Office Description

The Office of Professional Development blog is your resource for up to the minute news, advice, and information relating to your career and professional development.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Building Professional Habits

Courtesy of Mary Crane, Mary Crane & Associates

A week or so ago, I spoke with the head of professional development at a top-ranked U.S. law school about an upcoming networking program that I’ve been retained to facilitate. “We want our students to walk away from the program understanding that this is just the beginning,” my contact said. “That networking is not necessarily instinctive, but if they start the habit now, it will pay off throughout their professional lives.”

Graduate school and the concomitant transition into the workplace present an ideal opportunity for students and new professionals to develop a series of new habits. Any time we encounter a period of upheaval—psychologists call these periods “quantum change moments”—habits become more malleable. We suddenly become open to new rewards. It’s the presence of those rewards that can help convert a new behavior into a routine. Once that occurs, a new habit is formed.

You can play a huge role in helping students and junior employees acquire critically important professional habits. With that in mind, here are three things you need to know:

1. How do we form habits?
Over the past several years, a body of science has clarified how individuals develop habits. It turns out the process is amazingly simple, and it’s driven by neurology. According to New York Times reporter and book author Charles Duhigg, every habit has three component parts: a cue (something that automatically triggers a behavior); a routine (the behavior itself); and a reward (something that helps you remember and want to repeat the behavior in the future).

When we want to initiate a new habit or change an established one, most people focus on the actual behavior. But, Duhigg says, that approach almost always fails. Instead if we focus on cues and rewards, then the likelihood of ingraining the habit significantly increases. 

Duhigg describes one study that tested how best to make early morning exercise habitual. Researchers found that participants were most likely to succeed when they put their exercise shoes out before going to bed (the cue) and when they also received a small bite of chocolate (the reward) after their exercise session. Within a matter of months, 58 percent of participants reported that they continued to exercise without the chocolate reward.

So, think about your students and new professionals and the habits you want to instill in them. What cues and rewards can you provide? Want them to network? Then how can you cue them up for an event and reward them afterward?

2.  How do you change a habit?
You may work with students or new professionals who have developed work habits that you would desperately like to change. Maybe you’ve invested time and effort in recruiting a particular individual, but his recent behaviors suggest he may be among the 50 percent who won’t survive his first two years at work. What’s your next step?

When we develop a habit—a good, bad, or neutral one—our brains effectively go on autopilot. And thank goodness they do. Habits save us huge amounts of time. For example, if pressed, I can pack a suitcase in three minutes flat . . . simply because I’ve acquired a packing habit. I don't need to think through the process.

If you wish to help a student or new professional change a habit, you need to help them identify the current cues and rewards that support a specific routine.  With that knowledge, you can then help them identify a new, more professional response to a specific trigger as well as a reward that will help them transform the response into an ongoing habit.

Here’s one example: I’ve participated in loads of law firm orientations and have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a partner instruct a group of new lawyers to record their time daily. The instructions are generally accompanied by an admonition that capturing all of the time invested on a particular project is critical to the firm’s bottom line. If establishing good time-recording habits is as important as I believe it to be, firms would be well served to create a system that rewards associates when they complete a nightly timesheet update.

3. What types of rewards work best?
Those of you who know me well know that I am not a believer in the “everyone-gets-a-prize” school of motivating behavior. I am completely and thoroughly opposed to the idea of giving some a reward just for doing the equivalent of “showing up.” But anyone who has taken a Psych 101 course understands the power of positive reinforcement.

According to Duhrigg, “If you can create a sense of craving,” specifically craving for some reward, “you can establish almost any habit.” The reward need not be huge. In the exercise study cited earlier, the piece of chocolate each runner received was relatively small. But according to Duhrigg, it was large enough to satisfy either an individual runner’s sensation-seeking impulse or the novelty impulse.

