level they are at. So be open and honest, and focus on the quality of connection, rather than quantity.l If you are worried about coming across as insincere or if it all still seems too contrived, listen to these anti-faking networking tips from Marie Folero:

– Networking is lifelong practice, see it as a regular habit not just a performance at an event

– Be totally present with each person you are speaking to, it’s not about getting around to the next person

– Be honest about your availability and don’t make promises you can’t keep

– If you have discussed follow up contact/further introductions, take action right away instead of waiting

Providing Value and Gaining Value

You need to ask yourself not just what you are looking for but what you can offer. As previously mentioned, you shouldn’t have to promise the world or pretend to be what you are not – just show yourself to be genuinely interested and motivated by your work. You want to hear about what interests and motivates people and their passions, rather than a list of achievements or a job title. Others will feel the same. This is the foundation of real connections in work and life – the mutual sharing of ideas and inspirations and telling the story of what led us to where we are today.

This TED event talk on active networking talks about how most of us have the wrong idea and approach to networking. He provides some tongue in cheek observations on how we make snap judgements based on appearance, and explains how we often overlook the real value of meeting people and getting to know them, no matter how much ‘relevance’ we think they might have.

Cement Those Connections

Of course, it’s all very well having great, energising conversations at an event, but what should you take away from that? If you feel you have more to learn from and/or teach a person, you need to make sure you establish follow up contact. So ask outright: ‘Where can I find out more about you and your company? ‘Do you use Twitter?’ ‘Can I send you an email with more information?’ Some people don’t hand out business cards anymore. They just connect with you on LinkedIn on the spot.

If you do use business cards (and nice stationery is memorable in many ways) don’t consign those business cards to an elastic band and a dusty drawer, as Mark E. Sackett says! Track and log the contacts you meet – use an online address book, or Outlook, and be sure to add notes of interest that you learned about them while talking to them. This will help to prompt you to include conversational points in your follow up emails, and keep the rapport going.

Where to Network – Offline and Online

There is the question of how useful large events created especially for networking really are. For example, this article on advises against them, saying “Instead, go to things that matter. Go to talks and seminars and presentations that are actually about something (besides “networking”).” It all goes back to the question of why you are there; if it’s not going to be of real value to you as an individual it’s not worth doing. The best events to go to are the things that genuinely interest and excite you – as that will ensure you bring the best version of yourself to the occasion. It could be better, then, to make a pledge to regularly attend industry relevant talks and speaking events where the opportunities to network are the side product, not the focus aim. Consider more informal soft skill focused groups – eg Toastmasters, which have a relaxed atmosphere to help build confidence and public speaking skills. Offering yourself up to speak at events is another way of creating more opportunities for networking, so it’s something to consider if you haven’t done it so far!

Remember you can also network online – social media used to be more commonly referred to as social networks after all, so it is time to take it back to basics. Check out our article on managing your presence on LinkedIn for online networking tips.

The bottom line is it’s not just about broadcasting yourself. Think of social media as an ongoing networking event – as intimidating as that sounds it doesn’t mean you have to be posting and messaging people all day long (those are habits that will very quickly get you muted/unfollowed anyway!). It simply means your social media are an open channel which you need to use regularly and interactively to discover and nurture relationships.

Finally, if you can’t find the right group or event for you – create your own!

Sometimes, things simply won’t happen unless you create the opportunity for yourself, so if you see a lack of events or online groups that fit your current situation – be that as a freelance lawyer, someone who is returning to work or is in the middle of a career change – it’s time to make it happen. With online platforms such as Meetup it’s easy to set up a small monthly lawyers breakfast/lunch group in your local area.

Get out there, relax and happy schmoozing!

Making Work, Work Trending

Staying Curious and Creative As a Lawyer

Curiosity may have led the cat to its demise, but being curious and pushing the boundaries of our creativity is central to success as a lawyer. Staying curious and creative in law is something that is of particular importance to Obelisk, and indeed is one of the reasons why The Attic exists. We actively encourage consultants to grow and develop their softer skills and experience. We also offer regular workshops and talks by thought leaders, and through our articles and social media we are always looking at different issues around legal work and the industry.

