After practicing for several years, Nicole left the practice of law to establish my video branding agency, Abboud Media....
In this week’s episode, we talk with attorney branding specialist, Nicole Abboud, about the benefits of tailoring your firm to meet the demands of a growing millennial clientele.
Nicole Abboud is the Founder of Abboud Media – a modern video branding and podcasting agency for lawyers. She is a Millennial speaker, former practicing attorney, and producer and host of two podcasts – Leaders Love Company and The Gen Why Lawyer Podcast. The internet is the best thing that happened to Nicole as she has been able to build a strong personal brand and business using digital platforms like social media and her podcast. Now she assists lawyers in doing the same by helping them tell their brand stories and connect with the right clients using videos and podcasts.
Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. And now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And, I am Aaron Street and this is episode 149 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, we’re talking with Nicole Abboud about why millennials are basically the end of society as we know it.
Sam Glover: Dan dan dan. Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists. And, it’s smart charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit, callruby.com/lawyerist to get a risk free trial with Ruby.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is also sponsored by Clio Legal Practice Management Software. Clio makes running your law farm easier. Try it for free today at Clio.com. So, I’m a little afraid that there could actually be someone out there who thinks I’m serious and that, millennials are a menace and we should be afraid of millennials and hate working with them and fear-
Sam Glover: I think there are actually people out there who think that.
Aaron Street: I think there are people who think that, I just want to clear up that I’m not one of them and so they can keep thinking whatever they need to think but I was joking about there being a millennial menace. I mean if we’re being honest, I’m not sure I think millennials are a thing.
Sam Glover: Yes.
Aaron Street: I think the idea of this broad brush painting everyone who’s born in a group of years as a monolith is actually a pretty stupid societal concept.
Sam Glover: Yeah, so it kind of brings up a topic that is relevant, which is … You know people have different shared cultural experiences or individual cultural experiences. Society looks different depending on where you are and how you grew up and everybody wants to work differently with their lawyers and I feel like, you know, we sort of design our practices to be the way we want it to be and we haven’t really invited clients into that process. And because everybody is different maybe we ought to?
Aaron Street: Yeah I mean I think millennial or not we don’t need to start from the premise of this is what this group of people want.
Sam Glover: Right.
Aaron Street: And instead, we can do a thing like, email all of our current, past perspective clients and say, hey, we’re rethinking how we communicate with clients. How would you like to be communicated with?
Sam Glover: Yeah, to be communicated with?
Aaron Street: How would you like me to communicate with you?
Sam Glover: Yes, and you know, Nicole and I are gonna talk about that a little bit and the value of collaborating with your clients and working with them instead of just dictating the terms of the relationship. Why not let them have a part of it. So, before we talk with Nicole, here’s a brief conversation I had with one of our sponsors, Bloomberg Law.
Nancy Furman : Hi, I’m Nancy Furman Paul and I’m a Commercial Product Director at Bloomberg Law where I oversee our business intelligence and business development resources. Bloomberg Law is a legal research platform but we’re more than just a legal research platform. What really makes us different is that we also fully integrate business intelligence into our product and this comes directly from Bloomberg, our parent company including company market, financial and industry information as well as news, that we then augment with different analytical tools to make all of this information really useful for lawyers to use in service of business development.
Sam Glover: So, hi Nancy thanks for being with us and tell me more? What is business intelligence? That’s a very corporaty sounding term and maybe you can break it down for us.
Nancy Furman : Sure, it’s a pretty broad term. It’s start with all of the business and financial information that’s out there and it’s really what you do with it. It requires sifting through a lot of massive data sets and different information. Again, from news, financial information, legal information. Taking that and really honing in on what’s most important for you as a lawyer, a business person to be able to help you advise your clients and when you’re a lawyer to be able to provide legal advice that’s not just cracked. Really practical contextualized and business focused and therefore more helpful to your clients more than just providing legal advice in a vacuum.
Sam Glover: So, it’s kind of a high end analysis of what’s going on in a particular area of business.
Nancy Furman : Correct. I think that’s a good way of putting and it’s sort of what you do. It’s not just the information but what you sort of do with it. How you interpret it and apply it to achieve better results.
Sam Glover: So, if I’m logged into Bloomberg Business Intelligence Center, I mean what am I looking at, am I looking at news articles, am I looking at opinion pieces by Bloomberg’s experts or graphs and charts? What am I actually finding there?
