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    Archive for October, 2009
    The Future of Lawyers?
    Thursday, October 29th, 2009

    ♫ I’ve seen the future, baby:
    it is murder.
    Things are going to slide …♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Leonard Cohen.

    I had the pleasure of attending The Futures conference in Denver CO recently that was part of the College of Law Practice Management’s Annual General Meeting.

    Several themes were developed during that conference, some of which took some time to fully appreciate. Certainly there was a healthy divergence of opinion on the future of lawyers, being the theme of the conference. However, I thought I would take a moment and encapsulate my thoughts on some of these ideas based on the forces that are presently shaping the legal profession. Certainly central to my thoughts are the Legal Services Bill in the UK as well as the power of the Internet as a disruptive technology. Together these, as well as other underlying forces, in my opinion, will change the legal profession as we know it.

    ODR:

    Online Dispute Resolution is one technology that is not present even on the radar of most lawyers or law firms. Certainly they do not see it as a threat or even an opportunity. However, in my view, it has a huge potential to change the legal profession. In my opinion, it is certainly being looked at by court administration officials and governments anxious to cut costs and provide greater access to dispute resolution services.

    What are the trends that we see? Every court registry has seen a dramatic increase in the number of self-represented litigants. How much longer will they seek to use a system that has been designed to work for lawyers rather than have a system that has been designed to work for them? So many litigants today are self-represented since they cannot afford to hire a lawyer to economically handle their case. Online dispute resolution offers the promise of a system where they are in greater control of not only their own case but also the process surrounding that case. In other words, the laws of economics have driven litigants to find a different solution – and sooner or later they will demand that the system change to meet their requirements…for easier access (by the web rather than in person), for access on their schedule (asynchronous communication rather than synchronous), for a flexible process and procedure (they have input into how their dispute is resolved rather than dealing with a rigid court process) and a process that is both seen as being fair and inexpensive.

    The world of ODR is only starting to develop. But if lawyers do not embrace ODR and shape it to be a part of the justice system, it will instead develop in parallel to the justice system and eventually compete with it. In my opinion, ODR will have the laws of economics on its side, and as well all know, it is the laws of economics that eventually win out over all others.

    Access to Justice = Access to Lawyers?

    Most lawyers view access to justice as being equivalent to increasing the access to lawyers. However, if you talk to a member of the public, I believe they would say exactly the opposite – that lawyers in many ways impede the access to justice.

    However right or wrong that view may be, the legal profession has not (yet) realized that a sizable part of the public do not see the legal profession as necessarily being part of the solution to increasing access to justice. And that is more than just troubling. It is downright scary. While the legal profession stands for strong principles of fairness, equity and justice, the public views lawyers as being barriers to these same values and principles.

    So the future of lawyers lies in our own hands…the question is, what are we going to do about it? We can seize the initiative and build our own future…or we can let events continue as they have been…in which case I think I see the future baby, and it is murder…things are going to slide…

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Marketing Yourself Graciously
    Friday, October 23rd, 2009

    ♫ In elementary I used crayons, even chalk
    I learned to count money before I could read and talk
    And my mama told me son, you need to shine
    I couldn’t stand at the back, I had to lead the line..♫

    Lyrics and Music by Wesley Weston Jr. and Tommy Granville, Jr, recorded by Li’ Flip.

    This post is another great Leadership Moment by Beth Flynn of the Ohio State University Leadership Center on how to market yourself graciously to your superiors:

    1. Instead of talking about what you did, talk about the difference it made.
    2. Instead of talking about what you can’t do, talk about what you can do and what you are learning to do.
    3. Talk about your goals and how they will measure your success.
    4. Debrief results with your boss candidly and without apologies.
    5. Quantify your results whenever you can – I saved the organization $10,000.
    6. When you fall short of your goals, ask for feedback, and talk about what you learned about the experience and how you will apply those insights in the future.
    7. Talk about your weaknesses differently. Say I want to strengthen my analytical skills rather than I need to be more analytical.
    8. Even your challenges are opportunities to demonstrate creativity and problem-solving skills (Scumaci, 2008, p. 33)

    Reference: Scumaci, D. (2008). Designed for success. Lake Mary, FL: Excel Books.

