Once again, the “silly season” is upon us. Every four years, battle lines are drawn and many employees take sides, touting their preferred candidate’s merits over what they regard as the utterly despicable nature of the other candidate. Fortunately for employers (and everyone else who values their sanity) this should be over in about a month. I hesitate only because I lived in Florida during the 2000 election, and if you think things are contentious now – pray the current election cycle doesn’t go into overtime.
It’s only natural for employees to discuss politics at work. But doing so can be disruptive, and if a political discussion gets out of hand, it can lead to confrontations, allegations of assault, harassment, discrimination or retaliation. Generally, private employers may limit and even prohibit political expression in the workplace, such as discussing candidates or issues, wearing or displaying political signs and paraphernalia. What about free speech, you ask? The First Amendment does not apply to private employers – only the government. Still, there are limits. For one thing, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows political discussions directly connected to the terms and conditions of employment. Second, some states (such as Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington) have laws that prohibit discrimination against employees based on their political affiliation, or from unduly influencing an employee’s vote through intimidation.
Prudent employers should adopt and implement policies advising their employees of what will and will not be tolerated in the workplace during election season. If an employer wants to keep politics separate and apart from the workplace, this is perfectly appropriate – provided of course, that the employer complies with the exclusions outlined by the NLRA, which may be required under state or local law.
Election Day Leave
Another reminder during election season is that most states permit employees to take leave during the workday so they can cast their ballots. The specific laws can vary significantly by state. For instance, some states – but not all – allow voting leave only where the employee would not otherwise have sufficient time to vote before or after their scheduled shift. The majority of states require employees to provide advance notice of voting leave, and also give employers the discretion to determine the specific times during which the employee may be absent from work to vote. With few exceptions, voting leave laws typically allow an employee to be away from work for up to two or three hours during the workday to vote. Similarly, with few exceptions, most states require the employer to pay the employee for the time spent on voting leave. Further, a few states also allow employees to take time off not only to vote, but to serve as election officials.
Other Employer Considerations
Employers seeking to preserve a calm workplace in this silly season – particularly one as heated as this year’s – should try to stay above the fray and consider these strategies:
- Adopting a neutral stance about the elections while focusing on the business at hand.
- Review, and if necessary, revise existing policies regarding political expressions at work.
- Remind employees of the policies on voting and political expression.
- Check the requirements of state and local laws regarding elections, and particularly anti-discrimination and voting leave laws, to ensure compliance.
- Educate your front-line supervisors and human resources personnel (especially those tasked with handling leave requests) about the company’s policies and the requirements of state and local laws.
© 2016 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP
On Oct. 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued an unclassified cable on the Continuing Resolution signed into law on Sept. 29, 2016 that extends several important immigration programs, including the Conrad State 30 Program, the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program (SR visa), and the EB-5 Regional Center program. The House and Senate passed the Continuing Resolution on Sept. 28, 2016, and the president signed the bill into law on Sept. 29, 2016 (H.R.5325; P.L. 114-223).
The DOS cable explains that the EB-5 Regional Center program (immigrant visa categories R51 and I51) now is set to expire on Dec. 9, 2016. The DOS has clarified that all EB-5 immigrant visas based upon investments made in regional center projects must be issued by close of business Dec. 9, 2016; the expiration date also applies to dependent spouses and children. The DOS has instructed all visa issuing posts to hold in abeyance any pending R51 and I51 immigrant visa applications beginning on Dec. 10, 2016, if there is no extension of the EB-5 Regional Center program on or before that date. The cable also clarifies that immigrant visas for investors not investing through a regional center (T51 and C51), i.e., the “direct” or “non-regional center” program, can continue to be issued as that program remains valid beyond Dec. 9, 2016.
In addition, the DOS cable confirms that extension of the EB-5 Regional Center program through Dec. 9, 2016 will allow priority dates to immediately become “current” for October for all countries except mainland China. The “current” priority date for China-mainland born I5 and R5 applicants is Feb. 22, 2014. Accordingly, China mainland-born investors with an I-526 Petition filed after Feb. 22, 2014, do not have immigrant visas immediately available to them and they must wait until the priority dates in the Visa Bulletin advance further.