In my timesheet example, a law firm could help encourage daily timesheet entry through a variety of different rewards. Each time a new associate updates his or her timesheet, a computer-generated message could be delivered to his or her email inbox thanking the new associate for their contribution to the firm’s bottom line. Alternatively, associates who update their timesheets daily could receive “points” that could be used to purchase a morning java at the local coffeehouse. And remember, the reward won’t need to be delivered forever, but rather just long enough to transform the behavior into a habit.
Your greatest challenge moving forward may be uncovering what motivates all the people you need to influence. Expect major variations person to person.

Imagine the habits you can start to inculcate among your new and established professionals: people RSVP for events; people actually attend the events for which they’ve RSVP’d; everyone dresses appropriately; professionals regularly say “please” and “thank you”; and so forth. Focus your efforts on creating the right cues and rewards, and you can help your students and new professionals create the habits they need to succeed.

For more on the formation of new, good habits or the replacement of old, bad ones, click here to listen to Charles Duhigg’s 2013 TEDTalk.

Copyright © 2014 Mary Crane & Associates.

Friday, February 13, 2015

James Boskey ADR Writing Competition

Sponsored by The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution in memory of James B. Boskey, an intellectual, humanitarian, Seton Hall University law professor, and mediator.

Purpose of the Boskey ADR Writing Competition

The purpose of the competition is to promote greater interest in and understanding of
the field of dispute resolution and collaborative decision-making among law students.

Prize: $1000 to the Competition winner

  • The essay may address any aspect of dispute resolution practice, theory or research that the  contestant chooses.
  • Essays must be 15-25 typed, double spaced pages.
  • Essays must use 12 point Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins.

For more info, forms, and procedures please see:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Frederic L. Ballard, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Program
to attend its
2015 Fundamentals of Municipal Bond Law Seminar

The National Association of Bond Lawyers (“NABL”) is pleased to announce that it is once again offering up to five scholarships to law school students, through the Frederic L. Ballard, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Program to attend its 2015 Fundamentals of Municipal Bond Law Seminar.  Located in the District of Columbia, NABL was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1979, and exists to promote the integrity of the municipal market by advancing the understanding of and compliance with the law affecting public finance. NABL pursues this mission in a number of ways, including, but not limited to, providing several annual educational programs for its members and others in the law relating to state and municipal bonds and other obligations.  

The 2015 Fundamentals of Municipal Bond Law Seminar is one of these educational programs. Designed for attorneys, paralegals, government officials and employees, financial consultants and other municipal finance professionals and market participants seeking a basic knowledge of municipal bond law and related municipal finance issues, it is open to both NABL members and non-members.  The seminar is being held April 22-24, 2015, at the Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orlando, Florida.  The 2015 seminar brochure is available on the NABL website

To be a recipient of one of the five possible scholarships, an applicant must be currently enrolled in the Doctor of Jurisprudence Program or Masters of Law (LL.M.) Program at an accredited law school located within the United States of America.  Each scholarship will include (a) waiver of the enrollment fee to the seminar, (b) complimentary hotel lodging at the Hyatt, (c) reimbursement of roundtrip airfare and (d) reimbursement of ground transportation to and from the scholarship recipient’s departing airport and to and from the Orlando airport.  

Please take a few minutes to review the application and seminar information .  Completed applications are due no later than March 6, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

OACTA Announces 2015 Law Student Diversity Scholarships

The OACTA Law Student Diversity Scholarship is open to incoming second and third-year African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pan Asian and Native American students enrolled at Ohio law schools. Incoming second and third-year female law students enrolled at Ohio law schools are also eligible regardless of race or ethnicity. Other criteria for the scholarship include: Academic achievement in law school; Professional interest in civil defense practice; and Service to community and to the cause of diversity. Up to two (3) scholarships in the amount of $1,250 each will be awarded to successful applicants. Applicants are required to submit an application, law school transcript and a cover letter addressing the following: academic, personal and professional accomplishments, and why they should be selected as a recipient of the scholarship. Applicants may submit up to three letters of recommendation.

