Virtual Mentor: Noah Frank

Posted authored by Lindsey L. Purdy, interviewing Noah Frank

Frank_Headshot (1)Professional Experience

Q: What is your full name?

A: Noah A. Frank

Q: What is your title?

A: Attorney

Q: What do you consider to be your area of practice?

A: Employment Law (management-side).  I focus on providing strategic advice to protect businesses from harmful litigation, as well as issues related to the alphabet of employment laws (e.g., Title VII, ADEA, ADA, FMLA, FLSA, and state and local EEO and mandated leave laws).

Q: How did you come to practice in this area?

A: I wanted to practice something that I found interesting and rewarding.  Employment law aligned closely with the experiences I enjoyed in my prior work and extracurricular activities, combining a unique blend of business advising and litigation. I chose to pursue a masters in human resources and industrial relations at the same time as my J.D., which has been helpful.

Q: Are you affiliated with a firm, the government, a corporation, or are you a solo practitioner?

A: I am an attorney at SmithAmundsen, LLC in Chicago.

Q: Briefly describe your professional history.

A: I began in 2008 at Schiff & Hulbert practicing employment, labor, and workers’ compensation defense on behalf of management.  In 2011, I moved to Bryce, Downey & Lenkov, and in 2013 to SmithAmundsen where I am currently a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment, and Data Privacy, Security & Litigation Practice Groups, and Medical Cannabis Counsel Team.

Q: For younger attorneys climbing the legal ladder, what advice would you offer?

A: It sounds trite, but do what you love.  Many attorneys get burned out because they have not found the niche practice that they enjoy or work that is meaningful.  When you find what you enjoy, the research and “nerdy nuances” will be fun, and you will enjoy learning about and discussing your craft throughout your long career.

Q: How have you seen your area of practice evolve with the expansion of technology?

A: Absolutely.  Technology has a huge impact on employment law – when, where, how, and why employees are working.  In terms of performing my work, technology has been a positive and a negative.  On one hand, I am constantly “on” and aware of any and all work-related emergencies, should they arise.  But, I also have an increased flexibility to attend to personal matters, and complete less urgent tasks “after hours” – which is a real benefit to spending quality time with the family.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for junior attorneys who are learning to work with and manage staff?

A: Congratulations!  Other than poor work product, this is an area that negatively affects junior associates in a way they do not recognize.  You might bill hours and bring in revenue to the firm, but you’re still an employee, so take the golden rule to heart. Learn from more experienced staff (anyone, attorney or staff, who has been with the firm for 15 years did not get there by accident).  Understand what functions the administrative  staff perform (and how) so that you are not helpless in someone’s absence, and also so that you have realistic expectations of how long it should take someone working for 4 other attorneys’ (some more senior than you) work to accomplish the task(s) assigned.  Finally, you will quickly realize that when you treat staff with dignity and respect you will gain valuable allies in the business of law – colleagues who go out of their way to help you be successful.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for junior attorneys who are working with partners and more senior attorneys?

A: It is expected of you to be knowledgeable in all client-related matters.  So, when being assigned a task from a partner, listen, then ask questions and know what the final work product should be (there’s a big difference in a research memo vs. an email laying out your primary sources/findings with a draft email to the client that is ready-to-go).  This  means asking a lot of questions if you have to.  And if you’re embarrassed, then first ask another associate or partner who has worked with the assigning partner, then go back up the assigning partner.  You won’t look silly for asking questions, and you’ll get a nod of approval for touching base with a partner or another associate perceived as  a leader in that topic.  Trouble arises when you provide the wrong answers, or unusable work product.

Q: Would you recommend getting involved in bar organizations? Do you feel they have benefited you? 

A: Yes.  Bar Associations need members who are willing to take on leadership roles and accomplish their objectives (not merely serving as passive members).  This provides newer attorneys with a lot of opportunity to expand their network, build their resume, and make a name for themselves.  You do not have to be a committee chair to accomplish a lot (but that does not hurt either).

Q: For junior attorneys who are in private practice, what tips do you have for them to build their practice? 

A: Malcom Gladwell’s rule is that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is required to become world class in any field. So, practice, practice, practice, and do the math.

Q: What tips do you have for junior attorneys regarding time management?

A: Prioritize what needs to get done, set a schedule, and work hard at work.  Your reward for ignoring distractions (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and accomplishing what you need to during the work day, is seeing these people after work.

Q: What tips do you have for junior attorneys on how to network?

A: The best way to make connections is to do a favor for someone else.  Then, know what you’re seeking when they ask how they can help you.  Think you’re too junior to do someone a favor?  Offer to co-author an article (you should have some topics ready to go – and make sure you draft it timely).

Q: What tips do you have for junior attorneys to become respected in the Chicago legal community?

A: It’s a small, small community.  Treat the courts, colleagues, and other counsel with respect, and know that your conduct outside the legal community resonates within.

Q: What tips do you have for junior attorneys who appear routinely in court?

A: Never say “I’m just covering the case, I don’t know what is going on” – you might as well have skipped the appearance.  Know enough about the case to inform the court and ensure a proper order is entered.

Balancing the Personal with the Professional

Q: How do you make time for yourself in amongst your professional obligations?

A: I work hard, and invest in myself.  But, there are still only so many hours in a day – so I try to be more deeply involved in a few organizations, and not a social butterfly in many.

Q: Do you have tips for junior attorneys on how to make time for themselves as they climb the legal ladder?

A: Set your priorities, whether it is seeing your family, going to the gym, reading for pleasure, or watching an hour of TV.  Set aside the time as a discipline.  There will be more hours to bill later.

Q: What activities/hobbies do you do in your spare time?

A: I am a father of two awesome little boys and husband to an amazing wife.  Spare time is family time.

Q: How do you make time for your family/children?

A: Scott Adams fans will understand the concept of, but not strict adherence to, “OA5”.  My reward for being on time (no matter how early that is), working hard, and getting the job done is going home in time for baths, stories, and bedtime.  After that, sometimes it’s back to work (thanks to technology, above).  And, sometimes, I make the hard decision to miss a weeknight to free up the weekend.

Q: For junior attorneys with families, how would you recommend they make time for family?

A: Figure out your balance.  Learn to say “no” and mean it.

Service Outside of Practice

Q: Do you sit on any boards of any bar organizations or charities?

A: Yes.

Q: How did you determine you had a passion to serve in these areas?

A: It felt right when I joined.

Q: What would you recommend junior attorneys do who may have an interest in serving their community? How can we get involved?

A: Just say “yes” and mean it.  Again, we’re talking about an organization that is seeking your resources – time and money.  When you commit to these organizations, you are committing to forego free time, provide your valuable insight, and give or get a financial contribution.  That said, these are valuable experiences that are investments in your own brand — future clients (some), future referral sources (e.g., networking), accomplishments that you can discuss YOUR value-add, and not just your limited work on a partner’s case.  So, go to meetings, lend your opinion, participate actively, dedicate some time, and make yourself available.

Final Thoughts

Q: Do you have anything further you wish to add?

A: Ready, set … Go!

About the Author:

Purdy_178pxSqLindsey L. Purdy is an associate attorney and trial lawyer at the Collins Law Firm, P.C., where she concentrates her practice on Bet-the-Company and other complex commercial litigation. Lindsey is currently the Assistant Editor of YLS Journal and Head Editor of the CBA’s @theBar Blog. Click here for Lindsey’s full bio.


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