The cable further discussed the expiration of the Conrad State 30 Program, which also will expire on Dec. 9, 2016. The Conrad 30 program allows medical doctors on J-1 visas to apply for a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement under INA §212(e) upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. The cable clarifies that applicants who entered or were granted J-1 status on or before Dec. 8, 2016, may still apply for a Conrad State 30 waiver.
Finally, DOS stated in the cable that authorization for the SR visa, which is for professional and non-professional workers within religious vocation or occupation categories other than the vocation of a minister, will expire on Dec. 9, 2016. This expiration relates to immigrant visa recipients and their accompanying spouses and children only, and does not affect any nonimmigrant categories such as R-1 visas. Individuals seeking SR visa status are required to have applied for such status and be admitted into the United States prior to Dec. 9, 2016. DOS has instructed visa issuing posts that the validity of any SR visa issued, therefore, must be limited to Dec. 8, 2016, to coincide with the expiration of this classification. Posts that have issued SR visas in recent months should consider informing the recipients that they must travel by Dec. 8, 2016. Moreover, Posts that issue SR visas in December should consider informing the individual of the expiration date and necessity of traveling before the expiration date. If the visa holder is not admitted into the United States before the program expires, replacement visas cannot be issued. Beginning Dec. 9, 2016, posts are advised by the DOS to hold in abeyance any pending SR application.
The cable also explains that the DOS Visa Office (VO) will continue to provide guidance as the appropriations process continues. In December, following the federal elections, Congress is expected to reconvene for a “lame duck” session. At that time, Congress will once again consider the extension of these vital visa programs.
As millennials continue to negotiate workplace perks, such as flexible hours, gourmet cafeterias, gym memberships, and on-demand laundry services, employers may be confronted with employees who seek to bring pets to work for convenience, companionship, or to promote creativity and calmness. Beyond providing reasonable accommodations (absent showing an undue hardship) for disabled employees with services animals, here are some considerations for employers regarding voluntary pet policies.
Pros and Cons
Recent studies and articles advocate for pet-friendly workplaces, citing a number of benefits to companies and workers. Benefits include increased worker morale, co-worker bonding, attracting and retaining talent, and lower stress coupled with higher productivity.
On the other hand, permitting pets in the workplace presents a number of issues. For example, according to a leading asthma and allergy organization, as many as three in ten people suffer from pet allergies, meaning someone at work is likely allergic to Fido or Fifi. A significant number of people also have pet phobias, for example, resulting from a traumatic dog bite incident. Other concerns may include workplace disruption due to misbehaved animals, mess, and time-wasting.
Five Tips for Effective Pet Policies
If the Pros outweigh the Cons, the next question is: “[w]hat should I put in a pet policy?” Here are five things to consider when preparing a pet-policy:
Ask Around: Offer employees an opportunity to provide feedback before implementing a pet-policy. Doing this allows the company time to confirm employee interest in the idea and address any concerns or issues before employees bring pets to work.
Set a Schedule: Establish a schedule for pet-friendly work days, e.g., once a week or month, to provide structure and predictability so that the company and employees can plan, either to bring their pets (or allergy medicine) or to work remotely, for days when pets may be at the office or jobsite.
Provide Pet Space: Designate certain areas as pet-friendly. This benefits everyone. For areas where pets are welcome, provide perks like snacks, cleaning supplies, and toys. Designate entrances and exits that pet owners can use to bring their animals in and out. Space planning also helps employees who prefer to keep their distance, as boundaries provide notice of places to avoid.
Offer Pet Benefits: Certain federal and/or state laws prohibit companies from permitting pets (not to be confused with ADA service animals) at work. Offering employees other benefits like pet insurance, pet bereavement, pet daycare, and financial help for pet adoption are other ways companies can support their pet-owning workers, even if pets can’t come to work.
Waivers and Insurance: No list is complete without accounting for the chance something may go wrong. Consider requiring employees who bring pets to work to sign a waiver of liability for the company. Similarly, companies should check with their insurance to make sure that they are covered in the event an animal causes an injury in the workplace.
What about the ADA?
Voluntary pet policies should be considered separate from a company’s obligation to provide disabled workers with a reasonable accommodation, which may include use of a service animal at work. Three questions to consider when an employee asks to bring a service animal to work as an accommodation include: (1) does the employee have a disability; (2) is this a service animal, meaning is it trained to perform specific tasks to aid an employee in the performance of the job; and (3) is the service animal a reasonable accommodation.
If a service animal results in complaints from other employees (e.g., allergies, phobias, disruption), employers may consider other accommodations, or take other steps to address these complaints. The Job Accommodation Network, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, has some helpful tips for accommodating service animals.
The Cook County “Earned Sick Leave” Ordinance mandates that employers in Cook County, Illinois, allow eligible employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in each 12-month period of their employment. The Ordinance, passed on October 5, 2016, becomes effective on July 1, 2017.
The Ordinance is similar to amendments to the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance providing for paid sick leave, also going into effect on July 1. Chicago is part of Cook County.
Paid Sick Leave Requirements
Who is covered?
Individuals are entitled to benefits under the Ordinance if they:
perform at least two hours of work for a covered employer while physically present within the geographic boundaries of the County in any particular two-week period; and work at least 80 hours for a covered employer in any 120-day period.
Compensated time spent traveling in Cook County, including for deliveries and sales calls and for travel related to other business activity taking place in the County, can count toward the two-hour requirement. However, uncompensated commuting time in the County will not be counted. Certain railroad employees are not covered by the Act.
Covered employers include individuals and companies with a place of business within the County that gainfully employ at least one covered employee. Government entities and Indian tribes are not covered employers under the Ordinance.
The Ordinance does not apply to collective bargaining agreements in force on July 1, 2017. After that date, the Ordinance may be waived in a bona fide CBA if the waiver is explicit and unambiguous. In addition, the Ordinance does not apply to any covered employee in the construction industry who is covered by a bona fide CBA.
What if my company already provides employees with paid time off (PTO)?
If an employer has a policy that grants employees PTO in an amount and a manner that meets the requirements of the new Ordinance, the employer is not required to provide additional paid leave. However, any existing PTO policy must meet each requirement of the Ordinance, including the reasons for which the time off may be used, to qualify for this exemption.
When do employees begin to accrue paid sick leave?
Employees begin to accrue paid sick leave on the first calendar day after the start of their employment or July 1, 2017, whichever is later.
How much sick leave is required and can employers limit the amount used?
Employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. For purposes of calculating accruals, the Ordinance assumes exempt employees work 40 hours per workweek, unless their normal workweek is less, in which case the accrual will be based upon the number of hours in their normal workweek.
Accrual and usage of paid sick leave is capped at 40 hours for each 12-month period. Employees may carry over half of their unused paid sick leave (up to 20 hours) to the next 12-month period. The Ordinance also provides for additional carryover and usage for employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act that can be used exclusively for FMLA-eligible purposes.
When can employees start using paid sick leave?
New employees can begin using accrued paid sick leave no later than the 180th day following the commencement of employment. The Ordinance is unclear as to how the 180-day waiting period will apply to current employees who were hired prior to July 1, 2017.
For what reasons can an employee use paid sick leave?
Employees may use paid sick leave for their own illness, injuries, or medical care (including preventive care) or for the illness, injuries, or medical care of certain covered family members. “Family member” is defined broadly to include a child, legal guardian, or ward, spouse under the laws of any state, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent or a family relationship. “Family member” also includes step- and foster relationships.
Employees also can use paid sick leave if either the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence or a sex offense.
Finally, employees are entitled to use paid sick leave if their place of business or the child care facility or school of their child has been closed by an order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
Can employers set restrictions on the use of paid sick leave?
Employers are entitled to set reasonable minimum increments for the use of paid sick leave, not to exceed four hours a day.
What notice must be provided by employees who need to use paid sick leave?
Employers may require that employees provide up to seven days’ advance notice if the need for paid sick leave is foreseeable. Scheduled medical appointments and court dates for domestic violence will be considered reasonably foreseeable. If the need for leave is unforeseeable, employees must provide as much notice as is practical. The Ordinance expressly provides that employees may notify their employers of the need for leave by phone, email, or text message. Employers may adopt notification policies if they notify covered employees in writing of such policies and the policy is not unreasonably burdensome. If leave is covered by the FMLA, notice must be in accordance with the FMLA. Employees need not give notice if they are unconscious or medically incapacitated.
Employers also may require that employees using paid sick leave for more than three consecutive workdays provide certification that the leave was for a qualifying purpose. However, employers cannot require that certification specify the nature of the medical issue necessitating the need for leave, except as required by law. Employers cannot delay commencement of Earned Sick Leave or delay payment of wages because they have not received the required certification.
Do employers have to pay out unused, accrued paid leave upon termination?
Unlike PTO and vacation pay, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise, unused, accrued sick leave need not be paid out upon termination or separation of employment.
What are the posting and notice requirements?
Employers must post notice of employees’ rights in a conspicuous place at each facility where any covered employee works that is located within the geographic boundaries of the County.
In addition, at the commencement of employment, employers must provide each covered employee written notice advising of his or her rights to Earned Sick Leave under the Ordinance. The Cook County Commission on Human Rights will publish a form notice.
Implementation and Enforcement
The Ordinance provides a private right of action for employees who believe they are denied their right to request or use paid sick leave. Employers who violate the Ordinance may be subject to damages equal to three times the amount of any unpaid sick time denied or lost as a result of the violation, along with interest, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against or taking any adverse action against covered employees in retaliation for exercising, or attempting in good faith to exercise, any right under the Ordinance, including disclosing, reporting, or testifying about any violation of the Ordinance or regulations promulgated thereunder, or requesting or using paid sick leave. Additionally, an employee’s use of paid sick leave under the Ordinance cannot be counted for purposes of determining discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, or any other adverse activity under an employer’s absence-control policy.
Employers with operations in Cook County, Illinois, should review the Ordinance and their policies and practices related to paid sick leave carefully.
Employers should review their policies and practices regularly with employment counsel to ensure they effectively address specific organizational needs and comply with all applicable laws.
Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2016
Clinton said she wants to “get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics,” referring to non-profit organizations that can spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates without publicly revealing their donors. The number of “dark money” groups approved by the Internal Revenue Service has surged after the Citizens United ruling. In the past, Clinton has warned of dark money “distorting our elections, corrupting our political process and drowning out the voices of our people.”
The former secretary of state, however, didn’t speak directly to the issue of super PACs, another byproduct of the Citizens United decision. Super PACs, which are regulated by the Federal Election Commission, can accept any amount of money and spend unlimited funds on elections, as long as they disclose their donors and don’t coordinate directly with candidates.
Super PACs supporting Clinton have raised more than $143 million this election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Priorities USA Action, the most well-funded super PAC supporting Clinton, has raised $133 million during the current election cycle. While the group has disclosed the sources of most of its funding, it received $1 million in untraceable donations last summer.
The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, recently accused Clinton’s campaign of illegally coordinating with “Correct the Record,” another pro-Clinton super PAC. The group has claimed the limited scope of its expenditures means it doesn’t have to follow the federal election rules that prohibit outside organizations from coordinating activities with a campaign.
After the debate Sunday night, Republican nominee Donald Trump called Clinton a “hypocrite” on Twitter and said she is “the single biggest beneficiary of Citizens United in history, by far.” Even though Trump criticized the influence of outside groups during the Republican primary race, he currently benefits from the post-Citizens United world.