Nancy Furman : I would say yes, all of the above, to everything there. Again, it’s not just what we have. So, we have access to over 75000 news sources on Bloomberg Law but it’s also what we do with them. We make them searchable by really strategic filters like possible regulatory investigations, possible failed mergers, possible bankruptcies, rumors, negative news, we do the same thing with our dockets database. We have a huge docket database. We then give users the ability to spot trends like, who of the law firms are representing a particular company in litigation, what kind of cases are being litigated, which courts do the companies appear in and the law firms appear in most.
We do the same thing with deal information, with FEC filing, financial information, company profiles. Again, it lets you target specific companies. Let’s say within an industry or specific region or that may be heading toward bankruptcy. All of which really lets you take these individual data points and make them meaningful for spotting trends and anticipating legal issues and acting on them. So, it’s articles, it’s graphs, it’s charts, it’s numbers. We have great charts and graphs and our litigation analytic tools … Even if and especially if you’re not a litigator but you representing a company and you just need to get a high level snapshot, the tool is really helpful in extracting that really valuable quick information.
Sam Glover: So, how should lawyers use business intelligence to develop more business from their clients?
Nancy Furman : That’s a great question. I like to sort of think of business development in three different buckets all of which I think good business intelligence can support. The first area of business development is doing good legal work for your existing clients. So, as I mentioned before, business intelligence gives you that business focus, practical, contextual legal advice or enables you to give that legal advice that’ll make your clients happy with your work and more likely to reach out to you in the future and refer you to others.
So, that’s one form of business development and how business intelligence can help you. The second is really using business intelligence to anticipate legal issues on the horizon that could affect your clients down the road and reaching out to them proactively to address those needs and possibly mitigate risks before there’s even a bigger legal issue. So, for example you could use business intelligence to track news about a business or industry in your area that may be facing financial issues or is considering relocating and with this information you can reach out to local businesses and advise them on how these issues might affect their customer base, their relationships with local suppliers or distributors or even how to negotiate lease terms to take certainties about what’s going on in the area and into account and it’s reaching out to existing clients but writing articles or speaking in your communities about these trends and issues on the horizon. To elevate your brand and expertise in your area in a very substantive and practical way. To create a reason for clients or new clients to seek you out for legal help and I think the third bucket.
So, we had, you know, doing work for existing clients, anticipating legal issues for clients, whether they’re existing or new and the third is really area of business development is really prospecting for new clients altogether. So, again business intelligence can be really helpful. You can use it to identify specific business in your community to reach out to maybe potential clients against whom a complaint has been filed in court. So, you can approach them and offer them representation or maybe discovering who you might know. Kind of discovering personal relationships. Somebody who might work at a company or business that you want to approach and finding out their background. Maybe connecting someone you went to law school with, whose at a company and using that as an opening.
And then once you actually get those meetings and reach out to those new contacts, all of those same business intelligence again will make you informed and credible when you walk in the door. So, when you walk in the door so that you can gain do this good legal work and sort of go back to that first prong of business development and keep the positive business development cycle going.
Sam Glover: Okay, great. If you’re interested in learning more about Bloomberg Law and Business Intelligence Center you can go to BNA.com/bloomberglaw and click on business intelligence center under practice areas. And now here’s my conversation with Nicole.
Nicole Abboud: Hey everyone I am Nicole Abboud and I am millennial speaker, a podcaster, a former attorney but most importantly I am the owner of Abboud Media, which is a video branding and podcasting agency, helping lawyers build their brands online and I am super happy to be here.
Sam Glover: I love the feeling that, you know, we’re like oh there’s a millennial like let’s go ask her about millennial things.
Nicole Abboud: Yes, let’s. Pick my brain.
Sam Glover: Okay but before we do that. You are a podcaster and for what, the last couple of years you had Gen Why Lawyer.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, so that is still going on. That is my first podcast launched in March of 2015 and like you said Gen Why Lawyer it’s been great, it’s still going on and I just launched another show earlier this month called Leaders Love Company, which is focused on a little bit. So, it’s not law related, it’s actually business leadership focus.
Sam Glover: And if you like this podcast and you think you might like a podcast sort of like this but with a millennial focus that’s pretty much what Gen Why Lawyer is. It’s a good podcast, well done.
Nicole Abboud: Thank you.
Sam Glover: Which is me I guess patting myself on the back as much as you.
Nicole Abboud: It kind of yeah … I liked it.
Sam Glover: And so, you’re helping the lawyers do their own podcasting now right?
Nicole Abboud: Yes I am. So that actually came about pretty organically, which is not something I usually say but I launched my business earlier this year in January and the goal was just to create videos for lawyers for marketing and branding purposes but I started getting a lot of interest from lawyers regarding starting their own podcast because I think they had seen that I had been doing it for a while and I’m fairly good at it.
So, they reached out, wanted me to help them just set it up initially and then more and more they wanted me to be more involved in the actual production and then what happens after you put it up online. So, yes I incorporated that as an actual service that I offer.
Sam Glover: Very cool. So, so I’m gonna spring on you the question that we haven’t really addressed on Lawyerist yet, which is should lawyers podcast. Right, like Serial was huge, got everybody interested in podcast especially lawyers, who were like, ooh legal podcast is the biggest thing ever, maybe I should do one and like I admit that’s when we launched Lawyerist. We were like, hey we should probably do one and it’s been good for us but so should lawyers do it?
Nicole Abboud: Yes, good question. And it’s funny you haven’t addressed that yet on the show. I feel like I talk about it on mine all the time. You know what it’s … I hate to give this answer. It is the lawyer answer and it depends I can’t definitely say yes or no but I think it depends on a few things. So, if you are a lawyer who really enjoys sharing what they know orally, so you are better at speaking than writing and you know you want to dive into some content creation effort. Then maybe, maybe a podcast is the right way to go.
Sam Glover: Sounds good yeah.
Nicole Abboud: Oh, that’s good enough, that’s it?
Sam Glover: No, no keep going. Tell me the rest, I like it.
Nicole Abboud: Well, I think most importantly and I know a lot of people won’t say this but I think if you have the personality for it, you know. Because, if … And not to insult any lawyers out there but the law can be rather dry and assuming lawyers are creating a show about the law you really have to up the personality because that’s all there is, that’s all that listeners are going off of right, your voice. So, you have to have the right personality for what you’re talking about. So, that’s another reason and finally if you can dedicate the time and effort cause man, podcasting takes so much time to not just create but to really get … To pick up any kind of any momentum and really get listeners to buy into you and your show.
So, those are the three things I’d look for.
Sam Glover: I’m fully on board with those things because to me it’s a little bit reminiscent of when blogging became a thing like, whatever, ten years ago or whatever it was and a lot of people, me included were like, oh yeah of course lawyers should blog and then what happened a whole bunch of shitty blogs popped up and nobody updated them and there wasn’t anything interesting on them. So, I’m totally down with the, it depends.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, but you know what, at the same time I feel bad like don’t want to be the one to judges what good and what’s bad. So, I feel like if I think a podcast is boring, maybe a listener thinks it’s great and they find value in it. So who am I to tell the lawyer not to do it.
Sam Glover: I guess I think, yeah no I think you right and it’s like if you think you’re an interesting person and you’ve got kind of a character that you can play out on a podcast and if you are compelled to produce content and audio resonates with you then you’re probably within the small minority of the lawyers who actually should consider starting a podcast.
Nicole Abboud: Right, exactly.
Sam Glover: So, since I have captive millennial, I’m gonna ask millennial questions and I’m just gonna say at the outset I am technically a xennial which I believe I can present my credentials as being qualified to talk to both millennials and Gen-Xers.
Nicole Abboud: Yes, you are in the middle and xennials what, like they change it. 1979 is it?
Sam Glover: I think it 1977 to 83 or something like that, yeah.
Nicole Abboud: 83, okay. Alright, so I was born in 1986. I feel like I’m probably closer to probably the xennial generation.
Sam Glover: Wait, you may have been kicked out of the millennials like the whole thing is a fraud.
Nicole Abboud: I don’t know maybe. It’s very possible. I thought … I feel like it needs to go in 10 year increments not 20. You know what I mean … So, I’m a millennial, my younger sister is 20, she’s a millennial as well but we are very different and we’ve had very different experiences growing up and we see the world so differently so it really should be 10 years.
Sam Glover: Which, is … I want to call bullshit on the whole millennial thing because it’s a range of experiences and things but if we just gonna go with it like then what is a millennial, like what are the characteristics of that generation or the shared experiences that give it, it’s qualities that make us give it a name?
Nicole Abboud: What is it? Okay, so it is … Millennials are defined … So, it’s either millennials or GenY, Generation Y and they are individuals born between 1980 and 2000 roughly, that’s the time limit they gave it. The general characteristics I would say, we are very diverse, we are highly educated. Right, we grew up … Our parents stressed the importance of getting a good education, we believe that having more degrees meant more opportunities, we are digital natives, which means we are comfortable with technology because we kind of grew up with it for the most part. Those are kind of the big defining characteristics that are probably the most relevant for this conversation.
