Saturday, July 27, 2013

Survey Reveals Flexibility of Passionate Pre-Law Students Pursuing a Law Degree

Here's the headline:

Adapting to the Current Realities of the Employment Landscape for Lawyers, Half of Pre-Law Students Say They Plan to Use their Law School Degree in a Non-Traditional Legal Job

So started an April 11, 2013 news release published by Kaplan Test Prep.  It goes on to report:
The employment stats don’t paint a pretty picture for pre-law students looking ahead, but flexibility about their future career and their passion for it is driving them forward. According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of more than 200 pre-law students, 50% say they plan to use their law degree in a non-traditional legal field. Of that 50%, nearly three out of five (58%) said the current job market for lawyers factored into this decision. 
Forty-three (43%) percent of survey respondents overall said they plan to use their law degree to pursue a job in the business world rather than in the legal world—which helps explain why 42% said they’d likely pursue an MBA if they weren't already pursuing a JD.
The growing interest in non-traditional legal jobs comes on the heels of the latest report from the American Bar Association which shows that just 56% of 2012 graduates secured long-term, full-time jobs that required bar passage—a 1% increase over the class of 2011.
I reported on this aspect of the job market for law grads in my recent posting here.

The historical NALP data shows that 55 to 58 percent of law grads obtained or sought jobs requiring bar passage, typically law firm jobs.  Thus, up to 42 to 45 percent of law grads historically pursued "JD preferred" (or "JD advanatge") jobs out of law school.  I am cautious about this last statement because remaining grads could fall into other categories on the NALP reports, including "other professional job" and "non-professional job." But the percentages of law grads falling into these latter two categories tend to be below 10 percent -- when taken together -- even in the 2012 job market.

By comparison, one-third to one-half of established lawyers pursued careers outside of law firms.

The April 2013 Kaplan Test Prep survey of pre-law students also found:
Most students say they’re motivated to go to law school by passion, not money: 71% say the primary reason they are applying to law school is “to go into a career I am passionate about.” Only 5% listed salary potential as the primary reason.   
Passion only goes so far, without financial assistance: 43% say they are likely to postpone or alter their plans to attend law school if they don’t get the financial aid package they were hoping for. That line of thinking aligns with advice proffered by graduating law school students: in a separate Kaplan Bar Review survey** of third-year law students, 87% say a law school’s financial aid package should play a significant role in helping pre-law students determine where to enroll."
So, appropriately, students are looking at the big picture and letting the realities of a recessionary economy and the cost of tuition -- after scholarships -- help them decide whether to invest,-- at this time, and in this particular way -- in themselves and their future careers.

Students should have access to complete and reliable information about each law school of interest to them. As a mediator, I hold as a core value informed decision-making based on high-quality information.

For prospective law students and law grads, they are making their next career decision, and certainly not the last one.

Nov. 3, 2013 Update:  Another law professor commented on this survey here in a much more opinionated way.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Jane, You Ignorant Slut": Law Professors Debate Economic Value of a Law Degree

Michael Simkovic, one of the authors of the new report --The Economic Value of a Law Degree, is debating the author, Brian Tamanaha, of the 2012 book -- Failing Law Schools.  The debate began earlier this week and appears at Brian Leiter's Law School Reports.  It should be an interesting exchange that will go on for a while.

Both authors are law school academics. Simkovic serves as an Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law.  Brian Tamanaha, serves as the Dean of Washington University School of Law (my alma mater).

I summarized Simikovic's paper here.  Tamanaha's book is available here (yes, I am encouraging you to use Barnes & Noble, and not Amazon).

One of the factors affecting both authors' projections is the cost of law school tuition. Given the drop off in applicants to law school -- from about 100,000 in 2004 to about 50,000 this past recruiting season -- lower-tiered law schools have substantially reduced the sticker price of tuition.  Some schools are offering top students 100 percent merit scholarships, plus moving or book expenses!

Despite what all the spambloggers are saying, for the class of 2011, only 3,990 (or 9.6 percent) graduates were unemployed and seeking work.  Another 1,044 (2.5 percent) of graduates were unemployed, but not seeking work. 41,623 grads reported their employment status that year.

Preliminary data for 2012 grads shows a .07 percent increase in unemployment, partly or mostly because the class had more graduates in it.  But, the data disclosed so far does not split out the numbers for seeking or non-seeking grads.  And, as I reported earlier, the prospects for 2012 graduates showed an improving trend.

Yes, you might be under-employed directly out of law school for some period of time. But, that is just the next step on your career path, not the determining one.  In addition, other research suggests job prospects improve after the 9-month NALP reporting deadline, especially when the recessionary economy may make employers slower or more cautious in hiring.

Tomorrow: Would I recommend a law school education to new college graduates?

December 26, 2013 Update:  For more about the value of a law degree, see here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

25-Year Law Practice Employment Trends: Solo, Small Firm, BigLaw, or Someplace in Between?

