Eight Core Qualities of General Counsel and How to Achieve Them is my most-read article on this blog, receiving many hits per day and more than 2,500 views since it was published in the late summer of 2016. (Click here to access the article.)

As a coach, I often receive requests from General Counsel, Assistant General Counsel and other in-house attorneys – as well as law firm partners and others who wish to obtain those roles – to coach them on building their capacity and visibility as a business partner within an organization.  Both of these aspects are important – exercising the right proactivity, judgment and skills and being recognized and rewarded by the Board and senior management for such contributions. This involves not only building relationships and moving outside of what is commonly called one’s comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also learning how to position oneself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

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To succeed as General Counsel, you need not only to build relationships and move outside of what may be your comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also position yourself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

I intend further explore the expanded General Counsel role in the coming months, so please subscribe to my blog or sign up for my mailing list if this is a topic that moves you. In the meantime, I have started to compile a list of articles around the web from recent years that have addressed the evolving General Counsel role, which I am posting below to help you explore and master the expanded General Counsel relationship.

If you hold a CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, CTO, General Counsel, law firm or other role and would like to post another resource in the comments or join the conversation, I appreciate your input.

I may update this list from time to time. Thanks in advance!

Attorneys – General Counsel and In-House
Vision, Judgment, Capacity Building and Leadership

Eight Core Qualities of Successful General Counsel and How to Achieve Them,” Segal Coaching Blog, Anne Marie Segal.

So You Want to Be General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” ACC Docket, David M. Love III, Mark Roellig.

Do Lawyers Make Better CEO’s than MBAs?,” Harvard Business Review, by M. Todd Henderson

The General Counsel as Senior Leader: More than “Just a Lawyer,” Korn Ferry Institute, John Amer.

What GCs and CCOs Can Learn from Each Other,” Thomson Reuters, Thomas Kim.

An Open Letter to GCs and Law Firms,” ACC Docket, Daniel Desjardins.

General Counsel: Guardian and Conscience of the Company,” Forbes, Mark A. Cohen.

The Rise of the General Counsel,” Harvard Business Review, Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

General Counsel’s New Role: Business Strategist,” Forbes, Brian Jones.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, writer, resume strategist and former practicing attorney (including as a law firm partner and Deputy General Counsel of a private equity and hedge fund). The majority of her clients are senior attorneys, and she has coached hundreds of professionals across law, finance, engineering, technology, marketing, non-profits, government and other fields.

Anne Marie is also author of Master the Interview and the newly published Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbookavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers. 

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Becoming a General Counsel (GC) or Chief Legal Officer (CLO), or making a move to a more senior GC or CLO role at a more prominent company, is not simply a matter of rising through the ranks or toiling away for years at a law firm and then deciding one day that you would like to throw in your hat for the position. Years ago, longevity in the legal field, motivation to fill the role and a projection of confidence may have been sufficient to mint a new GC or CLO, but the world has changed and the role of General Counsel has evolved along with it.

In today’s complex and competitive marketplace, successful General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers need to excel across a range of key, identifiable areas (spelled out below) and demonstrate their ability to be a key asset to their companies, helping make or break their long-term success. Often,  GCs and CLOs also run a legal staff and provide leadership and management of other attorneys, compliance professionals and/or administrative personnel. In addition, they may be members of an executive team and collaborate with cross-functional groups to give input on diverse areas such as product development and marketing.

Successful GCs need to excel and execute across a range of key, identifiable areas.

If you are currently in a GC role and want to raise your game (or emphasize your value proposition in an upcoming interview), or if you are looking to become a GC or CLO from a law firm or in-house counsel spot, here are eight core qualities you must cultivate to be successful in this key role.

Know the business inside and out.

1.  Understand the big picture of the business and industry. This point is emphasized so often that the words “big picture” begin to sound cliché, but it is nonetheless #1 on the list of attributes for a successful General Counsel.

The most effective GCs focus on the business first and understand that the legal aspects of any deal, regulatory requirement or dispute must be viewed from the lens of the business goals. (In the case of a non-profit organization, the “business” is the “mission,” and the same principals apply.) This point is especially relevant for attorneys who are aiming to switch from a law firm setting directly to a General Counsel role, as they may not have been as close to the day-to-day needs of the business while working on high-level matters such as acquisitions, litigation or other big ticket items.

