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    Archive for March, 2014
    Wake up and Live Now!
    Thursday, March 20th, 2014

    ♫ Wake up and live, y’all!
    (Wake up and live) Wake up and live now!
    You see, one – one cocoa full a basket,
    Whey they use you live big today: tomorrow you buried in-a casket…

    Lyrics and music by Bob Marley, Anthony Davis, recorded by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

    palm tree 2

    This post is being written up in Whistler BC while on a spring-break ski trip.  Garry sent me an email that he will be off to Jamaica this week to lie under a palm tree.  Whether it be snow or sand that calls to you, the important thing is to heed that call and take the break from your routine and live big today!

    The WebMD says:

    Get away — often.  It’s a fact: People who take vacations have lower stress and a less risk of heart disease — not to mention a better outlook on life and more motivation to achieve goals.

    Need more motivation? Psychology Today in an article entitled “The importance of vacations to our physical and mental health” says:

    Chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury. When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.

    So there are multiple reasons for taking that break!

    Psychology Today goes even further:

    In a 2009 study, Canadian researchers Joudrey and Wallace reported that “active” leisure pursuits (such as golf!) and taking vacations helped to buffer or ameliorate the job stress among a sample of almost 900 lawyers.

    Advantage Behavioural Healthcare says in regards to vacations:

    Relationships are enriched

    Spending time together enriches a marriage, which strengthens the family foundation. Through traditions and rituals, such as vacations, any relationship can be enriched. Vacations and other traditions make memories and are the glue that binds us. Vacation can provide an opportunity to talk with one another, learn new skills or discover new interests.

    It is not just the taking of the vacation that has benefits. The WebMD goes further:

    Even better, the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation. You can feel the effects up to 8 weeks prior to your trip. And when you’re done with that retreat, start planning the next one. Simply having something to look forward to can be rewarding.

    I can hardly wait to start planning the next ski break!  Wake up and live now!

    (concurrently posted to

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Management, IT and Law Firms
    Thursday, March 6th, 2014

    ♫  Doin it right, doin it right
    Doin it right, doin it right
    The blues bands cookin and the drummers burnin down
    Doin it right on the wrong side of town!!!  

    Lyrics, music and recorded by the Powder Blues.



    Law firms like to think that they do things rather well.  Exceptionally well, as a matter of fact. Particularly the biggest ones.

    Only problem is, not everyone agrees with that perception.  Take Casey Flaherty for example.  Casey just happens to be the General Counsel at Kia Motors America.  In his words (and this is an exact quote) “Lawyers see themselves as Tom Cruise but most of their work is drudgery.. and they suck at using computers.”

    His proof?  He gave a mock assignment to lawyers that he knew should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. When tested the average time to compete the assignment was 5 hours  and some took as long as 8 hours.

    He has devised a technology audit that he gives to firms before he engages them to test their technology competence.  We are not talking sophisticated legal tools here. Casey is testing knowledge and use of basic Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Adobe Acrobat.

    From the ABA Journal article by Casey Flaherty himself, he stated:

    Sample tasks include:

    (a) formatting a motion in Word,

    (b) preparing motion exhibits in PDF, and

    (c) creating an arbitration exhibit index in Excel.

    The specific tasks, however, are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be:

    (a) formatting a contract in Word,

    (b) Bates stamping a document production of PDFs, or

    (c) isolating pertinent performance data in Excel—or, really, any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should).

    He has given the audit 10 times.  All firms failed…some spectacularly.  Both the median and mean was 5 hours.

    What does he have to say about the audit results?

    My claims are much broader: a lot (of waste exists in the legal system) and enough (of that waste is attributable to technological incompetence to make this a problem worth addressing)

    The real issue is that law firms (and particularly the largest ones) have absolutely no incentive to have their lawyers increase their technological knowledge.  So long as they bill by the billable hour –  meaning there are no competitive pressures forcing them to acquire greater skills, this situation will exist.  The greater hours put into a file translate to a bigger bottom line.

