♫ Through the fire and the flames we carry on! ♫
Lyrics and music by: Herman Li, ZP Theart, Sam Totman, Vadim Pruzhaniov, recorded by Dragonforce.
Jo DeMars, of NetNeutrals (www.netneutrals.com) spoke at the 2014 Online Dispute Resolution Forum at Hastings College of Law at the University of California in San Francisco. This post is based on her most excellent presentation on Wednesday June 25, 2014. While her comments were presented in the context of resolving disputes that arise in e-commerce, her advice applies to virtually any consumer complaint, including client complaints regarding legal services.
She stated that most, if not all, people who have a complaint regarding a product or services are looking for five ‘psychological currencies’ from the provider. These are:
- They want a chance to tell their story;
- They are looking for a reasonable explanation of what went wrong;
- They are looking for assurance that their complaint will be dealt with;
- They wish to be thanked for their business; and
- They hope to receive an apology.
Her advice is that any provider should not hesitate to offer as many of these psychological currencies to people who are unhappy with your services. Why? Simply, it costs much more money to attract a new client vs. the cost to keep an existing client.
She explained that people who are feeling caught in this process typically go thru the same process: First they Feel; then Think, and lastly they Do/Behave.
She stated that when clients are feeling strong emotions, they are incapable of hearing you. You need to take care of the emotions before you can take care of the problem.
Accordingly she advises keeping calm. At the outset, your tone is everything and sets the stage for all that follows. Anger defusion is job #1. Once that is taken care of then the client is moving into a mindset where they can start dealing with the issues at hand.
She stated that many individuals or businesses hesitate in offering an apology. Jo stated that they should take time to master the Art of the apology:
- Clearly and completely acknowledge the problem
- Offer an effective explanation
Be honest with your clients and in particular, offer an honest apology to the client for how things transpired and the effect that this has had on them. Just hearing that a person or organization truly regrets what has happened to someone is a powerful message to help resolve a client complaint.
She also stated that it is important for the person or organization to tell the appropriate story. There are several components to this:
- own the problem,
- find allies if possible,
- take responsibility for making it right,
- follow thru, and
- tell the final chapter.
Her final advice was taken from firefighters: Run thru the flames – not away from them. It is easier and better to run to the problem thru to the other side than to run away from them.
(published concurrently with www.slawtips.ca)
♫ And I’m on a roll
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m on a roll
I’m runnin’ hot
Baby, am I hot or what?…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Mark Knopfler.
This is another guest post by my friend Bob Denney. This is his midyear “What Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession”.
In our Annual Report last December, we stated that some of our findings are obvious while others are not but we report them because they may become significant. We have applied that same reasoning in preparing this Update. What is most important to recognize is that the strategic relevance of each item may vary for each firm depending on its size, practice areas and geographic markets. The resulting picture is a montage of a profession that continues to change.
- Patents. Despite a drop in manufacturing, applications continue to increase in science and technology. The steady increase in Patent Litigation continues to be fueled to a great degree by patent trolls. See Other Trends & Issues – Patent Trolls and Defensive Aggregators..
- Health Care. More issues arise as the result of implementing the Affordable Care Act.
- Energy. The fracking boom continues along with opposition. Oil is becoming more important than ever and not just in the U.S. New EPA regulations affect coal. Despite Administration and environmentalists’ efforts to expand alternate energy sources, they still provide only a small percentage of our total energy.
- Environmental. New rules just issued by the EPA are tough in some states, easy in others.
- Regulatory. One of the areas that continues to keep Chief Legal Officers and business owners awake at night. Covers a wide range of matters including cybersecurity and social media.
- Labor & Employment. The steady increase in union organization activities adds to the caseloads generated by widespread layoffs.
- Major litigation. In the top 100 firms and major litigation boutiques. Many less serious cases are going to MidSize and even some SmallLaw firms
- Education Law. Particularly in firms with colleges and universities as clients. Title IX cases continue to increase.
- Criminal due in part to defendants’ increasing use of videos in sentencing hearings.
- Private Offerings
- White Collar Crime
- IPOs. Particularly in technology. As we anticipated in our 2013 Annual Report.
