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James Howard, partner and business lawyer in the Austin office of Naman, Howell, Smith, & Lee, talks about technology in the law, trying to make everyone happy, and understanding the audience for your resume.

COVID-19 Update (as of 6/11/20)

Slowly/cautiously trying to return to normal; certainly not 100%; he has been in the office for the past couple of weeks; wearing mask
About 1/2 the lawyers are working from home with the other half coming in some
Practice is better because of adjustments over the past few months; at the beginning the economic impact was unknown and clients were worried; walked them through practical impact of COVID (policies, etc.) to legislation (PPP, etc.)
Clients are seeing that they aren’t bankrupt, they do have revenue, so there are reasons to be optimistic
Resiliency of the businesses in Texas and in the community has been impressive; their ability to adjust to the new ways of doing business has been key
Should be well-prepared if something like this happens again

Race and the legal profession

Lawyers often see a problem and want to solve it, but (white) lawyers especially need to do some self-evaluation and thinking before taking actions
Need to make space for non-white lawyers to have a voice since our industry is mostly white; can’t be co-opted and make it about white people
Lawyers are uniquely situated to work with city governments and representatives; natural leaders in the community and opportunities to advocate for policy changes; in fact there is a responsibility to do that
Key changes need to be made at the local level, and lawyers are well-positioned to help make that change
Example: criminal lawyers taking cases pro bono from protesters who get arrested

His firm/practice

Business lawyer; firm has offices in Fort Worth, Austin, Waco, and San Antonio; full-service mid-size firm
Legal tech is big as he represents clients in the telecommunications space; software-as-a-service (SaaS); etc. this has led to him evaluating how lawyers do business re: tech (OR NOT!)
How can tech make my practice run more smoothly? (mentioned Squadcast (podcast recording tool) and Calendly (calendar tool) that we use to set up and record the podcast as neat tools)

Advice to lawyers in practice

Consider the partner who assigned you work as your client; give them work like you would if it were the actual client; the goal is the partner takes the work, attaches it to an email to the client and hits send.
won’t happen immediately but should be the goal
Easy to get too invested in what others think/do, but you can’t make everyone happy all the time
Don’t dwell on this
Sometimes there are no more compromises and the answer has to be no
Be willing to go into advocate mode and have the hard conversation with the other side

Advice to lawyers when seeking a job

If you are applying for a business job, you have to make sure your resume/cover letter is error-free; if not then it’s a big problem
Write to your reader; a three-page resume with 500 bullets in eight-point font is not getting read by lawyers
Say what you need to say in one page
Don’t hide your education at the bottom or what you are currently doing
People can be overly stiff in an interview, so try to be both professional and conversational; the interviewer wants to see if they can put you in front of a client and in social situations
During his OCI summer clerkship interview with Naman Howell, they asked him why he wanted to work in Waco, to which he said he didn’t…that he wanted to work in Austin…that led to a rejection letter that he still has…wound up back at Naman Howell through a lateral process later on
Good reminder to research the firm, see/know where they have opportunities both in office locations and practice areas

Final thoughts

Pay attention to your mental health
Lawyers tend to overwork, so find a way to unplug
TLAP if you need it

Rapid fire questions

Trait/characteristic you most want to see in an associate: interested
Key habit: go one more step
Favorite app/tool: laptop dock
Favorite social distancing activity: lots of bicycling (very Austin)
Favorite legal movie: Runaway Jury

Thanks again to James Howard for coming on the show!


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