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Workplace Perks That Lawyers Actually Want

What do you really want?

It's a question that sometimes comes up in the crisis stage of a relationship. One partner feels inadequate or frustrated, and the other is stifled about communicating his feelings.

Maybe I'm getting too personal here, but the point is that sometimes lawyers don't seem to know what they want professionally either. Because the attorney-employer relationship shouldn't be a guessing game, here are some perks attorneys actually want:

You spend your days dealing with divorces, or insurance claims, or digging through millions of pages of discovery. Then, when it comes time to head to an industry mixer, you're expected to make small talk with strangers about -- what? Sports? The weather? You'd rather not.

But if small talk is a big obstacle to you, your business could hurt. After all, networking can be key to bringing in clients and building your name. So, to help you out, here are some quick tips to improving your casual conversation skills and overcoming your disdain for small talk.

Lonely Lawyer? How to Deal With Isolation

In a scene from the movie 'All Is Lost,' an aging Robert Redford is desperately alone in a life raft in the middle of the ocean as a cargo ship passes him as if he weren't there.

It is a painful metaphor for so many people in the world -- those nameless souls who watch as the world passes them by. They sit on street corners as drivers avoid making eye contact with them; they hide from the rain and cold under cardboard shelters; they labor alone in law offices late at night ...

Alright, so being a lonely lawyer is not as bad as being homeless or lost at sea. But if it is a problem in your life, consider these ideas:

Pros and Cons of Being a Public Defender

What are the pros and cons of being a public defender?

First of all, public defenders are surrounded by pros and cons every day. They are the dregs of society, the cast-offs, and the remorseless left-overs from a time when life was innocent. And those are just the district attorneys.

Just kidding. In the criminal defense business, you have to have a bit of gallows humor to deal with the real likelihood that you may never win a case. Unless you count plea bargains as wins. Then you will win 95 percent of your cases.

So here are some things to think about:

4 Tips for Beating the Small Law Firm Blues

Merle Haggard wasn't a lawyer, but he knew how to sing the workin' man blues -- the same song that small firm lawyers sometimes hear late at night.

"Works hard every day, might get tired on the weekend, after drawing some pay. Back to work on Monday with a little crew, drinking beer that night and singing the workin' man blues."

It's the downside of small firm practice, where lawyers often earn less than BigLaw attorneys and get overworked wearing many hats -- sometimes clerk, paralegal, and lawyer rolled into one. And if you're a solo practitioner, you are the office manager, tech staff, and secretary, too.

But the blues are really about singing your way out of the doldrums and finding a breeze. Here are some ideas to get you there:

Where do you stand on the Oxford comma? If you're like a sizable minority of Americans, you could do without it. But if you're an intelligent, thoughtful person who cares about your writing, you make sure you've got an Oxford comma in place when needed. That's because the Oxford comma can be essential to creating clear writing.

Don't believe me? Then you've yet to read O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, yesterday's First Circuit decision that rested entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma.

You all know the maxim: the best bloggers are the best lawyers. Alright, maybe that’s not a widely adopted saying just yet. But, when it comes to your writing, lawyers could learn a thing or two from blogging.

No, we’re not suggesting that you format your next motion for summary judgement as “56 Reasons Defendant Is Entitled to Judgement as a Matter of Law — Number 27 Will Shock You!” But there are a few bloggy skills that can improve most lawyers legal writing.

A Chinese Path to Law Office Cost-Efficiency

There's an ancient Chinese proverb that rings true even today: "Those who know when they have enough are rich." I am not Chinese, but I know frugality when I see it.

Years ago, I worked in Los Angeles for a publishing company owned by a Chinese family. They also published the largest Chinese-language newspaper in Taiwain and employed hundreds of people on two continents.

Yet the owner never showed off his wealth. He could have driven a brand new luxury car to work, but he drove a modest older model. He could have occupied an elegant corner office, but chose to work above the dirty press room.

There's a lesson here for running a cost-efficient law office: save money and make more money.

Tips for Following Your Passion in the Law

Chloe, the star of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and a voice of inspiration for those who search for meaning in the drudgery of life, said it best:

"Rough. Rough."

Just kidding. For those of you haven't watched a dog movie since Lassie, they are all dubbed nowadays. But Chloe didn't actually say anything in the climactic scene. She found her bark, and that made all the difference.

What we're talking about, or barking about, is this: lawyers, too, can find their passion in the law.

We've got a lot of prisoners in the United States -- nearly a quarter of all the prisoners in the world. Yet, despite such a high incarceration rate, the actual workings of the criminal justice system occur largely outside the public's awareness.

In an effort to shed light on a system "shrouded in secrecy," Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project and Slate magazine are launching "Trials and Error," an ongoing series focused on "the reality of the justice system, and how to fix it."