I graduated from law school in 1982.  At that time,

  • 7.6 percent of new law graduates became solo practitioners; 
  • 40.3 percent entered small law practices (2-10 lawyers); 
  • about 11 percent entered firms 51 to 100 lawyers in size;  
  • only 15. 6 percent of new law grads entered large firms of 101 plus lawyers, and more women did that than men; and 
  • NALP, the Association of Legal Career Professionals, did not keep a separate category for firms with more than 500 lawyers. See trend report here
According to an earlier trend report, in 1982, about 10 percent of new law grads entered business and industry.

About 23,000 students graduated from law school in 1982.

Fast forward to 2007, the year of record employment among lawyers, NALP reports that:
  • 3 percent of new law grads became solo practitioners (a 4 percent drop);
  • about 33 percent entered small law practices (2-10 lawyers) (a 13 percent drop); 
  • about 6 percent entered firms 51 to 100 lawyers in size (a 5 percent drop); and
  • a whopping 42.3 percent of new law grads entered large firms of 101 plus lawyers (a 26.7 percent increase).
According to yet another report available from NALP, in 2007, about 14 percent of new law grads entered business and industry (a 4 percent increase).

About 43,500 students graduated from law school in 2007, an increase of 20,500 grads compared to 1982.

The data varies on each of these reports, but I have tried to use the most recent iteration of the data, which I assume reflects more complete information for each year.

What does this shift from smaller firm practice to larger-firm practice say about new law grads over this 25-year period?  Over time, did they shun more risk-taking jobs in smaller or solo practices.  Did they seek the perceived security and guaranteed higher salary of the BigLaw?   Were more jobs simply available in the larger firms?

What does it say about law practice, the legal client market, and access to justice for people who would more likely retain a small firm practitioner?

Now let's take it forward through the years of the last economic recession.  NALP reported that BigLaw (500 plus) hired 3,600 new associates in 2012, down from 5,100 in 2009, but up from hirings in 2011. Employment opportunities at BigLaw rose 27 percent over the last two years.

But what about employment in small and solo practices.  This data relies on NALP reports for each year available here.  You can see that the data for 2007 varies a bit from the later-reported data shown above.

In pre-recession 2007:
  • 576 (2.8%) grads opened solo practices;
  • 6,461 (31.3%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers;
  • 4,745 (23%) joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2008, 
  • 685 (3.3%) grads opened solo practices;
  • 6,479 (31.6%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers;
  • 5,193 (25.3%) joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2009:
  • 1,058 (5.3%) grads opened solo practices;
  • 6.749 (33.5%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers;
  • 5,156 (25.6%) joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2010:
  • 1,039 (5.7%) grads opened solo practices;
  • 7,160 (39.1%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers.;
  • 3,750 (20%) joined BigLaw (501+). 
In 2011:
  • 1,059 (6%) grads opened solo practices;
  • 7,570 (42.9%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers;
  • 2,856 (16.2%) joined BigLaw (501+). 
In 2012 (based on preliminary data):
  • 8,200 (about 42.9%) found jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers.
  • 3,600 (19.1%) joined BigLaw (501+).  
The numbers indicate that the recession has forced (or encouraged) more graduates to find jobs in smaller firms or as solo practitioners.  

More recent grads may look at the news coverage of BigLaw layoffs and decide that the opportunities for new associates, over a lifetime, in those firms have become increasingly more limited and full of peril. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at the largest law firm in Oklahoma straight out of law school.  I recall it had over 100 attorneys, but maybe it had about 80 attorneys.  I then moved to what was then the third-largest firm in the world for another three years.   As my career progressed, I moved to a 50 lawyer firm and then a 20 lawyer firm.  Each firm offered stimulating legal work and a very different work environment, culture, management structure, compensation system, hourly billing expectations, client base, and support staffing model.  I enjoyed all but one of those experiences.

Dec. 16, 2013 Update:  A new study shows graphically the shift in the staffing model in BigLaw over the last 25 years.  It shows a dramatic loss of associate positions.  

BigLaw "New Normal" Stories

Mayer, Brown (July 2013):

Weil, Gotshall & Manges  (June 2013):  (60 associates or 7 percent laid-off).

1,000 lawyers and staff laid off on one day in February 2009:  (with 2,000 losing their jobs over that month).

Firms shuttering satellite offices:

AmLaw 200 layoff list as of 2009:

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Love Affair with Peaches: Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom and I both celebrated summer birthdays.   We both came from a long line of farmers and gardeners.  We both loved those long, lazy sultry days of summer pulling weeds in the garden, dead-heading roses, drinking iced tea, spitting watermelon seeds out over the lawn, and sitting on the screened porch under the ceiling fan reading a magazine.  The heat did not bother us much. 

We loved the sound of buzzing bees, the flash of lightning bugs, the smell of grilled meat, and the feel of the cool water in a swimming pool.  We both loved the taste of delicious fresh peaches.
In celebration of her birthday, I have assembled and sorted peach recipes recommend by Southern Living and The New York Times.  Enjoy them with your mom and your other loved ones!

