Monday, July 16, 2012

Networking & Professional Responsibilities

After this evening, I think I'll be spending the rest of my week at home. Just not feeling human interaction right now. Here's why:

Some people have totally gotten confused on the definition and basics of networking. If you're in the entertainment business, particularly if you work with actors & think you're entitled to send me e-mail correspondence I never asked for to an address that's not publicly listed for me you'd better be paying extra special attention.

Networking IS:

* Reaching out to people you think are interesting or awesome for whatever reason; I'm not going to tell you HOW to do it, you just do it
* Showing an interest in that person's life, interests, passions, etc. as they relate to your purpose for talking to him/her
* Learning what you can from this person; don't assume only the pros have knowledge since the newbies to a field also have their finger on the pulse of new & awesome that you might not--those people may also have a unique life experience or story
* Thinking of that person for things if something comes up that might be of interest to them
* Giving someone newer to your field or experience your take over a coffee break or lunch; this is what we call in the business world an "informational interview" since you're getting information that could be practical to you or your experience in a given occupation

Networking is NOT:

* Charging people $ for the privilege of listening to you or giving career advice (especially if you solicited someone through a private e-mail & did not PERSONALLY get invited to send anything or start communicating with the person)
* Communicating with someone in a manner they didn't approve of; note that I'm not speaking of a LinkedIn connection invite or using a Craig's List ad where the person said they'd be interested in talking to people from your profession--I'm referring to using an e-mail you got through a third party with no prior communication to its owner & who has NOTHING to do with the owner; personal assistants are fine but a random business is NOT
* Being an asshole when someone doesn't want to pay $ to talk to you after you've made an unsolicited communication

This is called being a huckster, a douchebag, an asshole, whatever name you want to use. Point is, those acts are a serious violation of business etiquette. As I mentioned before, I get real pissed about business etiquette violations & Jenn Lederer made that mistake before so I'm far nastier about it now.

Encountered the second idiot to forget who she was talking to. This time it was Kerry Donelli of the Donelli Acting Studios. Here's their website.

Their studio recently started sending me unsolicited communications via newsletter. I have no clue how they got my information or who gave it out. Maybe I should thank whoever gave out my private e-mail to these people since now I don't have to worry about them working with my film company & irritating my colleagues. Plus, if they're that dense & clueless then they aren't first class caliber or worth any sane person's time.

When I get a spare moment, I write an e-mail explaining to the person who sent it that A) I happen to do other things in this business besides acting (like being a fucking ATTORNEY & having ownership in a FILM COMPANY), B) she's sending this to a private e-mail address (hello, I have enough shit to deal with without being bothered with all this), C) if there's an interest in networking, I'll consider it (since you should at least investigate if there could be mutual benefit for whoever contacts you in this industry regardless of how communication came about) & D) with their sending information about all these agents & managers, it may not even be relevant to me since I'm not so sure a person in my shoes would even derive benefit from representation (you know, already being a lawyer, having a film company & having contacts could very well make it undesirable for any potential representative not to mention I do have my own will & won't be changing who I am for anyone else).

I also suggested this person look me up online & make her assessments that way (since I grovel to no one & you accept me as I am; you can make your own judgments on my awesomeness or lack thereof since I'm not a used car salesman or someone who feels it's necessary to justify who I am or what I've done). As you can probably tell, I do write longer messages since when I write you I put in some fucking time, thought & effort. It's part of who I am & if you don't like it, I honestly conclude that you're uneducated as well as lazy.

Here's what she writes in response:

I can not read all this. Feel free to call me if you need. Thanks for your understanding.

She could have read it at her leisure & responded at a better time for her. That would have been fine. We all have busy schedules & I usually give folks about a week to respond to my correspondence before getting annoyed.

As a rule, I don't like calling people unless I've had some interaction with them or a lot of time has passed. I also don't like random folk I may not want to deal with at all having my personal phone numbers or bugging me on things. Plus, how do I know she wouldn't have just given that out to others since she somehow got my private e-mail?

I write this in response since it's the simplest statement of all & she obviously has an aversion to how educated people speak:

I'll sum it up as thus: this is UNSOLICITED contact. You can either A choose to network w/me & take a personal interest or B) take me off your list. Simple as that.

I feel it's rude of her to not have bothered reading what I actually wrote & that she's engaging in some serious disrespect. I've had civil discourse & polite conversations with people who are a trillion times busier than she could claim. If she thinks she's busier than the average attorney, especially one who goes to court regularly, she's seriously deluded. I've spoken to various people up & down the food chain of this business, some of whom are 24/7 busy and gotten polite, civil discourse from them via e-mail and/or phone.