- Bankruptcy. The increased cost of filing is the principal reason. One significant indicator: The venerable Los Angeles-based boutique Stutman Treister & Glatt is closings its doors after 57 years.
- Asia. Proskauer Rose and U.K. firm Withers report substantial growth in their anti-bribery and corporate fraud practices.
- London. Recent research confirms that U.S. start-ups in London have the highest partner churn rate. Fraser MacLean, Recruitment and London Start-Up Coordinator, asks why
MARKETING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
- Obviously these are more important than ever for any size firm as all firms battle for a shrinking pool of work, particularly high-end. We are not ignoring M & BD, merely referring the subject to the plethora of reports, articles, seminars and blogs that address these areas.
- Disaster Plans. The weather this past winter and spring in most parts of the U.S. makes the need for them greater than ever for all firms, not just large. Pittsburgh firm Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky (full disclosure: a client) has one of the most comprehensive plans. o LSAT exams. In 2013-2014, only 105,532 applicants sat for the exam, the lowest number in 15 years. The highest number of takers was in 2009-2010, when 171,514 people sat for the exam. Obviously, unless there is a reversal, this is not a favorable trend for law schools and the legal profession.
- Law Schools. Many developments here:
- Tuitions. For the second straight year, the University of Arizona Law School is cutting tuitions for non-residents, this time to $29,000, down from $38,841 a year ago. The Board of Regenets claims this undercuts the non-resident tuition at more than a dozen peer law schools nationwide.
- Faculty Buyouts. University of Buffalo Law School is offering faculty buyouts in response to a planned downsizing of its study body.
- Curricula. Slow but increasing changes and additions, many focused on technology.
- Suffolk University: New area of study called “Legal Technology and Innovation” which includes Process Improvement and Legal Project Management,
- Michigan State: The Reinvent Law Laboratory to train future lawyers in legal technology software and computer-based methodologies. Florida Coastal School of Law: The Center for Law Practice Technology.
- In a Harvard Law survey of 124 lawyers at major firms that employ the most HLS grads, they said accounting, statistics, corporate finance, negotiation and business strategy are essential courses to best equip them for practicing law.
- Uniform Bar Exam. Enables anyone who passes it to practice in any of the other states that offer the UBA although each state may set its own passage score. Currently offered in 14 states. We expect this number to increase and, sooner or later, the UBA to replace state bar exams.
- Mandatory Mediation. The New York State court system is ready to launch a pilot program in Manhattan Supreme Court that would require every fifth case assigned to judges in its commercial division to go to mediation. Could this become a trend? We doubt it.
- Patent Trolls. Oklahoma recently became the 12th state to enact legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls – or more politely “non-practicing entities” (NPEs) – which accounts for most patent litigation today In total, patent bills have been introduced or enacted in 26 states.
- Defensive Aggregators. These are recent players in the NPE phenomenon. In exchange for an annual fee, they buy up dangerous patents on the open market before NPEs get their hands on them. When NPEs do sue subscribers, DAs try to arrange settlements for their members, lever-aging the fact that they can strike deals on behalf of multiple members at the same time.
- Legal Fees and Gender Gap. According to a review by Sky Analytics Inc., a provider of software to help track legal spending and invoices, female partners command on the average 10% less in fees then their male counterparts. The gap begins at the junior lawyer level and is more pronounced among experienced attorneys at major firms, even when partners have similar levels of experience and work in the same market.
- Diversity. While the number of Asian-American and Hispanic lawyers has rebounded from pre- recession levels at the 100 highest-revenue firms, the percentage of black lawyers at these firms is only 3%, the lowest level since 2000. Yet corporate legal departments, not to mention government and regulatory agencies, are increasingly integrated and take affirmative steps to ensure they employ diverse outside counsel.
- Alternative Fee Arrangements. Reports from corporate legal departments on the percentage of their legal fees paid in some form of AFA vary widely. However, a growing number of corporations now involve procurement people in preparing RFPs and discussing AFAs. Reports from firms also vary widely but rarely exceed 50% and, in most firms, continue to be much less. Some large firms are developing pricing strategies, particularly those that have hired pricing directors.
- Non-lawyer investment in firms. A controversial issue that was hot until a year ago, then cooled down. It’s far from dead. See my article in the August issue of Of Counsel.