To facilitate your top-down understanding, you should ask yourself questions such as:

Corporate Matters:  How does the current acquisition, joint venture, contract or other transaction create value for our company? What risks or implications does it hold, what failures are possible (and how likely are they to happen) and how does it fare in the overall cost-benefit analysis? How will we integrate what is new into what we already have, and who needs to be on board? What should we be thinking about that hasn’t yet been raised?

Compliance: What is the impact and true cost of compliance with current and proposed regulations, and how can we effectively meet our obligations or, if appropriate, obviate the need to comply?

Disputes and Litigation: What is the best approach to meet our short and long-term objectives in the case of a dispute? What unintended consequences can result from our range of possible litigation strategies and how could they affect our business? Is there a better way to get to the right answer?

Marketplace: Are there disruptions in our industry that present opportunities or threats, legal or otherwise? How should we address them and/or get ahead of the game?

Generally: How else can or should we be pro-active in any areas that could have an impact on our business or legal strategy and what economic, political, technological, industry and cultural developments should we monitor? How often? Whom shall I engage (in meetings, conversations and otherwise) in order to stay informed and make the best decisions on that front? 

And personally, you should ask yourself:

How does my role as an executive and attorney fit into the big picture? What do I bring to the table, and how can I bring more?


A key part of understanding the big picture is having a strong handle on financial matters. Understand and take ownership of P&L (even if at first it is only for a single project, or you have “derivative” or shared ownership), speak about your accomplishments in terms of the value you add (money in or costs and risks avoided) and know how to maximize the return on your company’s investment in you and your team.

2.  Demonstrate good judgment. Gain a reputation for making the right calls and connecting the dots with limited information to help your team make it to the finish line on deadline and without any snags. (Note: The best way to cultivate good judgment is by rolling up your sleeves and practicing decision-making under pressure – which may mean stepping out of your comfort zone – to gain exposure, confidence and feedback. It can only learned by doing.)

Good judgment is sometimes called a “sixth sense” or an “ability to see around corners” from business and legal perspectives. Whatever you call it, you cannot be an effective GC without it.

Talk like a business person. Not a lawyer.

3.  Don’t talk like a lawyer. Talk like a business person. Sometimes this is called “talking in English rather than legalese,” but it goes beyond that. The best GCs can prioritize and communicate the key business points and know how to signal and address potential legal issues without dragging business leaders into the fray or wasting their time on concerns that the lawyers need to work out among themselves. They also know how to gently reign in business folks who get ahead of themselves by ignoring those legal risks with which they actually should concern themselves, including business risks that are masquerading as legal risks.

One of the best ways to learn how to talk like a business person (or, more specifically, unlearn how to talk like a lawyer) is to spend time with them, hear them converse, get into their heads and internalize their concerns. In other words, the road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work. Like good judgment, you can only learn to communicate better by doing.

The road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work.

4.  Be humble. At the end of the day, the legal function is a support function. Yes, lawyers help steer the boat, but a successful GC understands that sometimes business leaders make decisions that do not follow the best advice of counsel, taking on what a “reasoned head” might decide is too much unnecessary risk. Your potential recourse in this situation, if you disagree with your business counterparts on whether your legal advice is required or simply “advisable,” is fourfold:

(a) you could move over to the business side and do a better job yourself,

(b) you could leave (if you feel consistently disrespected or are concerned about ethics or the longevity of the company or your role);

(c) you could find ways to strengthen your own and/or your team’s standing within the organization so that your advice is taken more seriously (if not always followed); or

(d) you could hold your ground (withholding legal approval) and/or escalate your concerns.

Save the fights for when they really matter, not for when they help you feel vindicated, save face or appear to know best. Having a reputation for “resistance” to business needs is not a good long-term strategy at any company, as it undermines your authority. If you feel that you are too often at loggerheads with your business folks, the best strategy may be to move on to a company that you believe has better business practices or is a better match for your own risk-tolerance levels. (Conversely, if you are at a company that loses out on opportunities because it never takes sufficient risk, in your opinion, you may also be well served by seeking a stronger fit.)

5.  Take leadership roles. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves; you need to create them. This means getting in front of the Board of Directors, President or CEO whenever appropriate and possible, making presentations to industry or key clients, spearheading/overseeing important projects and making yourself known as a person of vision and action within the company and outside of it. The best way to get tapped for a GC role, or increase your impact if you are already in one, is to be (and create the reputation of being) someone who effectively leads, mentors, sponsors, motivates, teaches and influences others. In short, make leadership a centerpiece in your professional mission and personal brand.

