Merger Update: Two weeks in and all is good.

felix the catTwo weeks into the merger and I am starting to get my bearings. I’ve got my first assignment, overseeing the marketing and business development for one of the practice groups. We’ll add on some other opportunities and responsibilities as we go along.

I am at a great advantage being the new marketer on the team. I can push new ideas and processes because: 1) I don’t know they tried that five years ago and it didn’t work; 2) I am not constrained by preconceived notions of what can and cannot work; 3) I can get away with asking, “Hey, can we do this?” and not look or sound ignorant; and, 4) I am not influenced in one direction or another by the culture of the firm/department/practice/partners.

Today is a good day to evaluate and challenge the way things have always been done. Is this the best process? What is the procedure? Is this working? What isn’t working? Why is it done that way? What can be done better? Where can we push the envelope?

When you’ve been in a position for a while it’s so easy to fall back on “we tried that” or “that won’t work.” We get complacent. And when I say “we,” I mean “I.”

I am dusting off my bag of tricks and digging back in there to see what I might be able to try now. In “Leading Change,” John Kotter‘s first step in the eight step process for leading change is to create a sense of urgency, an opportunity that cannot be disregarded.

I have a great opportunity today to lead change, and find a better way of doing things. And that I will not disregard.

Side note: One day I’ll really get into this idea, but I have come to realize that in a merger like this while I am at a great advantage in many areas, I am at an equally great disadvantage, specifically when it comes to relationship building, and knowing what to do on day one. Why? I’m narrowing in on it having to do with not going through the interview process. In a way, I am negative two months into my job, still at the old job, but doing my job at the same time, while “interviewing” and getting to know people. But that’s a blog post for another day.

My new normal begins today

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

It’s Thursday. Just Thursday. My email wasn’t blowing up at 6:00 a.m. with pipes bursting at the HOA. The kids got off to school on time. The computers at work are still working.

And while there are still balls in the air with the merger, and now the cultural and systems integrations, the dust is starting to settle (you know I love my mixed metaphors).

I’m not sure how your life works, but in my life either every area is blowing up at once, or everything is calm. It might look like pure insanity from the outside, and I get a lot of “I don’t know how you do its,” but my brain really functions well in those situations.

Basically, when it appears that I will never get through it, I know that I’ll get through it because I have always gotten through it. Time and again I have faced a “There’s no way this will get done by …” or a “I can’t handle this all …,” only to get it all done, and handle it all.

While in the midst of it all, I just remind my self time and again that I am just in the midst of it all. This is not “it.” This is just “now.” There will be another side. There will be another time.

What I do is just plug along with a “first things first” mentality: What needs to get done now? Today? Tomorrow? This week? And what can be put on the back burner, or handed off to someone else? My brain seems to just file things where they need to be filed. Do things ever fall through the cracks? Yes. In fact, on Tuesday we did have to scramble to get something done, but we met the deadline. Was I happy about that? No. But it does happen, and when it does you just do what you need to do to make it right, and then move on. Don’t blame others, or make excuses. Just get done what needs to get done and move on with no judgment. It happens.

For the most part, the past couple months have been a controlled environment of chaos.

Three weeks ago it was pure insanity. But it was a temporary insanity:

  • The “final” for my leadership class was coming up. I had two books to read and five homework assignments to prepare.
  • The merger date was fast approaching.
  • Girl Scouts was kicking off the year.
  • My HOA was suffering numerous crisis.
  • I have no time for my family.
  • Forget yoga.

Three weeks later:

  • Class is over.
  • The merger went live.
  • I have great Girl Scout moms who really carried the ball.
  • We just hired a phenomenal property management company for the HOA and they have already started to carry the burden.
  • I actually had a phone call with my sister today.
  • Back to yoga.

At work, right now, it’s about cleaning out the old, and making room for the new. So I’ll just shut my door, and turn on the music, and start to plug away at my email, the papers on my desk, the files that can be dumped. I need to clean up some things on the blogs. But for the most part, I will enjoy the peace today and tomorrow before I hit the road on Monday for some LMA meetings and to spend some time in the Chicago office learning the new systems, meeting new people, and finding my purpose moving forward.

