Thursday, March 31, 2011

Career Tips for New Lawyers - How to Create Your Ideal Life and Career

Congratulations!  You graduated from law school/landed your first clerkship/internship/associate position/job!  Now what?  If you landed your dream job that you’ve always wanted since you were 5 years old, good for you!  You are one of the incredibly fortunate .05% of attorneys in the U.S.  But if you were lucky enough to find a job, it is probably slightly less than perfect.  Maybe you wanted to be at a big, prestigious firm, but ended up somewhere else.   Or maybe you made it to a big firm and are wondering what you got yourself into.  Either way, there is hope!

Despite the fact that attorneys in the United States are among the most intelligent, educated, motivated, and academically successful people in the country, many are unhappy with their chosen profession.  Many leave the law altogether after only a few years.  Is being an attorney really that terrible?  The answer is definitely not!

This is clearly a sweeping generalization.  Obviously, there are plenty of happy lawyers out there, and they love what they do.  While we cannot claim to know their secrets to career fulfillment, and do not have a magic formula for career success, we do have some tips. 

Have a Plan

When starting out, try to have a vision in mind for how you want your life to be, and plan accordingly.  For some reason, lawyers tend to be fairly passive when it comes to their careers – they take whatever work they can get.  At first, this is fine and normal.  If you’re looking for a job, you’ll take the best thing available.  If you’re at a firm, you’ll do whatever the partners ask you to do.  But during this process, even if you feel like you don’t have any control over what work you do, you still should be mindful of what you want to do someday because eventually, you will have a choice.  And even when it seems like you’re taking orders, you still have power to shape your career.  If you ever find yourself hating your job, time will only heighten your feelings, not lessen them.  Law can be all consuming, so you definitely want to like what you do.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses, and how much you want to work.  Think about plans for family.  Think about your ideal work environment and colleagues.  Brainstorm, and write it down.

Put Your Plan Into Action – Shape Your Own Destiny!

1.  Once you have considered your life, now think about what you love.  What is interesting to you?  What gets you up in the morning?  Find a way to incorporate it into your career path.  Maybe you love fashion?  Can you represent fashion designers?  Write their contracts?  Maybe you love sports?  Get involved with sports agencies, or sporting goods product defense.

2.  Create a niche. 

a.     Find one area of the law (something related to your personal interests), and dig deep.  Get as specific as you can, whether it is a single statute, or regulation, or obscure kind of contract.  Become an expert on something that very few others know. 

b.     Read everything you can about your area of interest.  Start writing articles, even if it is for your own blog.  Submit your articles to anyone who will publish them.  Get to know others who write on your topic, and offer your assistance.

c.      Get involved with groups and associations, especially non-lawyer groups and associations, who will benefit from your specialized knowledge.  Members of these groups are your potential clients!  Do not worry if the members of your group are young.  They will age, gain experience, and power to make decisions as time goes on.    Use social media to get connections.  Think of this part as fun!  You get to meet interesting people with whom you have something in common.  Listen to them.  Make friends!

d.     Offer to speak, teach courses, or anything to get you out into the community related to your chosen topic.

e.     Be active in the community in general.  Become known for positive contributions.

Why is this important?

Happy people are more successful.  Everyone knows when you like what you’re doing.  People (as in clients and therefore success) will be drawn to you if you are interesting to be around.  You will be excited, more engaged, more effective, and more knowledgeable if you enjoy your career.  Joy is a natural incentive to gaining more knowledge and experience, and in connecting you with people and groups who will help to advance your career.

The opposite is true for unhappy people.  If you don’t like what you’re doing, people can tell.  You will be less effective at developing a career if you are not interested in your work.  Do you want to do business with a miserable person?  Or someone who is obviously only interested in you because of the profit you can generate for them?  Maybe, but most people would choose to do business with someone interested and engaged, and happy.

The law is such a versatile field with limitless career options.  As a bright new lawyer, you have power to create the kind of career that will compliment a happy life, and to create the kind of life that will compliment a fulfilling career.  You just need to keep an open mind, create a (very flexible) plan, and take steps to make it into reality. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Drugs, DUI’s, and Disorderly Defendants. . . . Oh My! A Civil Lawyer’s Look into Life as a District Attorney

By Kandy Williams

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore . . . .” That was my thought each morning as I ascended the steps inside the criminal courthouse. I was working as a Deputy District Attorney as part of the Orange County DA’s Trial Attorney Partnership (“TAP”) program. Never in my staid, civil law practice life had I dealt with cases involving drugs, drunks, or disorderly defendants. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. As a civil attorney seeking to gain courtroom and trial experience, I had no idea what kind of a ride the TAP program would be when I applied. After successfully prosecuting my first jury trial, conducting numerous felony preliminary hearings, and arguing motions and other evidentiary matters, I can say that it was one of the best work experiences I ever had. Before I began the TAP program, I had this vision of what a DA does (something along the lines of, say, Law and Order). Suffice it to say being a DA looks much easier on TV.

