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Interview with Phillip Miles, Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer

We recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Phillip Miles, the creator of Lawffice Space and practicing attorney at Mcquaide Blasko, headquartered in State College, Pennsylvania. You will enjoy Phil Miles’ honest and direct answers to the questions many of you have regarding the legal professions, specifically social media. Miles involvement with social media and the law is extensive. He was also a contributor to the well-received book, Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace.

phillip-milesWhat event or series of events led you to pursue employment law as your specialty? Please elaborate.

The truth is, I just kind of fell into employment law. When I started at George Mason Law School, I was a full-time information technology consultant going to school in the evenings for fun (to my great surprise, I was apparently the only person there who was just going for fun). I loved law school though, so I transitioned into a career in law. I accepted a job as a general civil litigation associate with McQuaide Blasko and took on whatever they handed me. At the time, I hadn’t even taken a law school course in employment law. But, there was employment law work to be done so I dove in – and I haven’t looked back since. I still handle a lot of different types of litigation, but employment law is my favorite.

Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in the employment law specialty and the steps you took to meet these challenges.

For a number of reasons, I don’t comment on specific cases or clients publicly. I will highlight a general and recurring challenge though, and that’s getting your client to see that there’s at least one other side to the story. I think a lot of attorneys try to pump up their clients and decry the “outrage” of the opposing side’s conduct. That’s great and all, but there is probably (I said probably) some method to the opposing party’s madness. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t challenge my clients on their own stories, and help them understand the opposing viewpoint. It’s better to confront those challenges early, than get caught unprepared for them at a hearing.

How would you advise an individual entering the legal professions to proceed? What are the challenges, or obstacles that may be faced?

Try new things and take on challenging projects, but do so carefully. When practicing law, you will necessarily encounter new legal issues, new venues, and generally tons of other new situations. The current job market is pretty awful, so you may have to check out areas of the law that aren’t first (or even second) on your list. Trying new things will make you a better lawyer though. But, there’s a balance to be struck, and you don’t want to get in over your head. An attorney with more experience may be able to guide you as to which cases are challenging career-builders, and which ones are malpractice lawsuits waiting to happen.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?
I’m an active blogger and Tweeter (Twitterer?), and one of the reasons I love social media is that it generates fun opportunities for publishing. One particularly interesting project was the book, Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace. Jon Hyman was the lead editor and assembled his team through his social media and blogging connections. Notably, the project included five people in Paralegal 411’s top 10 employment law blogs (in addition to Jon and me: Molly DiBianca, Dan Schwartz, and Eric Meyer). We also had two guys who didn’t make that list, but if I had a vote they would have (Seth Borden and Rob Radcliff). I contributed the chapter, What is Social Media? The book came out great, and it was fun to collaborate with other employment law bloggers.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?
“At the end of the day, your reputation is all you have.” I heard this from a number of law professors when I was in school. It’s great advice. As an attorney, you’ll often encounter the same attorneys and judges over and over again, whether it’s in litigation, bar association meetings, or other “lawyer-ish” events. A reputation for honesty and professionalism will go a long way – and by “professionalism,” I’m including some additional advice I received at law school: don’t be a jerk (yes, contrary to popular belief, this is actually taught at some law schools).

As an accomplished author of a blog related to employment law, what advice would you offer to the legal professional concerning the role of social media in their profession?
Social media is a great way to connect with other people in your profession and to stay current. I find myself learning a ton as a result of writing my own blog, and reading the tweets and blog entries from other employment law bloggers. There are plenty of social media horror stories out there, and people in the legal profession must be especially careful. Stay away from your own cases and clients and don’t be stupid, and you should be just fine.

This is the last question and time for the inner lawyer in you to break free. What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise legal professionals to mine their own strengths to further their careers.
It might sound silly, or cliché, but I think my greatest strength is my “love of the game.” I truly enjoy what I do and it energizes me. Even when I’m not working, my hobbies include employment law blogging, reading law blogs, and reading books about the Constitution and law generally. What can I say? I love this stuff.

We thank Phillip Miles for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his experiences and advice with our audience. You can read articles on labor and employment law at Phillip’s blog, Lawffice Space and follow him on Twitter @PhilipMiles.