Beverages and Cocktails

Breakfast Breads




Sandwiches, Pizza, Rice, and Entrees

Sweet Tea Rice with Jalapenos, Peaches, and Pecans:

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Peaches, Basil, and Ginger:

Brown Sugar Pork Chops with Peach BBQ Sauce:

Roasted Pork Belly with Late-Harvest Peaches and Arugula:

Pies, Cobblers, Cakes, and Other Desserts

Broiled (Brulee) Peaches with Honey Crème Anglais:

Ice Creams, Sorbets, Parfaits and Gelees

Yum! ;-p

Sunday, July 21, 2013

One-third to One-Half of 1.5 Million U.S. Lawyers Do Not Work as Lawyers

That’s right. A very large number of law graduates choose not to practice law.  Instead, they pursue careers in banking, other financial institutions, insurance, technology and e-commerce, management consulting,  corporate contracts administration, alternative dispute resolution, government regulation or compliance work, law enforcement, human resources, accounting, the military, government executive positions, legislative positions, administrative agencies, teaching, journalism, risk management, judicial clerkships, law school administration, law firm professional development or CLE training,  or other professions. 

In the report I summarized in yesterday's blog, authors Simikovic and McIntyre analyzed data for 2009 from the U.S. Census Bureau and  the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to conclude that about three out of five law graduates work as lawyers.  Fifty-eight percent of all law degree holders report “lawyer” as their occupation.  If you count only “working” law graduates, the percentage increases to 65 percent.  So, one-third to one-half of law grads do not work as lawyers.  In 2009, approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. had law degrees. 

NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals, began tracking different career paths by identifying “JD Preferred” jobs, and then in 2011, switching to “JD Advatage” jobs.  It defines JD Advantage jobs as a category “in which the employer sought an individual with a JD, and perhaps even required a JD, or for which the JD provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but are jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law.”

Data for 2012 Law Graduates

Preliminary data (as of February 15, 2013) provided by NALP shows that 64.4 percent of 2012 law grads found employment in jobs requiring bar passage.  Those jobs mostly comprise jobs in private law practice (50.7% of 2012 grads). 

But, 13.3 percent of the 2012 graduates took “JD Advantage” jobs in which the employer did not require bar passage.  And, another 4.9 percent of the graduates took other professional jobs.

NALP reports that its data spanning 39 years shows that  55 to 58 percent of new grads found jobs in private legal practice.  Accordingly, the 2012 rate of entry into those jobs is about four to seven percentage points behind that historical rate.   The 2013 data covered 44,339 graduates.  So, possibly 1,774 to 3,104 grads that year did not find law firm employment within 9 months of graduation. 

Data for 2011 Law Graduates

Data for 2011 law graduates is even more interesting.  As of February 15, 2012, 12.5 percent of 41,623 law graduates took JD Advantage jobs, which was double the rate of 6 percent in 2001.  Nearly half of those jobs were business-related jobs.  This category also includes legal temp agency jobs and academia.  Another 5.3 percent entered other professional jobs.  

For 2011 law grads, 65.4 percent (or 27,224 grads) entered jobs requiring bar passage.   Of those, 16,589 grads entered private law practice. 

Remember the Context

I provide this data for a very specific reason.  Many of the so-called “scamblogs” focus on the rate at which a law school’s graduates obtain full-time jobs requiring bar passage -- preferably, the bloggers suggest, in private legal practice.  I suggest that we keep in mind, that even historically only 55 to 58 percent of all law grads got (or preferred) that type of work.   

As Simkovic and McIntyre’s research suggests, a law degree confers many advantages no matter what career path a graduate chooses.   They said: “Exploratory results suggest that even law degree holders who work in non-lawyer occupations do substantially better than bachelor degree holders.”  The Economic Value of a Law Degree (unpublished manuscript 2013) at n.10 found here

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Attending Law School, Even in this Tough Market, is a Very Good Life-Time Investment

This past week, a number of news outlets and bloggers reported on a new economic analysis of the value of a law degree.  The authors make a persuasive, well-researched argument that a law degree confers measurable life-time advantages on law graduates compared to persons who get only a bachelor’s degree.

The report:  Micahel Simkovic and Frank McIntyre, The Economic Value of a Law Degree (unpublished manuscript 2013) is found here.    

Simkovic, an Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, and McIntyre, an Associate Professor of Finance and Economic at Rutgers Business School answered the following questions: 
  • Does a law degree typically increase the earnings of law graduates compared to what such individuals would likely have earned with only a bachelor’s degree?
  • How does the law school earnings premium vary by gender and at different points in the distribution of outcomes?
  • How much of the increase in earnings is higher hourly wages, and how much is longer work hours?
  • Have declines in recent law graduate earnings eroded the law degree earnings premium?
  • Or, have parallel declines in earnings for similar bachelor’s degrees left the relative advantage of a law degree intact?
  • Is the increase in lifetime earnings enough to justify the cost of attending law school for most law students?

The authors conclude: “[A]ttending law school is generally a better financial decision than terminating one’s education with a bachelor’s degree . . . . [E]ven for relatively low earners, a law degree will typically more than pay for itself over the course of a lifetime.”

