♫ 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
♫ Albert Einstein
I got an idea and it’s really bright
Somebody in my brain just turned on the light…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Avias.
This is another great leadership post from Beth Flynn at the THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY LEADERSHIP CENTER (www.leadershipcenter.osu.edu).
This post highlights the principles that helped shaped Albert Einstein into a leader and successful scientist. They are taken from Smithson, D. (2014). What managers don’t know: how to be a better manager, leader, and entrepreneur? Theinformbook.com
“Many people think that Einstein was just a simple scientist who went about formulating the laws that govern the Universe, but he was so much more than that.
Apart from being the man who had the greatest single impact on the advancement of our understanding of the laws that govern the physical universe, Einstein was also a philosopher king! Following are some of his musings (ESP), along with how they can relate to your business.
ESP 1: ‘The search for truth is more precious than its possession.’ This of course links back into the idea that you should never stop learning, asking questions so that you can learn.
ESP 2: ‘Imagination is more important that knowledge.’ This ESP is one of those ideas that has no direct application, but is such a powerful belief to install within your psyche; it can influence everything you do.
ESP 3: ‘No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.’ In science, nothing is ever 100% true. Think about that axiom. True science merely posits a theorem that should be successful tested and validated by other independent scientists, raises up a ranking to being a theory. This relates to the ideas of leadership. A leader is often only ever as good as his or her last successful decision.
ESP 4: ‘Most people say that intellect that makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.’ Apart from having a brain the size of a planet, Einstein was a man of constant inquisition, determination and almost child-like playfulness. So whilst you are getting your business qualifications, do so without sacrificing your social and thinking skills. If you are lacking in some areas, then go outside your comfort zone and learn how to gain those skills.
ESP 5: ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ Einstein was an amazingly humble man, but this typical self-effacing statement reveals much of the secret of his success. He simply refused to give up. In everything he did, Einstein took the approach of an outstanding man who wanted to achieve outstanding things.
ESP 6: ‘You learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.’ If you want to become a success you have to first get into the game, and to do that you have to understand what the rules are. Once you’ve got that locked down, you have to practice and compete constantly – and if necessary, push for a change in the rules!!!
ESP 7: ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’
I have made (and continue to make) mistakes, ranging from minor inconveniences to absolute oh my lord pass me on a gun now! But I never stop trying because I have a very simple philosophy: I never fail, so long as I learn something new (even, as I said, if that something new is a mistake - I won’t ever do that again.
ESP 8: ‘To stimulate creativity one must develop childlike inclination for play and childlike desire for recognition.’ My outlook on life is simple, I want to experience everything I can before I get to the final destination.
ESP 9: ‘Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.’ It is said that we go through three stages of development. First it is met with derision. Then it is confronted with hostility and aggression. Finally, it is accepted as playfully self-evident. This is especially true when your great idea is a challenge to the established way of doing things, or contrary to the idea of the one who sits above you (p. 211-291).”
WANT TO DISCUSS TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MOMENT?
Go to the Ohio State Leadership’s blog and share your thoughts, ideas, or answer the questions below.
- Which of these ESP principles had the biggest impact on you?
- What are some ways you can integrate these principles into your work life?
Thanks Beth for helping us all turn on the light in our brains!
♫ Tell me, where are we going?
Oh, what’s the future showin’?
Oh, where are we headed?
With all that’s goin’ on where are we getting’? ♫
Lyrics and music by: Larry Mizell, Edward Gordon; recorded by Marvin Gaye.
This is another guest post by Bob Denney. It is on a topic near and dear to my heart, namely strategic planning and in particular, SP for smaller firms.
The legal profession continues to change dramatically. One of the encouraging developments of these changes is that more law firms are recognizing what their corporate clients have known for years: You can’t survive and compete successfully without a Strategic Plan. We have seen the result of this in our practice. Strategic Planning has always been one of our major services. Now, in the last three years, it has become our largest area of practice.
Unfortunately, there are still come misconceptions about strategic planning, even on the part of people who acknowledge its benefits. One of the most common is that “It’s only for large firms.” This is not so. Strategic planning is just as critical for mid-size and smaller firms because they have fewer resources and must utilize their resources strategically.