Make leadership central to your professional mission and personal brand.

6.  Cultivate your political capital. Form relationships and maintain consistent lines of communication with key people inside your company, across your industry and beyond. The greater your political capital, the more you can leverage your current role and be considered for positions with increasing responsibility. If you are a law firm partner or counsel hoping to transition in-house, increase your network of in-house players and business leaders, so that you understand their perspectives and have them in your corner when the need arises. In addition, if you have raised your political capital in the marketplace, you will present as a stronger candidate if and when the opportunity for a lateral move or promotion becomes available.

7. Learn to manage others and delegate work. There may be many GCs and CLOs who have taken on the role without knowing how to manage a group of talented professionals and assign the right tasks to the right players, but to build a successful career as a General Counsel, you will need to guard your own time while managing the performance and workload of your team (which may include outside counsel). 

8.  Have a solid and broad range of substantive legal skills. Increasing and broadening your substantive legal knowledge is only one piece of the GC equation. I address it last because while having a well-developed legal “head” and intuition is a baseline, legal knowledge alone is not sufficient to be an effective General Counsel.

The problem with many legal roles is that an attorney becomes siloed (or niched) into a particular area of practice, whether it is litigation, contracts or otherwise. To be effective, GCs need to address directly or oversee all legal needs of their company or organization. This means they may need expertise or at least a passing knowledge (to “know what they don’t know and should find out,” as the phrase goes) in commercial matters, corporate governance, employment, litigation, real estate, tax, executive compensation, compliance and risk management, in varying orders and degree.

If your goal is to raise to the level of General Counsel or (if currently a GC) become a bigger fish or swim in a bigger pond, you should conduct what I sometimes call a “gap analysis” to determine what is missing in the mix, then work on how you can deepen and round out your skills. Not only will this make you a stronger GC candidate, it will make you a better lawyer and add to your ability to provide judgment in a crisis and day-to-day.

Find and close any gaps in your substantive legal skills. 

Clearly the role of a General Counsel is dynamic and requires a broad range of talents and skills that cannot all be captured in a short summary. Instead, treat these seven points as a roadmap, and feel free to leave me a note in the comments section with your own insights. For further reading, I also suggest “So You Want to Be a General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” published in the ACC Docket and also available here.

 
Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, writer and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. In her practice serving lawyers, she coaches General Counsels, law firm partners, counsel and associates, as well as government, academic and non-profit attorneys. 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Image: Adobe Stock.
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“Our outside counsel is always very condescending toward me. He takes time to make comments in front of my bosses that make me look very bad. I may not know a quarter of what he does as an expert, but I am still the client.

I am tired of it but don’t know how to deal with this.” 

This morning I received an email from a young client that outlined the scenario above. It is one of many inquiries I have received as a coach, and as a senior attorney beforehand, that revolve around a single, critical issue: As a young woman attorney (or, in some cases, a senior woman attorney), how can I get the respect I deserve?

Each scenario has its own fine details, but here are some of the points to consider when a situation like this affects you, and ways to achieve greater resolution and respect:

1.   Keep your cool, if possible. I have had senior women partners at major law firms tell me in person that the proverbial “they thought I was a secretary” has actually happened to them.

In one instance that I remember clearly, an attorney (let’s call her Isabel) told me that upon meeting a new partner (Kevin) randomly in an elevator one morning, after their firms merged, said that she was glad to meet him and be able to work with him. Kevin said hello and followed up question about her typing speed.

Isabel answered sweetly, “I am going to let that one slide, as it is clear that you didn’t realize I am one of your new partners.” Rather than being mortified, she let the news sink in and allowed him be mortified by his mistake. At the same time, she didn’t denigrate support staff as a role beneath her, which doesn’t help anyone either, just stated the facts. Isabel told me that to this day, Kevin is extra careful to be respectful around her.

While this may sound like something only a partner can pull off, associates can also keep their cool when asked to get coffee (while the male associates are working on a deal) and the like. The key is to stay calm, rather than sounding like you are annoyed or resentful, even though you may be. Humor works too.

“Sorry, I don’t do coffee. Or windows.”