Welcome to my new normal. I don’t have a 100% grasp on what that is right now, and that’s okay too. Because I know that will change soon enough.

M(erger) – We made it!

Well, day one is a wrap. The email worked. We had a nice welcome breakfast across the firm. Talked a little strategy. And got back to work.

Marty’s letters are ready to merge, print, and mail. Michael Newman was interviewed this morning by Business Insurance on a new California law. He wins the prize for the first legacy partner to be quoted in the press.

It was a good day.

And we got some new toys.


M(erger) – minus 1 day: Ready or … we’re ready!

Well, the time is here. It is now. Today is it … well, actually tomorrow. But the switch is being flicked sometime between when I hit send on this post later today, and midnight (CT). As a whole, the mood in the firm and amongst those I’ve spoken with is great. It’s exciting. New things are coming. Sure, new is scary for some … but it’s still exciting, and everyone is focusing on looking forward, and not holding on to the past. The best part of doing this is that we’re not doing it alone. We’re all going into it together.

I will admit, I am a bit teary-eyed and nostalgic. I have worked at Barger & Wolen longer than I have ever worked anywhere else before now: seven years; which is a gazillion in legal marketing years. I will be tossing collateral out this week, and dumping old files. I will take those proposals off the shelf and archive them for future reference, including the ones I had just received to redo the website (we were in the midst of finalizing the design contracts and action plan when the preliminary meetings on whether or not to begin the merger conversation began).

So while I am excited for some of the new things that will hit my desk tomorrow, I am going to be gentle on myself as I start to let some of the other things go.

Here’s what’s on tap for today:

  • Staying a bit late to drop the something-somethings off on everyone’s desk.
  • Checking those email addresses. Of course, mine is wrong (better mine then an attorney).
  • Looks like it’s cake day. Happy birthday all you September people.
  • I am stopping everything right now and filling out my new payroll info. Getting paid is a priority.
  • Oh, crap. How’d that fall through the cracks??
  • Party at 4:00 to honor our past and celebrate our future.
  • Get Marty his letters for signature and mailing (Update: Yeah. Didn’t happen. Tomorrow is another day).

Tip: Commemorate the past, but embrace the future.

M(erger) – Minus 2 Days: Everything will be all right

Well, no turning back now. The switch will be flipped Wednesday morning, ready or not. I suppose we’re ready enough.

When you think about how quickly these mergers take place — from announcement to going live — 100% integration is not possible on day one. We have spent the past couple months prioritizing what needed to get done: pre-announcement; by October 1; from October 1 to October 31 (to produce the first set of bills); as well as what can/do we have to hold off on until a later date.

Some of the “delays” (I use that word very lightly) have to do with timing — there are only so many hours in a day, and days in a month — and some have to do with system upgrades that have to occur (which is why my e-mail address will have a little something extra added); some have to do with when contracts expire; and some have to do with cultural integrations: we can only throw so much at these people at once.

So anyone from Barger or Hinshaw reading this: Take it easy on yourselves. Seeing what you have done these past couple months, you have done all that you can to prepare, anticipate needs, and check items off those long check lists.

It will be okay. As long as the e-mails go through, and the phones are answered, we’re all good.

Now that everything that can be done is done, I am back to yoga at lunch. I’ve been skipping it and missing it. Have I mentioned that I am ready to get my normal back?

Here’s what’s on tap for today:

  • Woo hoo. I have letterhead and envelopes. Time to prep Marty’s first mailing.
  • Tackle a couple items in my employee paperwork pile.
  • Get in my final Barger expense reimbursement for month end.
  • Finalize the Barger history for the website.
  • Get that last practice group description in for the website.
  • Yup. Still getting bios back. But we’ve had great compliance.

Tip: Nothing is ever 100% perfect behind the scenes for any major event (be it a client CLE, a conference, an office move, or a merger). As long as the client service and experience are spot on (the bills are correct, emails go through), anything we have to do to make it work is what we have to do to make it work. So take a deep breath. Everything will be all right in the end.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


M(erger) – minus 5 days: It’s a cultural marriage.

As a “culinary Jew” (my family shows up for the food), I was out of the office yesterday so I could join my extended family for lunch. They came from synagogue. We came from the Westside.

