January 2, 2014

Knowing another language can come in handy.  For example, I recall enough from my high school and college French classes to be able to get by – or at least ask for directions to the bathroom – if I ever find myself in France.  And, my years in law school and law practice armed me with enough arcane “Legalese” (not an actual language, but derived from Latin) terms and phrases to be able to navigate the legal system.

I also know corporate-speak.  Most of that, however, is just plain silly.

The Wall Street Journal recently surveyed business executives to get their take on which corporate buzzwords should be banned from the boardroom.  While I agree that all of the winning(?) terms are over-used, I think that a few do convey helpful imagery and are therefore worth keeping, namely “push the envelope,”  “out of the box,” and “low hanging fruit.”    That’s about it, though.  “Going forward?”  Unnecessary, extra words.  “Game change?”  Business is not a game.  “Ideate?”  What exactly does that mean, anyway?  And “reach out?”  I’m not sure why, but that one has always made me cringe.

Corporate-speak is so pervasive in the business world that I used to amuse myself by amassing my own collection of boardroom bromides.  Here are some representative gems, all taken from real-world meetings, presentations, calls, and emails, and most uttered by otherwise smart and talented people:

“interesting data point”

“fortify our talent roadmap”

“delayer organizations”

“brand refresh rollout”

“drive efficiencies and standardization”

“deliver incremental customer value”

“internal stakeholder support”

“socialize the draft to the team”

“start productionizing”

“socialize it for input”

“assuring interlock”

“generate differentiated value”

“surface the concerns”

And the list goes on … but I’ll spare you.


Hanging Up the Cape

September 24, 2010

It’s been seven months since my last blog post, and even longer since my last good long run.  That’s pretty sad considering the grounding and stabilizing roles that writing and running have each played for me over the past few years.

So what have I been doing in the interim?  Someone asked me recently where I keep my Superman cape.  It wasn’t meant as a compliment – it was an observation that I tend to fall into/get led into/jump into “fix it” mode with work and  my various activities – so much so that the day-to-day aspect of living life falls by the wayside.

What has it gotten me?  It’s finally dawned on me that I probably cannot save the world on my own – probably not even my little corner of it.  Even if I could, it’s not worth the cost.  I can do my fair share, and then some – but, barring an unanticipated appointment as king for a day, I would do well to end my Quixote-esque quest to save the kingdom.

An admittedly cryptic post – but what do you expect after 7 months?

Technically speaking

August 21, 2009

There is certainly tech-savvy blood in my family. I have one cousin who is a television photojournalist and another cousin who is a news director, both of whom work with complicated cameras, satellite trucks, editing equipment, and who knows what other sorts of high-tech gadgets and gizmos on a daily basis. I have an uncle who was a radar intercept officer on an F-4 Phantom jet, where he dealt with a jaw-dropping array of dials, gauges, buttons and switches, at supersonic speeds, no less. I have a brother in law who is a master plumber and carpenter, and could probably give MacGyver a run for his money.

I, however, generally need to enlist the help of my teenaged daughter in order to get the remote on the DVD player to work. I could have used her (or one of my cousins, or my uncle, or my brother-in-law, or somebody) today when I found myself trying without success to assert an air of technical confidence and competence as I fiddled with the cables connecting a computer, projector, DVD player, PA system and other assorted hardware, trying to figure out where the sound had gone. Oh, and did I mention that I was doing so in front of a room full of lawyers, all of whom had paid a significant sum to attend the seminar that had just come to a screeching halt due to the aforesaid technical difficulties? Good times….

Presentations 101

August 20, 2009

Anyone who has ever had to give a speech or presentation can probably rattle off a number of survival/success tips. Speak to the back of the room. Maintain eye contact. Don’t read. Speak slowly.

These are all decent guidelines. They are, however, pretty basic, and I would never (knowingly) sign anyone on to speak at one of my seminars who had to be reminded of them. I was therefore happy to come across legal consultant Matthew Homann’s Ten Rules for Presenters. The next time you step in front of an audience (or classroom, or jury, or congregation, or whatever), take note of these rules. Your listeners (and whoever was responsible for getting you up there in the first place) will thank you!

A Different Image

August 19, 2009

OK, this won’t be a long or particularly thoughtful post, but I’ve just gotten home after a 2-day business trip, and I have exactly 11 minutes to get something posted in order to remain on Blawger Island.

One of the benefits to my job (planning/overseeing continuing education seminars for lawyers) is that I get to work with some extremely talented people. All are good lawyers – the adage that “those who can’t, teach” doesn’t apply in my business. However, not all of them are much fun to be around – some wear their talent on their sleeve, with egos as big as their reputations. Often, though, they are the most warm and interesting people you could imagine. Such was the case with the speaker I’ve been working with over the past couple of days.

Oh, that the public’s image of lawyers was based on people like this….


August 13, 2009

As I begin this post, it’s 11:17 p.m. and in order to remain on the “Blawger Survivor” island, I have to get it posted in the next 43 minutes. Actually, make that 41 minutes.

Technically, I suppose I could go ahead and hit “Publish” now and stay within the letter of the Blawger law. But, in the interest of fair play, to stay within the spirit as well as the letter of the law, and with the realization that I will probably cross paths with Sean Carter at the next ACLEA meeting, I’d better do a bit more than 3 sentences.

Deadlines. When I was in school it was getting the papers turned in on time. Several of my upper-level English courses in college did not have any exams at all, just a requirement that we turn in a specified number of pages by the end of the semester. It was great for someone like me, who enjoys writing but has never been a particularly good test taker. Great at least until the end of the semester rolled around and I heard the clock ticking louder and louder.

A few years later I entered law practice, an extraordinarily deadline-driven profession, particularly for trial lawyers. Whether the deadlines are set by the rules, by the court, or by opposing counsel’s demand letter, a good bit of the day-to-day routine of a litigation practice is simply meeting one deadline after another. Usually, I’d find myself working until the 11th hour to meet a deadline. While procrastination might have occasionally entered into the picture, far more often the primary culprit was Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If the rules allowed 30 days to compile discovery responses, it was remarkable how often it would be a 30-day project. If a judge gave me a week to file a motion, it would take me a week to get it just right.

And, if I have 43 minutes to write up a blog post, you can be sure it’ll take 42.

Pitbull in a Frame

August 11, 2009

I practiced law for eight years, and I was pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’ve recounted the first couple of years in a trio of posts unimaginatively entitled Law Practice Part I, and II, and III. The bulk of my time in practice, however, was spent in the as-yet-unwritten Part IV. This post is not Part IV, but a post by The Nutmeg Lawyer reminded me of those years – and one of the reasons why I left practice.

I was becoming a jackass. Read The Nutmeg Lawyer’s post for the gory details. I don’t think that I quite reached the point of alienating those in my professional life – although I know that I did suffer some by way of guilt by association due to working with one of the partners in my firm. I did, however, have a difficult time in turning off the hyper-aggressive litigator persona when I got home. And that, my friends, is not a recipe for either marital or paternal success.

When did it finally dawn on me? The day that the aforesaid partner left my office in a red-faced rage after excoriating me for not being aggressive enough with opposing counsel, and rather than giving him my 2 weeks notice, I found myself considering the idea of putting a framed picture of a pitbull on my desk as a motivational tool. Yikes.

True to my lawyerly instincts, I’ll include a caveat. It doesn’t have to happen – one can certainly be effective as a lawyer, and as a litigator, without being a jerk. I like lawyers. I work with lawyers. I’m married to a lawyer. But, it can happen.

Choose your mentor wisely.