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Bar News - January 14, 2011

Opinion: Message to New Lawyers: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?


From Left: David Nixon, Jack Middleton and Kimon Zachos. These three were honored at the 2010 Midyear Meeting for 50 years of public service and inspiration to the legal profession.
Well, it is a new year, and that means that every column, in every magazine and newspaper, is going to devote itself to recounting those who have "passed on," resolutions for the New Year, or some sort of scathing criticism of Obamacare.

This column isnít going to do that. You see, the goal of this column is to help guide younger lawyers who, because of the times we live in, donít have access to the same sort of mentorship programs that existed in yesteryear. There was a time when older lawyers made time to develop the careers of their younger colleagues. So often, but not always, that isnít true anymore. So, as I write this, I think about friends from law school, friends who are smarter, friends who are better writers, friends who are better researchers, friends who are vastly more capable than I am; friends who are unable to find work.

Now, some of these friends hung their own shingles, started their own practices, and bravely entered a bold new arena. Those friends, some, are making ends meet. Others are struggling to do so. I think, too, of other friends, friends who left law school with enormous debts, friends with young families, friends who are unable to risk hanging out a shingle, and going months on end without bringing in any money; friends who left the legal profession in order to take whatever job they could get. I think of all those people, some of whom are happy and content, and some of whom are struggling along. But as I think of those people, I think of how fortunate I am to be where I am.

Doing good while doing well

That is what this column is about Ė not about me, donít misunderstand me Ė but itís about each of us new lawyers, and what we are doing to help out our fellow new lawyers. You Ė the guy at the big firm, putting in 1,600, 1,700, 1,800 hundred billable hours a year (although youíre not supposed to tell anybody that you are actually required to put in those hours), what are you doing to help out that new lawyer solo practitioner that you went to law school with? Are you sharing resources? Are you sharing ideas? Are you sharing the things that youíre learning? Are you sending clients? I know, there are rules against sharing resources. I know there are rules about referring clients outside your firm. I know there are propriety pieces of information, but how are you helping that friend? How are you helping that colleague who sat beside you in Torts, who stayed up all night studying for a Contractsí final with you? How are you helping?

You, the young buck who wound up at a small boutique firm, who has been given a ton of responsibility, and find yourself ran ragged, burning the candle at both ends. Youíre self-absorbed. Youíve got a new wife or husband, maybe a new baby; life is very, very busy. You havenít time to spare. What are you doing to help out your law school buddies? Have you sent a card of encouragement? Written a note? Referred a client? Have you bought him or her lunch? Dinner? A cup of coffee? Have you done any of those things without expecting something in return?

I know, you donít need to hear any of this, but everything Iíve just described, everything Iíve just written about, is what you need to do if, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, you want to look back on a successful career. These are the patterns of behavior that beget success for every career - lawyers, accountants, or fishermen. We, of course, are lawyers, so think for a moment, of the oldest, wisest, most successful lawyers you know.

In my case, I think of the trio of Jack Middleton, David Nixon, and Kimon Zachos, who were honored at the NHBAís 2010 Midyear Meeting for their 50 years of public service and inspiration to the legal profession. Each of these men has been extremely successful in their careers. Each of these men has done the sort of things Iím describing. They have taken the extra time and energy to be thoughtful and generous, not to someone more successful, not to reach upward in an effort to curry favor, but by reaching laterally when they were new lawyers, to other new lawyers, and reaching backward when they became more successful in their own careers. These men did very well. Do you want to do well? Then "do good" by another new lawyer.

You might be wondering why this column is titled, "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?" Well, itís because Iím begging. Iím begging each of you to think about a friend, someone who you know, a fellow new lawyer, maybe someone a year behind you, or right alongside you, who is having a rough go because of the economy. Find a way to help that person. Find a way to do it that brings honor and respect to our profession. Try to do that just once this year. As a fellow new lawyer, Iíd be awfully proud.

Thanks for reading.

Kirk Simoneau is the Assistant Managing Director at Nixon, Raiche, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky & Simoneau, a statewide plaintiffís trial law firm.

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