The authors use multiple sources of publicly available data through 2011, run advanced statistical analyses, make appropriate adjustments, disclose their underlying assumptions, and make the following conclusions:
  • The mean pre-tax lifetime value of a law degree is approximately $1,000,000 (actually $990,000).  In other words, if someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree goes on to earn a law degree, he or she will earn $1,000,000 more in lifetime earnings because of that decision.    Lifetime earnings are based on historical data from 1996 to 2011. 
    • The law degree “earnings premium” for 25th percentile earners is $350,000.
    • The law degree “earnings premium” for 75th percentile earners is $1.1 million.
  • The mean value of nearly $1 million translates into an 80 percent earnings premium for law graduates compared to the general population of bachelor’s degree holders.  
  • Lifetime median value of the earnings premium is $610,000 (with half of law grads earning above that amount and half earning below that amount).
  • The law degree “is associated with dramatically higher monthly earnings” – an increase in median monthly earnings of 60 percent over a bachelor’s degree.
  • The law degree increases median hourly wages by 50 percent over a bachelor’s degree.  This number reflects the greater number of hours law graduates work at higher hourly rates.  Law degree holders work 3.9 hours more per week or about 45 minutes more per day than less educated peers. 
    • Women law grads work 4.2 hours more per week than women with bachelor’s degrees. 
    • Men law grads work about 3.3 hours more than men without law degrees.  
    • But men law graduates work longer hours than women law graduates.  More about that later. 
  • The mean annual earnings premium of a law degree (over a bachelor’s degree) is about $53,300 in 2012 dollars. 
    • Men get a larger premium of $56,800 because they work longer hours. 
    • Women law grads see a smaller earnings premium of $43,300 per year (compared to women without a law degree). 
    • Full-time workers see a premium of $57,600 more than full-time persons with a bachelor’s degree.
  • The median annual earnings premium for all law degree holders is $32,300 per year.   
    • Thus, less capable students, graduating from less prestigious schools (25th percentile earners) still earn the premium.
  • Women with a law degree see a much smaller life-time earnings premium of $820,000 vs. $1.03 million for men.  Interestingly, the premium is higher for women in the first two decades of their careers, but higher for men in the last two decades of their careers.  Table 8 to the report shows these differences, and it is fascinating. 
    • The authors found that married women work fewer hours, while married men work more hours. 
    • Even at the 25th percentile, women will see a life-time earnings premium of $350,00, which makes a law degree a good investment for most women. 
  • After-tax mean earnings premium is $720,000 for men and $570,000 for women. 
  • Of roughly 800 occupations tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, only doctors, dentists, podiatrists, and chief executives routinely have higher mean earnings than lawyers.  Lawyers earn more than teachers, accountants, auditors, managers, nurses, and clergy.
    • In a less robust 2009 study, one of the authors found that law outperformed business degrees by $10,000 per year; liberal arts degrees by $35,000; and social science degrees by $40,000 per year. 
  • Students who choose to attend law school are disproportionately drawn from college majors – humanities and social sciences -- associated with relatively low earnings and a low likelihood of obtaining employment at college graduation.   
  • Law degree holders start at higher earnings levels and tend to see their earnings increase at a much faster rate over a longer period of time than do holders of bachelor degrees.  Figure 4 to the report illustrates this reality in a dramatic way. 
  • “[E]ducation has become more valuable after controlling for work experience.”
  • Data suggests that even law graduates who work in non-lawyer occupations do substantially better than bachelor degree holders. 
  • The law degree pays for itself several times over during the course of the graduate’s career.
  • Yes, starting salaries declined 20 percent between 2009 and 2012.
  • Yes, the percent of graduates employed 9 months after graduation declined 4 percent in that same period.
    • Law degree holders are not immune to economic downturns.  But, relative to graduates with a bachelor’s degree, law graduates did better in this recessionary economy.  
    • In fact, the law degree earnings premium “may have increased as law graduates weathered the recession better than most” laborers.
    • In a recession, entry-level wages, employment opportunities, and law school enrollments are more variable than in the legal occupation as a whole.  “[I]t is easier for employers to refrain from hiring new employees or to offer lower starting salaries than to terminate or reduced pay of experienced workers.
    • The legal occupation has seen cyclical peaks in 2011 and 2007 and troughs in 1999 and 2002.
  •  “Although the earnings premium has declined from its 2007 peak in recent years, the earnings premium remains close to (and slightly above) the long-term historic average.  Indeed, the premium was lower in the late 1990s and early 2000s than in the last three years, and the premium today is about the same as it was in 1996.” 
  • From 2008 to 2012, employment for lawyers was more robust than for the overall economy.  Gross revenue and profits per partner increased at the largest 200 firms every year from 2010 to 2012. 
  • First year earnings of new law graduates represent a small fraction of lifetime earnings – only 2 to 3 percent. 
  • The earnings premium was not significantly influenced by test scores, grades, internal motivation, college quality, and parental socio-economic status.  These factors may account for 5 percent of the earnings premium for law grads.
  • The law degree also apparently confers other benefits: higher participation in the workforce; more full-time employment; less unemployment; less unemployment related to disability; and higher life expectancies.
  • The authors assumed an annual net-tuition (tuition net scholarships and grants) of $30,000, or a total three-year cost of $90,000.  The assumption reflects ABA data on typical law school costs.   They also assumed the costs of living during law school were similar to the costs of living while working full-time.
  • Government coffers benefit significantly from those people who earn law degrees.  Tax revenue is approximately $370,000 on average over a law grad’s lifetime.  Government backed educational loans earn higher rates of interest, but law grads default on student loans at a rate of no more than 3.3 percent.
    • In comparison, people with master’s, doctor’s, or other professional degrees default on loans at a rate of 10.4 percent and the overall default rate across educational institutions is 13.4 percent.
  • Accordingly, the U.S. government could encourage more students to attend law school by offering Income Based Repayment plans with debt forgiveness, reducing tax rates on labor, directly subsidizing higher education, or making educational expenditures more fully tax deductible.  “[T]he government is therefore well situated to absorb and spread risks of investment in higher education.” 
I have quoted many parts of the report without using quotations.  

I said just about the same thing without relying on this data in the blog postings found here and here.

Nov. 29, 2013 Update:  Associate Professor Daniel Katz of Michigan State University College of Law called this study "wrong" without elaboration in his interview posted hereHe teaches several innovative law courses, including Legal Information Technology, Economics of the Legal Profession, Legal Project Management, Entrepreneurial Lawyering, Legal Analytics, Quantitative Methods for Lawyers, Law as a Complex Adaptive System, Legal Process Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence & Law.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Affirmations for Nervous Bar Exam Takers

An ASL grad posted this Facebook comment in response to my blog posting yesterday about claiming your right to success, abundance, love, and creative energy found here.

"Prof. Young, last year you recommended bar takers to do affirmations to boost our confidence and success rates.  It felt hokey and certainly could never take the place of diligent studying[.]  [B]ut, it definitely helped me relax before the exam and helped reduce my stress during it.  A very belated thank you and a recommendation to bar takers that you give wonderful advice!"  

To make it easier for you to find some affirmations that may work for you, I am providing them below.

Find the affirmation that deals with a specific challenge you face right now in connection with the bar exam.  Also, find an affirmation you plan to use shortly before the exam date and as you sit to take the exam.  Write the affirmation ten times in your journal every day.  Say it just as often. 

When you say the affirmation or write it down, do so with passion, power, and conviction.  State it as if the statement is happening now.  Don’t say it “will” happen.  Talk to your subconscious mind as if the reality you seek already exists.   

I am open to new experiences today.

I have everything I need today.

Peace and relaxation flow through me with every breath I take.

I look for the positive in each situation.

I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

I am positive and directed, and I have purpose in my life.

I am waiting patiently for the opportunity to serve my purpose in life.

I am learning to relax today.

I take full responsibility for my life today.

I am responsible, organized, motivated, and productive today.

I deserve to feel safe.

God is guiding me safely on my journey.

I am passing the bar exam with ease.

I am filled with all the knowledge I need to pass the bar exam.

My mind is relaxed and open to all that I need to learn today.

I am finding learning to be fun and exciting.

I am doing the very best I can.

I’m becoming smarter and more skillful every day.

I am learning to refrain from judging myself if I have trouble with ________________ (insert your own word or phrase).

I am learning to refrain from demeaning myself if something is too hard.  I can ask for help without feeling less than others.

I can!

I know, love, and trust myself today.

I am equal to the task I face.

I am giving up my need for self-pity today.

I am letting go of the burden of shame in my life.

I am willing to forgive myself for things I have done in the past.

God is giving me all the strength I need today.

I am willing to move forward, in spite of my struggles.

I am getting more and more successful in _________________ (insert your own words or phrase). 

I am successful in all that I do today.

God is guiding me forward to succeed.

I am working towards successful results.

I surrender the things that hold me back.

I give up my need to do everything alone.

I’m developing my God-given talents.

My talents and abilities are valued and needed.

I have put aside my regrets from the past and my fear of the future.

This is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am relaxed and patient.

I trust that God is guiding me to my next steps in life.

I am letting go of doubt, fear, anger, and distrust, and quietly accepting the unknown.

I am on the right path for me today.

I am willing to do everything I can to nurture my mind, heart, and body.

I will be a positive and loving person.

Fear can’t stop me from moving forward.

I’m turning my fear into faith.

I’m moving beyond my fear.

I’m worthy of positive changes in my life.

Today, I welcome change as an opportunity.

I am fulfilling all my commitments today.

I am confident in my ability to meet challenges today.

I feel strong and confident today.

I have all that I need to do what is good and right in my life today.

I am learning to trust my own wisdom and give myself permission to follow it.

I feel confident in my ability to study for and pass the bar exam.

I have all the courage I need today to face my shortcomings.

I use my energy to create positive results.

I am not my feelings.

I do not have to act out on all my feelings.

I’m handling my feelings in a healthy way.

I am letting joy into my life.

I am letting go of the blocks that keep me stuck so I can be free to move forward.

I am setting realistic goals for me today.

God gives me all the strength I need to reach my goals.

I have all the intelligence I need today to pass the bar exam.

I am an intelligent person.

My past no longer owns me.

I am no longer a victim of my past.

I’m letting go of self-imposed burdens today.

I adapted these affirmations from Ruth Fishel, Change Almost Anything in 21 Days: Recharge Your Life with the Power of Over 500 Affirmations ( 2003).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Claim Your Genius-Level Success, Abundance, Love, and Creative Energy

Only two weeks to the July bar exam.   Will our 2013 graduates take the big leap?  

My business coach recommended that I read, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, which suggests ways to conquer your hidden fear that prevents you from keeping and enjoying greater love, financial abundance, increasing success, and more creative energy.  You can find more information at

Hendricks is a psychologist, writer, and practitioner in the field of personal growth, relationships, and the mind-body connection.  He has written 25 books, taught at University of Colorado, has a consulting business, and graduated from Stanford University.

The Upper Limit Problem

He uses the term “Upper Limit Problem” to identify our tendency to follow great leaps forward on all these dimensions with big mess-ups.  We subconsciously use the mess-ups to keep us in our comfort zone when increasing success is taking us to new areas of personal growth and happiness.   “The Upper Limit Problem is our universal human tendency to sabotage ourselves when we have exceeded the artificial upper limit we have placed on ourselves.”

We are not hard-wired to allow ourselves to maintain happiness and success as the default setting.  We must consciously choose thoughts and behaviors that enhance positive emotions and support growth, while monitoring for the inclination to engage in self-defeating behaviors.

Our bar exam takers are facing this subconscious peril to their ongoing success.  So, please read on.  Here are a couple of examples.

“You’re feeling close to your love partner.  Perhaps sitting together quietly, sipping a glass of your favorite wine.  Seemingly out of nowhere, an argument sparks into a flame.  The close feelings disappear; you’re embroiled in a conflict that stretches into hours or maybe even days.”  You have just sabotaged good feelings and deeper intimacy. 

President Bill Clinton created his own Upper Limit Problem.  He served at a time of peace and budget surpluses.  But, in the end he faced impeachment and public disgrace.  His relationship with Monica Lewinsky was a self-sabotaging expression of his inability to enjoy fully his success and his place in history. 

Four Hidden Barriers

Hendricks then describes the “Four Hidden Barriers” that lead to the Upper Limit Problem. The Four Hidden Barriers reflect fear and false belief.  You may subconsciously take one or more of them as true and real and allow it to limit your personal growth.  They are:

  • I cannot expand into my full creative genius because something is fundamentally wrong with me.  Given that I am fundamentally flawed (or wrong or bad), how can I possibly be this happy, rich, and creative?  Good things do not happen to bad people.
  • I cannot extend to my full success because it would cause me to end up all alone, be disloyal to my roots, and leave behind people from my past.  It’s disloyal to my roots to soar too far into the stratosphere.
  • I cannot expand into my highest potential because I’d be an even bigger burden than I am now. 
  • I must not expand to my full success, because if I did I would outshine  _______________ and make him or her look or feel bad.  Instead, I need to dim the bright lights of my brilliance.

I suspect that many of our law grads, especially those with working class backgrounds, may struggle with the second Hidden Barrier.  Women law grads may also struggle with the last Hidden Barrier.  I know I do. 

I don’t have the space to provide examples of each.  But you can listen to Hendricks for additional insights at (27 minute coaching session) and (25 minute interview).

Identifying and understanding our own hidden barrier frees new energy in us to achieve abundance, love, and creativity.  He recommends that you watch for the expression of these fears as they translate into behaviors that keep you from growth and happiness.  Some tell-tale signs include:
  • Worrying about things you have no control to change;
  • Criticizing other people or yourself;
  • Blaming other people or yourself;
  • Deflecting compliments that come your way;
  • Squabbling and arguing;
  • Getting sick or injured;
  • Everything that brings you pain and suffering.

Peril to Our Bar Exam Takers

Our law school graduates have already had great success.  They got admitted to law school.  They survived three years of rigorous training.  Now, they must take an exam to be able to develop more competency, excellence, and then expertise (or genius).   The exam is the next leap to more success, happiness, and creativity.  So, how do bar exam takers keep themselves from moving to this next step in personal growth?
  • They don’t study enough. 
  • They don’t study appropriately. 
  • They plan weddings or buy new houses or engage in other activities that distract them from the required task. 
  • They get drunk the night before the exam. 
  • They fail to do a pre-exam run-through so they know how to get to the exam site and how long it will take to get there. 
  • They walk in to the exam with a prohibited item.

But, each one of our grads deserves to succeed.  I want all our students and alumni to experience very high levels of abundance and happiness.  This book might help you to express fully your own genius and unique abilities.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Love Affair with Bees (and Other Pollinators)

When I was in grade school, we lived in a typical St. Louis bungalow.  It had a wide front porch and a small back yard.  A wire fence separated our yard from the neighbor's yard.  On it grew an abundant vine of sweet pea with huge purplish-pink blossoms.  Giant bumble bees grazed the blossoms throughout the summer.

My youngest brother, John, was still a baby sustained by jars of Gerber baby food.  I would take the smallest jars -- the squat ones -- and herd a bee into the jar and then screw on the lid.   I was capturing the largest bee in the smallest jar.  I do not recall why I did it, or why I chose that method.  I do recall several people suggesting I was daft or careless or fearless.