So, I'm not about to tolerate this kind of bullshit from some total bitch whose company keeps posting ads for illegal internships on Craig's List.

I can call her a "bitch" because of this response. If you don't think it's bitchy, tell me how it isn't & wouldn't rub you the wrong way:

You want me to WORK WITH YOU after you viciously attack me? lol

you do realize you can unsubscribe at the bottom of the email, yes? welcome
to 2001.

I didn't read this until the next day, though she wrote it seconds after I wrote my response. AND she'd sent out another newsletter to that e-mail, having ignored what I already requested about taking my damn e-mail address off there (I've since removed mine from that list & got to comment on Kerry's bitchiness in their form asking why I wanted to be removed).

Before blocking the e-mail address & ceasing this BS, I wrote this in response:

And YOU choose to disrespect my time & effort in writing when I DO happen to be in fields that could help & benefit you (I'm ALSO an entertainment attorney as well as an exec in an entertainment company, thanks). Guess who handles actor submissions & paperwork for that company?

Guess who's got a LOT of contacts with lawyers in numerous areas & behind the scenes folk? Guess who will be warning these contacts not to deal with disrespectful types who will only cause them problems? I'll let you figure out the repercussions on your own.

The lesson here is to do a Google search or even an IMDB search before you shoot off your mouth to others who didn't ask you to contact them. I'd already heard of this company before & researched them. I didn't recall either of the principles doing anything great & exciting and they certainly never worked with me or mine. For being writers & filmmakers, this Kerry has some pretty pathetic business savvy to go pissing off an entertainment law attorney. Especially one who's got the contacts I have.

Renaissance people have uncommon, unusual careers; you can't afford to make assumptions about them or be nasty to them. They can fuck you up in serious ways. If you think all people doing acting work are peons, you're dead wrong & if you're nasty to me it's going to cost you big time. My rage and blackballing is as hard core as that of any insider or behind the scenes person. I'll also tell my contacts if your name comes up since why should they have to suffer your bullshit; I'd want them to do that for me.

Incidents like this show me your true colors & most definitely paint a picture of stupidity, laziness, lack of innovation, disrespect, just all sorts of bad things you don't want attorneys or your industry peers thinking about YOU. Particularly if you care about advancing anywhere or doing something great.

How someone uses my info is their business but as a business owner & as a lawyer, it's my responsibility not to endorse or stand for the bullshit from someone else in this business.

Yes, doing what I do means you've got responsibilities. One of them is warning others about scumbags & making sure your contacts (and in some cases, simply innocent parties) aren't being taken by some asshole. Another is alerting people to the bullshit if you personally experienced it or get it on good authority that someone's bad news. The responsibilities as a film executive & as a lawyer are not identical but both are significant and important, at least in my book.

One responsibility I take seriously as an attorney is speaking out against society's bullshit, which is why I felt compelled to write about my childfree experiences. I felt that problem deserved acknowledgment & non-attorneys should know that even an attorney (whom doctors tend to show some modicum of respect & professional courtesy towards, maybe as part of an unofficial code of assholes or something?) went through it. Attorneys are supposed to protect the little guy & make sure private enterprise, culture and any other outside force isn't stomping on their legal rights.

Sounds like superhero stuff, huh? Well, I have been called "the avenger."

Plus, despite all the stuff you hear about the law school scam, I've observed and seen that attorneys do have some duties and responsibilities to society at large. Why would we have an ethical code if we didn't? You do also get treated differently if you're a lawyer & I feel in some situations my mentioning it does affect the kind of regard or treatment I get from people. Usually, it comes up in casual conversation or if someone's screwing me over/gives me a sense that my voice means shit to them. Perhaps I also give off some sort of vibe.

Anyhow, one responsibility I feel I have as a volunteer lawyer for Monday Night Law is to give the client some sort of self-efficacy. Since I can't take on full time responsibility for anyone coming in & I can't give out names of attorneys I may know who work in a particular area, I feel anyone I deal with should leave feeling like I did give a shit about their issue and tried to help. To me, you should try to help & at least ask questions to get a sense of where the client has been, what the client wants and if you can make that session useful to the client.

I came in today to get paired up with someone I simply couldn't work with. Apparently, the person was newer than me & I came in during the middle of a client session.

Here's what happened:

1. No real friendliness or sense of trying to be nice w/this person toward me. That already puts you in the hole with me.

2. I get no idea of what's going on or what's been said since, again I'm in the middle of all this.

3. The person I'm working with makes ZERO effort to do anything other than say "You need a lawyer" and give out information the person already has. I probe further & ask about the things the client is saying like about paperwork the person has or proof of what we're hearing there.