    Designed for Success is available on loan from the Ohio State University Leadership Center. To borrow this resource or any other resource, please go to the resource search page.

    Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is strengthening tomorrow’s leaders today at http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu. To subscribe/unsubscribe from the Leadership Moments list, send e-mail to: flynn.61@osu.edu.

    To be an effective leader, we all need to shine in our own gracious but effective way.

    Posted in Change Management, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    A Big Leap Forward…
    Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

    “Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck…”

    Genie from the movie “Alladin”.

    A fellow PMA (Practice Management Advisor) passed along this tip and I thought I would share it. She has chronic back pain (as have so many office workers). Work was something to be endured…until she found the Leap Chair by Steelcase. I know that there are other ergonomic chairs out there..but this one comes with a personal endorsement by someone I know and trust. So I thought I would pass it along here for anyone who also suffers from back pain and is looking for a bit of relief.

    The chair is the Steelcase Leap Erogonomic Chair. She is now leaping for joy!

    Posted in Make it Work!, Technology | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    A Leopard or a Chevy…
    Thursday, October 15th, 2009

    ♫ What’s New Pussycat?♫

    Music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, recorded by Tom Jones.

    One morning I walked into the office only to be greeted by the “blue screen of death” on my office IBM Lenovo. Whatever had caused the crash had also corrupted the database of one of my most treasured applications. A couple of hours later I gave up and called IT in to try and fix things – who said (of course) that they would need my laptop “for a couple of hours”; but we can give you a loaner to use. I said: “Don’t bother… I have my MacBook.”

    With the release of Snow Leopard, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for the MacIntosh, my MacBook just got better. Unlike Microsoft’s recent release of Vista, this latest release of the operating system is not only faster that its predecessor, it is also smaller. OK you say – Windows 7 is coming out and it will be a fairer comparison to Snow Leopard.

    But really I think the real competition is not between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. It is between Macs running Snow Leopard and Netbooks running Windows XP Home. Reason? IT departments will by and large continue to implement Microsoft’s operating system and stay with the devil they know – hence PC’s will continue to hold the lion’s share of the corporate market. In my view, the real battleground will be over the devices that are portable and which lawyers buy for themselves. And that is where Macs will be up against Netbooks.

    These are diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand you have Apple’s full-featured laptops with high-end components and a dependable operating system. On the other hand, you have stripped down, inexpensive devices that are really just aimed at reading email, browsing and basic word processing. The Netbooks are positioned at just providing enough processing to get you through a trip. The MacBook is intended as a full desktop replacement, that can be integrated into your Windows network via Microsoft Exchange integration and MS Word for the Mac compatibility. The MacBook will allow you to view video on a big sharp screen, synch with iTunes and your iPod and do all the other things you would like to do. A Netbook is a Chevy – it will eventually get you there but without a whole lot of bells and whistles. The MacBook is akin to a Cadillac – it ensures that you never need to make a compromise along the way and you will arrive in style and have power to burn along the way.

    Personally I prefer my MacBook as I can centralize everything in one place and work from one machine. I have a fast processor (2.4 GHz core2 duo) and lots of memory (2 Gigs RAM), a sharp 13 inch screen and all the applications that come built-in on a Mac.

    My MacBook allows me to move seamlessly from my personal to my professional life. For example, TimeMachine is an automatic backup utility on the Mac. Keychain stores all my passwords and user names. I can print any document to PDF automatically. iPhoto not only organizes digital photos, it is a photo-editing application as well. There are business applications as well such as Microsoft Office suite for the Mac (which includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Entourage – an email client similar to Outlook) that allow you to work seamlessly on the Mac. Randy Singer, the MacAttorney, lists over 170 native Mac applications for use in the practice of law (www.macattorney.com).

