John Mackintosh talks Stepping Up and choosing sole practice, law-adjacent paths, and bringing your outside passions into legal practice

In this episode I sat down with my former mentor, John Mackintosh, a long time consultant on practice management and the business side of law, and one of the loveliest humans I’ve encountered. John was hugely supportive of my efforts to start a practice that did law differently, and was just as generous in sharing all his wisdom on the pod. We talked about why people go into partnership or sole practice, why he made Stepping Up the way it is, what law gives you that you can take to any other job you like, and how he incorporated his interests in teaching and management into his career right from the start.

This is a really lovely conversation, but if you want even more from John and you’re in your first year of practice, you might like to sign up for his CCH webinar “Making your way in your first law job”, coming on 20 February 2019.

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Books that are fun to read / Why you might take a break from studying law

Hello lovely readers. Bookending Christmas we have two LexisNexis columns: one on fun nonfiction books I have loved and think you might love, which allowed me to get the word out about an adorable science book called Papa Goose, and one on the arguments and mindset that might help if you are contemplating taking a break from legal study, which includes an elaborate metaphor involving a fridge.

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Zoë talks independent legal research work, the stories of women lawyers, and human rights law in disguise

In this episode I talked with Zoë Lawton, an independent legal researcher and writer, and it was so wonderful. Zoë’s career has already taken her to all kinds of interesting places, including a academic research on the implications of complex family law scenarios, to clerking in the Family Court, to research through the Law Foundation about the court system itself, to independent research, analysis and writing for government departments, not to mention her own legal journalism. She also spent much of last year publishing a “MeToo” blog for the profession, documenting anonymous stories of bullying and harassment reported to her, and giving cultural context to the ongoing issues the legal profession has with gender parity, bullying and sexual harassment. Despite the darkness of this last topic I felt so good and hopeful afterwards, and it was lovely, as always, to speak to someone who followed their curiosity and wound up somewhere unexpected and really cool. What an utter delight!

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A bumper column special: junior work hours / how to know where to practise / macro joy / and a post-Christmas zoom out

Over at Learn Law Life, Jack, 19, asks whether the time I spent at law school prepared me for the hours of being a junior lawyer, Emma asks how to know what area of law to practise in, and I write about the need to include macro joy as a factor in your career decisions.

And finally, over at LawTalk, it’s nearly that time of the year where I wonder if this will be the year I try eggnog. In LawTalk column 924, “In Praise of a post-Christmas zoom out”, I talk about my favourite holiday past times, eating Mackintoshs and taking stock.

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Dear Katie: A theory of M&Ms and bowls

In this column I posit that our mental capacity is akin to M&Ms, and our activities akin to bowls, and I really just run with that. It’s a model for understanding mental functioning that helps one plan anything from a day to a life, and it’s something that gets missed when people allocate only resources like time and money. It also helps us all be a bit kinder with ourselves and each other, which is only good.

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Dear Katie: How important are grades? (Parts 1 and 2)

A reader wrote to me to ask whether anyone other than A+ honours students gets jobs after law school, which is a fair question because the message perpetuated in law school seems to be a resounding no (this is wrong).

In Part 1 of my response I address the issue of grades vs jobs specifically, incorporating information I got from a lovely legal recruiter I know. In Part 2 I zoom right out to the issue of grades and worth, an issue that as a recovering high-achiever (who did not do honours, by the by) I have grappled with for decades now. Even if you’re no longer in the position of receiving letter grades for your work, you can substitute feedback of any kind and get a similar result.

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Dear Katie: how to cope with exam stress?

Happy springtime, lovely listeners and readers! My third Dear Katie column is out, in which I would like a prize please for answering a question about exam stress in 1000 words. No doubt we will return to the topic for the other 20,000 words I have in reserve. I hope this little method/mindset combo helps ease some of the more extreme stress that upcoming exams will invite.

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Episode 27: Grad solicitor Alice talks finding a job, the transition from law school to practice, and the value of cultural know-how

This was such a lovely episode with grad solicitor Alice, and in it we got to traverse all sorts of topics I have not been able to cover so much with other guests lately, namely the experience of grad lawyers. Finding a job, transitioning from law school to practice, setting yourself up for success and balance in an emotionally demanding job, the culture of law school, so much cool stuff. We also talked about cultural awareness as a means to serve clients and colleagues and the work of a new family lawyer. It. Was. Great.