2.  Enlist your superiors. The worst thing you can do is imagine that you will change someone’s behavior unless there is some real leverage over him/her. It is likely that attorneys and others who do not give you the respect you deserve will not be aware of how they are acting until someone they do respect points it out to them. If there is a consistent pattern of mistreatment, you need to find someone you trust who can try to remedy the situation. If you maintain good working relationships with people above you, that conversation is much easier. Remember not to accuse the person but focus instead on the behavior.

In some cases, rather than enlisting the person’s support, it might be a topic first broached as a request for advice, “Isabel, I have a question about Kevin. Last night while I was drafting your Shareholders’ Agreement, he asked me to get him coffee. Any ideas how to approach that if it happens again?”

If possible, avoid the words “problem” or “issue” if you can, at least in the first conversation. You are simply asking for input about how to improve the situation, not labeling it as a problem (which may stick in Isabel’s mind to your detriment, as unfair as that seems). Of course, if the lack of respect is much more serious, then it does need to be raised as such. 

3.  Understand that the institution may be broken. There are times – more than we wish to know about – that bad behavior is tolerated because an individual is otherwise valuable to the firm. Usually this means he/she is making the firm lots of money, but there are other reasons that someone may be able to consistently act poorly to others and remain in a seat of power. In these cases, you need to figure out if you can (generally) isolate yourself from the individual without harming your career, or if it is time to move on.

If you have determined that senior management will continue to allow certain individuals to undermine you and treat you poorly, it is important to free yourself of the toxicity that can result from being too long in that type of environment, which can have an affect on your overall health. 

4.  Embody confidence gracefully. If you are subject to condescension, be confident without doing a reverse power play. Know your strengths, and do not allow yourself to be “tripped up” by the fancy footwork of someone who thrives on always being right or in charge. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your homework, get up to speed or (at times) work hard to understand complicated things on your own. What is does mean is that people are much less likely to talk over you or give you short shrift if you make it clear that it is not in their best interest to do so.

For example, if I were in the same situation as my client above, I would probably say something like, “Thanks, Joe, I’m glad you understand all of this so well. What’s important for both of us right now is for me to understand the parts I need to advise Susan [the CEO] on this transaction. I don’t need to become an expert. I just need you to slow down and explain this one part again so I can get it right and anticipate her questions about it.”

If Joe still lords over you, you may need to speak up for yourself again, or call back for clarification. “You sent me to the statute, but when I read the statute, it isn’t exactly as I heard you explain it. Let me walk you through what I heard again. Yep, I want to make completely sure the rules haven’t changed and there is nothing else we are missing in this case…. Do you have the statute in front of you? OK, call me back when you have it open…”

What is crucial here is that you step into the role of power, without ever calling direct attention to that fact. You are the one advising the CEO (or other senior management). Joe is there to serve you and your company, which is why you are paying him in the first place. Don’t make him lose face by saying it directly, especially if you have no direct influence over whether to fire him and hire someone else. (Influence you should take pains to cultivate over time, by the way.)

Take the microphone, as the saying goes, rather than telling Joe that he needs to give it to you.

5.  Invoke curiosity. Just as coming from a place of humor can work to diffuse a situation, so can curiosity. I will give you an example from my law firm days. I was representing a CEO who has just fired his COO. My guy claimed that the other guy just wasn’t doing any work, but there was an issue that the employment agreement (which thankfully I hadn’t drafted) did not explicitly list this as a reason the COO could be fired. The dispute was not only over regular compensation, but whether the COO should receive any future profits or be cut off on the date of termination.

The COO’s lawyer called me in a hot and bothered state. His guy was not going to budge. He would get 100% of what he was asking for or we were going to court. And what did I think about that?

I could have been offended along the lines of “Who was this person trying to crush me like a bug?” I could have gotten huffy in return. But I did not. Instead, I approached the comment with a posture of curiosity. “How interesting that you would take a hardline approach,” I said. “You obviously know that we will just do the same in return. [Which was true.] Our clients have some emotional skin in the game. Don’t you think as lawyers it is our job to keep clear heads?”

It worked. I had leveled the playing field. We were lawyers – equals – and it was our job to sort this out. The other attorney was so flabbergasted he had to get off the phone a few minutes later, flubbing his words. He was obviously used to turning the screws and getting his way, and I had made it clear in so many words that this negotiating tactic would not work with me.

He was mad on a second call. I was curious again. “Are we fighting with each other too now? I thought we were the lawyers.” I then walked him through my points one by one. Again, I threw him off his game, and he stopped talking down to me, because he could see it would get him nowhere. We won the dispute, and I kept my self-respect.

