♫ 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.
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.
♫ I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true
I’ll come to your emotional rescue
I’ll come to your emotional rescue..♫
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
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Thanks Beth and the rest of the team for bringing us along and leaving a positive emotional wake!
♫ 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…)
♫ And I’m hangin’ on best as I can
Cause I know this whole crazy ride’s in Your hands
It’s Your plan… ♫
Music, Lyrics and recorded by: Dustin Lynch.
What business are lawyers in? This is the fundamental question that we face at this time. Many would answer that question that we are in the business of providing legal services. But are we? Is that the best way to characterize what we do? And why is this important?
This is vital, in my view, for one simple reason. The legal world today is in decline. We are letting others eat our cake for the simple reason that we are failing to meet the needs of all of our potential clients. The evidence is everywhere if you look for it, such as the rise of the self-represented litigant, the growth of websites such as www.legalzoom.com and the cry that the middle class can no longer afford lawyers.
The railroads once saw themselves as being in the railroad business. As a result, other methods of moving goods arose such as planes, trucks and automobiles. What the railroads failed to recognize is that they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business. And I submit that we, as a profession, are caught in the same myopia.
How do we define what business we are in? We need some thoughtful leadership here to help the profession build a business plan to its future. We are problem solvers. We are facilitators. We are dispute resolvers. But without leadership and a vision of where we can go, I fear that the profession will continue to decline.
The new overriding theme for the profession should be leadership. We need it at all levels and in all facets. We need it in the governance of the profession, in the courts and in the bar associations. We need to let go of the fear of change and see where the profession could go if it was allowed the freedom and creativity to grasp the new frontiers and with it, the new enabling technologies.
We need, in my personal opinion, to loosen the regulations around how lawyers can provide services, such as forming new business relationships with other professionals. Clients do not want lawyers or law firms. Clients want solutions to their problems. If we don’t allow lawyers to be creative in how they can collaborate with other professionals to form the kind of businesses that meet those needs, then clients will look elsewhere. Over-regulation chokes off creativity and growth as innovators are stopped dead in their tracks, fearing professional discipline. We are killing the future of the profession.
Take CPD credits for an example. Across North America, topics on how to market a practice or how to financially run a practice do not typically qualify for CPD credit. Yet a significant number of lawyers end up in trouble every year for not being able to profitably run a practice!
Other jurisdictions have allowed these kinds of changes to start, such as in Australia and the UK.
We need to instil entrepreneurial leadership deep within our profession to allow it to start changing to meet the new realities. We need a dialogue and a plan of how to bring about this change, starting right from law schools to law societies and bar associations all the way into the courts.
But first we must embrace a culture of leading change by embracing visionary leadership. Nothing less but the future of the profession is riding on this. Thank you to my colleagues Steve Gallagher and Shawn Holahan for seeding my thoughts on this topic.
This post originally appeared in the CBA Publication BarTalk.
♫ He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down, in some quiet little town
And forget about everything…♫
Lyrics, Music and recorded by Gerry Rafferty.
New Year’s Resolutions? Phfft. Been there, Done That, Got that T-Shirt.
We all resolve to get fit, lose weight and spend more time out of the office etc etc etc. Speaking personally I have had my fill of resolutions that are born from the best of intentions but then die a cold hard death on the shoals of life.
So here goes: The Hacker’s Guide to New Year Resolutions: How to make real change in your life.
First step: Realize that you do things the way that you do because of how you are: the way you find things enjoyable or appealing or not, the way that you reward yourself for doing certain things and avoid others, the way that you find that you are too tired at the end of the day to get out and head to the gym etc etc etc. In other words, it is the structure of how you go thru life that determines, to a large part, how you do things (or not, as the case may be). The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that you set up goals without putting into place the mental supports that would allow you to change. If you don’t change the structure of how you do things, don’t expect things to change.
Second Step: Make ONE and ONLY ONE resolution and make it YOUR priority to get ‘er done before the first quarter is over. Stick it on your monitor. Put it on the top of your ‘To Do’ list. Think about it. Often. Take small steps towards it every morning *(not every day because that is how you let it slip it down the priority chain - because at the end of the day you will realize that yes, once again there it is sitting on the To-Do list)*.