    Which is the one for you? We know that GM has sold a lot of Chevys over the years as well as many Cadillacs. The good thing is that you have a choice… and can decide whether to prowl with a leopard or not.

    (this post is based on a column originally published in PracticeTalk in the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch’s newsletter BarTalk)

    Posted in Law Firm Strategy | Permalink | No Comments »
    Finding a New Way…
    Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

    ♬ We’ll find another way to dance, we’ll find another way to dance
    If you get the chance you must dance, dance, dance….♬

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Dan Keyes.

    Oct. 2, 2009 marked the latest edition of The Pacific Legal Technology Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada. With speakers such as Dr. Michael Geist, who spoke on how blogs, Twitter, web sites and other internet-driven collaboration tools have changed how governments shape legislation, it was not surprising that this year’s program saw record attendance numbers!

    Other popular session topics were: Going Paperless, virtual lawyering, privacy and security and ethics concerns and of course, iPhones, Blackberries and other smartphones. The conference also dealt with time, task and email management using technology and how to focus your financial system to direct your future and achieve your goals…financial and otherwise. The conference closed to a ’60 Tips in 60 Mins” presentation that saw at least 100 tips being mentioned, displayed and discussed. Copies of most of the power points can be found at: www.pacificlegaltech.com/sessions.html. Written materials (in CD-ROM format) are also available from the conference for $149 + taxes from: info@pacificlegaltech.com.

    What was most interesting from my perspective were the comments and discussions that resulted from the sessions. In particular was an email exchange that I had with Grant Sutherland, a lawyer in Vancouver (I have his permission to post his comments here).

    He stated that:

    “You mentioned that you are a Mac user. After struggling with Vista, I purchased a Mac a year ago and will never go back to a PC. The Mac is terrific!

    I am practicing part time. I have office space available at a law firm in downtown Vancouver but spend most of my time working out of my condo. I am 63 years old and have been in practice for 37 years.

    There are probably a lot of lawyers like me who are getting a little long in the tooth but don’t want to retire and have a lot of experience and some useful advice to impart to clients and younger lawyers.

    Technology allows people like me to work out of my home and assist clients with their legal issues. I have fully embraced technology and am always looking for new tech tips to help in my practice. (Who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks?) Your conference was very timely for me.

    You may wish to consider targeting older lawyers who want to transition from an office to a home office. In my view, they are ideal candidates for the tech information you have to offer.”

    So I asked Grant what are the technologies that he uses to be a mobile and virtual lawyer. Here is his reply:

    “I use a MacBook Air. Weighs 3 pounds. Excellent for travel and taking to meetings locally, Starbucks, etc. I have the Super Drive to plug in to USB if I need to load software or view a DVD. I don’t take the drive with me when I travel. Don’t need it and it is excess weight.

    For backup I just bought a 1 terabyte Time Capsule. I also have a couple of USB Flash Drives that I bring with me when I travel.

    I have an HP Officejet Pro 7780 All-In-One copier, fax, printer, scanner. For big print or copy jobs, I email The Printing House with a file attached.

    I have a Blackberry 9630–the new World Phone. Works on both GSM and CDMA so works most places in the world. I use Blackberry email and instant messaging a lot. Very efficient!

    Finally, I have an iPod touch. This is useful when traveling as it has my music, photos etc so it helps to pass the time on aircraft. It is synced with my Macbook Air email through MobileMe so it serves as a backup for my email in case I encounter a problem with my computer.

    I closed my downtown office at the end of February and have some legacy PC hardware and software with my accounting information. I am a stickler for precise accounting and I have a bookkeeper that comes in once a week to look after my accounting.”

    Grant has found a new way of continuing to practice, in a way that supports his lifestyle and his needs, using technology to reach out to the world (or have the world find him). I would like to thank Grant for taking the time to share his perspective here for others to read and hopefully, emulate.

    After all, if we still hear the music once we no longer wish to practice 50+ hours a week in a glass tower, we need to start finding a new way to dance….

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, I'm a Mac, Law Firm Strategy, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »