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    Archive for November, 2015
    Do We Frustrate our Clients?
    Thursday, November 26th, 2015

    ♫ Confusion’s all I see
    Frustration surrounds me
    Solution, bid farewell…♫

    Lyrics and music by Deryck Whibley, recorded by Sum 41.


    (Image: Creative Commons license, courtesy of Evil Erin)

    I had to rent a car today. The reasons are not terribly relevant except to say that I didn’t need any additional stress in my day.

    The car that I rented was a 2015 Chrysler 200. Nice car. Peppy, nice bluetooth that connected to my Blackberry without any difficulty and great satellite radio when I was not on the phone. I enjoyed the vehicle.

    All that changed when I pulled in to fill the tank before returning it. Now I have been driving for decades and have also rented many rental vehicles. I don’t think much about filling them up with gas.  What could be easier, right?

    I pulled into the filling station and got out only to find that the gas cap had a door over it that didn’t have a finger dent that allowed you to open it from the outside. OK no worries.  Went back into the car and started looking for the release button or lever…and looked and looked…everywhere.  All the other cars around me were filling up and driving away while I sat there and went thru the car with a fine-toothed comb.  Not on the dash. Not in the glove box. Not on the door. Nothing. Nada. Complete blank.  OK then …next step: take out the owners manual.  Give it a quick scan..nothing in the Table of Contents.  Check the Index…both silent on how to open the gas cap door.

    Got  out and looked at the door again. Pushed and prodded, tried to pry it open…I even said “Open Sesame.”  Nada.

    Getting back into the car, I started going thru the owners manual carefully. Being a lawyer I am accustomed to looking closely and trying to find something in a long document. Believe me I covered every page. There was a complete absence of any mention of the fundamental task of how to open the gas cap door.

    Third step: grab my Blackberry and start searching.  Turns out I am not the only person who has had difficulties in trying to figure out how to open the gas cap door on various Chrysler vehicles.  Problem is all their proposed solutions didn’t work.  And there were a lot of them.  Nice car but in this instance, bad design combined with no explanation.

    I finally head home, sans any gas and change into more comfortable clothes only to start searching on the Internet with a bigger screen and a proper keyboard.  Finally find a site that says that the gas cap is pressure sensitive and you have to press in just the right area to cause it to pop open.

    From that point onwards, driving to a filling station, popping the cap and filling the car and returning it was all straightforward except for all the unnecessary frustration caused by the whole experience. Since this is obviously a vehicle used by many car rental companies, there must be many, many others out there who have or will shortly go thru the same needless experience.

    Trying to make lemonade from these lemons, I turned to my usual technique which is to try to learn from the experience and place it in a wider context by writing about it.

    Why didn’t Chrysler think to put something in the owners manual to tell people who are unfamiliar with the car how to do a task as simple as fill it with gas?  Beats me but it must have been an oversight by someone. You can have the greatest product imaginable but if people can’t figure out how to use it, it is really an expensive paperweight or worse.

    As lawyers we can deliver a fabulous service for clients but if they don’t understand what is happening or what is expected, they could experience a great deal of frustration with the process. I once talked to a lawyer who drew a process map (or as I used to call them a flow chart…thank you Darin Thompson for pointing out that this was the term used in the Dark Ages) for his clients. This process map showed graphically what would be happening in his client’s case, what to expect when and in what order.

    I thought it was a great idea at the time. I think it is an even better idea today after my experience.

    Our services may be well understood by us but for someone not familiar with the legal system, they could find the experience to be baffling, confusing and frustrating. We can help them a lot by outlining graphical ways that explain whatever it is that will be happening to them. We can also streamline the justice system to make it more straightforward from a design perspective to simplify the process.

    What we don’t want is these people claiming that the entire legal system is failing them and that the solution is to bid farewell with lawyers and their present way of doing things.





    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    The Growing Movement to Online Courts
    Thursday, November 19th, 2015

    ♫ Light gives way to darkness
    Unless we come alive.
    So be the change you need to see.
    Let yourself ignite…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Heartist.


    (image by Erralix)

    In the UK, “The Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, as Head of Civil Justice, have asked Lord Justice Briggs to carry out an urgent review of the structure of the courts which deliver civil justice.” As part of this review is the consideration of the creation of an on-line court (“OC”) for ‘lower value disputes’. ( )

    It is designed primarily for use by litigants, in person; it is to be ‘investigatory rather than purely adversarial’; it is to include conciliation, mediation and it is to be a mainstream rather than an alternative method of dispute resolution.

    Face to face hearings are to be used only if ‘documentary, telephone or video alternatives’ are unavailable.

    The issues that they will be examining and considering are:

    At what level of value at risk (or other criteria) to set the ceiling of the OC.

    Whether there are types of case which, regardless of value, are unsuited for resolution in the OC.

    Whether use of the OC (once fully tested and proved) should be compulsory.

    How to assist those for whom the conduct of litigation on-line is impossible or difficult.

    Costs shifting between the parties.

    A suitable rules regime for the OC.

    How to achieve the transparency needed for the process to comply with the requirements of open justice.

    The design of an appropriate appeals process.

    If this sounds at all familiar, it should. British Columbia’s Civil Dispute Tribunal will be coming on-line in the near future. The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act will require parties with minor strata (i.e. condominium ) disputes and small claims matters (expected to be $10,000 or less) to use the mandatory CRT. The CRT will be Canada’s first online tribunal.

    The CRT is intended to be a cost-effective and accessible process for resolving disputes. Parties will not be filing documents in a courthouse or indeed attending hearing or trials. They will be accessing the CRT online. No need for taking time off work to go to the court registry; the CRT website will be available 24/7 and asynchronous communications can be used.

    The CRT will consist of two systems: the Solution Explorer is intended to help people with tools to access their options and resolve their dispute themselves. The second system will be the Dispute Resolution Service which will enable early resolution options and adjudications if necessary. In this way it is similar to the online dispute resolution mechanisms of eBay which assist parties to resolve their disputes. eBay’s system works: they resolve some 60 millions disputes a year, of which  over 80% are settled by the two parties and the software.

    Indeed the Independent reports that the UK OC will be modelled on the eBay system:

    Thousands of legal disputes would be settled online each year under plans for an eBay-inspired revolution in the civil justice system.

    Judges would rule on cases involving up to £25,000 without the need for courts to be booked or for the parties involved to appear in person to give evidence. The proposed shake-up – which is supported by senior judges –  could also save large sums for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

    These innovations in civil justice are just starting. But the advantages of ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) as compared to traditional trials are quickly apparent. The Canadian Department of Justice lists the advantages of ODR as follows:

    • ODR is a generally informal, flexible and creative tool of dispute resolution which is not governed by strict rules of procedure and evidence. This may allow the parties to design or participate in a process which can be moulded to suit their needs and encourages a consensual rather than an adversarial approach.
    • ODR may reduce litigation costs: this is of importance both to corporate parties who wish to keep costs down and to parties who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost of litigation. The costs of the process or compensation given to the neutral evaluator are generally borne equally by all parties, providing all parties with an equal stake in the outcome and an equal sense of ownership.
    • ODR may be the appropriate option particularly for low-cost, high-volume transaction as it often allows for a timely, cost-efficient and efficient resolution to problems where the amounts in dispute may not be sufficiently high to justify the cost of a meeting-based mediation (e.g. consumer disputes).
    • ODR also allows for a more cost-efficient resolution of disputes where there is significant geographic distance between the parties and the amount in dispute may preclude the cost of travel.
    • ODR may be appropriate where there are sensitivities between the parties that may be exacerbated by being in the same room (e.g. matrimonial disputes).
    • ODR may allow for the participation of parties who could not otherwise attend an in-person meeting due to a severe disability.
    • ODR is confidential (unless agreed otherwise by the parties), subject to the application of the Access to Information Act and of the Privacy Act when the federal government is a party. The process is appropriate when confidentiality is considered important or necessary to the parties, which is often the case: parties utilizing DR mechanisms usually do so on the basis that they can discuss matters freely in the expectation that they will be disclosed, neither publicly, nor to a court.

    Certainly there are disadvantages of ODR, not the least of which is having those who are disadvantaged or with disabilities access the online resources necessary to participate.

    However, when it comes to increasing access to justice and moving the justice system into the 21st century, there is no question that greater online resources will play a big part. The challenge for the legal and the justice system is to be the change that we need to see and let ourselves ignite to the possibilities that change might bring.

    (published concurrently with

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Map Your Future
    Thursday, November 5th, 2015

    ♫ Is the glass half full or half empty ?
    It’s based on your perspective quite simply
    We’re the same and we’re not, know what I’m saying, listen
    Son, I ain’t better than you, I just think different…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Nujabes.

    mind map

    Image created by: Nicoguaro.

    “Think Different” was the slogan for Apple, Inc at one time.  Steve Jobs said in the “One Last Thing” documentary:

    When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

    That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

    The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

    I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

    OK so you want to poke life, you want to be able to change it, you want to make your mark and never be the same again. You want to ‘think different’.  Well, how do you, like, begin?

    One of the ways is to start listening to new voices. is excellent in this regard (watch the presentations that are tagged ‘jaw dropping’ for example. You will not be the same again).

    Another is by reading new books and publications. for example, lists the Best Books of 2015 (so far).

    But if you want to start doing things differently you need new thinking tools. Mind mapping software falls within that category. Rather than listing ideas linearly, mind mapping allows you to graphically organize information by starting with a central idea and branching out from there. You create the relationships between concepts and relate them back to the central idea.

    According to Wikipedia:

    [T]he use of diagrams that visually “map” information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others.

    And now lawyers. I know colleagues who use mind mapping software to plan examinations for discovery, to lay out the theory of their cases and to strategically outline their business plans. They are excellent for brainstorming, for organizing large amounts of information, to visualize relationships between ideas and for helping to make decisions.

    Wikipedia states that mind mapping may be helpful in assisting with memory recall and can improve learning.

    Lifehacker (also another fabulous web site for helping you to think differently) has an article listing the 5 best mind mapping applications.

    Mind Mapping may be just part of the solution if we are going to look at change and in particular, think differently. As Steve has said, we must embrace it, change it, improve it and look for tools to help make your mark upon it.

    (published concurrently on

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