Sam Glover: And okay so like the reason we’re all talking about millennials now is that apparently like five years ago or so when millennials started entering the work force nobody noticed but now like all of a sudden everybody’s freaked out by, oh my God these millennials are so hard to work with, they so hard to manage or the clients have different expectations. Part of the reason why I think the whole thing is a little bit bullshit is because people are just like, oh my God my clients want something different than they did 10 years ago which is true all the time. But let’s kind of address that. Like, so when it comes to clients who are millennials who now have enough money and legal problems that they are encountering lawyers can we like pull out some qualities that help us identify what clients, who are millennials want from their lawyers and so on the other side what lawyers need to do to serve that client base?
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, sure let’s talk about it. But quickly to just address what you just said. So, you calling bullshit on air. I half agree with it, I can’t let it go because I agree, I think that there are a lot of just changes in society in general and I don’t know if we can necessarily attribute them to the millennials it could just be, I don’t know, changes, right? Things change all the time but I also can’t discredit or discount what the millennials are bringing to the work place as well. So, all these experiences that we had growing up we are bringing it with us and that’s changing the work place culture I suppose.
Sam Glover: I guess what I think it is not the fact that, you know, some range of years tend to define a generation it’s more like I think everybody whining about millennials is bullshit because I think it is a fact that society and culture changes all the time and our job is not be grumpy and object to that but to just roll with it. So, I guess it’s not the millennials. It’s the thing.
Nicole Abboud: I agree. No, I completely agree. I think whining about anything is bullshit and I feel like that should be the title of the show but you right, it’s adapting. Like this is the message I am hoping people take away from this. As law firm as a lawyer you need to adapt and change and that means acknowledging the young generation of employees that are in your firm and recognizing what they bring to the table or just acknowledging what’s happening with technology and in society and adapting as well.
So, it doesn’t matter what generation is the latest one to come into your firm you need to change, you need to adapt and be malleable.
Sam Glover: Yes, so that said, when a millennial walks into your firm what do they want?
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, so I’ve kind of identified a few things that millennials look for when they are looking to hire and attorney and I think the most obvious and probably one of the most important ones is the fact that you as a lawyer or as a law firm exist online. So, more than likely millennials and I would imagine most people in general are going to turn online first to search for answers to their legal questions. Any kind of legal issue they might have and the fact that there’s so much information online, you know that they going Google and typing whatever issue they’re having.
So, you want to be that lawyer who shows up with the answer, who is providing that solution to them before they even know who you are, before they even meet you. So, first of all be online. So, have a website, have a social media presence right. I would argue that’s even more important than a website in some regards, right? Because with social media you can actually be engaged and communicate and have a conversation with potential clients, which I know is risky territory for a lot of lawyers. But, be engaged online and just exist. So that’s the first thing.
Sam Glover: I think what I hear you saying there is that your social media presence, your online presence is a normal part of who a person is in 2017 and so we should be a little bit alarmed at the eye gougingly huge percentage of lawyers who don’t even have a Facebook profile.
Nicole Abboud: Yes.
Sam Glover: They don’t exist.
Nicole Abboud: It’s true and I feel that right and I think some lawyers can still get away with it because maybe they’ve been practicing for so long, they have their book of business, they’re good but I think for new lawyers coming in or those who have been practicing for a little while, you need to have some kind of presence because it’s an extension of who you are and it’s a way for you to build relationships when you not able to go to a networking event five times a week for example. You can build a relationship online when you just at home or still in the office.
So, yeah it’s definitely an extension of who you are an extension of your brand.
Sam Glover: When you’re contemplating a lawyer as a millennial or you’re building relationships it feels pretty weird when somebody is just not social media or doesn’t have an online presence.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, yeah it definitely is, If someone goes to … If somehow someone gets a hold of your name and they go and Google you … So actually that’s the thing a lot of lawyers say, I get all my clients from referrals, word of mouth and I always say okay that’s great but I’m sure when someone refers a friend to a lawyer that friend is going to go look you up regardless, you know they’re not just gonna call you blindly.
Sam Glover: And like if lawyers listening and going but I don’t really have any millennial clients, the answer is probably that they’re trying to find you and what they’re finding is, is that you don’t really exist online and so they’re going somewhere else.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly and you know we are quickly becoming, if we haven’t already, the largest generation in America. So, more than likely you are gonna have a millennial client at some point because you’re gonna run out of clients in the other generations.
Sam Glover: Eventually they’ll give up and come to you anyway.
Nicole Abboud: That is, yeah. That’s true. So be available, be present and be engaged online. So, don’t just have a profile but post, post on your Facebook right. Post relevant content, post your thoughts, post a blog article that you might have written, show that you active. That’s definitely important.