In trial, a DA is part investigator (was it Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick?), part Perry Mason (“Objection, your honor, defense counsel is harassing the witness again”), and part Spielberg (to play the video for the jury or not play the video, that is the question). Being able to think on your feet and respond well is a threshold requirement for a DA. It was unusual to be handed a preliminary hearing with advance time to prepare. It was more the norm to be called upstairs to the calendaring court, given the file, and told your witnesses were waiting in the hallway. I also recall thinking that I had more time to prepare for moot court in law school than I had to prepare for my jury trial (in which there was no second chair, by the way). This made the TAP experience all the more challenging and, well, exciting. I have always enjoyed the practice of law, but I do not recall ever using the word “exciting” to describe my work.

I was more than impressed with the quality of the attorneys at the DA’s office, not to mention in awe at the amount of work they get done with what little resources they have. I shared an office (and that is a stretch to call my tiny government-issued space an “office”) with another TAP attorney, who worked for a large law firm. We compared notes on how jovial the DA’s office seemed compared to private law firm life (this despite the lack of secretaries, support, and even supplies). It did not seem as competitive as some of the firms I have worked at in the past (and my experiences were much better than those of my peers at other more cut-throat firms). Maybe that is why the DAs seemed to like their jobs, which is a novelty in the practice of law. I could have sworn I even heard laughter in the hallway, which was quite refreshing after having spent years trying to avoid getting stuck in a conversation with a co-worker because it meant I had to stay later to make my billable hour requirement.

I was also impressed by the judges. Most seemed to take an interest in the TAP attorneys. One avuncular judge even took me and my co-TAP attorney back in chambers to give us tips. Wait . . . actual mentoring? Like I said, I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. With that and finding out that discovery was just a one-page form, I was definitely blown away by the civility of criminal law practice.

In any event, I have many great stories to entertain my friends at cocktail parties now. And having won my first jury trial is definitely a notch on my belt. All in all, it was a great experience. It is nice to be back to my quiet, civil law practice, but I will always enjoy having played a DA.

Montage Legal Group - Affiliated Attorney - Kandy Williams

Kandy Williams attended the University of Mississippi and obtained her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Pepperdine University School of Law, where she served as Literary Editor of the Pepperdine Law Review. During law school, Kandy also won several moot court awards, including Best Oral Advocate in the school’s Dalsimer Competition and as well as awards in national moot court competitions. After law school, Kandy clerked for the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Memphis, Tennessee.

She then began practicing law in Nashville in the corporate and securities group at Waller Landsden Dortch and Davis LLP. She then returned to California where she joined the corporate group at Snell and Wilmer, LLP. At Snell and Wilmer, Kandy negotiated mergers and acquisitions, prepared copyright and trademark registrations, and worked on corporate-related litigation matters.

Kandy then joined Brobeck Phleger and Harrison LLP’s corporate and securities group, where she negotiated venture capital financings on both the venture capital fund side and the company side in the high technology and emerging growth sectors. After taking some time off to be at home with her two children, Kandy relaunched her legal career by consulting with entrepreneurs and start-up companies and eventually started her own law firm. She affiliated with Montage Legal Group in early 2010.

In addition to her legal career, Kandy sits on the Board of Directors and the Governance Committee of Hope University, which provides an arts-centered curriculum for adults with developmental disabilities.

Kandy was recently interviewed by “Critical Mass: The Radio Show” to talk about how entrepreneurs could benefit from engaging a business attorney in the early stages of the lives of their business. Click here to listen to her radio interview.

Kandy has also been featured by iRelaunch, a company started by Carol Fishman Cohen, the well-known author of "Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work."  iRelaunch produces career reentry programming, events, and content for employers, universities, organizations and individuals. Kandy was featured as a “Success Story” for getting back into the legal market after taking time off to raise her children.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Market Mommy Interviews Erin Giglia

Erin Giglia, a founder/owner of Montage Legal Group, was interviewed by Market Mommy, a blog about mothers who create successful businesses while raising their children. Erin was selected to be part of a series called “Achieving $uccess” about mom entrepreneurs who are able to balance starting a new business and raising a family. Below is an excerpt from her Market Mommy Interview.

Market Mommy:: When and why did you found your business?

