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    Archive for February, 2016
    Can Lawyers be Innovative?
    Thursday, February 25th, 2016

    ♫ I know that something has changed
    Never felt this way
    I know it for real
    This could be the start
    Of something new…♫

    Music and lyrics by: Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, recorded by Vanessa Hudgens.

    steve jobs

    (Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0)

    The American Bar Journal on April 1, 2015 posted an article on “100 Innovations in Law” by Jason Krause.  It is an interesting review (admittedly from an American perspective) of how law has changed over the last 100 years or so. It makes for an intriguing read, but with all due respect to the author, I would list most of the innovations as evolutionary innovation rather than disruptive innovation. I love Twitter, for example, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has proven to be highly disruptive on the legal profession. Even LegalZoom.com hasn’t really opened up new markets; it may have made more services affordable to more people but at least so far I don’t see it having a hugely disruptive effect on the profession.

    Why is innovation so hard in Law? Many factors can be cited here, such as law is a very conservative profession, that lawyers are not risk-takers, that lawyers have been taught to rely on precedent (old lawyer joke:  “The Managing Partner wants the firm to be innovative, to do things differently” to which the Management Committee asks: “Well, who else is doing it?”) and the like. But the true story is that innovation in most professions is difficult.  In fact it may be more difficult in law than other professions due to the structure of law firms.

    My friend Jordan Furlong put it this way in an article entitled “Why Lawyers Don’t Innovate“:

    So when managing partners ask me, “How can I get my lawyers to change?” I have to respond: You can’t make your lawyers do anything they don’t want to do. They’ll do something only if they decide they want to do it, and they’ll want to do it if encouraged by those they like, respect and trust. In a number of law firms, I’m sorry to report, building a culture of “like, respect and trust” among lawyers can be considerably more difficult than getting lawyers to adopt a new innovation. It requires a level of effort and openness and generosity that many lawyers these days feel they can’t afford. But I’m coming to think it’s the key to successful, long-term, sustainable law firm innovation. And it can be done.

    I think that really the Fundamental Attribution Error is at play here.  Wikipedia states:

    [T]he fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics (personality) to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation rather than considering the situation’s external factors.

    In other words, lawyers are reluctant to innovate since the system in which they operate (the modern law firm) does not create a situation of trust that fosters innovation. They behave as they do since that is a rational response to the culture inside law firms.

    I have had the great good fortune to be part of a small group tour of Google and Facebook’s campuses in Palo Alto California.  There is no question that innovation is almost palpable in the air at these locations.  They have crafted an environment where innovative thinking is expected and fostered.

    If we truly want lawyers and law firms to be innovative, we need to change the culture. We need to know that when we enter an innovative firm, we all know that something has changed, that this could be the start of something new…

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    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 | 9 Comments »
    The Dash
    Thursday, February 18th, 2016

    ♫ This is the end, beautiful friend 
    This is the end, my only friend, the end..♫

    Lyrics and music by: Bruce Franklin, Eric Wagner, Rick J. Wartell, recorded by The Doors.

    graveyard.

    (© Copyright Peter Ward and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

    Garry Wise, my co-author in our SlawTips.ca weekly column, had his mother pass away this past weekend.  Extending condolences and sharing his grief is only natural; but it started me thinking about whether there were anything we can take away from the grief and try to find meaning in the loss.

    Another friend of mine stated that lives are represented by the dash that appears between someone’s birthdate and the day they passed away, as in [1930] – [2016].  Entire lives, loves, joys, marriages, births, heartbreak are contained in that dash. When someone close to you passes away, can you learn something from the grief? Marsha Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC in an article entitled “Finding Meaning in Your Loss” stated that there are lessons to be learned from grief.  She stated:

    Losing someone you love teaches you to:

    • Stop, examine and appreciate what really matters, what’s important, what’s truly valuable in life.
    • Live fully in the present, knowing that the past is gone and the future is not yet.
      Appreciate the value and wonder of every precious moment, without taking them for granted.
    • Accept the freedom and joy of spontaneity, to play, to relax and to have fun.
      Find valuable insights buried in the give and take of daily life, to slow down, daydream and fantasize.
    • Simplify your life, so you have more time and energy to share with those you love.
      Accept what’s happened to you, roll with the changes and keep on growing, believing that you’ll make it.
    • Be patient with yourself, allowing the grieving process to happen in whatever way it will.
    • Keep and develop your connections with others, knowing that you are not alone.
    • Share your thoughts and feelings with others openly and honestly, and sooner rather than later.
    • Rethink your attitude toward death as a natural part of the cycle of life.
    • Be grateful for the love you shared, however briefly, and appreciate what you have left.
    • Define yourself as a survivor rather than a victim.
    • Share what you’ve learned with others. At some point in your grieving process, you may feel the need to channel your pain, as well as the time and energy once devoted to your relationship with your loved one, into something productive and meaningful. As one who truly understands the grieving process, you may feel ready to reach out to others who are suffering the pain of loss. Once you’ve found your own way through grief, you will have a great deal to share with other grievers: you can identify with their struggles, empathize with their sorrows and doubts, and offer valuable information and support.

