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1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1 continued on backMost people never feel secure becausethey are always worrie...
1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 2 continuedInstead of going back to the prison, Dr. Gomezwalked with his broth...
1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 3 continued on backare planning on replacing is that the personthey want to re...
1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 4As an attorney, especially, in order to be aseffective as possible you need t...
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  1. 1. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1 continued on backMost people never feel secure becausethey are always worried that they will losetheir job, lose the money they already have,lose their spouse, lose their health, andso on. The only true security in life comesfrom knowing that every single day you areimproving yourself in some way, that you areincreasing the caliber of who you are andthat you are valuable to your company, yourfriends, and your family.-Anthony Robbins{American Speaker, Peak PerformanceExpert}There is no such thing as “security” in thelegal profession and no matter how hardyou try, or how far you search, you are nevergoing to find it. You simply cannot controlwhat happens to you. It is impossible. Eventhe highest ranking partners at the best lawfirms lose their jobs quite frequently. If youpossess the best possible academic qualifi-cations and work experience, circumstancesmight take your job away, too. No matter howcareful you are with your career, you have noway to control what happens to you.What you can control, however, is whetheror not you choose to continually improveyourself in your professional life. Whenyou are continually improving yourself youare providing yourself the security that theperson you will be tomorrow is better thanthe one you are today. If you are continuallyimproving yourself, despite what may happento the legal environments you are workingin, you will be in a better position to alwaysstay ahead of things you cannot control. Veryfew people in their lives practice the habit ofcontinually improving themselves and it is forthat reason that so few people become verysuccessful-and stay very successful.Some years ago, I was on a train ride acrossSpain when an older gentleman began tell-ing me a story of when he was younger andimprisoned for life in Cuba by Castro. He hadbeen imprisoned, he told me, because he hadspoken out against communism. Prior to be-ing imprisoned, this man had been a soccerplayer and then a professor in a prestigiousCuban university. This man was my soccercoach/Spanish teacher and was leading meand about 25 other students on a summertour across Spain. His name was Dr. Gomez.Dr. Gomez is one of the more interesting menI have ever met. Then in his late 60s, he wasup by 5:00 am everyday and ran four or fivemiles every morning. He was always learninghow to do new things and finding new ways toenjoy life and better himself.According to Dr. Gomez, the conditions insidethe prison were terrible. Dr. Gomez wasput into a small cell no larger than a typicalbedroom with over 20 other prisoners. Thefood was terrible, the cell was very hot andthe conditions inside the cell were nearlyimpossible to live in. The prisoners were letout of their cells a couple of times per week.According to Dr. Gomez, when these prison-ers were let out, they concentrated on thingslike getting retribution against other prison-ers who had upset them in the outside world,and getting drugs and other contraband totake inside their cells. Inside their own cells,these men spent their time fighting with oneanother, smoking and taking drugs smuggledto them by guards and others.Dr. Gomez said that when he went to prisonhe knew he was unlikely to ever get out;however, he made a decision to use histime in prison to become a better person.He exercised at least a couple of hours perday and, because his cell was so crowded,he exercised when the other prisoners weresleeping because that was the only timethere was room for him to move around.Unlike other prisoners, instead of trading forcigarettes, drugs or weapons, he traded whathe had for things like a toothbrush, cleanclothes, educational books and a razor toshave with.Over the course of approximately one year,this man actually grew inside the prisonwhile the other prisoners became muchworse off. In fact, during the one year he wasin his small cell, many prisoners actuallydied-or went insane.Every month, Dr. Gomez was allowed to havea visitor come see him. One Sunday after-noon, Dr. Gomez was sitting with his brotherin the prison visiting room with several othervisitors and prisoners. Dr. Gomez, unlike theother prisoners, was very fit, well shaven andcleanly dressed. In fact, Dr. Gomez lookedin better health than most of the visitors.Sitting in the prison visitor room, Dr. Gomeznoticed that a shift change took place duringthe visit. The guard that was replaced wasa new guard and one that Dr. Gomez did notrecognize. A few minutes after this, a bellrang announcing that visitor hours were over.Kaizen and the Process of Continuous Improvement in Your Legal Ca-reer[A. Harrison Barnes]What have you done for your employer lately? Continually improving your work habits, your effectiveness, your abilities, your relations with others - soundseasy enough, but few follow the practice. This, however, is how you are almost always judged by others and the only way to ensure advancement.