I'd have one captured bee at a time.  But, I had them all summer long.

I now have a garden that blooms from late February to late September.  I pay attention to my pollinators, which include bees, flies, wasps, and perhaps bats.  I protect them from injury, unless a clueless group of wasps builds a mud nest on my back deck.

I've been stung by a bee only twice, once as a kid walking in blooming clover and once as an adult walking on the beach in Santa Monica.  In both cases, I stepped on the bee.  It felt like the fires of hell.

My college roommate recently established a hive of bees in her back yard.  During a recent visit, I watched her sit with her back to a tree on a little pillow watching the bees at work.  She had many bee stories to tell and a new set of tools -- a bee keeping suit with a "fencing veil," goat skin vented leather gloves, a capping scratcher, an uncapping knife, a queen catcher, a smoker, and a hand crank honey extractor.

Several years ago, I read Barabara Kingsolver's, The Poisonwood Bible, a 1998 book short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize.  It tells the story of Reverend Price, his wife, and three daughters.  He forces them to move to the Congo, so he -- full of pride -- can convert the local inhabitants to Christianity.  Kingsolver -- a native Appalachian who grew up on an alfalfa farm and who earned a master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology -- writes lovingly about the people, plants, and animals of the Congo.

One chapter describes the Reverend's efforts to grow a garden with seeds brought from the U.S.   The plants grow quickly, then spindly, straining towards the sunlight.  But none of them bear fruits or vegetables. The Reverend spends days trying to solve the puzzle.  One day, Leah, his daughter, finds him looking closely at an insect.  He has realized that without honeybees to pollinate the plants, they will not produce.  The scene harkens back to Mrs. Price's exclamation that: "We brought all the wrong things."

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying:  "If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live."

Bees do much for us.  They pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of human food, including almonds, strawberries, soybeans, blueberries, sunflowers, rapeseed, apples, cherries, watermelons, and onions.  The plants they pollinate generate crops valued annually at over $200 billion world-wide; 22 billion Euros in Europe; and $20-30 billion in the U.S.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that one-third of all food and beverages rely on pollination, mostly by bees.

In 2006, beekeepers saw a sudden increase in annual bee mortality, primarily among worker bees. Mortality jumped from 5 to 10 percent each season to 30 percent in 2007 and then, in 2012, close to 50 percent. People are calling the population drop "alarming," with populations at a 50-year low and decreasing.

One research project paired entomologists and military scientists, who worked under the defense machinery of the U.S. Homeland Security Department.   That may tell us something about the significance of the kill-off.
The cause of "colony collapse disorder" remains in question.  Theories include:
  • the introduction in 2005 of a class of systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids; 
  • the varroa mite destructor acting in concert with gut parasite Nosema and the Israeli Acute Paralysis virus; 
  • lack of genetic diversity affecting thermoregulation, disease resistance, and worker productivity; 
  • the stress of commercial-use travel; 
  • drought; and
  • mono-culture plantings that reduce forage supplies for bees, thereby compromising bee nutrition.  

Stricken worker bees "fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed," making bee autopsies difficult.

Researchers have found residues of over 100 chemicals, herbicides, fungicides,and insecticides in the pollen and wax retrieved from hives.  The role of any one contaminant remains elusive.

Even so, on December 1, 2014, the European Union will impose a 2-year ban on the use of  three types of neonicotinoids on flowering crops attractive to bees.  Home gardeners will also forgo their use.  Growers may use them on crops, like winter wheat, which pose a smaller risk to bees.  The EU hopes to use this time to study the problem intensely and give the bees some respite.

In the U.S., a coalition of beekeepers, environmental groups, and consumer groups, sued the E.P.A. in March 2013 arguing that it had exceeded its authority by conditionally approving some neonicotinoids.  The agency began an accelerated review of the chemicals' impact on bees.  In 2007, it created an action plan you can review here.

In May 2013, the E.P.A. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report found here.  They blame the colony collapse mostly on chemical resistant mites, lack of genetic diversity, and poor nutrition.  They plan to continue research into the risks created by pesticide use, improve reporting about bee deaths, and enhance collaboration among interested groups.

In yesterday's posting, found here, I mentioned bees as one example of how we are all connected.  Zac Browning, a fourth-generation commercial beekeeper who operates 20,000 commercial hives, remarked in May 2013: " We're on the brink.  I don't know if we've crossed that threshold yet, but we're getting there fast."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Leading in a Connected, More Empathic -- Dare I Say, Feminine -- World

Declare our Inter-dependence

Last night, while I was ironing linen blouses, I watched a Netflix film called Connected.  Written and created by Webby Awards founder, Tiffany Shlain, it was an oddly organized musing about what it means to be connected in the 21st century.

Her discussion of disappearing honeybees and the intentional killing of sparrows showed graphically how we are connected at a fundamental biological level.

Her stories about the important role her neurologist father played in her life spoke to family connections, that for her, extended back to Russian pogroms against Jews.  She wove the news about his brain cancer in with her story about her pregnancy with twins, -- who came later in her reproductive life through fertility medicine after a successful birth and then five miscarriages.