Erin Giglia:: We are Laurie Rowen and Erin Giglia, the founders and owners of Montage Legal Group, LLC. We formed Montage Legal Group in 2009 after Laurie and I both voluntarily left practicing law at a large law firm. Laurie had been practicing for 5 years and had a one year old baby, and I had been practicing for 8 years and had a 3 year old and a one year old. We both felt that the traditional law firm business model did not fit well into our ideal roles as mothers, so we decided to create a new model with more flexibility. In the process we, somewhat inadvertently, formed a company focused on supporting other attorneys in similar situations to ours. Our company, Montage Legal Group, allows attorneys to remain in legal practice by doing freelance legal projects from home for other law firms, while they tend to family needs, each on their own schedules. Montage Legal Group also assists attorneys who are re-entering the legal practice after a long absence due to caring for young children. Successful female attorneys do have many resources available to them, especially when in large law firm practice. But, this often changes when we alter our priorities after having children. Montage Legal Group tries to support these educated, high-achieving women as they transition to a very different and unfamiliar situation.

Market Mommy:: How long did it take before you felt successful?

Erin Giglia:: Not long at all! All it took was having attorneys contact us wanting to join, as well as overwhelmingly positive feedback from our clients.

Market Mommy:: How do you define success?

Erin Giglia:: Success for us is providing our law firm and attorney clients with exceptional attorneys while giving Montage Legal Group attorneys the ability to practice law and tend to family (and without the crazy 2000 hour required billing at a traditional law firm). Our clients typically need and want excellent attorneys, but often cannot afford to hire someone full time. Montage Legal Group attorneys are available for the exact amount of legal work the client needs, and at a great price.

Market Mommy:: How do you balance parenting with running your business?

Erin Giglia:: We rely on each other quite a bit, and since the work we do is done from home and/or while our children are at school, we can fit it in well with our schedules. We also learned how to be incredibly efficient in law school and in legal practice, especially for me after practicing at a large law firm with two babies under 3-years-old.

To read more of Erin Giglia’s interview, click here.  For more information on the creator of Market Mommy, Meet Dawn Berryman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Unbalanced to Balanced" - MetaMOMphorsis Blog Features Montage Legal

MetaMOMphorsis recently posted an article about Montage Legal Group titled "Unbalanced to Balanced by Creating Your Own Opportunities – How Two Attorneys Helped Themselves and Others."  The article states, "what impressed me the most about this venture is that as they grew the business, the two staffed their business primarily with mothers just like themselves."  Below is a great paragraph from the article explaining the continuing need for a more practical work arrangement for female attorneys:
For non-attorneys, this may not seem like a huge deal. But as an attorney and friend and colleague of many other mom attorneys, I can tell you that many of us wish for opportunities such as this. A large proportion of women attorneys who leave the profession (whether temporarily or permanently) do not seek to become solely at-home moms. Many still have a strong desire to practice their profession, but no practical way to do so, given the demands of the billable hours attorneys face or the huge responsibilities associated with hanging their own shingle. Those who seek contract work too often find that the type of work offered is of the type more suitable to an attorney fresh out of school, such as document review for legal cases. For seasoned women attorneys, this is not a practical use of their time or skills. It is unfortunate that the legal profession ends up losing so many talented women who are willing and able to continue practicing, but have a need for a more practical work arrangement.
MetaMOMphorsis is a thoughful blog that explores issues, concerns, and dilemmas that both working and stay-at-home mothers face, so check it out here: http://metamomphorsis.com/.  We haven't had the chance to meet the creator of MetaMOMphorsis, but we appreciate the post about Montage Legal!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How is Women Helping Women Connected to the Legal Community?

By Laurie Rowen

Montage Legal Group is happy to announce that it will be co-sponsoring Women Helping Women’s “The Star Within” Gala, along with the estate planning firm, Katherine J. Hughes, PC (a Montage Legal affiliated attorney and a WHW Board of Director)! The Gala will take place on Friday, April 1, 2011 at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.

As the current President of Women Helping Women’s Board of Directors, I want to make sure that I tell you what this organization is really about. Many of you know that Women Helping Women is a charity that provides career clothing to low-income women to assist them in attaining and sustaining employment. What you may not know is that WHW has a strong connection to the legal community, and that WHW has evolved over the years.

WHW’s Connection to the Legal Community
WHW was started in 1993 by two legal professionals who were survivors of domestic abuse. These two women began their journey to create a life for themselves and their children. They created a program that they believed would help victims of domestic violence break the cycle of poverty, avoid homelessness and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. These women collected business attire to help other women just like them get back into the workforce. 

Throughout the past two decades, many professions have gotten less formal and have given up the practice of requiring employees to wear suits. Not lawyers! Law is one of the last professions that still requires a closet full of suits. For this reason, WHW relies heavily on the legal community for its business attire donations.
Attorneys are also very active on WHW’s Board of Directors. Along with Laurie Rowen and Katie Hughes, three other lawyers serve on WHW’s Board of Directors: Erica Fisher of Hewitt Wolensky, Erin Denniston of Snell and Wilmer, LLP, and Anne Marie Ellis of Hewitt Wolensky (Advisory Board of Directors). Hewitt Wolensky and Snell and Wilmer, LLP support WHW by sponsoring events, holding clothing drives and volunteering. Both Hewitt Wolensky and Snell and Wilmer, LLP are also sponsors of the “The Star Within” Gala on April 1st.