  2. 2. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 2 continuedInstead of going back to the prison, Dr. Gomezwalked with his brother straight out of thefront door of the prison. No one ever sus-pected Dr. Gomez was a prisoner becausehe did not look like any of the prisoners. Themain reason that Dr. Gomez did not look likeany of the other prisoners was because hehad continued to improve and become a betterperson while in prison.This article discusses the principle of “Kai-zen,” which, in many circles, has been calledthe key to Japan’s success in many industries.This simple concept can also be the key toyour success in the legal profession-and inlife. In order to grow in the legal field-whetheryou are an attorney, paralegal, or legal secre-tary-you need to continually be improving. Ona daily basis, you should be questioning howyou are getting things are done and improvingthe processes and procedures you follow inyour work.A. Kaizen DefinedKaizen means improvement. Moreover, Kaizenmeans continual improvement in your person-al life, home life, social life, and working life.When applied to the workplace, Kaizen meanscontinual improvement involving everyone.Kaizen is a tool originally used by Toyota tofoster continued improvement within its Toyo-ta Production System. It began as “Quality Cir-cles,” a means of factory shop floor employ-ees solving quality issues within a structuredteam framework, using specific new tools.At Toyota, and other Japanese companies,“Kaizen events” are constantly occurring. Ingeneral, a Kaizen event will involve the man-agement appearing at the desk or machineof employees and observing exactly how theydo their jobs. The efficiency, processes andprocedures followed by the employee are ag-gressively questioned. How does the employeehold a tool? How many steps does it take to gobetween different machines where the workmay be occurring? Then, as inefficiencies arepointed out, the employee is expected to adaptand change immediately. If the employee doesnot correct the efficiency, he or she is fired onthe spot and another person is brought in todo the job. When a Kaizen event occurs, thePresident of Toyota might even follow arounda janitor for days to figure out the inefficien-cies. This approach to work is something thatoccurs at all levels of the organization andinvolves everyone.While this approach to managing a companyis draconian, it ensures that the work beingperformed is done in the best possible man-ner with the least amount of waste. Whilehe did not call it “Kaizen,” this method ofapproaching work was also the building blockbehind most of the companies started byHoward Hughes (many of which are growingmulti-billion companies today). For example,companies like DirecTV are products of thiscontinuous drive for improvement and werefounded by disciples of Hughes, decades afterhis death, in a corporate environment thatpromotes constant improvement and innova-tion.The point of a Kaizen event and Kaizen gener-ally, is that the norm must constantly bequestioned in order to ensure that the workis performed in the best possible manner. Iwas reminded of this principal while readingan old Motor Trend which discussed the factthe engineers who designed the Lexis LS400decided to halve the space between metalfittings in the car in the year 2001. Whilethis was completely unnecessary (the car isconsistently ranked as one of the top 10 carsin the world in terms of quality), the engineersdid this because it was an improvement thatthey believed they were capable of making.B. Nine Lessons Kaizen Teaches and Their Ap-plication to Your Legal CareerKaizen refers to individual, continuous im-provement in personal life, home life, sociallife and working life. Everybody deserves toand should be willing to improve himself/her-self for the better. An old Japanese proverbsays, “If a man has not been seen for threedays, his friends should take a good look athim to see what changes have befallen him.”This describes just how natural Kaizen is.While Kaizen may seem insignificant, I canassure you that following this principal issomething that will be rewarded in your legalcareer. The principal of Kaizen can apply toboth your personal legal career and the orga-nization you work for. You should constantlybe questioning everything about your workmethods-and your level of understanding ofvarious events at work.Not a day should go by without some kind ofimprovement being made somewhere. I haveprovided some career tips based on Kaizenbelow that should give you some ideas bothabout what Kaizen philosophy is and how youcan implement Kaizen in your legal career:1. You should discard conventional fixedideas. For example, you may have a fixed ideaof the way you should seek out assignments inyour law firm, the type of work you should bedoing or even the sort of law firm you belongin.Relying on convention is something that isquite dangerous. This convention can serveto limit you. Part of continuously improving isquestioning everything around you. Questionthe norm. Is there a better way that you couldbe doing your work? Do you think you mightperform at a higher level in another type oflegal environment? Do not limit yourself withbeliefs about your potential-or what otherpeople tell you your potential is.2. You should think of how to do something,not why it cannot be done. It is axiomatic thatyou can do more by believing you can do more.As a legal recruiter, one of the more consis-tent complaints I hear from hiring partnersand other hiring authorities about people they