    There is something very very fundamentally wrong here. No other business or profession has been allowed to languish on the borders of technological incompetence and still be in business.  Most if not all other business would have been driven out of business by failing to meet mounting competitive pressures.

    Is there a correlation here with Access to Justice?  The middle class have been claiming that lawyers are far too expensive and out of reach for their typical legal problems for some time now.

    I wonder just how long the public will stand by before they start to call for fundamental changes to the legal system in order to bring about the changes that they desire.  My co-author for this column, Garry Wise of Toronto, in reviewing this article stated that:

    But in fairness to Canadian lawyers, in part, without paperless courts and automated systems for court and other filings, there is even less incentive for us to master the skills that would be necessary to put electronic documents together.  Our system simply doesn’t require that we prepare or know how to complete effective “non-papyrus” documents.

    I agree with Gary ..the solution is not piece-meal.  We have to address the entire workflow of how we produce, serve, file, share, store, search, and archive legal documents. I was presenting at a CBA Immigration conference in Vancouver last week and my co-presenter Laura Best a lawyer at Embarkation Law Group asked the attendees how many people in attendance filed electronically in federal court.  Only a handful of hands went up indicating that even where e-filing is possible, lawyers are not getting on the bandwagon (Laura happens to be one of the biggest users of e-filing here in BC, I understand).

    This is a knowledge management issue, it is a management issue, it is an issue where all the players in the room have to come to the table to brainstorm on how to change not only behaviours but the system itself to encourage lawyers to bring about the necessary change.

    The call to arms here for lawyers, law firms and regulators is to prod, push, cajole and otherwise mandate greater change before this change is thrust upon us.  We have to become students of change and move with the technological times. Management of firms should not stand by and simply be satisfied with the status quo.  They should be bringing in IT training (complete with tests and assignments) to ensure that their lawyers are up to speed on at least basic technological tasks.  There are no lack of trainers and programs, both in house and available thru consultants for this to occur. Furthermore, court administration, judges and tribunals should be right on-side and equally looking at how their systems can be improved to increase efficiencies and effectiveness.

    Perhaps another message for general counsel like Casey Flaherty is to look for smaller firms that could do it right…even if they come from the wrong side of town….

    This article is concurrently posted here and on slaw

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 2 Comments »
    Emotional Wake and Changing the Focus
    Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

    ♫  I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true
    I’ll come to your emotional rescue
    I’ll come to your emotional rescue..♫

    Lyrics and music by  Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, recorded by The Rolling Stones.


    This is another guest post from Beth Flynn at The Leadership Center at the Ohio State University.

    Leadership is one quality that we so need in all walks of life, from the International scene all the way down to the local community level.  Leaders are people who make demonstrable changes in others lives.  The don’t accept the status quo and look for ways to do things better.  I believe that lawyers need to develop greater leadership skills to bring the legal profession into the 21st century and have it flourish in the face of incredible change and challenges.  I have been a fan of Beth and the work of her colleagues at the Leadership Center for some time and encourage readers to subscribe to their newsletter (below) and if you are close to Ohio, to attend their leadership Series Workshops.

    This post is taken from the book: Hayashi, S.K. (2011). Conversations for change: 12 ways to say it right when it matters most. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    An “emotional wake” is the feeling we leave people with. When we leave a meeting, are team members consistently feeling angry because they were not heard? Or are they feeling hopeful about what the team is working on? The predominant emotion we leave people with is our emotional wake.

    Can you think of someone who creates a positive emotional wake? I bet someone comes to mind immediately. Being around that person feels good. Consciously or unconsciously, this person decided to be solution focused instead of problem focused in the face of change. Doing this creates respect for self and others (p. 12).

    Conversations for Change is available from the lending library at The Ohio State University Leadership Center. Follow the link to borrow this book or any other resource. Once you are on their  website, click on the Spectrum icon.

    Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is inspiring others to take a leadership role that empowers the world at

    To begin receiving Leadership Moments, or to update your information, please click on The Leadership Center’s Join Our Mailing List button.

    Thanks Beth and the rest of the team for bringing us along and leaving a positive emotional wake!

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »