After a very challenging 2020, it’s great to see 2021. Happy New Year!

While I know that many folks make official New Years resolutions, I have never been much of a New Years resolutions type of guy. We need to constantly change as lawyers or we risk irrelevancy – and the same can also be said for our personal lives. From my perspective, a specific date is not needed for us to change or to try something new – as the folks at Nike say “Just Do It!

That said, here’s 3 things that I think we can all do better as lawyers as we begin 2021:

  • Wellness, Wellness and More Wellness: As I’ve written about before wellness is our best investment – and to say that the pandemic has underscored the importance of staying healthy is a huge understatement. Continue to put your health first and think about what more you can do to improve your mental and physical wellness.

I have recently changed up my workout routine as I have pivoted from jogging 3 days a week to getting outside early in the morning every day for an 1-1.5 hour “power walk” and increasing it to 2+ hours per day on the weekends. Doing so has improved my mental wellness as it ensures that I get out of my WFH environment every day (even in the cold Western Suburbs of Chicago) and it is less taxing on my body when compared to jogging.

  • Technology, Technology, Technology & Trust: As we learned during 2020 with the pandemic, technology is playing a bigger and more impactful role in our lives. I believe that technology is a lawyer’s best friend and we all need to continue to put technology to work for us and our clients in 2021. Also be sure to partner with technology providers that you can truly trust with your valuable data – especially given the critical importance of data privacy and cybersecurity-related considerations.
  • Make Others Better via Greater Knowledge Sharing: Many legal teams unfortunately remain very stuck in their silos. Leading technology tools like Microsoft Teams enables legal departments and law firms to share information seamlessly, to “crowdsource” problem solving and to get out of our silos. Look for more opportunities on your legal team to help your teammates, help your clients and to demonstrate your leadership by constantly sharing relevant information, best practices and lessons learned. Knowledge is power and the more key information that we can share, the better.

I’m also planning to write more blogs posts in 2021 on various topics at the intersection of law, business and technology – and perhaps a few regarding my favorite sport of baseball as I view baseball as a “microcosm” of life.

Let’s be sure to get off to a “Fast Start” in 2021 and please stay safe and healthy!

Yesterday I learned of the unfortunate death of Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro. Sadly, Mr. Niekro is the 7th Hall of Fame player that has died in 2020 and a few months ago I wrote about two of those baseball immortals here. I’m a big baseball fan and every time I learn about the passing of a ballplayer that I watched and grew up to as a kid, part of my youth also passes away.

Mr. Niekro had an incredible career as he won 318 games (and he won his 300th game with my beloved NY Yankees) as a pitcher and he did so in a highly unconventional fashion. Instead of throwing the typical repertoire of fastballs, sliders, curveballs, change-ups, sinkerballs, screwballs, split-fingered fastballs, etc….that most pitchers throw, he relied primarily on a very unique pitch known as the knuckleball that he and his younger brother Joe Niekro – another highly successful major league baseball pitcher who won 221 games –  both learned to throw from their father growing up in Ohio. The knuckleball pitch requires a specialized grip on the ball, is very hard to master and there have only been a score of knuckleballers across baseball in the past 50 years or so. Knuckleballs can move a lot when they slowly “flutter” towards home plate and they can be very difficult for opposing batters to hit if thrown correctly (and if they are thrown incorrectly they are like batting practice for major league hitters).

As I reflect upon Mr. Niekro’s career, here’s some learnings for us as lawyers and business professionals:

Be Authentic and a “Maverick”: Mr. Niekro’s highly successful baseball career was premised upon doing something entirely different from his peers by throwing his signature knuckleball pitch. His “maverick” pitching style as a knuckleballer provided him with a competitive differentiator over others. Not only did he have incredible success as a pitcher, but since the knuckleball did not exact a toll on his pitching arm like other harder thrown pitches do he was able to be even more valuable, durable and versatile to his teams by pitching on short rest, pitching many complete games, serving as both a starter and a relief pitcher and pitching in the major leagues for an incredible 24 seasons.

In our Corporate America environment where so many people sound the same and look the same, think about what separates you from the masses as you deliver differentiated value to your clients. As you serve your clients don’t be fearful in being a so-called “maverick” who generates fresh ideas, is willing to think differently and is unafraid at throwing proverbial knuckleballs to opposing counsel that are hard for them to handle.

Recognize the Key Skill of Getting Things Done: Throughout Mr. Niekro’s career he was not a flashy pitcher, he played on many low-performing Atlanta Braves teams in a small market and was overshadowed by other great “power” pitchers during his generation like Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, etc….who received more attention, more accolades, more Cy Young Awards and more World Series trophies than he did. In fact, some did not think that Mr. Niekro was even Hall of Fame worthy. However, year in and year out he continued to do his job under the radar, at a very high level and kept amassing pitching victories over a very lengthy 24 year career.

Many of us have teammates on our own teams who continually deliver high value to their clients every day – but perhaps they aren’t noticed by their management because they don’t crave attention, aren’t provided high “visibility” opportunities, aren’t interested in playing office politics, etc… Mr. Niekro’s somewhat “quiet” yet long career is a great reminder for leaders at law firms and at in-house legal departments that the so-called “lunch pail” type of lawyers and business professionals in our workplaces who may be behind the scenes, who don’t complain, who make others better and most importantly – know how to get things done – should not be forgotten. Instead, they should be celebrated and appropriately recognized.

Avoid Unconscious Bias: I remember watching Mr. Niekro pitch during the early 1980s when he was with the Braves courtesy of the TV station TBS at that time and when he played with my New York Yankees in 1984 and 1985. Quite frankly if you ever saw Mr. Niekro on the pitching mound he could have been mistaken for someone who was playing on a weekend softball team of “over the hill” players.  Although he may have never looked or pitched like a prototypical major league pitcher, he consistently fooled hitters throughout his career enroute to 318 pitching wins with his very hard to hit knuckleball.  Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks once said, “He simply destroys your timing with that knuckleball. It comes flying in there dipping and hopping like crazy and you just can’t hit it.”

Mr. Niekro’s career is a great reminder that we should never judge a book by its cover and that we need to avoid our own unconscious bias about others. Just because someone in our opinion may not look or speak the part of an outstanding lawyer or business leader doesn’t mean they are incapable of being an outstanding lawyer or business leader.

Age + Experience = an Asset and Not a Liability: Incredibly, Mr. Niekro pitched until he was 48 years of age into the 1987 baseball season. In addition, he won 121 games after he turned 40 – which is a major league record. Also while winning 318 games over 24 seasons, only 3 other major pitchers ever pitched more than Mr. Niekro’s 5,404 total innings. When Mr. Niekro was 40 years old in 1979 he threw 23 complete games – nowadays it is rare to see a pitcher even throw 1 or 2 complete 9 inning games during a typical season.

Mr. Niekro’s longevity in a game that can be unforgiving for players who lose their timing, great eyesight, speed and ability to throw as they age is simply remarkable. In Corporate America where ageism is a reality, Mr. Niekro’s career reminds us that older workers can still provide high value to their organizations as their age and that their experience, guile, confidence and ability to mentor others are very important assets. In addition, as we think about advancing diversity and inclusion within our respective organizations, we should remember that older employees contribute to that diversity and inclusion – and to the success of organizations.

My condolences to the entire Niekro family and may Mr. Niekro AKA “Knucksie” rest in peace.

After an unprecedented and highly tumultuous year in 2020 we are all looking forward to a new year in 2021! 2021 will continue to present important opportunities and challenges for in-house counsel. Here’s my “Top 5” focus areas for corporate counsel and their legal departments in 2021:

Continued Covid-19 Impact: While we end 2020 with the beginning of the extensive Covid-19 vaccination process across the world, there will be no vaccine per se for the continued legal issues involving the pandemic. As many organizations prepare for an eventual return of employees back to the physical workplace, a hybrid work environment or even a totally remote work experience, in-house counsel will need to continue to help their clients navigate thru a variety of employment law related considerations. In addition, we will probably begin to see various types of Covid-19 related litigation in our court systems as they try to resume their normal schedules sometime during 2021 as well as continued commercial, employment and other types of Covid-19 centric disputes. Hopefully, industries that have been hit very hard by the pandemic – such as the travel, transportation and hospitality industries – will begin to recover with increased opportunities for their legal teams to help drive positive impact. In addition, US federal Covid-19-related stimulus packages during 2020 such as the CARES Act should create more business opportunities and legal work in key sectors such as healthcare and the public sector. Finally, the “grind” of the pandemic will continue to exact its toll upon the wellness of in-house counsel and their legal departments.

It’s Data Privacy & Cybersecurity All the Time: As technology plays a larger role in our personal and professional lives, issues pertaining to the protection of that technology and its associated data are of paramount importance. At the same time we are seeing more privacy laws being enacted, regulators are become proactive in enforcing those laws and cybercriminals (including nation-states) are unfortunately continuing to weaponize technology to wreak havoc on everyone.

As this intersection of technology, data, privacy and cybersecurity becomes increasingly complex and incredibly relevant to all organizations, this means that in-house lawyers need to “skill-up” in the data privacy and cybersecurity areas. In my view data privacy and data security are becoming core legal skills that all corporate counsel need to be conversant in as they are highly relevant for virtually any in-house counsel role. Here’s some steps that in-house counsel can take to serve as more impactful data privacy and cybersecurity advisors to their respective organizations:

  • Staying abreast of the ever-changing data privacy and cybersecurity law landscape and its potential impact to your business;
  • Monitoring and learning from the increasing number of cybersecurity and ransomware incidents that are negatively impacting businesses and governments across the globe;
  • Helping your clients conduct thoughtful due diligence on your potential technology providers and supply-chain to make sure that your can trust them with securing your data;
  • Building deep and trusted legal advisor relationships with senior and influential clients such as your Chief Privacy Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and their respective teams; and
  • Becoming a data privacy and cybersecurity “patriot” by actively shaping and delivering practical data privacy and cybersecurity training to your clients so that you can help create and maintain a data protection-first and cybersecurity-first culture within your organization.

Increased US Regulatory Compliance: After a long and contentious US Presidential election we will have a new occupant in the White House in less than one month. While it will be interesting to see the impact of the new Biden administration on Corporate America, Wall Street and the various business industry sectors, it may be the case that we will see more activity in the regulatory space via new executive orders, the enactment of new laws (which may depend on which political party winds up controlling the Senate and whether there’s any appetite between our political parties to come to consensus on various issues) and more regulatory enforcement. In-house counsel will need to consider the potential proactive regulatory impact of the new Biden administration on their organizations and their legal teams/government affairs teams will need to look for opportunities to build positive relationships with the incoming administration, governmental agencies and key regulators.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is Here to Stay: Over the past several years ESG-related considerations have become increasingly important for businesses and there’s a wealth of opportunities for in-house counsel to positively impact the ESG space. In fact, in-house legal departments may want to consider creating their own specialized ESG-focused practice group in this area if they have not already done so. With the new Biden administration there’s a good chance we will see more active enforcement of the environmental laws and a significant focus on climate control initiatives. More and more leading companies with strong brand recognition have unveiled their efforts to reduce their own carbon emissions and the Chief Sustainability Officer role has the become a newer and highly visible C-Level role in Corporate America. As our society continues to be engaged in important discussions on social issues – such as the continued racial and gender inequality in our country – companies need to be better equipped in both proactively responding to and meaningfully addressing such key issues within their own corporate environments. Increasingly, in-house legal teams need to serve as a smart “sounding board” to help their companies in carefully considering the potential external social impact of their company’s decisions. The area of corporate governance is another important element of ESG – and especially as it relates to companies advancing greater diversity and inclusion in the ranks of their senior leadership and Board of Directors.

Reimaging the Legal Department: The pandemic has forced in-house legal departments to embrace change and leverage leading technology to enable remote work in order to remain highly productive. As a result, in-house counsel and their legal teams have demonstrated their ability to be resilient and to change the way they work to serve their clients during one of the most difficult periods that we have ever faced in our society. I think this coming year provides legal teams with opportunities to hit a “reset” on how their legal department operates and to accelerate their ability to adapt so they can drive greater positive impact for their clients in our ever-changing technology and data-first post pandemic world. As you build and evolve your legal teams to become “world-class” to deliver legal services with greater speed, agility and smarter risk-taking, consider focusing upon the following key areas:

  • Identifying more opportunities to work smarter (and not necessarily harder) to free up space to perform more high-value work;
  • Measuring your legal team’s success in terms of delivering clear, positive and tangible business impact to your clients;
  • Improving your understanding of your client’s changing needs;
  • Leveraging highly trusted technology and data insights to better serve you and your clients;
  • Driving a stronger culture within your legal team to collaborate, share knowledge, exchange lessons learned, and to truly break down silos;
  • Creating superior psychological safety, wellness, diversity and inclusion on your team;
  • Requiring greater value from your outside counsel law firms, alternative legal services providers, legal tech companies and other legal service providers; and
  • Re-recruiting and rewarding your best talent.

In our increasingly complex and uncertain world, now more than ever our clients need high impact and practical legal guidance that is delivered with speed from their in-house legal teams. Always strive to deliver high value to your business clients and embrace change so you can better serve them.

Last week I delivered a presentation to our Microsoft Legal Department Latinx employee community about strategies for remaining visible – and increasing your visibility – in the workplace despite working in a remote environment. As we all know not being physically in the workplace with our teammates can present unique challenges for us in getting noticed and to be “seen” by our management team. As many of us will continue to work virtually during the pandemic – and afterwards as many employers will move to a hybrid or a totally remote workplace – here’s a series of best practices to embrace to help increase your visibility at your employer while you work from home.

Be Visible and Memorable!

When I was a kid I used to read comic books and my favorite comic book series was about the Fantastic Four – four superheroes who each had unique strengths to help combat crime. One of the superheroes was the Invisible Woman AKA Sue Storm Richards who had the ability to render herself invisible when needed. The last thing that you want to be to your employer is “invisible” – especially during the Covid-19 era. In addition, you want to ensure that you are highly memorable to your employer, that you constantly leave a favorable impression and that you differentiate yourself from others.

Overcommunicate, Overcommunicate, Overcommunicate 

As you work remotely, always be sure to constantly communicate – whether it be via email, Microsoft Teams posts, instant messages/chat, text, video, mobile phone, etc….with your teammates, your peers and your management team. Since you will not have opportunities to connect with them in-person our ability to stay in touch and to communicate clearly and consistently with each other is of paramount importance. Also don’t be shy in overcommunicating with others – especially to let them know about the matters you are engaged in and how you are driving positive impact.

Be a “Humblebrag”

Look for every opportunity to promote the positive impact that you are delivering for your clients to your management team. Don’t be afraid to “toot your horn” as we are often in the best position to describe our key achievements and we cannot rely on others to do so. When your clients or teammates express a positive experience or provide compliments in working with you be sure to proactively share those accolades with your manager.

Have High Quality 1:1s with Managers & Skip-Level Managers

While I recognize that we are all trying to be smarter about convening meetings, if you aren’t already doing so make sure that you have a standing 1:1 meeting with your manager at least once a month and that you have periodic 1:1 meetings with your skip-level manager – perhaps on a quarterly basis. Be sure to prepare for these meetings, provide a bulleted point list of agenda items in advance that you would like to cover, spend some time talking about your impact/achievements/value that you are delivering to your clients, seek feedback and ask how you can help them.

Schedule Virtual Coffees with Teammates

Think about opportunities to continue to network internally within your organization by scheduling virtual 1:1/coffee-type sessions with members of your organization that you may not know so well or to reconnect with teammates that you have not spoken to in a while. These sessions don’t need to be more than 30 minutes in length and use those opportunities to become better acquainted with your teammates, to learn about their careers and to seek career advice from them. Implementing this practice will serve to grow your network and visibility within your company and always end these discussions by asking if there’s anything that you can do to help them.

Create “Impact” Reports

Periodically provide your manager and senior clients with a short report that depicts the positive impact and value that you and your teams are delivering to your clients. As you develop this report focus on the impact that you are delivering – instead of a list of activities – that are aligned to the key objectives of your clients and your legal department.  Also try to quantify the business impact of your primary accomplishments that drive positive impact for your employer.

Don’t Be Camera Shy

While participating on videoconference calls can be exhausting for all of us, when you have important discussions with your management team, business clients and teammates, turn your video on so that folks can see you. We are all familiar with the saying that “out of sight, out of mind” which is also applicable to Corporate America. Turning your video on during calls – or when it is your turn to speak during a large group call – enables you to look your teammate right in the eye by looking at and speaking directly to the camera on your device so that you can connect with them in a positive fashion and to demonstrate your attention on what they have to say to you. Also be thoughtful on how you appear on camera as well as your background – and use a pleasant virtual background if needed.

Speak Up and Be Heard

Look for more opportunities to speak and have your voice heard during virtual team meetings. For those of us that may be introverted and less likely to speak during in-person meetings, our virtual work environment may actually help drive greater inclusivity and participation from others. Even if you don’t speak up during these meetings consider contributing to the conservation through the virtual chat features of common videoconferencing and collaboration platforms like Microsoft TeamsZoom, etc…

Proactively Share Your Knowledge

Making others better by sharing best practices, knowledge and lessons learned with your teammates is a great way to get noticed by your management team and to demonstrate your leadership and expertise. Nowadays as companies use leading collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack it is super easy for you to post and share your expertise on these tools which can also be seen by those within your management chain.

Keep Matter Management Tools Current 

Often times lawyers are required to use tools that keep track of the matters they are working on (e.g., contracts/deals, litigation) so that their management teams have line of sight to such information at their fingertips. Make sure that you embrace operational excellence by constantly updating such tools to reflect the latest content for the matters that you are engaged in so that you share key knowledge and position yourself to receive the appropriate recognition from your management team.

Volunteer for More Work

If you have the capacity to take on additional work, consider raising your hand to your management team to let them know that you are open to taking on additional responsibilities. Expanding your work portfolio can make you more valuable to your organization and doing so can improve your visibility.

Deliver Presentations

Giving presentations at internal team/all hands/town hall meetings are a great way to grow your visibility. Ask your manager or senior business clients whether there’s an opportunity for you to have time on the agenda at an upcoming meeting to present on a key topic where you have some expertise. There are also opportunities for you to deliver external presentations at the numerous legal conferences and continuing legal education events that are now held virtually and which no longer require you to travel to participate. As you prepare for your presentations please be sure to check out my earlier blog post.

Do Great Work

Of course, in order to get noticed by your senior leaders in a virtual world you also need to perform your job at a very high level by delivering high-impact and positive results in areas that are of importance to your senior leadership team.

Go Above and Beyond

Even if you perform your core job responsibilities at a high level, you will often need to go above and beyond your “day job” to gain visibility with your management team. Work with your manager and others to identify opportunities to participate in those activities that are not technically part of your routine day-to-day work at your company and which are aligned to the top of mind areas of your management team (e.g., diversity and inclusion initiatives, strategic projects, special cross-group committees).

Play Bigger than your Role

Look for opportunities to drive positive impact at your company that is beyond the basic expectations of your role. If you are an in-house lawyer view your position as the true General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer of the area or segment that you support. For instance, if you are the lead lawyer for an important business segment that is US-based for an international company, also help drive positive impact and value to your colleagues and teammates outside the US. Playing “bigger than your role” will help position you as a more valuable high-impact contributor and thought leader within your legal department.

Actively Use Social Media like LinkedIn

Leveraging LinkedIn as a social media tool can also enhance your brand at your employer. Be sure to connect via LinkedIn with your teammates at your company. Like, share and comment on the LinkedIn posts of your teammates. Look for opportunities to serve as an evangelist for your employer by consistently posting and sharing positive content on LinkedIn about your company. More tips on how to embrace LinkedIn can be found here.


During this past week two icons from the baseball world – Lou Brock and Tom Seaver – sadly passed away. They largely played during the same era and according to ESPN, as a hitter Mr. Brock faced Mr. Seaver as a pitcher 157 times – that was Mr. Brock’s most plate appearances against any pitcher and Mr. Brock was the batter that Mr. Seaver faced the most.

While their enormous talents on the baseball field provided so many great memories for baseball fans like myself, their legacies also offer these valuable lessons that are applicable to all of us who work in Corporate America:

Identify, Embrace & Don’t Lose Great Talent

In 1964 the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1977 the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds. In both cases the Cubs and Mets made poor trades, received limited talent in return and essentially discarded these two future baseball Hall of Famers. After Mr. Brock was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals he blossomed into a star outfielder and led the Redbirds to three World Series and two World Series Championships in 1964 and 1967.  Although Mr. Seaver’s best days as a pitcher was as a member of the New York Mets, after he was traded he still remained a very productive pitcher for the rest of the career, he threw his first and only no-hitter in 1978 and he won 113 games in his post-New York Mets career with the Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. These bad baseball trades serve to remind us that people are any organization’s greatest asset. As leaders we all need to be highly skilled in identifying great talent, we need to know when to “re-recruit” such talent, we need to nurture such talent and we need to provide opportunities for that talent to be successful.

Prepare, Prepare & Prepare

Both Lou Brock and Tom Seaver were masters at their respective crafts. Mr. Brock was known as one of the baseball’s most prolific base stealers as he is second all-time in career stolen bases with 938 and he even stole 118 bases during the 1974 season. As a pitcher Mr. Seaver won 311 games during his career and earned the coveted Cy Young Award 3 times. While they both of course had outstanding natural athletic abilities, they both took their respective talent to the next level by excellent preparation and hard work. In the case of Mr. Brock – in an era when ballplayers did not watch or study videos of themselves or opposing ballplayers as they do nowadays – Mr. Brock filmed pitchers on an eight-millimeter camera. He studied the films to try to gain an edge on pitchers so that he could get a better jump off their respective pitching deliveries in order to steal a base. Mr. Seaver was also maniacal in his preparation. Gil Hodges, Jr, the son of Mr. Seaver’s former NY Mets manager who led the “Amazin Mets” to their first World Series Championship in 1969, offered the following quote in this Newsday article: “The only thing my dad always told me about Tom was nobody was prepared for a game like he did. He never left anything to chance.” As true students of the great game of baseball, Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver never settled for complacency and they constantly honed their skills so they could perform at their highest levels. Being highly successful in our own professions requires a similar Lou Brock and Tom Seaver type of commitment to hard work, preparation and constant learning. 