Another encouraging development of the last few years is that mid-size and smaller firms are also recognizing that, while they do not have the resources large firms have, they do have certain advantages over them:
o Lower or more reasonable fees and rate structures.
o Lower overhead and expenses.
o For the most part they provide superior client service.
o They have highly skilled lawyers, many with substantial books of business, who have left large firms.
o They are often able to recruit talented law school graduates who are by-passed by the large firms.
o They have open communication within the firm.
o They have the ability to make major decisions on a timely basis.
Strategic Planning is a complex and delicate process which is foreign to many law firms, even some of the largest. It can consume many hours (none of which are billable), generate intense feelings and result in firms setting unattainable objectives. But this does not mean that it is only for large firms. The Managing Partner of a firm which developed its first strategic plan two years ago gave perhaps the best reason of all for mid-size and smaller firms to develop strategic plans:
“The process we went through was as valuable or even more valuable than the final product we came up with.”
—Managing Partner, 250-lawyer firm
Robert Denney Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 551, Wayne, PA 19087-0551 • phone: 610-644-7020 • fax: 610-296-8726 email: email@example.com• web site: www.robertdenney.com
Thanks again Bob for emphasizing the importance of knowing where we are heading with all that is going on…
♫ Check the state of the world we live in
Can’t you see it’s a cryin’ shame?
Leadership fails before it begins
Motivated by personal gains
My long-standing good friend, fellow lawyer, runner and enduring leader in the American Bar Association has (finally!) launched his blog Strategic Legal Leadership. Tom’s mission in life for as long as I have known him has been in enhancing leadership among lawyers. He has written extensively on the subject (see for example his two books “Lessons in Leadership” and “The Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Planning” both published by the ABA) and has led by example (see his extensive leadership roles here).
Tom has read virtually everything written on leadership (his book Lessons in Leadership is a must-read, if for no other reason than to come up to speed on the highlights of the most important books on leadership which are not only summarized in his book but placed in a legal context). He has provided some of the most educated and thoughtful presentations on not only why leadership is so vitally important at this pivotal time in the legal profession (some of which I have been most fortunate to have been present to hear) but why lawyers in any size firm need leadership skills to bring their firms, their partners, their associates and staff into the new reality of practising law.
I am truly fortunate as I have had the opportunity of working with Tom for 20 years, extensively running with him (while discussing leadership and other practice management topics) and watching his and my daughter grow up together. I believe that if mentoring is one sign of leadership, then Tom has excelled in raising his daughter to be an example of someone who is now leading her life trying to bring about social change and improving conditions for those whom society has left less-fortunate than most.
Tom truly believes in servant leadership. Traditionally, leadership was viewed as the accumulation and exercise of power by someone ‘at the top of the pyramid’ (as per Wikipedia). In contrast, servant leadership puts the needs of others first and views success as helping others develop and perform as highly as possible.
Tom has stated this about his blog:
Strategic Legal Leadership helps lawyers lead. Providing thoughtful guidance and practical advice will result in effective leadership, efficient management, and ultimately an exemplary client experience. Author Tom Grella offers timely advice based on his extensive experience and study.
I am adding Tom’s blog to my ‘must read’ list. Tom is a bright light, showing the true path to servant leadership, as he recognizes that leadership fails where it is motivated by personal gain. A true leader such as Tom put the interests of those that he seeks to lead first and foremost.
♫ Ah, there’s an elephant standing in the room
Ah, though we’re all alone
It’s not just me and you…♫
This is another guest post from Beth Flynn at the Ohio State University Leadership Center.
All of us have these two parts within – the wise and intentional inner executive and the unconscious inner elephant, which does a good job for us most of the time. The friction between inner executive and inner elephant occurs when they have different ideas about desired behavior. The inner elephant is concerned about its own needs and comforts, and is often stronger than the inner executive. The inner executive can see the bigger picture even if it has not learned how to guide and control the elephant.