She talked about her early interest in something that would later be the World Wide Web, and the role it might play in making feminist dreams of work-life balance real by offering flexibility in the way we work.

One theme she developed was the role the Web played in increasing (or releasing) empathy.  We can now see, very quickly, images of suffering and injustice from around the world.  It triggers our naturally empathic selves and, more often than not, forces us to think about the contribution each one of us can make to improving our existence on this planet.  Perhaps the multi-racial protests and millions of Facebook postings following the Zimmerman verdict this past week illustrate this widespread empathic response.

Another theme running through the film was the role of technology in shifting our brains to more left-brained, linear, logical, analytical, symbolic, abstract, temporal, sequential thinking that is associated frequently with a masculine approach to problem-solving.  The left-brain controls speech and writing.  She asserts that the first alphabet took us down this path.  That shift led to great progress, through our increasing understanding of the world.  But, it has now put us at a crossroads.  We will need to make another shift if we want to ensure the survival of human, animal, and plant life on the Earth.

Up till the creation of the first alphabet, human cultures relied more equally on right- and left-brained thinking. The right-brain, expert at holistic problem-solving, pattern recognition, and the processing of emotions, reflected a feminine way in the world.  It processes information synthetically, creatively, and concretely.  It thinks in analogies, suspends judgment, sees relationships between things, and makes leaps of insight based on intuition.  At this early time, these competencies -- and women -- were esteemed, if not revered. Interesting, I thought, if true.

Later, I tied this notion to some recent reading I'd done (who knows the source at this point) about how we are increasingly relying on visual images as our source of information -- TV, on-line films, YouTube videos, Vine, digital photographs, and Instagram.  Are we moving away from the alphabet -- and more linear input -- to a more visual, right-brained means of processing events in the world?

The visual cortex of the brain, positioned at the back, inhabits both hemispheres. Wikipedia explains: "It is highly specialized for processing static and moving objects and is excellent in pattern recognition."  Its five regions map spatial information, create object recognition memory, perceive and process motion, and modulate attention.

At the end of the film, her father dies and, shortly thereafter, one of the twins survives and is born.  Flowers from loved ones and friends filled her home.  She remembered what her father had taught her:
  • Live life to the fullest
  • Be compassionate to others
  • Plant gardens
  • Always laugh at yourself
  • Be curious
  • Make a difference
  • Be present
  • Always remember you are loved
  • If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up way too much space.
She closed by asking us to shift from declaring our independence, to declaring our inter-dependence.  Like a beehive, where no bee can survive on its own, humans are now widely and deeply inter-dependent.

Acknowledging that fact should make us more mindful in the way we live, love, and consume. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Using Your Super Power and Being Indispensable.

As part of my summer concentration on books written by Seth Godin, I recently read his 2010 Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?  It ties to many of the themes I summarized in my post, “Leaning In” as a Woman Lawyer, found here.
Godin argues that with so many means of direct communication with so many different “tribes” in a hyper-competitive world, each one of us can make an indispensable contribution, as a linchpin, to a business, art, project, or something we care deeply about.  You have the choice of being indispensable.  Just make it.

He defines linchpins as the “people who own their own means of production, who can make a difference, lead us, and connect us.”  “The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.  Every worthwhile institution has indispensable people who make differences like these.”   They are artists and givers of gifts.  They bring humanity to work.  They have vision and engagement.  They help the organization fulfill its mission.

We live in a revolutionary time that gives each one of us the opportunity to bring our “best sel[ves] to the marketplace and be rewarded for it.”   Each one of us can chart our own path and create value as we go. 

But the path involves difficult work.  The tasks require “maturity and soul and personal strength.”  And, you must be motivated by the right reasons.  You must be “brave enough to make a difference.”    You must be bold and think bigger.  

Linchpins do not wait for instructions, but identify and choose the next steps.   They can chart those steps with confidence because linchpins “understand their subject so deeply.”

The linchpin understands that the work requires him or her to make something happen every single day!  Knowing that “changes what you do all day.”  So many opportunities exist to lead.  So many things need to be done.  So many situations offer a way to contribute. 
The seven abilities of the linchpin are:
  • Providing unique interface between members of the organization;
  • Delivering unique creativity;
  • Managing a situation or organization of great complexity;
  • Leading customers;
  • Inspiring staff;
  • Providing deep domain knowledge;
  • Possessing a unique talent.  It’s a superpower!

“The 'super' part and the 'power' part come not from something you’re born with, but from something you choose to do, and more important[ly], from something you choose to give.”

The work connects the linchpin to others.   When the work fails to connect with others, the linchpin has received the signal to create new work that will.  Godin advises to make the choice of a linchpin again and again.  Learn from what you did and then create something else. 

In contrast, most individuals respond to the messages of their “lizard brains” and avoid situations that feel risky, threatening, difficult, or generous.   These folks “want [a] pretty safe skill to be enough.  Enough to make you valued, enough to make you fairly paid, enough to make your life stable.  But it’s not.  It’s not enough because in a very connected, very competitive marketplace, there are plenty of people with your pretty safe skill.”   

Amen.  Choose to be remarkable.  Choose to be indispensable.