Be a Terrific Teammate

While the baseball world called Tom Seaver “Tom Terrific” because of his excellence as a pitcher, by many accounts he was also a terrific teammate who helped make his colleagues better. A recent NY Times article talked about how Mr. Seaver mentored a then young and somewhat “raw” pitcher from the Dominican Republic named Mario Soto during the early 1980s while they were teammates on the Reds. He did the same a few years later with another then young pitcher Roger Clemens when they were teammates with the Red Sox in 1986. Mr. Brock was also an equally great teammate. As mentioned in this article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Keith Hernandez, the 1979 co-Most Valuable Player in the National League said, “I don’t think I would have made it without Lou. For him to be a superstar and I, as a young kid, who was struggling, to take me under his wing and offer all his advice is a testament to who he was. He was an extraordinary man.” As we work at our respective organizations, think about opportunities to help make your teammates better. One of the most important legacies that we can leave is making a positive impact on the lives of others.



Resiliency is Key  

As a lifelong New York Yankees baseball fan, I have grown increasingly frustrated at how the current era of young and physically strong Yankees players seem to be highly injury-prone as they unfortunately spend more time getting medical treatment from their trainers instead of being on the baseball diamond. This was never the case for Mr. Brock or Mr. Seaver as they hardly spent any time on the injured list – previously known as the disabled list – when they played in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. From 1964 to 1974, Mr. Brock played in over 150+ games per year (out of a maximum of 162 games) – many of which were played in the sweltering heat of St. Louis. Likewise from 1967 to 1979 Mr. Seaver started 30+ games as a pitcher per year. The incredible resiliency that Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver demonstrated throughout their careers is something that we can all marvel at as business professionals. In fact, the next time you find it difficult to “show up” virtually at work nowadays or complain about participating on yet another Microsoft Teams or Zoom call, think about Mr. Brock’s and Mr. Seaver’s dedication to their own workplaces.

Reinvent Yourself

Mr. Brock (19 years) and Mr. Seaver (20 years) also had very long careers in Major League Baseball as Mr. Brock retired at 40 and Mr. Seaver at 41 years of age. Towards the twilight of their respective careers on the field they also needed to embrace change and reinvent themselves in order to keep on playing. Near the end of his career during the 1978 season as age was catching up to him, Mr. Brock lost his starting job in left field as he was mired in a prolonged hitting slump. He returned the following year with a vengeance as a 40 year old as he hit for a .304 batting average, surpassed 3,000 career hits and earned the “Comeback Player of the Year” – the first player to be so named in his final season in Major League Baseball. Early in his career Mr. Seaver was known as a “power pitcher” but as he lost velocity on his fastball during the late 1970s he needed to rely more on other pitches, to lean on his extensive experience and to constantly change the speeds and locations of his pitches in order to keep hitters off-balance. Whether it be in baseball or in business, Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver confirmed that the only constant is change and that regardless of our professions we all need to embrace change and adapt in order to continue to be successful.

Be Great Ambassadors for your Organizations 

Mr. Brock and Mr. Seaver are respectively synonymous with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets brands. Mr. Brock was the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals for so many years and as a stolen base artist he also stole the hearts of legions of Cardinals fans. Mr. Seaver was affectionately known as “The Franchise” when he was a member of the New York Mets, led them from being perennial losers to their first World Series Championship in 1969 and is without a doubt the greatest Met of all-time. Due to their performance on the field and their extreme popularity off the field, these two men were great ambassadors for their teams – and for the great game of baseball. As representatives of your own employers, think about opportunities for you to serve as a leading brand ambassador for your respective organizations and to help your employer earn and maintain the trust of your company’s customers, partners and employees.

The respective legacies of Lou Brock and Tom Seaver will live on and off the baseball diamond forever.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella likes to say that “trust cannot be claimed – it can only be earned.” As in-house counsel we must always remember that we need to earn the trust and confidence of our clients every day as we need to view them as our ultimate customers – and especially now more than ever as we help our respective organizations during these uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some best practices – in no particular order – that all in-house counsel can employ to ensure they are putting their clients at the center of everything they do by embracing a customer obsession mindset with them:

  • Super Fast & Custom Responsiveness: We are all customers in some shape and form. When we need help from our own service providers we all appreciate it when they respond back to us quickly. Likewise, as in-house counsel we need to remember that we are also all service providers and when our business clients reach out to us for help we need to respond back to them ASAP. One of the very worst things we can do as in-house counsel is to ignore our clients since they are our most important customers. We want to inspire our clients to have the confidence in seeking out our legal advice time and time again as that is the greatest compliment they can pay us. Always be sure to respond back to your business clients on the same day of their initial request – and ideally within a few hours – even if it’s only to acknowledge receipt of their inquiry. If you cannot answer their question(s) immediately please be sure to provide them with a reasonable time estimate as to when you’ll be able to help address their request(s) in a more comprehensive manner. Also customize your response back to your business clients in the medium that your business clients find most appealing to them whether it be via email, via Microsoft Teams, live conversation, instant message, text message, etc…
  • Be Short & Sweet: All of our clients are super busy business professionals. When we deliver our legal advice to them always be succinct and to the point as our clients do not need to read lengthy emails or long legal memorandums. In addition, avoid using any legal jargon in your advice and make it super easy and very clear to understand.  When I respond to an email from my clients my “golden-rule” is that I never reply back with an email that is longer than the screen of my Surface Laptop – and probably better to make it even shorter and more easily readable as your clients are probably digesting their emails on their phones. If my advice is more involved then I will simply set up a conference call with my client to discuss further. Also when I deliver presentations to my clients I try not to speak longer than 15 minutes in length – the typical timeframe of a TED Talk presentation – as our business clients are typically not interested in hearing their lawyers speak for an extended period of time (believe it or not).
  • Overcommunicate When Needed: Our clients also don’t want to be blindsided or surprised when significant issues arise. For highly visible matters or issues that are important to your clients be sure to provide constant status updates by “overcommunicating” to them as needed so they remain well-informed. In my experience it’s always better to be conservative and to “overcommunicate” with our business clients regarding high-profile matters versus “undercommunicating.”
  • Embrace Smart Risk-Taking: As we counsel our business clients remember that many business clients are seeking to understand the true “practical” risk of making a particular decision versus the “theoretical” risk. In-house counsel can provide high-value legal services to their clients when they help them engage in smart risk-taking and in this article I  provide a methodology on how lawyers can help their clients take smart-risks.
  • Actively Learn the Business: Invest the time to understand the business that you are supporting. To the extent that in-house lawyers can deepen their understanding of their company, its customers, its solutions, its business models, its opportunities, its challenges, its competition, etc…they will be better positioned to provide higher impact legal support to their clients. Just the other day I was speaking to a senior lawyer at a major retail provider and he told me how their lawyers are required to work on the front-lines with customers at their stores for a few days as part of their onboarding into the company so they can better understand its business. Look for opportunities to absorb yourself in your company’s business by attending key business and leadership team meetings, shadowing your key clients to get a “day in their work life” perspective from them, participating in internal company trainings, using its products/solutions, etc…
  •  Know Your Clients: Spend some time getting to know your clients, their backgrounds, their interests, etc….Reviewing their profiles on LinkedIn and connecting/following them via LinkedIn and Twitter (if they are as Twitter user) are great ways to build your professional relationships with your business clients and become more empathetic to their perspectives and needs. Also when your work with new clients invest the time to reach out to them, introduce yourself, try to understand their needs and let them know that you and your team stand ready, willing and able to help them.
  • Feedback Is a Gift: Actively seek feedback from your key clients and encourage them to provide constructive feedback regarding how you and your teams can better serve them. Create a “safe” space to invite such feedback from your clients and once you receive that feedback thank them for taking the time to do so and be sure to convert that feedback into actionable steps for you and your team to take moving forward.
  • Share Knowledge & Learnings: Try to be more strategic when delivering legal services to your business clients. While in-house counsel are often in a more tactical and “reactive” mode in helping to problem solve the many inquiries from their business clients, also be sure to proactively share thoughtful knowledge and learnings with them. Such best practices and lessons learned can offer your business clients with increased value that can enable them to be more agile and more well-informed.
  • Closely Align with the Business: Be sure to spend time with your clients to clearly understand their respective business goals and align the provision of your legal services with such goals. Consider providing your senior clients with a periodic report leveraging data that demonstrates how you and your teams are positively impacting the key focus areas of your senior clients. Once a month I provide my senior client and his leadership team with a report in a table format that I call a “scorecard” where I depict the work we have completed during the previously month in an easily consumable fashion that is aligned to their key business objectives.
  • Every Client is Important: While we all have senior clients that we need to serve and pay great attention to, also remember that every client is the most important client – regardless of their seniority in your company. Treat all of your clients as if they are your company’s CEO.
  • Learn, Learn and Learn: Take the time to learn from your legal teammates – and your business clients if they are in a sales/customer-facing role – about what they do to advance customer satisfaction with their own clients and customers. Over the years I have had the privilege to provide legal support to world-class sales organizations and many excellent customer account executives. Observing how they serve their customers has been highly instructive in helping me better serve my clients.
  • Actively Follow-Up: In my experience as an in-house counsel sometimes we render legal advice to our business clients on an issue and we may never hear back from them about that issue as it goes into a proverbial “black hole.” When needed don’t be shy in following-up with clients to ask if they require any additional help from you on a previous matter.
  • Admit and Learn from Mistakes: We all make mistakes at times – especially in a fast-paced environment where we are trying to keep up with the sometimes demanding needs of our clients. When we make mistakes with our business clients be sure to own up to those mistakes, apologize quickly for your mistakes and be sure to learn from those mistakes.
  • Embrace Change: We all know that the “the only constant is change” – especially in our world that is driven by “tech intensity.” Recognize that you will need to constantly evolve how you serve your clients in our ever-changing world. Don’t avoid or be afraid of change – instead, by being open to change you will grow your in-house counsel skills and be better positioned to provide greater value to your clients.
  • Take Ownership: Be sure to really own and nurture your trusted legal advisor relationship with your clients. Even if you are not the General Counsel in your organization, always have a General Counsel mindset with your business clients as being their “go-to” lawyer who they will constantly look to for excellent legal advice and counsel.