- MidLaw and SmallLaw firms continue to benefit as large corporate clients shift work to them because their rates are lower, they have skilled lawyers and fewer conflicts. LexisNexis reported that the share of fees in the U.S going to firms of 201-500 lawyers grew from 18% three years ago to 22% last year while, at the largest firms with more than 750 lawyers, the market share fell from 26% to 20%.
- Litigation Funding is still Hot as certain investors continue to fund law suits in hopes of collecting when verdicts come down. Some law firms are even seeking funding arrangements for clients who need help to carry their suits.
- Virtual law firms continue to increase. The June 5 edition of the excellent “Attorney At Work” blog contains a thoughtful discussion of how to avoid the isolation that could occur in them.
- Project Management continues to grow in importance at mid-size firms as well as the largest because major clients continue to demand “Value” – often undefined – for their legal spend.
- Succession Planning, for both management and client responsibility, is becoming a major concern, not only for mid-size firms but also for some of the largest.
- Lateral Hiring continues to be a growth strategy, not only in large firms but also in many mid- size ones as well. Abandoned merger discussions, such as the recent ones between Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders, continue to provide an additional pool of potential laterals.
- Contract and Part-Time Attorneys. BigLaw and MidLaw firms continue to hire more of them.
- Equity Partner Compensation continues to be a critical and even more sensitive issue. With firms need for growth, often just to survive, partners and even senior associates are demanding more recognition for origination or are opposing “sunset origination”. The issue becomes more clouded with the other responsibilities partners must handle in even smaller and mid-size firms.
- Always a major issue in most firms, we see compensation becoming more challenging an issue than ever.
We will be addressing some of these developments, as well as others not included here, in greater depth in subsequent Legal Communiques as well as one our web site which is updated monthly or more often.
Robert Denney Associates Inc. provides strategic management and marketing counsel to law firms, companies and non-profit organizations throughout the United States. Previous Communiques as well as information about our services may be viewed on our web site.
P.O. Box 551, Wayne, PA 19087-0551 • 610-644-7020 • fax: 610-296-8726 email: firstname.lastname@example.org • web site: www.robertdenney.com.
Thanks Bob for a great post – looks like you are on a roll!
♫ These are the people of Walmart
Through mark downs, roll backs, and shopping carts
These are the people of Walmart
Where we save money and shop smart only at Walmart…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Jessica Frech.
They teach you in business school to carefully evaluate your ‘marketing mix”. When it comes to a law firm’s marketing mix, the discussion is typically centred around the 7 P’s of law firm service marketing:
- Physical Evidence
What is unique in North America is that there is a law firm – Axess Law – that has taken a bold step into rethinking the traditional marketing mix for a law firm.
Here is their contact info from their website for one of their offices:
What are their products? They state:
Whether you are looking for a real estate lawyer, an estates lawyer, a family lawyer, a notary public to notarize or commission your documents or a business lawyer to draft your business agreements, we can help you.
What is their promotion? This is from their website:
Axess Law has highly experienced, trained and dedicated lawyers and legal representatives on staff similar to what you would expect to find at any other law firm. Unlike other firms, our approach to law is refreshingly different. We believe that law should be accessible to all, should be available at times that suit you and at prices that make sense. ‘Law Made Easy’ is not just our trademarked slogan – it is the philosophy that guides our everyday business.
Their place is obviously just inside a Walmart store..with convenient hours and free parking.
Their prices are aimed at the Walmart shopper: They advertise the lowest legal fees in Ontario for home purchases (guaranteed! they say) and $99 personal wills.
Judging by their website, their physical evidence reflects their style: Simple, clean and uncomplicated. One major difference is that you won’t find the traditional listing of the lawyers in the firm with their stuffy bios. Their website is strictly focused on the consumer of their services.
Who are the people who deliver these services? They state: “Dynamic challenges. Amazing people. Your career starts here.” Their website is an active listing of the people that they are looking for to join them: …with the Law Clerk position listed first, then Client Service Associate and at the end, Lawyer.
What about their processes? Their motto is “Law Made Easy“.
This is one dynamic firm. They have obviously thought through their approach to the market and they are taking a different direction from most, if not all, of the law firms in North America today. These are the people – and the lawyers – of Walmart.