WHW’s Evolution and Recent Changes
WHW has substantially evolved from 1993 to 2011. WHW’s services were expanded to include all low-income women in transition, including the homeless, drug or alcohol rehabilitated, women on parole, immigrants, women lacking job skills, emancipated youth and welfare mothers. WHW also expanded to support men, with its Men2Work program. WHW has also changed its focus from primarily giving clothing to assist with the interview stage, to a focus on helping these men and women attain and sustain jobs after the interview stage. WHW provides job placement assistance, educational workshops, and computer training.
WHW recently expanded by moving into a beautiful new facility located at 1800 E. Mc Fadden Avenue, Suite 1A in Santa Ana. This much larger building gives WHW space to grow and expand its programs to help more men and women obtain employment and succeed in life.
WHW also has exciting news regarding its leadership. The Board of Directors recently named Janie Wolicki as its new Executive Director. As Executive Director, Janie will be charged with building upon WHW’s success by further developing the organization’s vision, achieving its goals for continued financial stability, community engagement and enhancing the impact of its programs and mission to help prepare women and men for the work place. Ms. Wolicki’s vast experience with large multi-layered organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the YMCA have enabled her to provide essential leadership to Boards and staff while accomplishing desired objectives and delivering high quality programs vital to the organizations’ missions. Most recently serving as Director of Development for Children’s Bureau of Southern California, Ms. Wolicki successfully fostered a strong public image through marketing, speaking engagements, and building relationships with community leaders and donors. Janie just started on March 1st, and we are thrilled that she decided to join WHW!
How You Can Get Involved

Attorneys are often actively involved in the community, but it can be difficult to find time to research non-profits and decide which organizations match your personal passions. If you have wanted to get involved in something that will make a positive impact in your community, WHW would love to have your support. Here’s how you can help:
  • Donate Clothing: All attorneys wear suits and get tired of their old suits!! Donate your business attire to Women Helping Women. If you don’t have any suits to donate at the moment, you still can help. WHW also accepts all men and women’s clothing and shoes (i.e. non-business attire), which they sell in “Saturday Sales” and in an upsale retail shop called “Deja New” to support many programs, including their job placement program. If your law firm or business hasn’t already held a clothing drive for WHW, we can help organize one for you. If you have clothing that you want to donate, contact me at Laurie@montagelegal.com and I can let you know where to drop off clothing in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.
  • Sponsor or Come to WHW's April Event: The WHW 7th Annual Models of Success Event, “The Star Within,” is being held on Friday, April 1st at 6:00 p.m. in Newport Beach. This is the first time WHW has thrown a Gala at night, and it will include a dinner-dance, silent auction and many great raffle opportunities. Please come join us! For sponsorship opportunities or to buy a ticket, please contact Denise Macon at 949-631-2333 ext 346 or via email at denisem@whw.org.
  • Volunteer: WHW always needs volunteers! Please contact me at Laurie@montagelegal.com and together we can look at your skill sets, desires and resources to see where you might fit in at WHW.

There are days when things are so crazy in my life that I feel like something has to go, and I wonder if I have the time to put into Women Helping Women. But the second I speak to one of our dedicated staff members like Brateil Aghasi (our amazing associate director and prior interim executive director) or Trina Fleming (our director of operations), or I stop by our new facilities in Santa Ana and see the amazing clients WHW is currently helping, I realize that my involvement and support of Women Helping Women will never end.

I will leave you with the following quote of a client who WHW recently helped:
I came to WHW insecure and scarred. I had no idea what to expect from the programs. I thought people would place judgment on me or focus on my past mistakes. To my relief, that never happened. Instead, the focus was placed on the possibilities of my future. WHW became the biggest positive step in my recovery and changed my life! After receiving the various employment support I felt more capable, motivated and confident. WHW gave me my womanhood back.


Laurie Rowen founded Montage Legal Group along with Erin Giglia in early 2009.  Laurie graduated magna cum laude from UCLA and was admitted into Phi Beta Kappa. She attended University of San Diego School of Law, where she was an associate editor of the San Diego Law Review and served as President of the Student Bar Association. She obtained her Juris Doctor, cum laude, in 2004.  Laurie joined Snell and Wilmer's product liability litigaton group following law school.  After having her first daughter, Laurie left Snell and Wilmer to do freelance/contract work, and later started Montage Legal Group.