As in-house lawyers I believe that we have some of the best jobs in the legal industry and we have a great opportunity in front of us as our clients rely on us more than ever before. Best of luck on your journey in embracing a customer-obsession mindset when serving your clients.

Last month I served as a speaker on an Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) – Chicago Chapter webcast entitled “Writing a global pandemic playbook – Crisis control: Effectively managing teams and protecting organizations in the era of COVID-19 cyber-attacks and insider threats.” During this webcast I shared my thoughts regarding my “lessons learned” during the COVID-19 pandemic of navigating through a crisis situation and leading a large team of lawyers and legal professionals during uncertain times while still delivering high-impact legal support to Microsoft’s world class sales teams in the US. All lawyers and in-house counsel have had to demonstrate leadership during the COVID-19 crisis – and the unfortunate reality is that all of us will face additional crisis situations both in our professional and personal lives. Here are my “10 Cs” for all lawyers to embrace during any crisis situations:

  • Calm: It’s important to try to remain as calm, cool and collected as your can during any crisis situation – although of course that is much easier said than done. Staying calm and steady will help enable you to think more clearly and logically in challenging times.
  • Confidence: Continue to exude confidence during difficult periods as your teammates and clients will be looking to you for leadership, direction and help. Demonstrating such confidence will also help others remain positive and hopeful that they will get through a crisis together and that there will be better days ahead.
  • Communicate: Leaders need to communicate early and often with their teammates and clients during crisis situations. Being “missing in action” or invisible during tough times is never helpful. Also be sure to overcommunicate when needed.
  • Clarity: When you do communicate, always be clear, transparent and authentic with your messaging. Also use “real” words instead of any “Corporate Speak” to help drive better clarity in your communications.
  • Collaborate: Crisis situations require everyone to effectively and quickly collaborate and share information. Look for opportunities to use leading and highly secure technology to help ignite collaboration with great speed.
  • Create: Helping to manage through and resolve a crisis may require lawyers to be creative problem solvers who can think “out of the box.” Also be sure to obtain diverse perspectives from others in order to help enable you to be innovative and creative.
  • Courage: During a crisis lawyers need to be bold, decisive and have the courage to make tough decisions.
  • Change: A crisis situation may require you and your teams to quickly adapt to a new reality and embrace change. While change is very hard, don’t fear it and become comfortable with change management.
  • Compassion: A crisis may unfortunately result in negative impacts upon others. Always be empathetic and compassionate in your decision-making process during a crisis.
  • Character: When navigating through a crisis, important principles such as ethics and integrity are non-negotiables. Lawyers involved in crisis situations need to always ensure that they are acting with the highest degree of character.

The next time you face a professional or personal crisis, please keep these “10 Cs” top of mind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on many in-house legal departments. Some in-house counsel are busier than ever before addressing a wide range of legal issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19. In addition, the budgets of some in-house legal teams may be negatively impacted due to the crisis. As a result, many in-house counsel are increasingly being asked to do more with limited resources during these uncertain times.

Now more than ever in-house counsel need to actively embrace change and look for opportunities to be even more productive and efficient in their delivery of legal services.  In-house counsel should be proactive to “de-lawyer” their work so they can spend less time on the low-impact, repetitive, routine and low-risk aspects of their work in order to free up time to perform more high-impact and high-value work for their company. Here’s a roadmap and several best practices for in-house lawyers to use in their “de-lawyering” journey:

Actively Audit Your Work

Take the necessary time to analyze the range and scope of legal services that you typically deliver to your business clients so that you can determine which elements of your work are ripe for being re-engineered. Once you identify the common legal services that you provide to your business clients, try to break down the processes, time spent and flow of such work beginning from your intake of the request from your business clients up to the point in time which you believe a matter has been closed. Be sure to capture your thoughts on work scope and processes in writing and try to group your work into certain key topical areas.

Identify the Degree of Impact and Risk Prevention Level of Your Work 

Once you have a comprehensive view of the range and scope of the work that your legal team delivers, identify how truly impactful that work is to your business clients and how your work mitigates risk for your company. You may want to characterize your work into high, medium and low business impact buckets and high, medium and low legal risk buckets. Also seek guidance from your senior business clients as needed to properly characterize the true business impact of your legal services. Completing this exercise will help guide you to determine which areas you should spend more time on and which areas you should “de-lawyer.”

Seek Senior Business Clients Support

Let your senior business clients know that you plan to re-engineer how you deliver legal services and to obtain their business support to do so as it may require folks on their teams to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on legal support that has traditionally been more “white-glove” in nature. Be sure to “sell” to your business clients that “de-lawyering” your work will ultimately help them achieve their business goals faster as it will create additional space for the legal team to deliver more mission-critical legal services with greater agility for their benefit. Provide them with actual examples of the time you and your teams spend on “low-end” and “low-value” legal work – much of which may not require “hands on” legal support and that their teams would probably want the legal team to invest their time working on matters that drive more positive impact to the business. For instance, if you deliver legal services to a sales organization your senior business clients would probably want you to invest more time in matters that brings revenue into the organization like helping to close large deals with customers instead of spending lots of legal time working on ancillary contracts like non-disclosure agreements or events agreements. You may also be able to make the business case to your senior business clients that by asking them to “do more” in terms of additional self-help, there will be a lower likelihood for you to ask for significant increases to your legal team’s budget.