Sam Glover: So, I’ve heard that your people, being the millennials, place a lot of emphasis on sort of authenticity and bringing your whole self to your online presence, to your work place and so I notice a lot of lawyers have a very advertising presence online and that doesn’t seem to be the right way to be online to me.
Nicole Abboud: No, not at all. So, for some reason we just have an aversion to sales in general. We feel like someone is trying to sell to us it’s gonna turn us off, it’s gonna shut us down. We’re not gonna wanna work with that person. So, with that said and really into the authenticity topic I guess or the buzz word nowadays it’s … Yeah it’s important for a lawyer to just be themselves, to try to show some personality in whatever they’re doing online or on their website and I think that that is easier said than done because obviously we have all the Googles. A lot of lawyers worry that if they show that they’re having a drink on the weekend that’s gonna ruin their credibility or it’s gonna make them look less professional and of course you need to use common sense in what you’re posting.
Don’t show that you’re doing a keg stand or you know what I mean going out partying on the weekend but you know what if you’re grabbing a drink with a friend over the weekend, that’s okay. I mean that’s what people do, we are human after all and more than likely someone’s going to relate to that. A potential client might relate to the fact that you drink a certain wine or you have a certain dog, because you post a picture of you walking your dog. You know what I mean, that’s the human element of being a lawyer.
Sam Glover: Don’t be a cardboard cutout online basically.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly.
Sam Glover: So, when it comes to other ways that you might structure the relationship, let’s talk about let’s say does the nature of what millennials want and need suggest anything about the way that lawyers and client might want to work together?
Nicole Abboud: Yes, so another thing that millennials value is collaboration. So, even as a client millennials want to feel like they are involved in the legal process, whatever they are reaching out to you for help with and because again information is so readily available, this may or may not be a good thing but a lot of clients come with some knowledge of what needs to happen. Which again, is not always the best thing because then lawyers have to undo what they’ve learned if they’ve learned incorrectly. But, as millennials we want to feel like, we know what’s happening with our case, we want to be able to access information about our matter kind of at all hours of the day.
Which doesn’t mean that lawyers need to always be available picking up their phone calls or responding to emails but it does mean that they need to set up some online portal or some way for a client to be able to go in check what’s happening get the piece of mind that they need and just handle what they need to handle without wondering what’s going on with my case, I haven’t heard from my lawyer in few weeks. So, yeah there definitely needs to be some kind of collaborative element with representing a millennial.
Sam Glover: I analogize this … This resonates with me and I think it sounds similar to … like if I wake up at 1: 00 in the morning and I can’t stop my mind from racing. I may, you know, pull Facebook down to refresh it a few times and there’s nothing probably new happening on Facebook at 1: 30 in the morning but Facebook gives me something to do. That tickles that endorphin or whatever it is and I feel like I think what you’re saying is lawyers need to find a way to let your clients check in, in some way even if it’s 3: 00 in the morning.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, they kinda do because for you it’s just being bored or maybe it’s insomnia but for someone who has some kind of … who find themselves in litigation that’s just stress and concern. So, if you can do something to ease that, then you definitely should.
Sam Glover: That sounds like nobody, even the most unreasonable millennial probably expects you to personally respond to an email at 3: 00 in the morning but my guess is this isn’t always on … I mean the world is always on right now. We all have notifications all the time. There’s no excuse for giving people, I will return to your message in two days auto responder or something right?
Nicole Abboud: I think that depends on the lawyer. I know that a lot of lawyers worry about boundaries and work life balance and all that and I understand that. So, if you are someone that is not comfortable appearing like you’re always available, then that is a decision you can make but again there are so many … There is software there are services that can help you automate a lot of these things and set up the portals and make it appear like you are responding or at least letting them know that you’ll get back to them soon without you physically doing it.
Sam Glover: Lot’s of lawyers seem to be hypothesizing that every practice should be virtual and we should be communicating via text message or email or secure portals or whatever and that’s how everything is going, do you feel like your people … I’m gonna keep saying your people because it makes me chuckle.
Nicole Abboud: I don’t know if I should feel insulted, I’m like my people. Alright let’s go ahead.
Sam Glover: Do you think your people have expectations about the channel of communication, let’s say?
Nicole Abboud: You know what, I don’t think they do. I think it varies and depends on each client individually. Even among the millennial generation. So I think the lawyer should just ask their client when they are on boarding them. Just ask them how do you want to be communicated with, do you prefer text message, do you actually want to take a phone call, do just want email so just find out what they want and it will vary. I mean I’m a millennial but I actually do like talking on the phone.
Sam Glover: It kind of goes back to you saying collaborate right? Like work with your client, try and shape the representation to what they’re looking for.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly, yeah so don’t just assume but ask them.
Sam Glover: So we need to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors and after that we’ll be back with part two about whining about anything is bullshit.
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Sam Glover: Okay we’re back and okay so we’ve been talking about what millennial clients want from their lawyers and I’m sure we just scratched the surface of it but let’s flip that because many of us have to work in the world and as we started out with millennials are now real people who have jobs and things. So they not all trying to be YouTube celebrities or living the van life so, that was long.
Nicole Abboud: You know you want to do that.
Sam Glover: No, I follow them on Instagram.
Nicole Abboud: Nice.
Sam Glover: It’s like my dream bring a van big enough for the kids but-
Nicole Abboud: I’ll join you.
Sam Glover: So how do we take these characteristics and apply them to the work place. Like if you have employees or a boss or just a colleague what are say the three or four things that millennials are going to value in their working life.
Nicole Abboud: So I guess the before we talk about the three things they value I think it’s just important to address why we should care at all. So, the lawyers who have employees working for them or who are in a hiring position, you probably wondering why should I even care, I’ve been doing this for a while, I know how to hire. Again, we need to acknowledge that there are some differences in this generation and they’re good right. There are some good valuable characteristics that you want to bring into your law firm.
So recognizing that we are the largest generation in the workforce that you might be in a position to start planning for your law firm’s succession. Recognizing that’s there’s so much talent to be harnessed in this generation is important, right? So starting there is good but I think what millennial colleagues of yours or your employees what they value is flexibility. That’s probably the biggest one so flexibility in terms of the schedule so that’s the obvious one. Being able to … It’s offering your employees the option to work, to not always be in the office to do the work, right? Working remotely. There’s technology so now it’s possible to actually have face time, to do your work and be engaged when you not necessarily physically in an office.
And also I think flexibility in decision making so just acknowledging that millennial employees even though they are new lawyers and maybe they don’t understand … They don’t have as much experience being a lawyer they still came in with some sort of marketable skill or some kind of knowledge that you should really tap into to make your law firm better.
Sam Glover: I mean there’s the collaboration again almost, you know, you don’t just have a hierarchical structure where the boss bosses people around and you don’t ever solicit feedback from the underlings. It’s more like invite people to be part of a team not just a minion.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly, and I think that is how it should be. I think that more law firms should be that way because they’ve just been so … They have been so hierarchical for so long and we see that, that’s not necessarily sitting well with the millennials so there’s a lot of tension. But I would imagine everyone in the law firm would benefit if they felt like they actually were valued and they were being heard and their ideas were listened to and whether they’re good or not, that’s a different story but at least acknowledge that these people have ideas and it could help.
Sam Glover: Yeah Aaron said recently about a conversation he was over hearing that about, you know, all the demands millennials have, somebody a Gen-Xer said well I want all that stuff too I just didn’t know I could ask for it.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly.
Sam Glover: Maybe millennials are just smarter.
Nicole Abboud: Well I mean I don’t know about that-
Sam Glover: More education anyway.
Nicole Abboud: Right sure. No, it’s just again it’s just the culture that we grew up in. I don’t know what it is that makes us more vocal about what we actually want but if you grew up feeling like you couldn’t ask for what you wanted it’s gonna be more difficult to do so. So I can see why Gen-Xers just didn’t but yeah just being vocal about what you want and of course as a millennial use common sense regarding what you’re asking for, right? So I think there’s a line that can be crossed by any employee in terms of asking for exactly what they want for but again, that’s where common sense comes in.
Sam Glover: There are two demanding people … People who are too demanding in every generation so.
Nicole Abboud: That is true, yeah. So another thing that millennial employees look for is feedback. So that is really important and I know a lot of law firms usually have some kind of annual review or bi-annual review and that might not be sufficient anymore. So, millennials really want to know how they’re doing along the way, if they’re working on a project of on a case. They want pretty consistent feedback. Now that doesn’t mean every single day or every hour you have to check in and tell them; oh you’re doing a great job keep it up. Not at all.
But set some kind of time stamp or marks of when you as an employer, as the supervisor want to go in and give this employee feedback whether it’s positive or critical and let them know how they’re doing because they would hate to be working on something incorrectly for a long period of time only to get that annual review and then not have time to adjust or shift.