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Two for one: Column 921: Let's have some fun out there / Dear Katie: Should I take tax law?

This month's LawTalk column is all about something I both think is very important and consistently fail to do: having fun.

This week's Dear Katie asks whether you have to take tax law to be a proper lawyer, to which I say only if you want to be a proper tax lawyer, and then tell my fun anecdote about how I fell in love with tax law (it's just puzzles!).  

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Episode 26: Sharon Chandra talks family law, the role of happiness in productivity, and the utopia we might face towards

In this episode I talked to Sharon Chandra about family law, how productive a happy lawyer can be, flexible working conditions, gender and age bias, the basis on which you might choose jobs early in your career, and her hope that more law firms will shift from a top down management approach to a conversational approach (a hope I enthusiastically second).  

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News update - New advice column for LexisNexis / Podcast now on Spotify

I am so excited to be able to announce that I am writing an advice column ("Dear Katie") for LexisNexis on their platform for law students and graduates, Learn Law Life.  This is a platform covering topics like study and careers and wellbeing and life as a law student and new lawyer, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.  I have already written four of the columns and they have been super fun.  I am so glad to be able to write for places that let me be human and use phrases like "dumb dumbs" if I want.  You can read my first column here

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Episode 25 - MP Duncan Webb talks how to do good, the academic track, and becoming an MP

In this episode I talked to Duncan Webb, MP for Christchurch Central and co-author of your ethics textbook, about his career as a litigation lawyer, academic and now Parliamentarian.  We talked about how you can make a difference in non-traditional routes, what he wish he'd known from the beginning (nothing more than he did), his work for Christchurch homeowners in earthquake cases, how he once took down a gaming trust, and much more.

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Column 919 - Networking for those who hate networking

This month's column deals with a topic I hate: networking.  I get asked how to network if you hate networking quite a lot, and this really is my best answer.  Networking is horrible because it takes the humanity out of social interactions and replaces it with salesmanship.  Nobody likes a salesman (our brains go on high alert when we think we're being sold) and most people don't like selling.  But, dear readers, there are other ways to peel an orange, and this is mine.  This is a method that can still technically be called networking but is really just hanging out with cool people and learning fun things.  Granted, it starts out a bit scary, but boy does it deliver. 

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Column 918: Join the giving lifestyle today. Now, with boundaries!

You can now read this month's column here, in which I talk about how living from a place of giving, when coupled with beautifully strong and reinforced boundaries, can be the most promising and enjoyable way to be, not to mention the most likely to be successful.  

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Episode 24 - Brigadier Lisa Ferriss talks practising law in the army, applied international law, and finding ways to practise what you love

This episode was so full of joy, and has filled my mind with all kinds of sparks and excitement since we recorded it a few weeks ago.  Lisa is the Director of Defence Legal Services and Military Prosecutions and boy does she have an interesting career to talk about.  We talked how law is used in the army, military codes, international law, Lisa's experience as a woman of colour in the army, and how studying things you love can bring unexpected joy later down the line.  It was wonderful, and I am so grateful to Lisa for sharing her insights into this very different way of using one's law degree.

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Episode 23: Zylpha talks second career perspectives, bullying and harassment, and the NZLS work to address it

In this episode I met with Zylpha, a second career lawyer now working for the Canterbury-Westland branch of NZLS and, among other things, manning the Law Care phone line (0800 0800 28, more information below).  Before studying law she worked in banking, and we had fun saying "hmmm" and stroking our chins about highly hierarchical, power-based employment cultures.  We also talked about the big picture problem of harassment and bullying and the complex way those issues can and should be (and are being!) examined, including NZLS work to assist those suffering from it right now.

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Column 916 - It's not that bad, except it is

Phew.  Well.  The topic of this column is the culture I observed in the legal profession and how the worst wrongs sit atop giant below-surface ice bergs of smaller wrongs gone un-examined.  It's a topic that has been burning a hole in me for quite some time but one I haven't felt able to discuss.  Which is kind of the point.  (You can read it here.)

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Column 915 - Watch out for lawyer creep

This column is about keeping your lawyer skills within the lawyer domain as much as possible, and not letting them leech into other areas where they may not be as useful.  Of course, when I wrote this column back in January (a simpler time when Me Too and Times Up were but months and weeks old), the New Zealand legal profession was not grappling quite so directly with the issue of lawyer creeps, so the title is now a little unfortunate. 

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Email your questions to katie@thenewlawyer.co.nz 

 

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