Why You Should Stay Curious and Creative

Curiosity is what keeps us moving forward in life and work. It helps us solve problems and pushes us to branch out further and further in our chosen field. We can look to children for inspiration on staying curious and creative in our work – remember, we were all children once! Curiosity is something innate and natural, but there are strategies that can be employed to ensure we keep hold and don’t lose sight of that curiosity within.

#1 Start by Always Asking: Why, When, What, How?

A conversation with a curious child will often be a series of these questions as they try to understand the world around them, and will often force you to think of everyday concepts in a way you never have before, or haven’t done for a long time. Whether or not you are frequently having these kinds of conversations with children, it is important to have them with yourself and others too. Asking lots of open-ended questions will expose you to more perspectives and ideas that can help you solve an immediate problem or gain a clearer sense of the direction you are heading in your working life.

#2 Find Out More About the Subjects That Interest You

As a child, you want to learn everything there possibly is to know about a subject that interests you. The same should apply as an adult. If you haven’t indulged your desire to learn more for a while, have a look at what industry events or workshops are coming up and commit to go to at least one. Head to the library, or go through those bookmarked articles you’ve been meaning to read for over a year now. Your work isn’t just about getting through daily tasks, it’s about accumulating as much knowledge and ideas as you can to keep your brain sparking.

#3 Explore your creative side more regularly

Lawyers may not always be associated with creativity, but it is an important quality to have and to nurture if you want to continue to succeed. Lawyers must continually look at cases from new angles and work out ways to cultivate and communicate ideas. Fostering creativity is an on-going process, even if you consider yourself naturally creative. This can be helped by indulging in creative pursuits, including simple things such as colouring or doodling. It’s important to give your brain a break from technical details and logical reasoning, and ensure that you work in a freer, less critical mind set from time to time, so allow your mind to wander and to daydream.

#4 Set yourself a series of targets to complete

Creativity not all about freedom, however. Some of our most creative and thoughtful ideas come from setting targets and deadlines and pushing yourself to do more with the task that is at hand. This can include drafting up several different titles for documents, or seeing how much you can get done ahead of time and rewarding yourself with a day to pursue another interest. Adding more structure to your day also helps you become more in tune with your mind, allowing you to determine when you are your most productive, most thoughtful and ideas driven and when is best for more repetitive tasks.

How do you stay curious and creative in your work? Share your thoughts with us @TheAtticLondon

Making Work, Work

Work Ethic: Owning Your Career and Being Accountable For Yourself

A successful career is never out there waiting to be gifted to us from a company or someone else. We forge our careers, we shape our path and it’s all down to the choices we make and efforts we put in. We will hopefully align with like minded people along the way who will offer mutual support and inspiration but ultimately our success is not waiting to be offered: we have to own our career and be accountable for what we do.

Of course, not all career choices are always freely available to us. Often we have to take the best choice presented to us in the situation we find ourselves in. But it’s important to not let those things become barriers in our minds to dampen our motivation and allow us to lose focus on where we want to get. Here are some key pieces of advice for owning your career and being accountable for your actions.

Get to know you

Perhaps the biggest part of forging a successful career is getting to know ourselves. Work ethic is something that is instilled in us from a young age, whether it is through our background or through school or early ambitions, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be worked on and nurtured. This involves not just focusing on the bigger picture of our long term goals and where we see ourselves in life, but also those daily wins. It means spending each day thinking about what drives us; those little moments that put a smile on our face, set off a mini adrenaline rush and make us want to tell our friends what we just accomplished. It means knowing what environments we work best in, what times in the day we are most productive or most efficient, and when our most creative ideas start to flow. It also means knowing our weaknesses, and more importantly, how to address them.

Recall that feeling you get after a productive, successful working day. Make that your aim every morning when you wake up. Of course you can’t predict how things will work out but going to sleep each night knowing you did the best you could throughout the day will help you sleep better and prepare for the next. It will also make the time off you get so much more satisfying!