The billionaire real estate mogul’s campaign has close ties to two super PACs that are working to help him defeat Clinton. The two super PACs were the subject of another Campaign Legal Center complaint that argued the Trump campaign failed to follow rules designed to prevent super PAC staffers from immediately joining campaign staff, and vice versa.
Earlier this month, wealthy donors including Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson announced they would pour tens of millions of dollars into another super PAC and a dark money organization to support Trump. So far, super PACs supporting Trump’s candidacy have raised more than $40 million.
Trump also touched upon money in politics issues at the debate, falsely claiming to be “pretty much self-funding” his campaign, as he has asserted many times over the course of the race. “By the time [the election] is finished, I’ll have more than $100 million invested,” Trump said.
Trump’s campaign has always received donations from individuals. While he did fund a significant portion of his primary race, he never promised to pay the entire bill for a general election race. Recently, his campaign has courted the support of the types of special interest donors he previously lampooned.
It’s unclear if Trump will meet the pledge he made Sunday night to invest $100 million in his presidential bid by Nov. 8 election. As of the end of August, Trump had given $54 million to his campaign.
Margaret Sessa-Hawkins contributed to this report.
You can view this press release in its original on the MapLight website here.
With Hurricane Matthew downgraded to a tropical cyclone, it is time for affected businesses, property owners, and insurers to focus on quantifying the amount of damage caused by the storm. By some estimates, Hurricane Matthew will generation over 100,000 insurance claims and between $4 billion and $7.5 billion in property losses. Although the focus is typically on pre-storm preparation, the immediate steps taken this week will be important to any business owner seeking to present an adequate claim to its insurer for property damage.
Safety is always the first priority. Do not put yourself, your employees, or first responders in danger. Currently in North Carolina, the predictions are for worsening flooding in many low lying parts of the eastern part of the state, with peak flooding not reaching some areas until Wednesday (four days after the storm passed).
Once the threat of imminent danger has receded, the next step should be to document your loss. Thorough documentation of the damage to your property will be invaluable. Hopefully you will also have photographs or video from before the storm, so that any claim presented to an insurer can show both the before and after photographs of the condition of the property. Because cell phones and digital cameras are not limited by physical film, do not hesitate to shoot dozens or hundreds of photographs. Videos may be helpful as well.
At the same time you are documenting the damage, you should immediately put your insurer on notice of the loss. You should call your insurer to begin putting them on notice as soon as you arrive at the property if you assess any physical loss. After you give initial notice, you can follow up with complete details, provide the photographs you have taken, etc. The insurer will likely eventually send an adjuster to physical inspect the damage to the property.
It is important to quickly give notice for several reasons. As a legal matter, giving prompt notice prevents having a claim denied by an insurer on the basis of a late notice defense. As a practical matter, because of the large number of claims that will be filed within a short period of time, some insurers will likely handle the claims on a first-come, first-serve basis. Getting your claim in quickly gets you closer to the front of the line.
If immediate repairs are needed, take plenty of additional photos of the damage, the repairs in progress, and the final repairs. Maintain copies of documentation regarding the repairs, and provide those to your insurer. If your business had to buy or rent additional equipment as a result of the damage, or you suffered inventory loss, you will want to maintain detailed documentation of these costs as well.
Finally, whichever employee you assign to provide information to the insurer should maintain a journal or notebook. This should include copies of all documents submitted to the insurance company, along with a log of all conversations with the insurer or its representatives. The log should include the contact information of anyone from the insurer that you have contacted with, the date and time, the topics you discussed, and any additional information which you believe may be useful in the future or in the event of a dispute.
Copyright © 2016 Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.
A campaign finance watchdog group is calling on federal election regulators to investigate whether Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns have illegally coordinated with super PACs supporting them.
Two pro-Trump super PACs — Make America Number 1 and Rebuilding America Now — may have made prohibited in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign, the Campaign Legal Center said Thursday. The Washington-based organization said a pro-Clinton organization, Correct the Record, may be guilty of similar violations.
