Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

Elevate Your Position: Grab That Seat at the Table

Over the past year, our primary ALA goal has been to Elevate ALA. We have added more value for our members, and we continue to strive to have ALA be known as the thought leader in the business of law — the place for legal management professionals to go to elevate their positions.
Laura J. Broomell, CLM

For each of us, our journey is different, and our professional paths lead us to myriad intersections. One road may be straight and long, one might include multiple turns along the way, and one may include a steep climb. What we want to avoid is getting stuck in a roundabout with few options to maneuver our way out.

I am grateful that my professional path has taken me on a wonderful adventure through multiple intersections, and that adventure would have stalled early if not for ALA. I earned a seat at the table through my involvement in ALA. I share below how you can grab that seat for yourself, if you don’t already have it.

Be a lifelong learner. Your firm or organization hired you with the confidence that you had the knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively perform your job. It is your responsibility to maintain and even enhance your knowledge and skills, and the best way to do that is to actively participate in ALA. The more we personally invest, the more we gain.

Share what you learn. At every opportunity, share with your firm what you have learned, especially through ALA. I hear members say that their firm does not support ALA. In order to change that, we need to do a better job of educating our partners or managers about how our participation in ALA elevates our firms.

Share what you do. I have also heard members say, “My partners don’t know what I do.” If your partners don’t know what you do, tell them. When I send out the agenda for our monthly attorney meeting, I include my “Broomell Brief.” This is a two-to-three-page summary of what I worked on over the past month.

Always look to add value. At every opportunity, offer to take on a task or project that would normally be done by your Managing Partner or other manager, even if it is outside your comfort zone. A few weeks before my 2006 year-end attorney retreat, it was decided that we would use one of the days to discuss our attorney compensation policy and procedure. We were frantically trying to find a consultant to work with us to plan and facilitate that part of the retreat, when somehow I found the courage to ask if I could do it. I made sure that I was not going to fail. I read every article and book I could find on attorney compensation, and I met with a professional meeting facilitator who helped me understand the role of the facilitator, the use of ground rules and what to do when I got stuck. After that retreat, it was decided that I would facilitate all monthly attorney meetings. Raise your hand and then be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more confidence you will have.

Get a coach and be a coach. If you played any sport growing up, you know how important a good coach can be. My fast-pitch softball coach inspired passion, and he taught us to take risks, to push ahead when tired, to dream, to understand our full potential, to learn from mistakes, to trust our teammates, and to always focus on the “we.” A professional coach does the same thing. But we don’t always need to pay someone to be a coach. I have many coaches in my life — sponsors, advisers and friends.

Act like a partner. Partners and shareholders are owners in their firm. Unfortunately, most of us cannot be owners in our firms, but that does not mean we can’t act like one. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Get rid of the 9 to 5 mentality.
  • Don’t think of yourself as “staff.”
  • Always look for ways to move the firm forward.
  • Invest in yourself.
  • Build trusting relationships with everyone at the firm.
  • Know everything about your firm — the business side and the practice side.
  • Make every decision with an owner mentality.
  • Be accountable and act with integrity.
  • Be a servant leader.
  • Display courage.
  • Take care of yourself — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

During the Association lunch last year, I told a story about my youngest daughter. She was writing a paper while in middle school, and she asked me if I was successful because I worked hard or because I was lucky. I responded, “Yes!” She was a bit puzzled. I told her that I was successful because I work really hard and because I am lucky. But, I also told her that I had more luck because I work hard. If you work hard and you have a little luck, you will get that seat at the table.