The Future

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP 

Any moron can answer a telephone.  This was my exact sentiment when I began my first day of work as a receptionist in a law firm on Monday, August 24, 2009.  A negative, short-sighted and just plain untrue sentiment, to say the least.  Having studied music in college, I did not imagine that I would wind up working in a law firm two years after graduation.  In fact, as my mother worked in a law firm, and I wanted to “be my own person”, I tried to avoid following in her (career) footsteps at all costs.

Now, nine years later, I am primarily responsible for running all administrative aspects of a law firm, including hiring, firing and managing staff, some of whom no doubt never imagined that they would be working in a law firm after college or high school. 

As much passion as I will always feel for music, it is hard to imagine doing anything else to make a living.  I view legal administration as my life-long career, and, by way of constant professional development, I am committed to learning as much as I possibly can about the industry and encouraging colleagues to see a future for themselves in a law firm environment.

Without my mentors (yes, including, and most predominantly, my mother), I can almost guarantee that I would not have had the same career trajectory.  The legal management profession is a choice I made as opposed to where I simply wound up, but the guidance, support and encouragement from others (that I continue to receive to this day) heavily contributed to my decision to remain in the field.

The more the legal administration industry drew me in, the more concerned I became about its health and viability.  I was often the youngest person in the room at chapter meetings and annual conferences.  Members at both levels were being lost to retirement, and their respective replacements did not always want to participate in our organizations.  Younger law firm employees often had trouble realizing the long-term opportunities available to them, and looked for any way they could to leave law firm life behind.

I became so concerned, in fact, that I lobbied for an appointment to the ALA’s Membership Development Committee (MDC) earlier this year.  The MDC focuses on “identification, development and implementation of strategies and tactics to advance ALA goals and objectives related to membership”.  I officially joined the MDC in May of 2018, and am continually energized by the work we are doing to benefit current ALA members and attract future ones.

Regardless of the stage of your career, have you ever given any thought to who may replace you?  Is there someone within your organization who could be trained to fill your shoes?  Are there any entry-level colleagues with leadership and/or management potential?  Who are your untapped resources, and how do you inspire those individuals to take the next step?

With the possible exception of the smallest of law firms, I would find it surprising if there wasn’t at least one individual in your law firm whose name came to mind when considering the above questions.  Have you ever spoken with this person about his or her career goals and/or professional development?  Have you ever thought to bring your colleague to one of our NJALA meetings?  If the answer to these questions is “no”, I strongly encourage you to start the conversation and extend an invitation to our next chapter meeting on Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

The future will be here before we know it.  Even if you are nearing the end of your law firm days, I ask that you think back to the beginning, and to those who may have helped you become the legal management professional you are today.  If your mentors did not take the time to help you realize your potential, the organizations we participate in today may not have survived.  Pay it forward, think about all those who will come after you and make sure there are places for them to go.

Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Firm Administrator of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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