♫ I only need to tell myself
See what the future holds… ♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by S.P.Y.
Just a note that the 2014 Solo and Small Firm Conference early bird rate ends tomorrow…!!
This is a CLE-BC conference and we have worked quite hard on the content and the speakers. This is for anyone running or in a solo or small firm practice or thinking of launching one.
This is the latest in a series of Solo and Small Firm Conferences that have been hosted by CLE-BC. It only comes around every 2 years.
We have outstanding speakers including the Past President of the CBA Fred Headon doing the lunch keynote on the implications of the CBA Futures Report for solo and small firms (by Skype!).
You can attend in person or virtually.
Topics include Business School for Lawyers – what they didn’t teach you in Law School; Managing the Finances – Making the Numbers Work, Law Office Management and Technology, Marketing Ethically, Dealing with the Self Represented and Freeman on the Land, Solo and Small Firm issues and a guest presentation by the founders of the Axess Law Firm in Ontario – who have ‘embedded’ a law practice inside a number of Wal*Mart stores in Ontario.
This is a fresh look at solo and small firm practice…and an exciting one.
As the conference chair, I welcome you to the conference and I am looking forward to seeing you all there. Come and see what the future holds!
♫ I want to be part of the solution
Can you use me to lead a revolution?
I want to be part of the solution… ♫
Music, Lyrics and recorded by: Jonah33.
The issues facing the profession have been set out by many: from Richard Susskind as documented in his many books, to Madam Justice McLachlin, who has said:
“Timely, effective access is the most pressing issue facing Canada’s justice system, says Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
Many people have given up on seeking justice through the courts, deterred by the often expensive and time consuming process, she said.
“We do need some new approaches…we need to get behind the solutions,” she said.
The problems facing the justice system and the legal profession are well set out. The issue is where are the solutions to come from? More importantly, where will the leadership come from?
The Canadian Bar Association has now published its comprehensive August 2014 report, Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada. This report is the culmination of two years of consultation, original research and analysis on the future legal marketplace in Canada, and includes a series of recommendations on where and how the profession can transform itself. (See more at: http://www.cbafutures.org/reports#sthash.NMcwadWx.dpuf)
The hardest issue, as I see it, will be in implementing the recommendations that have been brought forward. Implementation of change is always the hardest part of any process. Here the law schools are facing a critical juncture: do they help lead the change to meet the new challenges – or – do they stand in the way of change?
In an article in The New Republic entitled “How to Fix Law School” (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113983/how-fix-law-school-symposium) Mike Kinsley says:
“When you graduate, you should be prepared to pass the bar. The discovery that everything you have crammed into your head for three years has no relevance at all, and you have to master a whole new curriculum in just a few weeks for the bar exam, is dispiriting.
It’s absurd that you can graduate from law school without ever seeing a real client. Some clinical courses ought to be mandatory. Trainee doctors start seeing real patients within a year and a half. Trainee lawyers can go three, and graduate, without ever touching a client. And, let’s be honest, the training of your doctor is more important.”
I think law schools need to lead the change that we wish to see in the profession. It all starts here, from the training of lawyers to practice law (including training on issues such as practice management, actually running a business and using legal technology) to how to manage clients and actually do a conveyance, an incorporation or a decently drafted will. We need law schools to think differently.
Most of all, we need law schools to teach law students to be leaders who can step up and continue this process of change in order that the legal profession remains a strong, independent profession and continues to serve the needs of the community.
We need leadership in the profession and this training must start in law school. Law schools need to fully embrace being part of the solution in leading the revolution. In my view we don’t need any more law schools in this country that train lawyers in the old ways of doing things. What we need are the existing law schools to produce graduates that are going to be leaders in moving the profession forward with new approaches, new technologies and new ways of thinking – we need law schools to be part of the solution.
(Article has been updated. The original was published in CBA’s publication BarTalk).
♫ Well, rave on it’s a crazy feeling
And I know it’s got me reeling
I’m so glad that you’re revealing your love for me…♫
Lyrics and music by: Shaun Ryder, Paul Richard Davis, Mark Philip Day, Paul Anthony Ryder, Gary Kenneth Whelan, recorded by Buddy Holly.
In the prior two posts on lawyers and pricing, we have been discussing the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. In this post we are exploring how important the people who deliver your legal services are and how this can be a distinct competitive advantage.
All of us have experienced situations where your first contact with a business is with someone who just makes you feel like looking after you is the most important thing for them to do in their day. I had that experience today – I called a law firm and spoke to an assistant who, when I asked to speak to her principal, said in the most caring voice: “Well, he isn’t in his office right now but let me go out and round him up for you.” This was my very first contact with this firm and this wonderful lady didn’t know me from Adam. The way she made me feel was simply amazing. She made me feel valued and important. I recognized her exceptional people skills and thought about how she was a tremendous asset to the firm.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” In other words, your ability to select, recruit, train and retain the best people with the skills and abilities to do the job right is more important than everything else put together.