Lawyers and others, if you have your own ideas about how to gain respect in a particular workplace situation, feel free to leave a comment below.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

 

Image above: Shutterstock.

 

 

 

You have 120 characters in your LinkedIn headline. (No, not 140. That’s Twitter.)

120 characters to sell yourself to the world. Yes, I said sell. LinkedIn is not where you find enlightenment. It is where you find clients, contacts or a job. If you are not already, you need to be crystal clear on the distinction, whether or not you like it.

Important Update in 2017: Following Microsoft’s acquisition and restructuring of LinkedIn, many of the features have changed. For example, only a portion of your headline and the first few words of your summary are visible in many cases until someone clicks to see more. This makes is critical to have the essential information that reflects your value proposition – or otherwise draws people in – right at the top. You can check this out for yourself by accessing your own profile through various devices.

So what should it say?

Should you opt for something short, try to get in as much as possible or meet somewhere in the middle? How “out there” should you be with your job search?

I hear these questions from clients every week, if not every day. One of the main goals as a résumé writer is to help my clients see how they appear to a third party, especially a potential recruiter, hiring manager/partner, interviewer or other job search facilitator. We are often so wrapped up in our own stories that we forget how we appear to the outside world.

Take a look at a range of possible headlines below, which could easily describe the same individual at various points in his/her career. Depending on how he/she wanted to be perceived, some of these headlines are clearly more effective than others.

Can you immediately tell which ones?

– Scroll down for commentary –

Capital Markets Attorney, Counsel | Derivatives | Global Funds | Dodd Frank & EMIR

ISDA/Derivatives Attorney

ISDA Attorney | Derivatives Counsel

ISDA Attorney | Derivatives Counsel | Hedge Funds

ISDA Attorney and Derivatives Counsel at [Name of Employer]

ISDA Attorney at *

ISDA Attorny [sic]

Contract Attorney

ISDA Attorney Seeking New Opportunity

Attorney Seeking a New Opportunity

Versatile & Business Savvy Senior Attorney with 20+ Years of Effectively Resolving Complex Issues and Managing Risk

Senior Business Savvy Attorney

Experienced lawyer seeking engaging legal employment

Attorney, actively seeking employment

VP, Legal

Vice President and Associate General Counsel

Associate General Counsel

Financial Transactions Attorney

Corporate Finance Professional and Attorney | Investment and Corporate Banking

Attorney | Advocate

Attorney

Financial Services and Trading Counsel

ISDA Counsel and Negotiator

Experienced Derivatives Attorney and Published Novelist

Attorney/Writer/Humorist

Clearing, Dodd-Frank & ISDA Attorney

Fixed Income and Derivatives Attorney, Contracts Negotiator

ISDA, Prime Brokerage, Securities Lending, Repurchase, and Futures Negotiator

Derivatives Attorney

ISDA/Futures/Derivatives Attorney

Financial Transactions Attorney

Senior Derivatives/Regulatory/Capital Markets Attorney

– Commentary –

Clearly there is much more to say than I can cover in a short blog post, but here are some general thoughts to guide you:

First, consider your audience. You’ll see that I highlighted some headlines above. Two of them are “hybrid” (the last two headlines highlighted in red above) in that they straddle multiple roles – legal and writing. This can be effective if you are actually selling yourself to both audiences, and you do not believe that presenting yourself as a hybrid will do damage to your brand. It should, in fact, support your brand, because it reflects how you present yourself in daily life. Again, LinkedIn is not about self-actualization or gratification, it is about presenting yourself to the world in a professional context.

Second, an incomplete headline (or one with errors) is probably the worst thing you can do. It reflects extremely poorly on you, because it implies that you will lack attention to detail in your daily work as well. The first two highlighted headlines above display this lack of care. In the first, the attorney did not realize that LinkedIn prompted an employer, so it simply ends with “at….” (The added asterisk is mine.) In the second, the word Attorney is spelled incorrectly! I would not trust you to draft a contract to purchase a popsicle stick, let alone a multi-million dollar transaction, if you can’t even spell your headline correctly. Yes, I have actually seen typos in headlines, although more often they are in the summary or elsewhere on LinkedIn.

Third, if you have a temporary job, you are not a “temporary person.” You do not need to sum up your current employment. Instead, your headline should indicate who you are, not your present role. To that end, I would avoid a headline like “Contract Attorney” at all costs.