I also attempt to give this client some attempt at self-efficacy by asking if she'd talked to anyone at the office for the self-represented since they're supposed to help you with procedural matters & making suggestions to get this evidence for an upcoming proceeding.

4. The person tries telling this client that all law school legal clinics are non-existent for help at this point since none operate in the summer. Having worked in one myself during the summer, I outright refute this in the client's presence.

The person argued with me & I said "That's that ONE clinic (listed on a piece of paper the client had already gotten & showed to us). You can't say that's true for ALL of them." I said to talk to the people at other clinics that handle such matters & see what they say. I also said they might have resources to suggest even if they can't help. The other counseling lawyer also made it sound like the clinics were second rate, which I didn't particularly like.

We never know about things in life if we don't make any effort.

5. I felt like this person was doing ZERO counseling, just handing out info & saying "you need a lawyer." I even said "There are a lot of people who need lawyers & sadly they don't always get them. That's the reality of our legal system." when I got shit over trying to suggest some practical self-help measures like getting evidence & having your witnesses in order. Any attorney working with you on a trial would ask you to do this already & if someone does that, it hurts nothing. You'll either make the attorney's job easier or you'll be able to help yourself if you get caught in a situation where you need a lawyer & can't get one.

I did tell the client she did the right thing in coming to us when she did & not when the proceeding was next week or something since that would help her in getting a lawyer.

6. After the client leaves, this person proceeds to get in my face over the statement on legal clinics. I pointed out that they do have work study students working there in the summer, at least in mine & that she couldn't make a general statement like that based on ONE school clinic's policies. After more words are exchanged, seeing we're at an impasse, I'm low on water & not wanting to be near this person at all, I get up trying to get more water after finishing my last little bit.

Then I decided to take that time to go to the bathroom & in case I want to leave, grab all my things (which I was able to do somewhat inconspicuously since that consisted of my purse, which I sure as hell wouldn't leave unattended, and a small bag I'd carried something I mailed at the post office in).

I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle the situation. Did I want to leave? If I left, how would I do it? Would I just slip away? Would I sign out & make up an excuse to go? Would I talk to the organizers & say I can't work with this person the whole evening?

Took me some time to contemplate this. Part of me leaving a conflict situation is so I don't resort to violence, yelling or whatever else I may feel like doing that wouldn't be appropriate for a particular setting. I did think "I'm not putting up with this bullshit." I was also annoyed I had no one I could talk to about the situation at the moment to advise me on what to do.

Ultimately, I decided to return since I felt it wouldn't be fair to the organizers if I bailed out without saying anything and that it wouldn't be fair to the clients coming in. Plus, I'm probably one of the few attorneys who's personally lived some things & personally knows folks who've gone through some of the issues I've seen. Why should I let some stereotypical attorney asshole chase me out & perpetuate negativity to the clients?

I though to myself about how I do have a distinct style & that someone might bother listening to me since I'm not bitchy to folk and try to make sure I offer something even if it's just an apology because I can't provide what they need. I know how I'd want my family, friends & acquaintances to be treated if they met with a lawyer so I try to give that treatment to others.

Thankfully, the problem sorted itself out. This dreadful person got another partner, I told the organizers what happened (after they told me they presumed it wasn't an issue that this person was working with someone else & I confirmed it) & I got someone else to work with (apparently, that person also had personality issues w/their original partner). That went slightly better though I didn't appreciate the attitude I got over not having precisely XYZ experience in THIS particular area of law in THIS particular state.

I think that's a determination for the program organizers to make, don't you? There's a little thing called "general knowledge of procedure" that's certainly better than knowing zero about something.

Plus, in a prior session when I mentioned what I did & that I felt incompetent in doing sessions, my partner said that "nobody knows everything" and not to worry about that.

Recently, I was asked if I want to do this program again. I said "maybe" but now I wonder. Perhaps I should start counseling on my own since maybe I have a better manner & might be able to sound semi-competent or at least direct someone to the right resources.

When I relayed this tale to my husband & my mother, they agreed with my actions. My husband in particular said if he'd been this client he would have lashed out at this attorney stereotype for not being any help. Some clients, though, don't have that wherewithal or the strength to speak up. Those people need self-efficacy & empowerment more than anyone. They sure as hell don't deserve to be patronized & given zero counseling by an attorney who's supposed to be COUNSELING them! You can give information but unless you're handing out something new to them, you're not being helpful & you are wasting the client's time. I personally feel you need both if you're going to counsel legal clients; that's just my feeling.

I'd hope there are some attorneys who agree with me on this.

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