Break down your life patterns and responsibilities

Once we are acquainted with our characteristics, we also need to examine our schedule and life patterns, allocating time that will need to be spent paying attention to children’s homework or essential personal responsibilities such as financial administration. Communicate thoroughly with clients and colleagues when things are disrupted. This means we can better avoid overcommitting or overestimating the time we have available. Pretending you don’t have a life outside of work is only going to stall your progress, as you start to lose control of your schedule and judgement of how much work you are capable of taking on and completing. It is much better to build a solid relationship with a few clients that you know you can handle, and look to carve out long term/repeat work off the back of it. Build a reputation and level of experience that allows you to command rates that represent the quality of work you will put in.

Assess where there is room for improvement

As well as looking at what we are achieving, it is important to honestly assess the areas where you could work harder and focus more attention to – and answer why this is happening. Is fear holding you back? How can you push through it? Is there something in your life that needs to change to make it easier for you to go after the things you want? Could you spend more time seeking out clients, is it time to call in a favour from someone to help you on the next step? Most of us with any level of ambition can probably admit to areas that require more proactivity on our part to take our careers to the next level.

And when things go wrong – act, don’t react.

Allow yourself space to vent emotion: talk to a confidant or write out how you are feeling in that moment. Then look at what needs to be immediately done to put things right – is an apology needed, what solutions can you present to rectify the situation or get things back on track? What steps will you take to see the solution through and ensure that a similar situation won’t occur again? Once the situation is under control, return to your page or the conversation you had previously, and talk about your role in what went wrong and ways in which you were responsible. Whether or not there were other factors at this stage are less important, the focus needs to be on you and the things that are within your own control. Then, accept it as a learning curve and move forward – as much as these occurrences are to be kept to a minimum they need to be owned as part of the tapestry of your career, just as much as the successes.

As you can see, owning your career is an ongoing process, and regular self reflection and goal assessment is necessary as we journey through life. We are all a work in progress after all.

Making Work, Work

New Year, New Skills – how to carve out time to learn something new

For a positive start to 2017, you might be thinking of taking the opportunity to learn and hone a new skill. Hobbies and interests can fall by the wayside in our busy working lives, but working towards mastering something new can renew your energy and zest for life, allowing you to be more productive in your work and more efficient with your time. Making a long term commitment to developing a long lost or completely new skill will enhance every aspect of your life. After all, making New Year’s resolutions is about being happier and more fulfilled in the year ahead and beyond.

The beginning is always the most daunting part of learning something new, and from the start point it can feel like you will never master it. Particularly when taking on something later in life, acquiring a new skill can feel an almost impossible task. Don’t listen to the voice that says it may be too late to embark: your mind never loses the capacity to learn new things; it’s just a matter of a different approach to learning. It really is never too late to start something new!

Of course, the practicalities of finding time around a busy career and family life are something most of us didn’t have to contend with when we were younger. Still, you don’t have to let that stand in your way – here’s some guidance on managing time and pursuing a personal project around other commitments:

Tell people

Make friends, colleagues and tutors aware of your new learning intentions and how it will fit around your work and home life. It helps for people to understand all commitments that you have, so they don’t make extra demands on your time or they can be more flexible around your schedule.

Make practice a priority

It’s all too easy to let life get in the way of learning a new skill as we tend to prioritise everything else that is happening currently – as it is something we are doing mostly for ourselves rather than out of any urgent necessity associated with work we tend to put it at the bottom of the list. Make your practice or study priority on par with everything else. This is your personal development and it should be treated as equally important. Allot time for single tasks rather than constantly multitasking. The more you have to do, the more important it is to focus chunks of time on one thing rather than trying to do several things at once.

Use a separate room

If you have the luxury of space, set up a corner or room dedicated to that activity alone to prevent distractions creeping in. If you are studying as well as working from home, try to keep your workspace and study space as separate as possible to maintain focus.

Set small and regular milestones to keep you on track

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time that you have, and reward yourself for taking each step towards your end goal. Small steps all add up so each one should be celebrated – those little wins will keep you motivated.

Revive your ‘dead’ time

Any dead time you have – on the bus, in the car, waiting for the kids to come out from school, the first quiet moments when you get up, the last moments before bed – turn it into productive time and use it to revise something, listen to audio clips etc. to help you on your way and keep you inspired.