Fourth, don’t sound desperate. I see many headlines that announce an individual is “seeking employment,” even in some cases for individual who appear to be currently employed. While I cannot say that there is no case in which this could be appropriate, in most fields, including law, you should eliminate this from your headline. There is an old adage that it is easier to find a job when you have a job. The same applies here. As a hiring manager, I would rather hire individuals who are self-confident in who they are and what value they add than those that appear they will take the next best “new opportunity” that presents itself. Among other reasons, I would not be convinced that, once hired, the person would stay.

Fifth, don’t try a subtle, back door approach that imitates #4 above. By that I mean a headline like the following:

Versatile & Business Savvy Senior Attorney with 20+ Years of Effectively Resolving Complex Issues and Managing Risk

If you read between the lines, this person also is clearly on the job market. There are so many things wrong with this headline that I don’t even know where to start. Here are two:

(1) It has a lot of words without saying much.

(2) Words like “20+ Years of…” scream résumé, so they announce your job search. In the case of this individual – this is a real LinkedIn headline – he also has clients who may be turned off by this presentation. You are always writing to your current situation as well as your target next role (if any). The headline also screams “keywords” although it is not clear that they are the right words.

(Note: You may also not want to highlight your implied age by stating 20+ years – a separate issue that I’ll cover in another post. In the résumé business, the unwritten rule is to go with 15+ years, although there are clearly exceptions.)

Sixth, always remember keywords. While you generally don’t want your current employer to know you are looking for a new role, you also want to have a headline that describes what you do and will cause you to be located when a recruiter or other individual conducts a keyword search, if possible (even if you have no intention of leaving – who knows what dream job awaits?).

This is another reason why “seeking employment” does not help much. If you have “employment” and “attorney” in your headline, you may come up in searches for “employment attorney” but not in searches for your substantive experience (e.g., derivatives, contracts, etc.). This can be cured somewhat with a robust summary or other sections of the LinkedIn profile, but the headline is a stronger place for this identifying information.

Seventh, a difficult situation arises when you are trying to sell yourself in many ways.  Sometimes you do not want to pigeonhole yourself as a particular type of attorney, especially if you are looking to transition or branch out. This is when you should consider whether to write a “tighter” or “looser” profile, i.e., one that identifies you more as an expert in a specific area or one that paints a broader brush.

In summary, it is your headline, so you should be comfortable with it. There is no one right answer. After considering the above, also consider what your gut tells you. Would you be comfortable presenting your headline across the various audiences that will see it? Will it raise your confidence level and appropriately broadcast your professional self to the world? I suggest you take a look at your headline again with all of these hard and soft factors in mind to find the one that is right for you.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

 

 

fly coaching photo

I am often asked what I can offer to clients to improve their résumé, as a means to speed up and target their job search process. If you would like to know this as well, please READ ON!

This post is written with the skeptics in mind. God bless the skeptics. They keep the rest of us in check. So here it goes:

The value of working with a professional résumé writer is often not clear until after you have gone through the process and see the finished product. This short introduction serves as a preview and overview of the process.

You may have a sneaking suspicion that you are not in the driver’s seat – the idea of working on your résumé generates fear, or the document is a sore spot in your career advancement or job search.

You know that you are an amazing candidate if you could just get the right words on the page, but you aren’t sure how to do that or can’t seem to find (or prioritize) the time to get it right.

As I have said in the past, résumés are marketing documents. They are not a career retrospective of what you’ve done or an “obituary” of your work history, education and other professional information. Your résumé is a sales piece, and what you are selling is you. What can you bring to the role that puts you at the top of the pile?

Great résumés convey power. While a strong résumé won’t get you a job on its own, it will position you as a competitive candidate and, if there’s a potential match, serve as a compelling “appetizer” to get you to the main course – your next career move.

If you are uncomfortable selling yourself on paper, or if you need help putting into words what you know you can do, you have come to the right place.

What are the main benefits of working with Anne Marie Segal to write my résumé?

 1) You will possess a solid marketing document that positions you for the roles you are targeting.

Through our work together, we create a solid marketing document that highlights your achievements, strengths and unique offer. With the new résumé in hand, you will be positioned to obtain a role that is a true “fit” for you (given your short-term and long-term goals) and leverage your value during hiring negotiations.