  3. 3. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 3 continued on backare planning on replacing is that the personthey want to replace finds excuses for notgetting work done. There are very few as-signments in a legal environment that can bebrushed aside and not get done. You need toremember that as a legal professional you arebeing hired to do a job and get results. Statingthat you do not believe you can do a certaintype of work is one of the worst messages youcan send an employer.Another derivative of this idea is that youshould always be focusing on the best possi-ble result you want in your career and thinkingof how you can achieve that result. Lookingfor reasons to succeed in something is muchmore useful than looking for reasons to avoidit. Winners look for reasons to succeed andlosers look for reasons to fail.3. You should not make excuses; instead,question current practices. There are plentyof reasons that certain goals you may setfor yourself may not be achieved in a timelymanner. There are also going to be reasonswhy something you do does not work out asyou had hoped it would in your career. Younever should make excuses for your failureto achieve something. Instead, question yourmethodologies that led to things not workingout.One of the most persistent problems thatattorneys have in their work environment isrelated to how well they get along with thepeople they work with. The majority of prob-lems attorneys have in their work environ-ments are traceable to this and this alone. Youshould never blame others for your problems.Question how you will deal with these andother problems the next time.4. You should not seek absolute perfec-tion. Take action right away even if you canonly achieve a part of your goal. While youshould be aiming for perfection, simply stated,perfection is not always possible. Taking ac-tions to ensure that you do your best is vitallyimportant to your success. It is better to makean effort at doing something than not doinganything at all.Many attorneys put off various tasks becausethey do not feel they are ready to do some-thing. In order to grow, you need to takeaction. Ensure that you are consistently takingaction and learn from the mistakes you maymake when taking action.5. If a mistake is made, correct it right away.Mistakes happen. What is most important isrealizing that you need to correct mistakesrather than allowing them to continue. Youshould always be asking yourself why some-thing did not work out instead of dwelling ona mistake.There is a very strong tendency in the legalprofession to not admit mistakes and henceto not correct these mistakes. A large portionof the work of a legal professional is simplycorrecting his/her own mistakes-again andagain-in order to get things as close to perfectas possible. The act of correcting a mistakewill make you more aware of the mistake andhelp you to avoid it the next time around.6. You should ask “WHY?” and seek rootcauses. If you believe that there is any needfor improvement, either in your organizationor in how you are doing your job, you needto ask yourself “WHY” and search for thereasons you need improvement and how toeffectuate that improvement.You always need to question the need forimprovement. You should constantly be ask-ing “WHY” in order to get to the root cause ofevery problem.7. You should seek the wisdom of multiplepeople rather than the knowledge of one.None of us can possibly know the solutionsto every issue we face. It is better that we alloperate as a contiguous group-learning andgrowing from each other-than as islands.The work that legal professionals do is cer-tainly competitive. Due to that fact, many legalprofessionals are afraid to ask for assistancefrom others. The fact of the matter is, yoursuperiors and equals in your work all have hadmany similar experiences at various points intheir careers. You can learn a lot from others.The experience of multiple individuals in agroup is far more telling than the experienceof only one.C. Some Final Thoughts About KaizenIf you have been in the legal field even a shortperiod of time, I am sure that looking aroundyour office you can quickly spot numerousindividuals who (for whatever reason) simplyfail to improve. Similarly, looking around youroffice I am sure that you can spot a few rareindividuals who (for whatever reason) arecontinually improving.There are three truths that you should alwaysbe aware of:First, there are people who are (a) far, far lessintelligent than you that (b) went to worse lawschools than you and (c) have far worse workexperience than you who are going to have farmore successful legal careers than you.;Second, you are going to have a far more suc-cessful legal career than thousands of peoplethat are (a) much smarter than you, (b) went tobetter colleges and law schools, (c) have muchbetter work experience than you; andThird, the reason you will do better than someand some will do better than you has more todo with the ability to consistently improve thanany other single factor.I am constantly astonished by meeting attor-neys who succeed over others who-one wouldcertainly think from outward appearances-should be doing better than them. Not a dayshould go without some kind of improvementbeing made somewhere in your professionallife.
  4. 4. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 4As an attorney, especially, in order to be aseffective as possible you need to be extremelyself-critical at all times in order to grow. Itis a well known fact that many people youwork with will, at some point in their careers,simply stop improving. The person who stopsimproving and growing will likely no longeradvance in his or her career. If you are ableto continually improve in your work, you willadvance.