Use the Eisenhower Matrix

If you feel you need to adopt a strategy to carve out more time, a good place to start is the Eisenhower Matrix. Divide up your tasks and responsibilities into the following categories:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

You may also add an estimate of the time each task takes up, to give a clear idea of the time that can be saved and put towards other endeavours. More information on the Eisenhower Matrix method can be found here.

Above all, be patient and kind to yourself. Learning a new skill should be an invigorating and enjoyable endeavour. Learning takes time, so don’t be disheartened if busy periods or unexpected events temporarily knock you off course – just pick up where you left off when you are ready.

We’d love to hear what you plan to achieve in 2017 – let us know @TheAtticLondon

Making Work, Work Trending

End of Year Process: Taking Stock of Your Achievements

Now that December has arrived, it’s a natural time to reflect on the past 12 months and focus on your fulfilled goals and achievements.

The year is ending, we get some time off and a change of routine, which allows us all to step outside of the day to day distractions. A bit of distance from work allows more objectivity, and indeed honesty, about what you’ve achieved this year and what more you want to do. The Christmas party season is a reminder to us to appreciate and evaluate what has gone by, and what is to come.

Lawyers in particular can sometimes be too hard on themselves and focus on what hasn’t gone to plan, seeing it as failure. It’s probably a legacy of focussing on fine detail, and looking out for potential problems that can colour their outlook.  Even more reason then to consciously celebrate the wider achievements; so a once-yearly opportunity to do that should be seized. We all have the desire to do better and be better in all aspects of our lives; we want to be happier and make others happier too. Taking stock of your achievements and progress is all about authenticity. A positive way of doing this is to embrace a ‘growth’ mind set, a name given by psychologist Carol Dweck to the idea that intelligence can develop, and that effort leads to success. It’s important to remember that the new SRA Continuing Competency framework recognises the need to reflect on what you need to do in your professional life and to build a plan to support yourself in achieving these goals.

Rather than looking backwards in a critical way, it is more helpful to look back over the cases and projects that have been completed – look at what you have achieved. You will of course recall the things that didn’t go to plan, but there will be so much more that you can appreciate. Focus on your strengths, what characteristics that are unique to you and how you can use them in all spheres of your life. Taking stock gives you that moment of confidence, to objectively focus on your performance and take those conclusions with you on the next step of your journey. Here are some steps you might like to follow when taking stock of your year…

Write your year from start to finish

Look at where you started the year, where you hoped it might lead and what happened. If you had to sum up the year in a paragraph, what would you write? What was the theme or story of your year? Is there anything you wish had not occurred or had played out differently? Would you like to maintain that, or see it change completely in 2017?

What are your key tangible achievements?

This can range from wins and awards, to client satisfaction, securing repeat work, solving a particular problem in your life, or making something right. It’s much easier to remember what went wrong, so compiling a list of both small and large achievements will provide balance and remind you what you managed to resolve and do better.

Note personal milestones and progress

Other positives may not feel like achievements as such (maybe not yet) but are steps in the right direction, or important milestones to be marked. It can include things you do better now than the previous year, and things you hope to do better going forward. Look at where you might have stumbled, you carried on and didn’t give up, that is an achievement in itself – you just need to do the things to ensure that won’t happen again.

Highlight opportunities that now present themselves

Even if certain things haven’t taken off as you would have hoped, the way things have played out may present a clearer or even different path to follow into 2017. You may find that you have learned more about yourself and you may have a new perspective on success, career goals and priorities in your life that you are now going to focus on.

Tackle unfinished business

Call them resolutions if you like. Assess your immediate and long term aims: pick up on things that you wanted to do this year but didn’t get to, what you want to take further and overall what sort of year you want the next to be compared to this one. Keep the list as a fairly broad set of goals and don’t give yourself unnecessarily restrictive deadlines to avoid them becoming an extra point of stress in 2017.

Give thanks

The best way to end the year on a high note is to share the joy and good feeling with those who have played a role. Take time to send wishes to those who have been pivotal in your life and show how much you appreciate them and look forward to spending more time with in the future.