    Joel Readence writing in The HuffPost on “Death, Dying and Finding Meaning in Loss” stated:

    For those of us left behind, it’s important we ask ourselves what our loved ones would want for us after they die. Would they want us drowning in the grief and despair of their loss, or would they want us to mourn, make peace with and move past their deaths? We also need to remember our time here is limited. We need to stop putting off until tomorrow, those things that will add value and meaning to our lives today. Don’t let fear of failure, success or judgment by others keep you from realizing your full potential. Give yourself permission to be all that you can be and unapologetically move in the direction of your dreams.

    When someone near and dear to us reaches that final end point, realize that we still have some time left.  The passing of another can be used to find meaning and to push beyond the pain to find greater value in our lives.

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips | Permalink | No Comments »
    Make – and Implement – a Plan
    Thursday, February 4th, 2016

    ♫ But the plan won’t accomplish anything
    If it’s not implemented…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Built to Spill.

    idea plan action

    (image used pursuant to Creative Commons CC0 licence)

    There are many questions to ask yourself and to think about before you reach your decision as to whether or not you would like to open a law practice. In talking to other lawyers, they will have some very helpful questions that will be very insightful and provide guidance as to whether you are making the right move or not. Owning a law  practice is a huge responsibility, so you want to be very sure of what you are getting yourself into. You want to make sure that you are ready willing and able to do what it takes, and most importantly, you have what it takes to run that legal practice.

    Ask yourself – are you are a good decision maker? Part of owning your own business means that you have to be that voice of reason and the ultimate decision maker. The buck, as they say, stops with you. You have to be the one to see that the best interests of your clients are always first and foremost. You also need to do what is best for both your clients, as well as for the practice.

    Ask yourself: are you organized enough to run the business? You need many skills including a high degree of organization in order to be successful. This does not mean that you necessarily have to be equipped with those skills yourself. It is quite acceptable to hire someone to do tasks on your behalf, as long as they are going to effectively get the job done. So if that means hiring an extra secretary and an accountant, then so be it. But you are the one doing the management for the practice and as such you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your practice.

    Ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice what it takes to properly run your practice? You will be putting in long hours and as a result, have much less of a social life when you are starting a new practice, at least at first. You are going to want to dedicate your time concentrating on your new firm – managing it, marketing it, checking the finances and all that. You need to realize that when a person opens a new law practice, it does take away some of the time that they have with their family and loved ones. You have to be sure that this sacrifice is something that you have thought through, and accept and that your family is willing to make their own sacrifices as well.

    Once you have mentally prepared yourself to run a busy law practice, there are more things to think about. You have to organize your office! After carpet and wallpaper combinations are worked out, client seating is considered, office equipment ordered and qualified staff are recruited the legal professional’s office is open for business. Bookkeeping must be done and cheques written.

    As time passes, increase in business volume strains the practitioner. Even though managerial ability should be increasing, there is no time to manage effectively. Gone are the days when legal professionals handled every aspect of the day-to-day business. The accountant says business has increased but profits are down. Staff members sometimes do not get along. Information systems do not break out pertinent details of the business. The expensive marketing costs do not seem to be hitting the mark. The community begins to wonder why this educated and apparently capable individual never seems to support enough local projects. At the end of the day, there is very little time for considering the business, let alone family. Often the step overlooked when building a new practice is to develop a practical business plan from the outset.

    Planning is perhaps the fundamental function of a manager. It requires understanding the components of a business and how they are interconnected. Planning begins with understanding the value a practitioner brings to their client and how best to satisfy the client’s needs. There is no better use of your time before you open your new practice than planning what it is going to look like, how it is going to operate, how it will be financed, what tools and technologies will you incorporate into your workflows and how will you manage to find time for yourself in order to avoid burnout.

    Having a well drafted strategic business plan at hand means that you have a roadmap that governs not only the business direction in which you wish to proceed, it also serves as a governing document, guiding your efforts towards the clients, files and type of practice that you wish to have. It serves as the place where you have listed your business goals (in both qualitative as well as quantitative terms) and when you expect to reach them. It is an analysis of your business from many angles, including how to run the practice (Management), how to reach your chosen markets (Marketing), what systems you will need to make your practice work (Technology) as well as how you expect to be able to raise the necessary capital to start up and run your practice (Finance).

    Along the way, you must learn the systems that must be incorporated into your practice to and how to properly run them to ensure that you are practicing professionally, profitably and ethically. You must also decide the legal entity under which you will practice.

    Optimally you should do all this planning by crafting a well-thought out business plan before you open your doors. That is foresight. But the plan won’t accomplish anything sitting on the shelf. You must give life to the plan and seek to implement its goals and objectives as well as monitor and evaluate the results of your efforts to make maximum use of your plan.

    After all your plan won’t accomplish anything unless it is implemented.

    (posted concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)

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