Sam Glover: I’m sorry, I think I’ve heard you say in the past that, that desire for constant ongoing feedback feels a little bit like you post something on Instagram and people immediately let you know if they like it, right? Like so you’re use to hearing instantly the effect of the things that you do.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah, that’s true but also I think … Sorry, let me take back all that. Also, I think that feeling heard is what it comes down to. So if an employer is giving this feedback and being the millennial are able to respond and collaborate on what it is that they want or they expect from us then we feel like we’re also being heard, right? So we’re expressing what we thought went right and what we though went wrong, how we can improve and it’s not just a guessing game of what we think they want. They’re telling us what they want and we either agree with it or we don’t and we can adjust.
Sam Glover: Well as you said from the employer perspective like why wait a year to tell somebody they’ve been doing something wrong. Why wait a month, why wait a week? If somebody can improve, tell them right away and if they’ve done a good job why wouldn’t you pat them on the back right away and give them some more motivation. It seems to make sense.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah exactly, right and it boosts morale and again it doesn’t even have to be something so formal and stiff you know what I mean. Just dropping into the office of your employees regardless of how old they are or what generation they’re from just drop in there and talk to them. You know, check in on them every once in a while ask them how they’re doing, how their family is doing, what’s going on in their lives. I think we are now going to a different conversation but again it’s just actually talking to your employees and hearing them out.
Sam Glover: So, and maybe kind of this is where that was going but I’ve heard some of your people talk about bringing their whole selves to work and that being a really important thing. Like are we … Is that seriously important that if I’m going to hire a lawyer I’m going to have to be comfortable with them having purple hair and nose rings.
Nicole Abboud: Oh that is a good question.
Sam Glover: Yes is an okay answer I think actually but …
Nicole Abboud: I get it. But that is not what I think of when I think of bring your whole self and maybe because I’ve never had purple hair and a ring but for me it’s more of is your employee comfortable enough feeling like themselves and just being comfortable being who they are and letting that be sufficient if that makes sense. So I guess I tie it back to my experience when I was practicing. The first few months were obviously a little bit tough because there was a learning curve.
I was new to the profession, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing but at the same time I felt like I had to change my personality to fit the mold of what a good lawyer, what a great lawyer should be like and I think had my employer just told me, you know what you have a great personality, you gonna do fine just be you. I mean that could have changed things but I don’t … I stopped working there that should tell you something but that’s what I hear when I think when I think of bring your whole self. Like you are okay, you don’t have to change to fit any kind of stereotype but also if you have purple hair but you’re a kick ass lawyer like why does it matter. Well assuming you’re not going to court it shouldn’t matter either. You know what I mean?
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Nicole Abboud: That’s just outward appearance.
Sam Glover: I think you have to take to heart that the idea that, that’s not actually a characteristic that matters for your ability to do your job then don’t worry about it.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah you phrased that much more eloquently than I did but yeah, exactly that’s what it is. [crosstalk 00: 36: 54] I’ll give you that one.
Sam Glover: So we’ve been kind of shaping this whole conversation around a presentation that you gave at the Clio Cloud Conference this year. So I’ve just revealed that we’re cheating by using an existing outline I guess.
Nicole Abboud: Okay.
Sam Glover: But you also mentioned growth opportunities as a really important thing that millennials are looking for.
Nicole Abboud: Yes, exactly so just being able to offer any kind of training, any kind of CLE as in paying for your employees to attend CLE trainings and conferences. Offering in house opportunities, of course the whole mentorship, so mentor mentee relationships, if you can establish some kind of program there but always focusing on the growth of the individual lawyer. Because, as a millennial that is something we really value, we want to continually grow and that doesn’t mean we want to leave the firm because we’re outgrown it because if the firm is taking care of us we’re gonna feel that sense of loyalty.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Nicole Abboud: And one way to take care of us is to continually help us to improve. So, yeah any kind of programs to help them become not just better lawyers but I guess better human beings but business developers, right? Just better people.
Sam Glover: You know I think that’s a challenging one because I remember you know when I started out as a lawyer one of my friends who was working at a firm was struck by the realization that her last day practicing law was probably gonna look a lot like her first day. You know we do similar work for 20, 30, 40 years and then quit and that doesn’t automatically suggest a lot of growth opportunities but the market is changing and when I see newer firms, you know, they have stated missions and values and you can rally a team around your mission and values.
They’ve got different jobs than just, you will sit here and clock hours churning papers work. It isn’t necessarily what newer firms look like and so I think firms that are already responding to the way the market has changed are also responding to the need of growth opportunities whether they’re doing it deliberately or not.