Consider “Stop Doing” Some Work

Once you have a sound understanding of the full landscape of your legal services, ask yourself if there’s aspects of that work which you do which is really not necessary or which involves work that poses low risk or no risk to your company. If so, consider informing your business clients that it simply does not make sense to spend any legal team time and energy on such matters. Examples of such low impact or low risk work may be as follows:

  • Matters that don’t pose any real legal risk/issues and which business clients are simply seeking the legal team’s “rubber stamp” approval.
  • Reviewing contracts that are below a certain dollar/financial threshold.
  • Reviewing statements of works/work orders under existing standard master agreements and which statements of works/work orders essentially contain business-centric provisions that are drafted by business clients.

Use Leading Technology

I believe that technology is a lawyer’s “best friend” and during this pandemic we are witnessing firsthand how technology is playing a more prominent role in all of our lives as it enables us to work from home and to continue to serve our business clients. Think about how you can continue to put technology to work for you to make your legal team more productive and efficient as you “delawyer” your work. For instance, there are many technology tools provided by various #LegalTech companies which are powered by artificial intelligence that can handle some of the routine and repetitive work that has been traditionally performed by lawyers.

Create Practical Self-Help Resources

Develop self-help/do it yourself resources that your business clients can consult with and utilize to address common and repetitive questions that they have typically asked the legal department. Such self-help resources may take the form of frequently asked questions, playbooks, directions on how to generate new contracts on your own,  white papers, checklists, etc…For instance, it your legal team is actively engaged in helping business clients respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs) from potential customers, consider developing a playbook for them which provides details on how to develop proposals in a legally appropriate manner along with standard canned responses to common RFP questions that may require legal team review. Be sure to add those resources on your company’s internal websites such as SharePoint in Microsoft 365 so that your business clients have easy access to them and periodically update such resources. Make these resources easy to use, highly practical and use every opportunity to remind your business clients to leverage them as a first line of legal support prior to a direct engagement with the legal team.  Also always proactively ask for your business client’s feedback regarding the ease of using such resources and how they can be improved.

Stay Disciplined

As you “de-lawyer” your work and create self-help resources for your business clients to use so they can handle certain work on their own, remain disciplined in encouraging your business clients to leverage such resources first before they engage you for assistance on certain matters. Doing so will help you develop a more efficienct “ways of working” with your business clients so that you can continue to optimize your legal team’s limited resources.

Create and Deploy Chatbots

Chatbots powered by entry-level artificial intelligence are increasingly being used by providers of goods and services as a “digital concierge” to address common questions and issues from their customers. In our world of tech intensity there is no reason why legal organizations cannot use chatbots to serve their clients. Chatbots powered by basic entry-level AI tools like Microsoft Azure QnA Maker can help transform your legal team’s standard answers to common questions into a conversational format that is answered by a bot. As chatbots and AI-related technology grows more powerful, chatbots can be increasingly used and deployed by legal teams to automate the answering in a standardized format the many routine and repetitive questions posed to a legal team by its business clients.

Develop Thoughtful Contract Templates 

Wherever possible create standard form contracts for your business clients to proactively use as needed to drive business forward versus being in a more reactive and time-consuming mode to having to review and mark-up a third party’s contract. Examples of typical form contracts for most businesses are as follows: (1) sales contracts; (2) vendor/supplier contracts; (3) independent contractor agreements; and (4) non-disclosure agreements. When you draft such contract templates focus on contract simplicity, make them fair and balanced and avoid making them lengthy. Doing so will cut down on the likelihood of third parties wanting to make material modifications and will help accelerate the velocity in establishing these contracts with third parties.

Create Contract Fallbacks and Annotations  

Once you create these contract templates consider empowering your business clients in advance to propose alternative “fallback” wording on their own and without any legal team involvement when third parties raise issues with certain standard contract provisions. Develop a library of these fallback provisions that your business clients can use as a substitute for standard clauses and rank such fallbacks from more preferred to less preferred – and perhaps you can use a green light (good to use), yellow light (exercise caution) and red light (use only with legal team approval) coding approach with your business clients in charactering these fallbacks. Also be sure to periodically refresh such fallback provisions and if third parties continually raise issues/concerns with certain standard provisions, consider adopting a suitable fallback provision as the new standard provision to decrease any future churn regarding such issues/concerns. In addition, for each contract template that you create, also develop an annotations document for that contract which serves as your company’s de-facto guide that contains thoughtful negotiation strategies and tips for your business clients to help “sell” your standard contract provisions to third parties. When developing such annotations be sure to make it highly practical and useful for your business clients to help them persuade third parties regarding the merits of the contract’s standard provisions. Also be sure to appropriately protect and secure your company’s standard contract fallback provisions and annotation guides in order to minimize the likelihood of them being shared outside of your organization.

Generate Lessons Learned 

After your legal team provides legal advice on important matters, consider developing a repository of practical lessons learned or post-mortems that you can share with both your legal teammates and business clients to help avoid matters from becoming potential legal issues in the first place and/or to help accelerate moving business forward in the future. For example, if you recently helped close a large and complex contract with a customer, share the learnings and best practices from that experience with your business clients as doing so may make it easier to close the next large and complex customer contract with smarter utilization of the legal team by business clients. Get into the habit of producing such lessons learned periodically and develop an easy-to-use template built on suitable technology for legal team members to share that important knowledge. Also be sure to reward those legal teammates who demonstrate their leadership by actively sharing their learnings and best practices to make others better.

Train your Business Clients

Look for every opportunity to deliver meaningful legal/compliance training to your business clients. Such training can serve as a form of “preventive law” that can help avoid significant legal issues that could pose legal/financial risk to your company and drain legal resources. When delivering such trainings make it interesting for your business clients and avoid lengthy trainings. While such training has often been delivered in-person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, use easy-to-use technology tools like Microsoft Teams to deliver such training in a virtual format that can be recorded so that it is durable enough to reach a large number of business clients who can view such training on-demand. Through Microsoft Teams you can also create teams and channels with your key business clients where you can periodically post learnings and best practices with them that serves as a form of de-facto training to them.

Get Outside Help 

Think about how you can utilize competitively priced alternative legal providers to help take on some of the rote, repetitive and low-risk work that your legal team has been historically performing. Outsourcing such work to such providers may be a compelling option for in-house legal departments.

Leverage Paralegal & Program Manager Resources

I have had the good fortune to work with many outstanding paralegals and programs managers during my legal career. Consider using paralegal or program manager resources to serve as a first line of support to address new matters from your business clients that require legal support. Enable and empower them to triage and problem solve these matters first or referring your business clients to suitable self-help resources instead of having a lawyer become more actively engaged.

Start Small

As you reengineer your legal work remember to begin modest projects that seek to problem solve certain issues. Don’t think that you need to “de-lawyer” a large piece of your legal work, but instead try to get some quick wins, learn from your experiences and build positive momentum as you move forward in this journey.

Learn from Others, Embrace Change and Don’t Seek Perfection

Always adopt a growth mindset mentality in this area and be open to learning from others in the legal community. Organizations like the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) have resources that can be helpful to you and your legal teams. As the COVID-19 crisis requires us to change the way we work and how we prioritize work, always be open to adapting the delivery of your legal support so that you can maximize your resources and best serve your business clients. Finally, don’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way and remember one of my favorite quotes that “perfection is the enemy of done.”

Last week I had the privilege to serve as a panelist at a Northwestern Pritzker School of Law event entitled “Symposium 2020: AI, the New Law Firm Attorney: Artificial Intelligence Entering the Legal Profession.”

The event’s keynote speaker Seyfarth Shaw Chair Emeritus Stephen Poor and our panel explored the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in the legal industry to help lawyers achieve more by getting out of the repetitive, routine and mundane tasks that lawyers have performed in the past so they can “practice at the top of their license” as Mr. Poor stated.

I love the phrase “practice at the top of their license” as all lawyers will need to do more of this – especially as we see the rise of tech intensity as technology plays a bigger role in our professional and personal lives and leading technology like AI is increasingly used by lawyers, law firms and other legal organizations to deliver legal services to their clients.

