April 22, 2009

The Art of Selling Your Lawyering

In recognition of the many changes impacting the practice of law, we will be devoting more resources to helping you cope – and keep abreast – of how the changes will impact your career. For example, tune in next month for our webcast: “Looking Out for #1: How to Manage Your Career.” We’ll also be expanding the resources in our “Career Development” Practice Area.

In this podcast, Mike O’Horo, Founder and President of Sales Results, provides some insight into how lawyers can best position themselves to gain clients, including:

– What is your general training philosophy?
– If lawyering skills are sales tools, what can lawyers do to best use them to sell?
– What do you recommend that young lawyers do to sell themselves?

PCAOB Staff Weighs In: Auditor Considerations for Fair Value, Etc.

Yesterday, the PCAOB Staff issued this Staff Audit Practice Alert to inform auditors about the potential implications on reviews of interim financial information and annual audits caused by the FASB’s three recently-issued Staff Positions on fair value measurements and OTTI.

Closings Then and Now

On the Blog, John Jenkins of Calfee Halter & Griswold continues to provide some great analysis of recent developments. Below is a more personal anecdote that he recently blogged that rang true to an old-timer like me:

I started practicing law in 1986, but so much has changed since then that I often feel like I’m a complete relic. For instance, it boggles my mind when I think about the fact that there’s an entire generation of lawyers out there who’ve never hand-marked an SEC filing, never dealt with trying to clear Blue Sky merit review, and never hand-delivered a filing package to the SEC reviewer and then raced to the bank of pay phones next to the file room to let the rest of the team know that the deal was effective.

Those events were rites of passage for generations of young deal lawyers, and I think that today’s lawyers have actually missed out on something by not being able to take part in them. Sitting bleary-eyed in the Judiciary Plaza Roy Rogers forcing down another cup of coffee while waiting for the SEC’s file desk to open – along with a bunch of other sleepy junior associates toting overstuffed deal bags – was a shared experience that built a kind of camaraderie among young deal lawyers. Regardless of where you worked, misery loved company, and after a couple of all nighters at the printer, those early mornings at Judiciary Plaza were definitely miserable!

But I think the biggest thing that most young lawyers miss out on today is what an epic event a deal closing used to be. Today, it seems every closing is done by e-mail and overnight delivery. I can’t tell you the last time that I went to a closing or sent someone to physically attend a closing. Closings with actual people signing actual documents are increasingly rare events. Things were sure different back in the day.

Closing a public offering wasn’t a big deal – the closing was over in a couple of hours at most, and was pretty anti-climactic in light of everything that came before it. However, there was nothing anticlimactic about the closing of a big M&A transaction. These closings were elaborate, multi-day, round-the-clock affairs that involved lots of paper, little sleep, all the boredom, stress, caffeine, and nicotine that you could handle, and all the cold pizza and warm deli trays you could eat.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – this drama usually played itself out across a bunch of dreary conference rooms that featured fluorescent lighting that sometimes looked like it came straight out of the office scene in Joe Versus the Volcano (okay, maybe it just seemed that way at the time). The M&A people were in one room, the Bank people were in another, then there were often war rooms and usually a much nicer room where the client’s executives were ensconced. This last room was definitely for the grownups. Aside from the client’s senior people, nobody who wasn’t a senior investment banker or partner spent much time in this sanctuary. You only went into this room to get signature pages signed, and you rarely spoke above a whisper.

Today, closing a deal still involves a tremendous amount of work, but most of the time is spent writing and responding to e-mails, revising closing documents at your desk and generally staring at a computer screen. Sure, there may be cold pizza and caffeine involved, but there’s definitely no nicotine unless it’s contained in a stick of gum. What’s more, there’s just not the commotion. No conference rooms full of people, nobody rushing around calling back to their office to find out what happened to the tax clearance certificate from Massachusetts, no big shot partners arguing face-to-face over last minute changes to somebody’s legal opinion (or an eleventh hour request for a new opinion).

Of course, all of those things still happen; it’s just that they happen in cyberspace or on conference calls. In many respects, that’s a real benefit. Don’t get me wrong; 99% of everything I’ve just described stunk worse than Battlefield Earth, but the other one percent represents the kind of shared experience that helps lawyers develop a little empathy for one another. Personally, I think we could use more of those kinds of experiences.

How Do You Feel About Deal Closings?

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– Broc Romanek