Nicole Abboud: Exactly and I think it goes back to that conversation about the hierarchy I think the pyramid within a law firm, the leadership pyramid really should be more flattened out and employers should give employees opportunities to build their skills but not just as lawyers. Again, just allowing them to start that blog that eventually going to bring in a new client, right? So it’s empowering them to take initiative and do something that’s not just their legal work. Because again, these lawyers are miserable if that’s all that they’re doing and there’s a reason why there’s so many … There’s a reason why we have such a high rate of substance abuse in the profession and so many leave the profession. It’s because if that’s all they’re doing any human being is going to crack.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Nicole Abboud: You know what I mean like. We need some kind of outlet. So giving your employees that outlet whether it’s even taking them out for an activity on the weekend, you know what I mean. Like those kind of things
Sam Glover: At the very beginning I think we mentioned digital nativeness, nativity and often when I think people hear millennials they’re like, you know, they automatically go, oh I’m not tech savvy enough to deal with millennials or something. Is that actually a thing.
Nicole Abboud: I don’t know anymore, I feel like everyone knows how to work with a smartphone and that’s really all there is to it. You know I mean like I remember in high school I took a keyboarding class where Mavis Beacon taught me how to type, right and I feel like kids who are now five years old can type faster than I can and you learn as you grow but also like technologies out there and everyone has access to it. So it’s not like we have some secrets that baby boomers don’t or Gen-Xers don’t right? So maybe we understand it a little bit faster but it doesn’t mean that anyone else can’t pick up on it or learn it just as well. And there’s so many Gen-Xers and baby boomers who are totally kicking my ass online. So, you know what I mean on Facebook and Instagram so I don’t think that means anything.
Sam Glover: Maybe you need to be tech savvy at the level of a normal human being moving through the world in 2017.
Nicole Abboud: Yes, exactly and I think that’s actually a requirement right? I think that’s one of ABA model rules.
Sam Glover: Or NATO?
Nicole Abboud: Yeah.
Sam Glover: We’ve been fighting about that.
Nicole Abboud: And you know what, it’s crazy to see lawyers who are resisting this because it is so much fun. I mean aside from the fact that it’s great for business and it’s building your brand, the people you get to meet online that you cannot meet in person because they are across the country, across the world are phenomenal people. So the fact that you are not meeting them by not being online, you’re really missing out on building amazing relationships. It’s fun it’s not just for business.
Sam Glover: Well let’s circle back to the beginning where I kind of tried to call bullshit and then you called bullshit on my bullshit but … It just keeps going. None of these things are like crazy unreasonable stuff. Aren’t these all just things that are more important to millennials and that we all wish we wouldn’t thought to raise and insist on earlier.
Nicole Abboud: Yes and I feel like we can’t spread that rumor because then no one will invite me to speak at conferences.
Sam Glover: And now we’ve arrived at my devious plan.
Nicole Abboud: I know right. No, and I kind of told you before we started I don’t consider myself a millennial expert I just think these are regular human common sensical things and I don’t know if I’m just very in tune to these things but you’re right. It’s not something just millennials want it’s something everyone wants. Every employee wants to feel like they belong. They don’t want to hate their lives when they go to work. They want flexibility, right? They want to be able to see their kids and go to soccer games. Everyone wants to grow and again if particular person doesn’t it doesn’t mean that’s a reflective of the whole generation. It’s just that person doesn’t want flexibility they want to be in the office all the time. So yeah these are just general human needs that we all want as employees.
Sam Glover: Well that said I’m glad you made the expedition from [inaudible 00: 42: 51] to tell us about your people.
Nicole Abboud: And it was far, it was a far journey.
Sam Glover: If people want to know more about you and what you’re up to where should they go?
Nicole Abboud: Sure so, I think the best website to visit is abboudmedia.com so that is my business you can find out more about what I do but on Instagram is where I love to share behind the scenes of my life. So now that I’m not practicing anymore I talk about what I’m doing to build my business, I talk about leadership. So my Instagram handle is @nic_abboud
Sam Glover: If you don’t understand Instagram or stories, Nicole’s Instagram is like a 101 course on how to do it so … By example not because it’s an instructional thing but yeah.
Nicole Abboud: Yeah exactly.
Sam Glover: Well Nicole thanks so much for being with us today I really enjoyed this podcast.
Nicole Abboud: Me too. Thank you for having me.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist podcast by subscribing to the show on your favorite podscast app and please leave a rating to help other people find our show. You can find the notes for today’s episode on Lawyerist.com/podcast.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.
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