-cross-posted to www.tips.slaw.ca
♫ Swear allegiance to the flag
Whatever flag they offer
Never hint at what you really feel…♫
This is a guest post by Michael T. Mulligan, Barrister & Solicitor in regards to the upcoming special general meeting of the Law Society set for June 10. I would note that at all times the views expressed on this blog are strictly personal and in particular do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia.
I am posting this guest post from Michael as I feel that this upcoming Special General Meeting reflects some very important issues that should be discussed fully, openly and respectfully. I know that this particular matter has garnered considerable press and generates some fairly intense views both in and outside of the legal profession. I feel that informed dialogue and discussion among the profession is the way to resolve this issue and accordingly here is Michael’s post:
In anticipation of the June 10 Special General Meeting of the Law Society of BC, please find here a legal opinion prepared by Dr. Melina Buckley and J.J. Camp, QC.
The opinion addresses the following issues:
1. Is the Trinity Western University (“TWU”) Covenant Discriminatory?
2. What is the role of the LSBC in this matter?
3. Does the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in TWU v. College of Teachers  1 SCR 772 (“BCCT”) determine the outcome of the LSBC’s decision.
In addition, please find below links to two of the submissions considered by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Both submissions include a detailed legal analysis of the applicability of the BCCT decision and come to the conclusion that it would not be determinative. The submissions further analyze the discriminatory nature of the TWU covenant and the obligations of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
If you are interested in reviewing the debate and material relied upon by the Law Society of Upper Canada in coming to the conclusion that TWU ought not to be accredited, that can be found here:
In a recent email to the profession, the president of Trinity Western University argues that it would be “unfair and discriminatory to preclude TWU graduates from practicing law in BC because of a religious belief.”
While Trinity Western University has tried to characterize the issue before the Law Society as one relating to the admission of future theoretical graduates based on their religious beliefs, this is simply not the issue before us.
In my respectful judgment, a person’s religious, political or other beliefs should play no part in a decision concerning their fitness for call and admission. The Law Society is a regulator of conduct, not belief.
Moreover, as a profession, we are better off having members with a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs.
What is being considered, at this stage, is whether the Law Society should give its approval to a proposed faculty of law. Doing so, in this case, would countenance an institution which acts in an offensive and discriminatory manner. It is Trinity Western University, not a theoretical future student, that is seeking our approval at this time.
Section 3 of the Legal Profession Act sets out the objects and duties of the Law Society. These duties include upholding the public interest in the administration of justice and the preservation and protection of the rights and freedoms of all persons. This section also grants authority to achieve these objectives by, amongst other things, permitting the Law Society to establish standards and programs for the education of lawyers.
The objection to the application for approval of a university that operates in a discriminatory fashion is not founded on, as TWU suggests, an emotional appeal. It is founded on a carefully considered analysis of the correct legal test for the granting of approval of the sort requested.
In addition to being in accordance with the legal objects and duties of the Law Society, the denial of approval for TWU is the morally right thing to do. We should be leaders in ongoing efforts to end unacceptable discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Thank you for taking the time to carefully consider this important issue.
Michael T. Mulligan
Barrister & Solicitor
Mulligan Tam Pearson Law Corp.
3rd Floor – 536 Broughton St.
Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 1C6
Toll Free: 1.800.664.2785
Thank you Mike for this guest post on such an important issue. Voting will be available at the various locations for the Special General Meeting until 6 pm PDT on June 20, 2014. The information posted by the Law Society of British Columbia regarding this meeting is as follows:
Special General Meeting June 10, 2014
Information about the special general meeting on June 10 along with the material considered by the Benchers in their discussion and decision on April 11 are available here.
Read the Notice of Special General Meeting update.
Read the Notice of Special General Meeting – includes messages from the Benchers and lawyer Michael Mulligan.
A transcript of the Bencher discussion and decision is available here.
The webcast of the meeting is available here.
The opinions that were before the Benchers for consideration at their April 11 meeting are available here.
Personally I agree that a student should not be faced with the moral dilemma of either possibly forgoing a legal education or a having to sign allegiance to an offensive discriminatory policy as a condition of being admitted to law school and never being able to admit how they really feel while they are in attendance.