This side of my family are my mom’s paternal relatives. These are my second cousins. Growing up we got together twice a year as a clan: Rosh Hashanah and Chanukkah, along with funerals, and selected bar mitvah’s and weddings (depending on how close our parents were as first cousins).

Growing up, it seemed to me that there were a hundred or more of us at these family parties. What I remember most is the warmth and comfort I found there, and, of course, the food. My grandmother’s kugle, Aunt Sophie’s mendel bread (which I do have the recipe somewhere in my files). There was security in those family traditions.

As I sat around a table with some of my second cousins yesterday, we lamented the passing of one of our parents’ cousins, and how a couple others did not come due to personal excuses (not reasons, excuses, yeah, we gossiped). I couldn’t help but think about how special those years were when my grandparents generation was still alive, especially in light of how my mother’s generation is aging and passing away.

As we were leaving, my cousin thanked me for taking off work to be with them. Of course. I don’t know how long this magic will last, and I want to capture as much of it as I can.

So where am I going here?

Last week, sitting in the conference room going over the new benefits and paperwork, we began by introducing ourselves and how long we have been with the firm. With my seven years as marketing director, I was one of the newbies. And this is across all departments, from the attorneys, to the office service representatives. I have worked in enough law firms and corporations to know that, especially in today’s business climate, this is very unique. This is a part of our culture. It is a culture that began with Mr. Barger, and continues today.

Simply because our signage, business cards, and log-ins will change next Wednesday, it doesn’t mean we won’t be bringing aspects of our culture with us, because this is a part of who we, as a firm, are.

Like any marriage, or a move, now is a great time to let go of some things that didn’t work, embrace new ideas and ways of doing things, and learn to blend together things from each firm that are great. This goes for both firms, as well as individual departments, and people.

So what’s on tap today:

  • Firm history written and sent to a couple partners for input and feedback.
  • Redirect of website ready to happen.
  • Shipping a little something-something out to the offices for Wednesday morning.
  • Getting the blogs ready for the transition (logo, adding Hinshaw to the authors, etc).
  • Finishing off a couple practice group descriptions for the new website.
  • Pulled all the current bios off the website and archived them because, yes, someone will ask next Wednesday, “Can I see my old bio?”
  • Yes. I am still herding bios, but making progress.

Tip: Where there is magic, don’t let that go. Identify it. Embrace it. Share it.

M(erger) – minus 7 days: Yikes! That went by fast.

7Wow. Only seven more days until we go live. In seven days I’ll have a new e-mail, new business cards, a new company. I’ll have to update my online professional life, fill out lots of new paperwork, and traverse a new way of doing my day-to-day activities.

I’m excited. However, letting go of anything is difficult even for us risk and change-comfortable GenXers.

The marketing department is always in a great position to help those who might not be as comfortable with all the changes. And there are a lot. And the longer you are with a company the harder it is to let anything go.

This truly is a time to drop the rock of old ideas. There is no reason to carry them around moving forward.

So what’s on tap for today:

  • Have to pull the Jew card for Rosh Hashanah. Happy New Year.
  • Took another assessment tool for LMA. In addition to long walks in the rain, I enjoy developing meaningful relationships, fixing stuff that’s broken, a desire to know more, and am intrigued with what makes you unique.
  • Marty’s project is on press. He’s happy.
  • Wow. That’s a stack of paperwork.
  • Correct my name in the new system.
  • Track down those last few bios I haven’t received back.
  • Staff, partner and associate meetings on the new benefits. As a person who likes to know the rules, I love meetings like this.

M(erger) – minus 9 days: Catching up on my e-mails from Friday

Sorry for no post on Friday. I was fully engaged in the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute where our focus was on what we learned, and how we were going to pass it on.

There were four domains that we explored during the course of the six-month program: Who You Are; What You Do; What You Inspire; What You Enable.

In our last session we had to present a leadership case study; write about someone who inspired us; present two examples of what we were going to take away; prepare our eulogy; and how we planned to pass it on. Yeah, no shortage of homework this time around.

Who inspired me? Steve Barrett. My former boss and mentor. He has always shown me through action and deed that he has the courage to do the right thing, even when it is a risk to him personally.

What did I take away? Really looking at how I can make conversations a safe place for dialog and sharing; and, to become more intentional in cultivating meaningful relationships.

What did my eulogy unveil: I have some goals for my career, and a pathway in front of me.

How do I plan to pass it on? In the short run, it is about integrating my partners and attorneys into the Hinshaw culture. Long term? I haven’t written that out yet.

I need to publicly thank Henry Givray and Dale West for leading such an incredible class and experience. I have made 17 new friends, found a new mentor, and have begun a new journey in my career and life. And, I cannot thank LMA enough for investing in me to attend the Institute.

So, what’s on tap for today:

  • New practice area assignments are done.
  • Preparing for the website redirect.
  • Speaking of the blogs … lots of links to redirect.
  • New logo with tagline is done. Sent over to upload on the blogs for 10/1.
  • Getting all the bios and service areas back. Following up on those who haven’t turned them in yet.

M(erger) – Minus 13 Days: Intuitive v. Intentional

imageThe Sports Dude and I are sitting on a plane right now headed to Chicago. I have had the privilege for the past six months of attending and participating in The SmithBucklin Leadership Institute, which is culminating this weekend, and we get to bring our +1.

If it wasn’t for the merger, and all the work that took place behind the scenes prior to the merger being announced, I would have written on my experience in the Institute more.

In short, I don’t think I could have provided the assistance to my partners without the lessons and skills I have learned. I have specifically employed new techniques, avoided some pitfalls, and smoothed over some ruffled feathers, all because of my new leadership skills.

As I finish up my final homework assignments, and prepare my final presentations, I am struck most by how prior to the Institute I did a lot of these things, and I knew a lot of these things, but it was instinctive, or by intuition. I had never been taught, or learned it. I picked it up along the way through good examples and incredible mentors, specifically Frank Moon and Steve Barrett; incredible friends and colleagues, like Catherine Alman MacDonagh; and, to be completely candid, some really shitty situations and interactions with some really crappy human beings.

What I am walking away with most from my experience these past six months is a heightened awareness of who I am as a leader, and what that means and looks like within the legal industry, my professional association, my job, with my team, my HOA, Girl Scouts, my family, and the list can go on and on.

If I could sum it all up: I have become more intentional, and less dependent on my intuition and instincts.

So what’s on tap for today? Continue reading

M(erger) – Minus 14 Days: Acceptance is the key

I am in complete acceptance that my waking life is one long continuum right now from the moment my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. until the moment I crawl into bed at night.

Work. Kids. LMA. Family. Leadership Institute. HOA. Spiritual life. Girl Scouts. All of these things make up my waking hours, yet none of them can be compartmentalized. Right now, all of these areas are fully active, engaging, and demanding of my time. I have to make choices not only daily in regards to my priorities, but sometimes hourly, as to who and what gets my attention.

Some people speak of this “work/life” balance. I am one who does not believe it exists. Something has to give. Somewhere. It just does.

Some days it’s work. Some days it’s my spiritual program. Sadly, some days it’s family (but I try to do that in the least impacting, to them, way). But I am in acceptance that I cannot do it all. That is how I maintain my sanity.

Thank goodness for technology. I can take a call anywhere. I can upload a document to read, or log onto my computer from my iPad, from anywhere. I can work on a plane. At a Girl Scout meeting. The coolest thing ever has to be mobile check deposit. LIFE saver. And the DVR. Woo hoo. All my favorite shows will be there, waiting for me.

I know that the next couple weeks will involve a lot of craziness, and not enough sleep and yoga. But this too shall pass, and somewhere in December it will get really quiet as the attorneys are dealing with year-end, the holidays, and vacations. Seriously. Who wants to do business development in mid-December?

I am already looking forward to the kids being out of school, and Girl Scouts on hiatus. The HOA pipe crisis will be done next week (fingers crossed). And the Sports Dude, kids and I are planning a mini-vacation between Christmas and New Years to regroup as a family.

So, what’s on tap for today?

  • OMG. It’s budget season, too. Oh, this will be fun.
  • Pulling list of open matters for a certain client that is uber-big, and we all worked on that RFP series, so we can transfer the files appropriately to the new firm name.
  • Have I mentioned we’re working on the bios?

Tip: Eat right. Get enough sleep. Keep some good protein bars and snacks in your desk.