Because super PACs can accept unlimited contributions, federal law requires them to operate independently of campaigns. Super PACs are relatively new political entities, created in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Candidates and outside groups have tested the legal boundaries surrounding them, especially in the current election cycle. So far, super PACs have raised more than a half-billion dollars in support of the 2016 presidential nominees.
The Campaign Legal Center filed complaints against the campaigns and super PACs on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. It’s unlikely the commission will decide before the election whether to take any actions.
The pro-Clinton group, Correct the Record, has been testing the rules virtually since its inception. Correct the Record has long asserted it can work directly with Clinton’s campaign. The super PAC says it’s only producing and posting communications online, and that its work is exempt from FEC rules regarding “coordinated communications.” In a statement last May, Correct the Record said it “will not be engaged in paid media and thus will be allowed to coordinate with campaigns.”
Lawyers from the Campaign Legal Center say that argument is misleading, because Correct the Record has made “coordinated expenditures,” which would also be considered in-kind contributions. They add that Correct the Record’s payments to its staff would represent prohibited donations if its employees’ work was done in coordination with the Clinton campaign.
“The factual record demonstrates that the vast majority of Correct the Record’s expenditures have been for activities like opposition research, message development, surrogate training, reporter pitches, media booking, video production, ‘rapid response’ press outreach, and other ‘earned media,’” the complaint says. “Any such expenditures made in ‘cooperation, consultation, or concert, with, or at the request or suggestion of’ Clinton’s campaign committee constitute in-kind contributions to the campaign.”
Trump was slow to warm up to super PACs, disavowing support from outside groups during the Republican primary, but his campaign is deeply tied to two groups that want to help him defeat Clinton this November. One of those organizations, Rebuilding America Now, is headed by former top staffers to the Trump campaign.
Campaign staffers who have knowledge of a candidate’s strategy and plans are required to go through a 120-day “cooling-off period” before joining a supportive super PAC. However, an investigation published in August found that Rebuilding America Now began paying its political director, Ken McKay, only days after he left his job as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Reuters subsequently reported that Rebuilding America Now paid another operative, Laurance Gay, right after he left a position with Trump.
Rebuilding America Now has said both consultants were only unpaid volunteers for the Trump campaign and possess no strategic knowledge from their time working for the real estate mogul.
According to the Campaign Legal Center, McKay and Gay qualify as employees of the Trump campaign, regardless of whether they were paid for their services. The group asserts the Rebuilding America Now operatives acquired “inside information” while they were with the Trump campaign, and adds that there’s “strong reason to believe” that McKay and Gay have used that information in crafting communications in support of Trump.
The complaint also concerns the closeness between the Trump campaign and Make America Number 1. The Campaign Legal Center says that the super PAC may have made prohibited “coordinated communications” by employing common vendors.
The anti-Clinton super PAC was originally created by hedge fund billionaire and GOP mega-donor Robert Mercer as a way to support U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’ unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Around the same time the super PAC shifted its focus to defeating Clinton, Trump’s campaign began hiring staff and vendors associated with the Mercer family’s businesses.
Cambridge Analytica, a Mercer-owned data firm, has done work for both the Trump campaign and Make America Number 1. In August, the firm was paid $250,000 by Trump and more than $400,000 by the super PAC. That same month, the Trump campaign hired Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon as its chairman, reportedly at the behest of the Mercer family. Robert Mercer has invested in Breitbart, and Bannon helped Mercer launch Cambridge Analytica, according to RealClearPolitics.
Kellyanne Conway, who’s serving as campaign manager for Trump, previously helped lead Make America Number 1 when it was a pro-Cruz effort. Her consulting firm has since been paid by both the super PAC and the Trump campaign. Make America Number 1 paid $247,000 to Conway’s firm, The Polling Company, on Aug. 23. One week later, the Trump campaign paid the company $128,000.