We achieve this by balancing the two main elements that every résumé needs:

BREVITY and

DIFFERENTIATION

Today’s résumés need to be clearly and tightly written, with keywords and summaries that attract the attention of someone within six to ten seconds. There are many more candidates going for each open position than in years past, so you will need to stand out quick to make an impression.

At the same time, brevity alone does not make a great résumé. You also need to differentiate yourself from every other “results-driven” candidate or “good communicator” on the block. You are unique. In your résumé, we don’t market something parroted from a book or the Internet, we market you.

2) You will no longer lose out on potential opportunities because you are unsure of how to present yourself.

The worst thing you can do when looking for a job, or any career advancement that requires a similar interview process, is to stagnate out of fear, worry or similar emotions. Inertia will not get you a job. It is not your friend, even if it feels as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. I work with candidates all the time to get them moving forward, both in coaching and in résumé writing.

3) You will recognize your value and learn how to communicate it to potential employers.

From the “résumé interview process” – during which we reconstruct your work and education highlights, keywords and other résumé elements from the ground up – you will gain key insights into the value you bring to the marketplace.

Have you ever sat down and wrote out your unique “return on investment” (ROI)? What ROI would a potential employer receive from its investment in you? When I work with candidates, we address this question head on, so you can present yourself with confidence and clarity on the value you bring to each open role. People don’t get hired because they are liked (although it helps). They get hired to solve problems. What problems do you solve?

After working together, the transformation of your résumé will be obvious. (If it’s not, we should talk.) The value of this key document will become even more evident when you begin to send it around and hear your network, recruiters, interviewers and others say:

“Ah, I get what you’re looking for.”

“What a great résumé.”

“I can really see the value you bring.”

“I have a role that I’d really like to recommend you for.”

“When can you start?”

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here. This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

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Friends and colleagues, I have made a game-changing decision. Some of you have already heard, as emails and successive social media posts create a series of “mini-launches” rather than one definitive LAUNCH.

I am hanging up my shingle, stepping aside from the practice of law, and launching a business and executive coaching practice geared toward attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. More details to come soon, as I work on reconstructing the SEGAL LAW BLOG into my new coaching blog.

In the meantime, here’s my new website: www.segalcoaching.com.

Thanks again for all of your support!

The best is yet to come.

-Anne Marie

Who would have thought that a small and simple object that (can draw blood if squeezed into a finger but otherwise) appears relatively harmless could blow your entire estate plan?

The common staple remover. An enemy of well-drafted last will and testaments and well-made estate plans nationwide.

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[Note: This post was written while I was a practicing attorney running a solo law practice. When published, it was one of my most popular posts. Since April 2015, I have been working with attorney, executive and entrepreneur clients as a career coach and writer, and I am not currently available for legal engagements.]

Here’s what I tell my clients:

Never, ever unstaple a will. Never, ever, ever. And did I mention never, ever? Don’t do it!

To drive home the point with a memorable comparison, I even have joked with some clients on occasion that unstapling a will is like having an affair. (I only say this when I am pretty well assured the joke will be properly received.) You can try to put it – i.e., the marriage or the will – back together again, but it will never go back exactly the same as it was before. There are always some holes that cannot be filled and some room for distrust that it is difficult to overcome.

There are always some holes that cannot be filled and
some room for distrust that it is difficult to overcome.

Unstapling a will can call the entire document into question. Was a page added or removed? Is it a complete and properly ordered copy? Even if the pages are numbered and initialed, how can we (sometimes many years later) be sure that no one did an artful yet fraudulent switch of parts of the document he/she did not like?

It is such a serious issue that, if a will is to be proven in probate court as the correct, complete and valid original last will and testament, there is a process of submitting an affidavit by the person who unstapled the will, discussing the reason for the unstapling, when and how it happened, and by whom. The court is understandably concerned that there was no foul play involved, and wills with multiple staple holes are regarded with suspicion.

So what should you do instead, if you need a copy of your will?

If you need a copy of your will, you should make a copy of a copy, not of the original. Or you can make a copy of the original without unstapling it, making sure that you do not damage any of the pages in the process. It’s not a good idea to have too many copies of your will floating around in any case, since you may wish to change it later and do not want someone with an older copy trying to challenge the later will. If you have any doubts, contact your local estate planning attorney before taking action that can have serious legal consequences to one of the most important documents in your legal life.

So let’s not forget. I repeat:  Never, ever unstaple your will! Never, ever!

None of the information posted on this site constitutes legal advice or forms an attorney-client relationship.