As AI tools seek to automate and perform certain tasks that have been traditionally performed by lawyers, I believe that the Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient (EQ) skills that lawyers use everyday to deliver legal services to their clients will be more important than ever before as stronger EQ skills will help enable lawyers to truly “practice at the top of their license.” Since AI, algorithms, machines and technology do not embrace EQ, the proverbial “soft skills” that are often associated with EQ can help lawyers provide even more high-impact/high-value legal counsel to their clients and differentiate their legal services from others.

As we use AI and other technology tools to better serve our clients, here are some EQ-centric skills that all lawyers and law students should develop, hone and embrace as “21st Century Lawyers”:

Be An Active Listener: Many lawyers can probably learn to listen more and speak less. Take the time to sharpen your listening skills and avoid being distracted when listening to others so you can better understand your clients, your team and your opposing counsel.

Embrace Empathy: In order to better serve our clients we need to create more proximity to them, learn more about them and put ourselves in “their shoes” so that we can clearly understand their needs and interests in order to help solve their problems.  The same holds true for having greater empathy for the lawyers and allied professionals that we need to work with on a regular basis to deliver legal services to our clients. We can all learn from the empathetic leadership of social justice activist Bryan Stevenson on how to put “empathy into action.”

Strong Collaborator: The ability to partner well with others, share knowledge, build upon the work of others and make others better are critical skills for all lawyers. Having a team-first and collaboration-first temperament is vital.

Relationship Builder: Invest the time to earn the trust of both your clients and those that can enable you to best serve your clients. While terrific technology like LinkedIn exists to help develop those relationships, please remember that there is still no substitute for the in-person relationships and connections that we develop with people.

Advocate & Influence: Lawyers are “sellers” as we are constantly persuading and advocating on behalf of our clients.  In my role as a lawyer at Microsoft I find myself always “selling” and trying to influence nearly everyone that I work with – whether it be my management, my peers, my team, my clients and our great customers and partners.

Great Communicator: When I was growing up in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan served as our President and his reputation as a “great communicator” was instrumental to his being elected twice as President. As lawyers we also need to be “great communicators” who are skilled in the art of communicating in a clear, concise, impactful and easy to understand manner.

Excellent Judgment: In my opinion a lawyer’s “special sauce” is her/his judgment when advising their clients on matters. Such judgment and intuition is honed over a period of time based on the culmination of a lawyer’s experiences so she/he can enable their clients to engage in smart risk-taking.

Break Down Barriers: Lawyers who can skillfully navigate through blockers, have a bias for action to drive matters forward towards resolution and have a reputation for getting things done on behalf their clients will always be in high demand. As a wise person once told me, “being done is better than being perfect.”

Feedback Seeker + Implementer: Some have said that feedback is a “gift” – especially constructive feedback. One of the ways that we can improve and serve as more impactful legal advisors is to actively seek such feedback from our clients and others who we work with – and to take action to convert such feedback towards self-improvement.

Always Ethical: While technology advances and solutions like AI become more prevalent in the legal profession, lawyers will need to demonstrate greater leadership in upholding high standards for ethics and integrity. Embracing strong integrity and ethics are non-negotiables for all lawyers and are the foundational elements for earning trust.

Embrace Change: As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the only constant during our current era known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is change. We need to be open to proactively adapting and evolving as legal advisors or else we run the risk of becoming extinct and irrelevant.

Lawyers should not fear AI or the so-called “robots.” Instead, let’s both embrace AI as a tool to serve our clients and “double-down” to improve our EQ and soft skills so we can deliver the high-impact legal services that all of our clients deserve.


Near the end of my first year of law school I unfortunately witnessed one of my classmates having what appeared to be a nervous breakdown during a class after a confrontation with a professor.  Although that incident occurred over twenty years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday and it was my first exposure to the significant challenges associated with wellness in the legal profession.

Last year the American Bar Association (ABA) issued its first ABA Profile of the Legal Profession report and it contained this quote in its “Lawyer Well-Being” chapter: “In September 2018, the American Bar Association launched a campaign to address the troubling rates of alcohol use, substance use and mental health issues among lawyers. Recent studies show that lawyers struggle with these problems at levels substantially higher than the general population and other highly educated professionals.” These unfortunate facts were also backed up by a wealth of supporting data that was referenced in the report.

Several years ago when my son was just a few months old we took our first flight with him to visit our family in New York for Thanksgiving – and please see a picture below of my son and I waiting for our flight at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Right before takeoff the flight attendant specifically reminded my wife and I that in the unlikely event the cabin losses air pressure and the oxygen masks drop that we should be sure to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first before doing the same with our son. While of course I have heard this similar announcement countless times prior to takeoff on planes, listening to this advice as a new dad was a bit unnerving. However, I think this episode serves as a great lesson for all of us. After all, you can’t be any good to yourself, your family, your friends, your employer and your clients/customers unless you first take great care of yourself. 

Like all of you I have experienced challenges both in my personal life and during my legal career. Here are a compilation of my own wellness best practices that may be helpful to you both during your own wellness journey and as you promote stronger wellness practices as leaders for your legal organizations.

Mental Wellness

  • Embracing Mindfulness: Mindfulness and meditation are becoming hot topics in Corporate America as employers seek to provide employees with more tools to better manage stress in the workplace. One of my favorite mindfulness “gurus” is Dr. Michael Gervais – who serves as the sports pyschologist for the Seattle Seahawks professional football team and I have had the good fortune to participate in his mindfulness trainings a few years ago. Dr. Gervais often talks about the importance of embracing mindfulness so that we can do a better job at “being present” in life. While I will confess that I don’t fully use mindfulness techniques in my life, I do embrace what I call “mini mindfulness” as I use mindfulness practices such as deep breathing exercises with my eyes closed for a few minutes immediately before work situations that may cause stress for me – such as when I lead an important conferences call, prior to delivering presentations, etc…
  • Get Proper Sleep: A lot has been written about how our society is getting less sleep – which of course negatively impacts our productivity and wellness. Over the years I have struggled with getting a good night’s sleep and here’s a few of my lessons learned with smart sleep hygiene:
    • Be Device Free: Don’t check out any of your devices for a few hours prior to going to bed to avoid stimulating your mind and eyes.
    • Avoid Fluids Before Bed: In my view the less we need to wake up during the night to go to the bathroom, the better.
    • Be Careful with Sleep Medications: Nowadays there are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications available to those who have difficulty sleeping. While of course you should consult with your doctor regarding such medications, please be careful of their potential negative side effects.
    • Take a Bath/Shower Before Bed: Anything you can do to calm yourself down and relax prior to bedtime is a good thing.
    • Avoid Intense Conversations Prior to Sleep: I also try to avoid any serious or challenging discussions with my family or others as I want to peacefully ease into my sleep.
    • Go To Bed Earlier Versus Later: I used to be a night owl but nowadays I have been going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.
  • Balance Your Digital and Real Worlds: As technology is playing a bigger role in all of our lives with something known as “tech intensity,” I feel like we live in two worlds nowadays – the so-called “real” world and the “digital” world – where I spend way too much time on my devices and on social media. In my view as technology advances, it’s becoming more important for us to spend more 1:1 and in-person time with each other and to make sure that we put the appropriate boundaries in using technology in our lives – and especially as it relates to investing in more high-quality personal interactions with family, friends and co-workers.
  • Delete Work Email from Phones: About two years ago I made the decision to delete my work email from my phone. Like many of us I spend way too much time on my phone and I could not resist the temptation to constantly check my work emails outside of core work hours. As a result, work and work emails would constantly be at the forefront of my mind and since I had difficulty resisting checking my work emails on my phone at nights and on the weekends, I simply deleted the Outlook app on my phone. While I no longer have work emails on my phone, I still continue to be very responsive to my team and clients in answering email via my outstanding Surface Laptop and my teammates and business clients also know they can always reach me on my proverbial “Bat Phone” via text or calling my cell phone as needed.