For a leader, the ideal situation is for the inner elephant to work as the servant, the inner executive to work as master. Of course everyone faces situations where the inner elephant’s urges seem far stronger than the inner executive’s good intentions. This is like the inmates having more influence than the warden. Managers who do not have a well-developed inner executive will not lead themselves consciously and intentionally, just as a company without a CEO and executive team will not have an intended strategy or the capability to coordinate disparate departments for strategy execution.
When in its proper role, the inner elephant thrives as a follower, not a leader. Ideally, leaders will understand their own elephant, and will be conscious of its habits and needs. When a person is “unconscious,” however, he or she tends to live at the mercy of the inner elephant, following its needs and impulses without concerns for others or a bigger picture. When “conscious,” a leader can be intentional about doing the right thing (p. 11-12).
From: Daft, R. L., (2010). The executive and the elephant: a leader’s guide for building inner excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
WANT TO DISCUSS TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MOMENT?
Go to OLC’s blog and share your thoughts, ideas, or answer the questions below:
When have you used your inner executive to see the bigger picture?
How can you become “conscious” about doing the right thing?
Thanks Beth and her team for continuing to foster the development of leaders and helping us understand our inner elephant!
.♫ And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun….♫
Lyrics and Music by David Gilmour, Nicholas Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, recorded by Pink Floyd.
One of the most interesting things I did just prior to Techshow was to attend a small group presentation hosted by Bob Christensen of The Form Tool and Doxsera in advance of Techshow. Bob’s presentation focused on change and in particular, the effect of change on the legal profession. In order to set the stage, Bob started by noting that in earliest dawn of man, one major change appeared in say, 10,000 generations. That has gradually accelerated to the point where today, we are seeing four major changes appearing in a single generation.
So what has that got to do with the legal profession, you say?
Bob noted that the structure of the legal business was established in the 1700s. We continue to use that structure more or less today.
Bob continued by noting that the watchmaking industry was started at about this same time. During that same period, watchmakers were some of the wealthiest people around and handmade watches cost a considerable amount. Now fast forward to today…to the world of Timex. A $29.95 Timex watch today keeps far better time than the best hand made watch of the past.
Furthermore, 60% of the number of watches in circulation has plummeted - due to the appearance of smartphones. The members of the new generation do not buy watches – they all have smartphones that keep accurate time. They do not see the need.
Bob stated this is just an example of the fact that “the consumer will always dominate the marketplace.” And that applies just as equally to the legal profession.
He noted three major themes in life today:
Theme #1 – the rate of change is accelerating
Theme #2 – that evolution always starts at the top. It is incremental.
Theme #3 – that revolution comes from the bottom. And revolution is always disruptive.
Bob noted that www.LegalZoom.com has taught the legal marketplace (but not lawyers) that legal documents should be free or at least low cost.
Bob challenged the lawyers in the room to see themselves in the same position as the watchmakers of the past who made hand-made watches for high prices. Revolution = Disruption = Technology is coming.
A word about Bob’s latest product: Doxsera. Doxsera is priced at $89 / year (USD). It is a very sophisticated document assembly engine for Word for Windows (sorry it doesn’t work in Word on the Mac).
What makes Doxsera different? It pulls in vast amounts of info into multiple documents and assembles documents in a way that is unique and very cost-effective. You don’t just assemble one document – you assemble a group of documents all relating to say, a closing or real estate transaction etc. You can take a process that in the past, had to be used to produce documents in a serial process (one after another) to the point where it can produce a whole grouping of documents at one time (parallel processing). Bob is trying to demonstrate to lawyers how they can produce legal documents at low cost. Think of his product as taking the legal production process as moving from making expensive hand-made watches to producing inexpensive Timex watches.
However, after his talk I couldn’t help looking back over my shoulder for the legal equivalent of the smartphone. Hmmm….perhaps it is just a matter of time..
♫ Only made me more focused, only wrote more potent..♫
Milton Wedman Zwicker or just “Milt” as he liked to be known, was the retired managing partner of Zwicker Evans & Lewis, an Ontario law firm. His law practice was restricted to business and commercial law and estate planning. He was the author of many articles and books on the subject of law firm management, and he was a past member of the editorial board of Law Practice Management magazine (as it then was known) published by the American Bar Association. His full obituary can be found here.