The Trump and Clinton campaigns and the super PACs included in the Campaign Legal Center complaints did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
© Copyright MapLight
The fast-paced legal industry requires marketers to be quick-thinking, innovative and determined. In addition to embodying these characteristics, leaders in the industry distinguish themselves by being decisive, meeting and exceeding expectations they also set for others, serving those they lead, and influencing and inspiring others. Ultimately, leadership is about taking responsibility for your actions, your team, and your success. As female Captains in the Marines — a rarity — Courtney Lynch and Angie Morgan learned valuable leadership skills. In their best-selling book, Leading from the Front, they argue that by making changes in their behavior and attitude, people can become leaders and improve their careers, their lives and the lives of others. The National Law Review caught up with Courtney Lynch in advance ofLMA’s Leadership Development Certificate Program1 for a two part conversation about leadership. This installment discusses how Courtney’s philosophies and time in the Corps influenced her leadership skills and career path as a private citizen. Part two will dive into the leadership principles that she and Angie developed and outlined in Leading from the Front, and how they have helped many others develop leadership skills through their workshops.
When did you first realize that your time in the Marine Corps gave you the tools you needed to become a leader in the corporate/law firm world?
My first private sector role after transitioning out of the Marine Corps was working as a sales representative for a software company. After just a couple of months in that role I was promoted to a management position. I was the 2nd youngest person on the team I was managing, and prior to coming on board the company I had zero experience with software development. I knew then that my leadership skills were responsible for my success. During my time in uniform I received thousands of hours of leadership training. Yet, I didn’t know how relevant that training was to the private sector until I started earning promotions and increased responsibility because of my ability to lead people. You manage things, you lead people. I used my leadership skills to leverage the outstanding technical abilities others had.
What inspired you and Angie Morgan (co-founder of Lead Star and co-author of Leading from the Front), to found Lead Star?
Angie and I realized that we had had a very unique experience learning to lead as Marines. Today only about 1% of the population serves in the military. Yet, all can benefit from the leadership lessons taught to those who wear the uniform. I believe better leaders mean a better world. We stated Lead Star to help companies, nonprofits, government agencies and academic institutions develop leaders at all levels. Leadership development isn’t mysterious, but it does need to be intentional and strategic. Organizations seeking to achieve greater results through people come to Lead Star to discover the pathway to leader development that works best for their unique culture, goals and objectives.
Do you believe people have innate leadership qualities or that they are made?
Being the lawyer that I am, I’ll answer both to that question. Today, behavioral science shows us that about 30% of our ability to lead is innate — our intelligence, appearance, personality and charisma are inherent at birth. The majority of our ability to influence and inspire, about 70% of our leadership capability, is learned. The key is we have to be open to developing the behaviors that allow us to lead well. We need to cultivate our credibility, sharpen our ability to be decisive, develop accountability, seek to serve and build our confidence. The challenge is that many believe leadership fluency is developed along with ascending into positions of authority. In reality, leadership is not about power, prestige or status. It’s about responsibility. When we commit ourselves to developing as a leader we are able to leverage all of our natural strengths and learned capabilities.
How has your time in law school and as an attorney influenced the development of your leadership principles?
Law school prepares you to think in new ways. Leaders are committed to developing and stretching their thinking. I loved learning the law and I value how the skills I developed in that pursuit have allowed me to build success as a leadership development practitioner. Working in a law firm also allowed me to understand the value of leadership development. I believe it takes less time to become a leader than it does to become a lawyer. You just have to commit to the pursuit. Legal professionals invest thousands of hours honing their craft. If a professional invests just an ounce of that time in growing as a leader, they’ll significantly increase the value of their contribution to an organization, team or family.
Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC
1 The Legal Marketing Association and Lead Star will be holding the inaugural LMA Leadership Development Certificate Program November 15-16 in Chicago. Courtney Lynch and Sean Lynch will be coaching participants to help them develop a unique perspective on their own personal leadership styles and tendencies.