The International Legal Technology Association’s Litigation and Practice Support Peer Group hosted a held a webinar Wednesday morning, addressing “Becoming Indispensable: Tips for Career Success in 2015 and Beyond” with over 100 peer group members attending.

David Cowen, President and Managing Director of The Cowen Group, moderated a lively and fast-paced discussion on driving success for your career and the top five skill sets (IQs) Directors look for when hiring. Panelists included David Leone (Director of Litigation Support Services) Saul Ewing, Scott Bilbry (Director, Litigation Support Services, Covington and Burling), and Chad Papenfuss (Litigation Support Services Manager, Kirkland & Ellis).

The hour-long session covered a lot of ground, offering lots of pithy advice, a candid appraisal of how you work best as a professional, and an actionable career prescription, because “doing nothing is not a strategy.”

Among the takeaways:

  • Get involved with the community, for example, the ILTA peer groups or the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (aka EDRM) in order to show and grow your business savvy.

  • Law firms are seeing a spike in security audits—both for their clients, and for the firms themselves. Seek these out, said panelists—be first to be experts and that positions you for job advances.

  • Stay intellectually curious.

  • Keep an eye on privacy/security/governance. It’s only going to get more complicated. That brings opportunities.

  • Be a problem-solver. Show that you know at least a little bit about these new trends. Take part in conversations.

  • Of course, none of us can predict the “Black Swan” events (e.g., 9/11) But prepare for the unexpected.

Who Are You?

Cowen spent the second portion of the webinar polling the attendees on quick questions designed to identify preferences and managing styles. Panelists addressed questions such as would you rather “make work, manage work, or do work.” That led nuanced discussions included tips on “managing up,” where panelists advised the audience to aim to “take stuff off your boss’ plate,” and taking advantage of “elevator chat” when you find yourself with a higher-up.

Cowen and the panelists highlighted the top five critical skill sets (or IQs) necessary for career success: business IQ, technical/professional IQ, “political” IQ, social IQ and emotional IQ and discussed the importance of understanding all five, and figuring out which ones you excel in and need to work on.

My favorite advice came from Papenfuss, who offered his crucial formula for success when looking to hire new talent: A2+I2+M+R. That translates to attitude and aptitude; involved in the industry; motivation, and results. It’s also a great way to screen job candidates, the panelists observed.

Finally, panelists offered 10 steps listeners could take to continue to elevate and expand roles and responsibilities. Cowen, Bilbrey, Papenfuss and Leone stressed the need to be an active participant in your own career and to spend 15 minutes a day focusing on yourself. Advice that we all need a reminder of from time to time, I am sure.

—Lawyer Monica Bay is a special consultant with The Cowen Group and recently retired as editor-in-chief of ALM’s Law Technology News.


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