April 2011 - Keys to Making a Successful Transition within the Law
by John Hueston
There was always an undertone of anxiety at the going away party for a departing Assistant United States Attorney. Few could afford to stay at the Office for more than a few years, but what lay ahead was unknown and came without a safety net. In the weeks leading up to the departure, friends within the office would debate ideas for successful private practice and attempt to identify potential pitfalls. Though well intentioned, few of these discussions provided epiphanies since we had all been practicing without paying clients in a relatively narrow niche of the law. The most calming thought I could muster was to challenge the departing AUSA to name even one former respected colleague who had failed to succeed in the private sector. The going away party would end with sincere wishes for success but few tangible ideas for how to build a practice.
Before I returned to the private sector, I sought advice for transition over countless lunches with former colleagues. Some eased my concerns: “work will arrive unexpectedly, like a bluebird flying through a window”; others increased my anxiety: “You think you’re going to hit the ground running? Don’t listen to the bluster you’re hearing from others; you’re just going to hit the ground.” All counseled patience.
I scoffed at the idea that bluebirds would simply fly through the window, but in my experience a version of that metaphor proved true. I planned an intensive marketing strategy for my transition period involving speaking and publishing. Few of these events led directly to a general counsel with an immediate assignment. But I found that these efforts created a positive buzz in the legal community that later prompted referrals. To borrow from the bluebird metaphor, my marketing efforts planted the tree from which “bluebirds” found my nearby window.
Our Orange County bar is rich with practitioners from a diversity of backgrounds who have successfully navigated career transition within the law. Each has a compelling story and lessons for those who are seeking to launch a career, transition to a new type of practice or simply want a new challenge in the law. This year we will host a slate of programs to address a diverse set of career launch and transition issues.
How They Got There: Home Grown Firm Success Stories
This year we introduce the “How They Got There” series on firm success stories in Orange County. Our panel will represent a range of practice areas and will offer insights and tips from firm founders or leaders. This year’s panel will include: Mark Robinson, of Robinson Calcagnie and Robinson Law Firm (catastrophic injury and wrongful death); Mark Minyard of Minyard & Morris (family law); Joel Miliband of Rus Miliband & Smith (litigation); Tom Bienert, Bienert, Miller & Katzman, (criminal and civil litigation); and Jeff Golden of Weiland, Golden, Smiley, Wang Ekvall & Strok, LLP (bankruptcy law).
New Careers in the Law: 5 Perspectives
Lawyers are increasingly attempting new careers within the law. A successful leap to a new practice area, or from an extended parenting hiatus back into the law, involves careful planning and a thoughtful transition strategy. Five attorneys will discuss effective transition strategies and do’s and don’ts of career changes within the law: Julie McCoy, from firm litigation partner to appellate specialist; Dave Djavaherian, from litigation associate to Director of I.P. Litigation at Broadcom; Todd Wulffson, from general counsel of Palace Entertainment to firm practice; Wayne Gross, from prosecutor to Greenberg Traurig partner; and Ashleigh Aitken, from full-time parent back to legal practice again.
For Associates Only: Secrets to Survival and Success at the Big Firm
Many of our bar members are associates at larger firms. Associates are frequently concerned about quality of life issues and professional quandaries that are awkward to raise within their own firms. This year, we are planning a special “associates only” panel to address difficult issues and matters that are key to developmental success and a balanced lifestyle. Panel topics will include: taking your full vacation and maternity/paternity leave; goals other than the path to partnership; balancing a life outside practice; managing the difficult partner; and race matters: new opportunities from clients who appreciate diversity.
Hanging a Shingle: Tips for a Successful Solo Practice
One of the most courageous steps is to attempt to go it alone. We continue a recent tradition of support for solo practitioners by again offering a seminar addressing how to equip, manage and build a successful solo practice. This panel will feature solo practitioners in a variety of practice areas who will share their strategies in cultivating referrals, equipping their practices with the latest cost-effective technology, and retaining contract attorneys and leasing facilities to broaden practice horizons.
These seminars represent only the beginning of a broader effort to address the challenges of transition in the law. Please contact me directly with any suggestions for additional resources and programs that may be of assistance to those members transitioning to new challenges in the law.
John Hueston is 2011 President of the Orange County Bar Association and a partner with Irell & Manella LLP specializing in white collar criminal defense and business trials. He can be reached at email@example.com.