  • Take “Real” Vacations: Several years ago a very senior Microsoft lawyer reminded me that it is important to take “real” vacations since they are necessary to “vacate” your mind and come back to the workplace refreshed – and she was absolutely right. However, as we know, many of us in Corporate America still take “fake” vacations – including myself.  In this LinkedIn article from a few years ago I provided some best practices to help enable you to take a “real” vacation. While I have slipped in not taking some “real” vacations over the past few years due to the demands of my job, I’m starting to do a better job practicing what I preach and I also recognize that if my team sees me taking “fake” vacations and answering emails/taking conference calls during my vacations, they may feel compelled to do the same.
  • Know When to Say No: As lawyers and legal professionals, most of us are very busy and there seems to be a never ending amount of work to do. However, we also do not want to be overwhelmed with our work and jobs so that we can bring our best every day to the workplace and feel good. Leaders should create a safe environment with their teams to let them know that it’s OK for them to say they are at capacity with their workload so that work can be redistributed to other teammates as needed.
  • Avoid Negativity: As I have become older and more experienced I have learned to do a better job trying to stay away from negative thoughts and/or negative people as they are roadblocks to moving forward and being hopeful. While I also tend to be a realist, filling my brain with more positivity and filtering out the negative “noise” out there continues to serve me well.
  • Listen to Music: One of my favorite pastimes nowadays is listening to music. I listen to music whenever I’m “in motion” in my car, jogging, walking, in an Uber, on the train, on a plane, in Starbucks, etc…While my playlist is largely filled with my favorite songs that I grew up to during the 1970s and 1980s – and my family, my friends, my co-workers and the public would probably make fun of my playlist – I find that listening to music is a great escape from the everyday stress in my life. One of my favorite bands is ABBA and there’s nothing like listening to “Dancing Queen,” Voulez Vous” or “Lay All Your Love On Me” to put me in a great mood – regardless of how my day is going.

  • Promote Remote Work: In my opinion, the current and future of the workplace is remote work powered by leading cloud computing technology tools like Microsoft Office 365.  While some legal organizations may frown on a remote work environment, I do believe that such arrangements helps to improve work life balance/integration for lawyers and legal professionals – including their levels of wellness.
  • Keep Perspective: Many years ago when I was frustrated at work my dad reminded me to keep my job in perspective. He told me that as a “deal lawyer” my employer pays me a lot of money for basically putting words on a piece of paper. The point being was that I needed to stay well-grounded in reality and while of course my job is very important to me – my vocation does not involve saving lives like a fireman or a doctor. While our jobs are important, as lawyers we can probably do a better job at keeping our jobs in perspective.
  • Take it Easy: As a lifelong Eagles fan – NOT the Philadelphia Eagles football team but the music group Eagles – one of my favorite songs is “Take It Easy.” Those three words are a simple reminder for all of to relax more, be less stressed out and to not take ourselves too seriously.

Physical Wellness: While you need to take great care of your mind, you also need to take great care of your body. Here are my learnings:

  • Eating Right: It’s taken me a long time to realize that physically you pretty much are what you eat. For years I have always had great discipline in working out, going to the gym, etc….but I really never had the same discipline with my diet. Being smart about what I eat and managing my weight continues to be a daily struggle for me. Here are some of the eating habits that I try to embrace:
    • Drink Lots of Water: When you are hungry try to fill yourself up with water.
    • No Sodas: I used to be the king of drinking diet sodas but nowadays I avoid them.
    • Avoid Alcohol: Basically I don’t need the extra calories of alcohol or to waste any money on it.
    • No Late Night Eating: For years I would wake up in the middle of the night, go to the kitchen, eat another meal and then go back to bed. Nowadays I’ve been embracing a modified version of intermittent fasting where I stop eating by 8pm at night and don’t eat anything again until at least 8am the following day. Fasting for 12 hours is something that I can do while a typical intermittent fasting practice of 16 hours is a big stretch for me.
    • Eat More When Your Burn More: On the days that I go jogging and burn more calories I’m OK with increasing my calorie intake and “cheating” on foods that I really want to eat. On the days I don’t go running I stay away from foods like breads, pasta, anything fried and sugar.
    • Use Your Calories Wisely: Don’t waste the limited number of calories that should eat per day on something that you don’t like.
  • Jogging: Over the last several years I have taken up jogging as a way to try to stay fit and to do a better job with managing my weight. When I moved to Chicago in 1996 I was an avid jogger, then stopped for a while and I started up again in 2012 after I lost my aunt to breast cancer. At that time I was also a new dad and I realized that I needed to be in better physical shape so that I could be around for as long as possible for my family. My regimen is that I go jogging three days a week – on Wednesday (5-6 miles), Friday (5-6 miles) and Sunday (8-9 miles).  While I run like a clydesdale, I try to run faster during my Friday runs. The beauty about jogging is that you can do it virtually anywhere and I also make sure to go jogging when traveling for work, on vacation, etc….I also find jogging to put my mind at ease and it enables me to think very clearly.

  • Walking: While jogging is not for everyone and some folks may not be able to physically jog, a great alternative is to take long walks. On the days I don’t go jogging I still try to get outside and walk as much as I can.
  • Do Some Aerobic Activity: Even if jogging/walking does not appeal to you there are so many other physical activity options that you can choose from to improve your physical well-being. Just try something.
  • Do Some Resistance Training: When I was younger I used to go to the gym a lot of and did a fair amount of resistance training with free weights. While I don’t belong to the gym anymore, I try to get my main form of resistance training via doing elevated pushups everyday – which you can pretty much do anywhere and at anytime.
  • Just Keep Moving: My Grandma will be turning 100 years old in May and she seems like she has not changed that much since I was a young boy. One of her keys to such longevity is that she is always moving and she seems to be in constant motion. She inspires be to not be a “couch potato.”
  • The Earlier the Better: Whatever exercise workout/routine you decide to pursue try to get it done earlier in the day versus later in the day – even if it means waking up earlier in the day.  We all lead busy lives and putting off any physical activity until later in the day increases the likelihood that you’ll find excuses not to do it. The runs that I go on in the early mornings always makes the rest of my day much better.
  • Be Smart: Also be careful not to over-extend yourself during any physical activity and be sure to hydrate and take breaks as needed. For the past several years people have suggested that I should train and run for a marathon. While that sounds great, I’m not interested in subjecting my body to the intense training associated with a marathon and I’ve been fortunate to be largely injury-free as an adult.
  • Periodic Medical Check-ups: Be sure to have an annual medical physical with your primary care physician and complete required tests/procedures that are recommended by your physician due to your age, family history or otherwise. A sixty-something year old friend of mine – who happens to be a leading lawyer – never had a colonoscopy performed and his physician recently discovered a cancerous growth in his colon. While it was successfully removed and his medical prognosis is very positive, he should have had a colonoscopy performed when he was 50 years old.
  • If You See Something, Say Something and See your Doctor. No one else knows our bodies as well as we do. If you see/feel something wrong with your body or any unusual pain be sure to see your physician immediately – and don’t let work, work travel, meetings, conference calls, etc….get in the way of scheduling and showing up at those medical appointments. Also if a spouse, partner, family member or friend shares something about their body that does not seem right, please insist that she/he see their physician immediately.

Achieving mental and physical wellness is a lifelong journey. Of course there’s no one roadmap and there’s plenty of roadblocks along the way. Don’t be discouraged by obstacles, keep driving forward and don’t be shy in seeking help when needed.