The Spectacled Marketer says:
If a customer feels their expectations of your business are exceeded, then the chances of a referral are exponentially increased because their loyalty to your company is exponentially increased as well!
You need to strive for your clients to feel exceptionally satisfied so that they rave about your services. How do you exceed your client’s expectations? The first step is …hold on now…ask them! Yet lawyers and law firms *shudder* at the thought of asking clients three simple questions:
- What did they like about the firm’s services,
- What didn’t they like, and
- How could the firm firm do it better.
If you find out that there is someone on your bus that shouldn’t be there…you have a decision to make. If you find out that you have someone on your bus who is simply exceptional and is a tremendous asset to your firm, make sure you recognize and reward them accordingly!
In considering the marketing of your practice, consider how the people in your business can either make your clients rage on, feel indifferent, feel satisfied or preferably, rave on about your services. Your client service can be a strong distinguishing factor as compared to your competition. In terms of your marketing mix, strive for having very satisfied clients showing their “love by raving on about you!”
(cross posted to www.tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Keep moving, never stopping sharks
Music, lyrics and recorded by Further Seems Forever.
In the first column in this series we dealt with the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Unfortunately many lawyers (and clients) tend to overly focus on price and not appreciate the other 6. The theme of this post will be to look at the product mix and the role that it plays in marketing (and pricing!) of legal services.
One law firm is different from another in terms of the mix of services that they can provide. My colleague and friend Bob Denney produces a “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report several times a year that I repost on here on my blog Thoughtfullaw.com with his kind permission. This report shows what services are in demand, what are staying neutral and which are declining. The importance here is that if you can be nimble, you can change your mix of legal services. Staying with the same mix of services can result in stagnation. In fact, Woody Allen in one of his movies once said:
“A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to move constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark”
The one thing that you don’t want to be as a law firm is a dead shark.
So survey your clients – do external reviews of what services are in demand, look at what industries are on the upswing in your area and think about how you can provide needed legal services to them. Compare your marketing mix of services to your competitors and see how you stack up. Eventually what you are doing will grow old in the eyes of the consumer – you need to change things up – complacency is the enemy of success.
If you can offer a unique mix of services that are more closely aligned to the needs of your clients, then you have moved from competing solely on price to being able to distinguish your services from those offered by the competition and show to the clients that you are doing a better job in terms of meeting their needs than the competition. The clients could say “Yes we could move to Dewey Gottem & Howe, but they don’t do what Werk, Worke and Wourke do for us…” You have moved from competing on price to competing based on the perceived value of your services from the viewpoint of the client. You have become a moving, never stopping shark…
♫ All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you
Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…♫
Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.
The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me. Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year. Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects. Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.
Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice. What changes would you like to see? Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions. September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going. Do you wish it to explore new opportunities? Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place? What is gnawing on you about the firm? What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective? Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.
Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm. What is your story? Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm? What about technology? Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?
Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’. My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients - or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.
I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important. This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.
(cross posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Get on your boots and visit the North Pole
Try every sport until you score a goal
Follow the path of a butterfly
Go to Ground Zero and do nothing but cry
We don’t know how much time left we got left in this world
This beautiful world…♫
Lyrics and music by Nelly Furtado, Rodney Roy Jerkins, Rodney Jerkins, recorded by Nelly Furtado.
Having just returned from my summer vacation, I came across an article on Lifehack.org that struck a resonate chord deep within me. The article is entitled: The Ultimate Bucket List: 60 Things You Should Do Before You Die. Perhaps it was the all-too tragic death of Robin Williams. Perhaps it was my visit to Ground Zero this summer. Perhaps it was just the sense that life is passing by all too quickly. I do know that I wished I had written this article as I think that Thomas Mondel has done an excellent job and he should be justifiably proud of what he has crafted.
What is on the list of things that he has compiled? Here is just a sampling:
Forgive the people who treated you poorly. Thomas states that there is nothing more refreshing than to sincerely forgive someone. Just forgive then and move on – it gets rid of the anger and it frees up your mind.
Be curious about people. Thomas observes that the people who are interested in others are the most interesting people themselves. Learn to listen and learn something new from everyone you meet.
Swim Naked. In the best case this is under the crystal clear sky. Yahoo!
Email one of your heroes and Meet up with one of your heroes. Try to reach out to the people who you value or you feel inspired by. As Thomas notes, how awesome would it be if your hero actually responds?
Witness the birth of a child. I totally agree with Thomas – it is kinda magical! Thank you Lauren for being my magical moment!
I hope you read the entire article by clicking here. The time to start on our own bucket list is now…we never know how much time we have left.
(cross posted to slaw tips.ca)
♫ 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)
♫ 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…