Applications are available here:

The completed application and all other requested material must be received by April 17, 2015. Winners will be announced in June. Scholarship recipients will be recognized at the OACTA Annual Meeting in November.

OACTA members (and their firms or companies) are asked to consider making a contribution to this scholarship fund. The 2015 dues renewal forms and membership applications will include an option for a voluntary contribution. As a member of OACTA, we ask that you consider supporting this worthwhile initiative. Thank you, in advance, for your support. OACTA believes that a diverse membership makes us a stronger organization.

We encourage diversity in all aspects of our activities and are committed to nurturing a culture that supports and promotes diversity. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2014 OACTA

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

National Association of Women Lawyers
2015 Selma Moidel Smith Law Student Writing Competition

The National Association of Women Lawyers ("NAWL") is a national organization devoted to promoting the interests and progress of women lawyers and women's legal rights. Since 1899, NAWL has served as an educational forum and active voice for the concerns of women lawyers in this country and abroad. Through its programs and networks, NAWL provides the tools for women in the profession to advance, prosper, and enrich the profession. 

NAWL has established the annual Selma Moidel Smith Law Student Writing Competition to encourage and reward original law student writing on issues concerning women and the law. 

The rules for the competition are as follows:

Entrants should submit a paper on an issue concerning women's rights or the status of women in the law. The most recent winning paper wasThe Decriminalization of Rape on America's College Campuses: How Federal Sex Discrimination Policy has Diminished the Role of the Criminal Justice System in Combatting Sexual Violence written by Danielle Elizabeth DeBold, who was a 3L at New York University School of Law. View the paper here.

Essays will be accepted from students enrolled at any law school during the 2014-15 school year. The essays must be the law student author's own work and must not have been submitted for publication elsewhere. Papers written by students for coursework or independent study during the Summer, Fall or Spring semesters are eligible for submission. Notwithstanding the foregoing, students may incorporate professorial feedback as part of a course requirement or supervised writing project.
FORMAT: Essays must be double-spaced in 12-point, Times New Roman font. All margins must be one inch. Entries must not exceed fifteen (15) pages of text, excluding notes, with footnotes placed as endnotes. Citation style should conform to The Bluebook - A Uniform System of Citation. Essays longer than fifteen pages of text, excluding notes, or that are not in the required format may not be read.

JUDGING: NAWL and the Women Lawyers Journal designees will judge the competition. Essays will be judged based upon content, exhaustiveness of research, originality, writing style, and timeliness.

QUESTIONS: Questions regarding this competition should be addressed to the Writing Competition Chair, Professor Jennifer Martin at

SUBMISSION AND DEADLINE: Entries must be received by May 1, 2015.
Entries received after the deadline will be considered only at the discretion of NAWL. Entries must include a cover letter providing the title of the essay, school affiliation, email address, phone number, and mailing address of the author. Entries must be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word via email to

AWARDThe author of the winning essay will receive a cash prize of $500. NAWL will also publish the winning essay in the Women Lawyers Journal

Friday, January 23, 2015

Notre Dame Law School sponsors an annual writing competition on the topic of legal ethics.

All students with an interest in legal ethics are invited and encouraged to participate.
The competition is open to all law students at U.S.and Canadian law schools. Entries should concern any issue within the general category of legal ethics. Entries must be original.unpublished work.
Entries must not exceed 50 pages,including notes.on 8.5 x 11 paper,double space, and standard font

Coauthored essays may be submitted.

Submissions will be judged by a panel of faculty of the Notre Dame Law School. A prize of $2,500 will be awarded for one winning entry.
All entries must be received before 5 p.m., Friday, April 24, 2015.

Please include cover letter with contact information and name of current law school.
All entries should be submitted to:
SmithDoheny Legal Ethics Writing Competition Notre Dame Law School
P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 (574) 6316749
                           Fax: (574) 6318612