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    Golden Moment: Handling Client Complaints
    Thursday, June 26th, 2014

    ♫ Through the fire and the flames we carry on! ♫

    Lyrics and music by: Herman Li, ZP Theart, Sam Totman, Vadim Pruzhaniov, recorded by Dragonforce.

    Flames

     

    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:

    1. They want a chance to tell their story;
    2. They are looking for a reasonable explanation of what went wrong;
    3. They are looking for assurance that their complaint will be dealt with;
    4. They wish to be thanked for their business; and
    5. 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)

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    What Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession
    Monday, June 9th, 2014

    ♫ 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.

    Robert Denneypage1image2544 page1image2704 page1image2864

    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.

    PRACTICE AREAS

    Red Hot

    • 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

    Getting Hot

    • 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

    Cool

    • IPOs. Particularly in technology. As we anticipated in our 2013 Annual Report.

    Cold

    • 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.

     

    GEOGRAPHIC MARKETS

    • 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 whypage1image25392 page1image25552 page1image25712 page1image25872 page1image26032

     

    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.

     

    OTHR TRENDS & ISSUES

    • 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.

    Bob Denney

    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: bob@robertdenney.com • web site: www.robertdenney.com.

    Thanks Bob for a great post – looks like you are on a roll!

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Main Street..or Wal*Mart? Is it Time to Rethink Your Marketing Mix?
    Thursday, June 5th, 2014

    ♫ 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.

    walmart

    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:

    • Product
    • Promotion
    • Place
    • Price
    • Physical Evidence
    • People
    • Processes

    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:

    axess law walmart address

    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 

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    The Einstein Principle!
    Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

    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.

    albert-einstein-quotes-styles-funny_4908482892923247

    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!

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Strategic Planning is Just as Critical for Mid-size and Smaller Firms
    Monday, May 12th, 2014

    ♫ 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.

    Ecommerce SEO Strategies

    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: bob@robertdenney.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…

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Tips | Permalink | No Comments »
    A New Blog on Lawyer Leadership
    Monday, April 28th, 2014

    ♫ Check the state of the world we live in
    Can’t you see it’s a cryin’ shame?
    (Forgive them)
    Leadership fails before it begins
    Motivated by personal gains
    (Forgive them)…

    Lyrics and music by: Orville Burrell, Ricardo Ducent, Shaun Pizzonia, Maurice Gregory and Anthony Kelly, recorded by Shaggy (Orville Burrell).

    tom grella

    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.

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Lawyer gets 10 Years for Over Billing…
    Friday, April 25th, 2014

    ♫ Twisting and turning
    Your face to the wall
    Your future was soaring
    The landing was hard..♫

    Lyrics and Music by Tom Mallicoat, recorded by Lethal.

    Police Officer Carrying Nightstick

    The American Bar Association Journal reported today:

    A Texas lawyer accused of double-billing Bexar County for indigent defense work and forging judges’ signatures on payment vouchers has been sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty in March to forgery and securing execution of a document by deception.

    This lawyer was once the most prolific  indigent  defence attorney in the county.  According to My SAHilda Valadez was originally indicted:

    ..[O]n 46 felony counts related to allegations she forged judges’ signatures and double-billed the county for her services.

    My SA further reported that the deception charge Hilda plead guilty to is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  She may be able to apply for probation.

    A hard landing indeed.  One can only speculate on what led this lawyer to such behaviour.

    Posted in Firm Governance, Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy | Permalink | No Comments »
    Management, IT and Law Firms
    Thursday, March 6th, 2014

    ♫  Doin it right, doin it right
    Doin it right, doin it right
    The blues bands cookin and the drummers burnin down
    Doin it right on the wrong side of town!!!  

    Lyrics, music and recorded by the Powder Blues.

     

    fail2

    Law firms like to think that they do things rather well.  Exceptionally well, as a matter of fact. Particularly the biggest ones.

    Only problem is, not everyone agrees with that perception.  Take Casey Flaherty for example.  Casey just happens to be the General Counsel at Kia Motors America.  In his words (and this is an exact quote) “Lawyers see themselves as Tom Cruise but most of their work is drudgery.. and they suck at using computers.”

    His proof?  He gave a mock assignment to lawyers that he knew should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. When tested the average time to compete the assignment was 5 hours  and some took as long as 8 hours.

    He has devised a technology audit that he gives to firms before he engages them to test their technology competence.  We are not talking sophisticated legal tools here. Casey is testing knowledge and use of basic Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Adobe Acrobat.

    From the ABA Journal article by Casey Flaherty himself, he stated:

    Sample tasks include:

    (a) formatting a motion in Word,

    (b) preparing motion exhibits in PDF, and

    (c) creating an arbitration exhibit index in Excel.

    The specific tasks, however, are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be:

    (a) formatting a contract in Word,

    (b) Bates stamping a document production of PDFs, or

    (c) isolating pertinent performance data in Excel—or, really, any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should).