His books included “Successful Client Newsletters” published in 1998 by the American Bar Association.
In a book review Dave Freedman states:
This book is largely outstanding. The author is a lawyer and has written extensively on law practice management, but anyone who markets a professional service firm of any kind would benefit from this book.
In the introduction Zwicker says, “The most important thing to keep in mind when you are designing and writing your newsletter is the very thing most law firms forget — the newsletter is for your clients and prospects. Be sure the result is a publication that meets their needs, not just yours.”
I first became acquainted with Milt by reading his regular column in the Canadian Bar Association’s publication “The National” back when it was printed on newspaper and had a tabloid like format. These were the days before the Internet and Milt was one of the earliest voices on Law Firm Management that included other luminaries such as J. Harris Morgan, Sam Smith, Jay Foonberg, Jimmy Brill and many others that were active in the Section of Economics of Law Practice as the present Law Practice Division of the ABA was then known.
Milt had one strong message that always came thru his writings and presentations. It is a lesson that is just as important today as it was when Milt first started writing about law practice management. His message was always to make your practice ‘client focused’. This was his measure. If there was a system, a procedure, a policy in your office that wasn’t aimed at meeting client needs, then Milt would quickly say, get rid of it or change it in order that you keep your practice focused and on track.
According to Simon Chester, a mutual friend of Milt, “The extraordinary thing about Milt was that this pioneer sprang from Orillia – small town Ontario. His originality and exuberant enthusiasm were utterly unique.” He had an international reputation that was based on his writings and he was a trailblazer in terms of applying business management principles to the practice of law.
On my invitation, back in the 80′s Milt came to Vancouver to speak to the Law Practice Management section of the BC branch of the Canadian Bar Association back when I was the chair. After his terrific presentation we went for dinner at a sushi restaurant and that is where I started to get to know Milt as a person. Our friendship continued and I was fortunate to be invited to be part of his group in 1997 going to China to put on a week long course on Law Practice Management for the All China Lawyers Association that had only been formed in 1986 together with the Shanghai Bar Association. The legal profession had been reinstated in China after being dismantled by the People’s Republic of China for decades and accordingly we spoke to a group composed of either very young lawyers or very much older lawyers who were now allowed to resume their practice of law.
Milt largely disappeared from public life following his cancer diagnosis and he left his firm to practice from his home, but he continued to write on law practice management. He published “How to Use Marketing to Build and Sustain a Vibrant Law Practice” in 2013.
Milt was a friend, a mentor and a visionary. His writings on law practice management were always a wonderful read and highly informative. He inspired many of us to dig deeper and strive to meet his ideals. I know he inspired me to be more focused, to write more potent. Rest in peace Milt. You will be missed.
♫ Yeah but I want to
Walk on the water with you…♫
This is another guest post from my friend and colleague Bob Denney. So many law firms are facing issues today that I thought his article on how to conduct firm retreats to develop a plan that has ‘buy in’ to tackle these issues would be a timely and useful post. Having been involved in firm retreats, I know that they are a fine art and require a skilled moderator to lead the discussions and keep everyone on track. Having a plan and having someone skilled to guide you along it can make the difference between a successful retreat and an outstanding one.
WALK ON WATER
Planning and conducting a successful retreat is like walking on water – it’s a lot easier if you know where the rocks are. The best way to find the rocks is to follow certain guidelines. Some of them apply to every retreat, regardless of the firm. Others vary, depending on the purpose of the retreat and the culture and goals of the firm.
Some of the reasons for holding a retreat:
- To develop or approve a strategic plan. This is serious business.
- To discuss a major issue – such as a possible merger or new compensation plan – or to launch a new marketing or business development program. This is also serious business.
- To discuss the “state of the firm”. This may be serious business.
- To provide an opportunity for the members of the firm – or all the attorneys – to communicate and socialize together. This is important.
- Even if there is no serious business, it is wise to hold a retreat annually. It is no coincidence that the firms with strong cultures and good internal communications generally hold an annual retreat.
Planning the retreat (more…)