    He has given the audit 10 times.  All firms failed…some spectacularly.  Both the median and mean was 5 hours.

    What does he have to say about the audit results?

    My claims are much broader: a lot (of waste exists in the legal system) and enough (of that waste is attributable to technological incompetence to make this a problem worth addressing)

    The real issue is that law firms (and particularly the largest ones) have absolutely no incentive to have their lawyers increase their technological knowledge.  So long as they bill by the billable hour –  meaning there are no competitive pressures forcing them to acquire greater skills, this situation will exist.  The greater hours put into a file translate to a bigger bottom line.

    There is something very very fundamentally wrong here. No other business or profession has been allowed to languish on the borders of technological incompetence and still be in business.  Most if not all other business would have been driven out of business by failing to meet mounting competitive pressures.

    Is there a correlation here with Access to Justice?  The middle class have been claiming that lawyers are far too expensive and out of reach for their typical legal problems for some time now.

    I wonder just how long the public will stand by before they start to call for fundamental changes to the legal system in order to bring about the changes that they desire.  My co-author for this column, Garry Wise of Toronto, in reviewing this article stated that:

    But in fairness to Canadian lawyers, in part, without paperless courts and automated systems for court and other filings, there is even less incentive for us to master the skills that would be necessary to put electronic documents together.  Our system simply doesn’t require that we prepare or know how to complete effective “non-papyrus” documents.

    I agree with Gary ..the solution is not piece-meal.  We have to address the entire workflow of how we produce, serve, file, share, store, search, and archive legal documents. I was presenting at a CBA Immigration conference in Vancouver last week and my co-presenter Laura Best a lawyer at Embarkation Law Group asked the attendees how many people in attendance filed electronically in federal court.  Only a handful of hands went up indicating that even where e-filing is possible, lawyers are not getting on the bandwagon (Laura happens to be one of the biggest users of e-filing here in BC, I understand).

    This is a knowledge management issue, it is a management issue, it is an issue where all the players in the room have to come to the table to brainstorm on how to change not only behaviours but the system itself to encourage lawyers to bring about the necessary change.

    The call to arms here for lawyers, law firms and regulators is to prod, push, cajole and otherwise mandate greater change before this change is thrust upon us.  We have to become students of change and move with the technological times. Management of firms should not stand by and simply be satisfied with the status quo.  They should be bringing in IT training (complete with tests and assignments) to ensure that their lawyers are up to speed on at least basic technological tasks.  There are no lack of trainers and programs, both in house and available thru consultants for this to occur. Furthermore, court administration, judges and tribunals should be right on-side and equally looking at how their systems can be improved to increase efficiencies and effectiveness.

    Perhaps another message for general counsel like Casey Flaherty is to look for smaller firms that could do it right…even if they come from the wrong side of town….

    This article is concurrently posted here and on slaw tips.ca.

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 2 Comments »
    Emotional Wake and Changing the Focus
    Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

    ♫  I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true
    I’ll come to your emotional rescue
    I’ll come to your emotional rescue..♫

    Lyrics and music by  Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, recorded by The Rolling Stones.

    joy

    This is another guest post from Beth Flynn at The Leadership Center at the Ohio State University.

    Leadership is one quality that we so need in all walks of life, from the International scene all the way down to the local community level.  Leaders are people who make demonstrable changes in others lives.  The don’t accept the status quo and look for ways to do things better.  I believe that lawyers need to develop greater leadership skills to bring the legal profession into the 21st century and have it flourish in the face of incredible change and challenges.  I have been a fan of Beth and the work of her colleagues at the Leadership Center for some time and encourage readers to subscribe to their newsletter (below) and if you are close to Ohio, to attend their leadership Series Workshops.

    This post is taken from the book: Hayashi, S.K. (2011). Conversations for change: 12 ways to say it right when it matters most. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    An “emotional wake” is the feeling we leave people with. When we leave a meeting, are team members consistently feeling angry because they were not heard? Or are they feeling hopeful about what the team is working on? The predominant emotion we leave people with is our emotional wake.

    Can you think of someone who creates a positive emotional wake? I bet someone comes to mind immediately. Being around that person feels good. Consciously or unconsciously, this person decided to be solution focused instead of problem focused in the face of change. Doing this creates respect for self and others (p. 12).

    Conversations for Change is available from the lending library at The Ohio State University Leadership Center. Follow the link to borrow this book or any other resource. Once you are on their  website, click on the Spectrum icon.

    Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is inspiring others to take a leadership role that empowers the world at http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu

    To begin receiving Leadership Moments, or to update your information, please click on The Leadership Center’s Join Our Mailing List button.

    Thanks Beth and the rest of the team for bringing us along and leaving a positive emotional wake!

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    In Memoriam of Milt Zwicker…
    Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

    ♫ Only made me more focused, only wrote more potent..♫

    Lyrics and music by Kanye WestAldrin Davis, recorded by Kanye West.

    milt zwicker

    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.

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