Third Step: Schedule time in your calendar to work on it for 15 mins every Monday to Friday (inclusive). Rework and restructure your time, your schedule and how you approach life and work to intentionally fit in the time (and the energy) to achieve this one goal.
Fourth Step: Most of all, hold yourself responsible for making this happen. You have to change how you work before you can expect other things to change. So resolve to not only change this ONE thing but also – resolve to change yourself. Use this resolution to be the motivation to implement change, starting with you.
Fifth Step: Once you have achieved this ONE resolution, celebrate it! Give yourself a reward for getting the job done. Make sure you make yourself feel good about achieving this change (*in yourself*).
Sixth Step: Resolve to change something else. You don’t need to wait for a special day in the year to keep the changes happening. You are becoming - reworking – yourself into a person who can implement change. Congratulations. Now get started on your future!
(originally published on www.slawtips.ca).
♫ And I know less about you
my heart loves you so much more
your my pride in sadness
your my brightness…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Charlie Hall.
(photo © 2013 David J. Bilinsky)
I thought I would start out 2014 by posting one of the most moving articles that I have read as of late. This article was originally published in the September 2013 issue of the NW Lawyer, the bar journal for the Washington State Bar Association. It is gratefully reproduced here with the written permission of both the author and the WSBA. All rights reserved. I thank my friend and colleague Jim Calloway (who like Charlie Hall is also from Oklahoma) for drawing this article to my attention. It is by Daniel Farr, an attorney in our friendly neighbour State of Washington. It is particularly relevant I believe, since so many baby boomer lawyers will be shortly facing the same issues with which Daniel has faced. Without any further ado, here is Daniel’s story:
I was tired after 40 years of practicing law. It was time for a new road map: more music with the band, flannel shirts, bike riding, road trips, grandparenting, storytelling, teepee lodging, and embellishing memories with old pals. I wanted to be present with the people I love. Long ago, law practice began to rob me of living completely in the moment — reading to a grandchild; hiking with a son or daughter; sitting on a beach with my wife and friends — always a part of my mind was practicing law. Did we meet the filing deadline? I should have returned that phone call. Do we have enough money in the pot to meet payday? That elderly couple should have received a discount, but I don’t need one more box of overgrown zucchini.
When the family business is transferred from one generation to the next, it always comes down to this: “Will my kids be okay, Dan?”
After 40 years of lawyering, it was time to move into what author Richard Rohr calls a “bright sadness.” Life becomes more spacious and our view expands accordingly. Our goal is not to be held in bondage by the tyranny of the moment. Life becomes both bright and sad because we see more clearly as we review our past and look into the future. (more…)
♫ Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright..♫
Music by Franz Xaver Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr, recorded by the Argyle Alumni Choir.
As in seasons past, I would like to pause from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives we all lead and warmly wish each and everyone the Best of the Holiday Season, Merry Christmas and a Wonderful and Happy New Year. With each passing year I feel it is even more important to reach out to friends and all those dear to us and remind them that they are the ones who truly bring meaning to our lives.
To all I wish for Peace, Hope and Happiness. For now and always, may your dreams become hopes, your hopes become plans and your plans become realities in the New Year.
My gift to you again this year is a few minutes of music and images, a time of joy and reflection in looking back at the year’s past events. This musical slide show combines two of my loves: photography and music. With some exceptions, most images have all been taken during the last 12 months with a Panasonic DMS-G3 camera with the 14-42mm Lumix G VARIO f/3.5-5.6 lens or an Olympus TOUGH with an Olympus 4.5-15 mm f/2.0-4.9 lens.
I hope this slide show and music (please turn your speakers on) brings to you a time of calm, joy and peace. The music is of course perhaps the most well-known Christmas hymn: “Silent Night”; from Wikipedia: “(German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) is a popular Christmas carol, composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in March 2011.” It is performed by the Argyle Alumni Choir, Argyle Senior Secondary School, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, copyright Frances Roberts, Director. Used with permission.
I hope you enjoy the combination of the music and the images. Please be patient – they do take a bit of time to load. The time between slides has been extended just a wee bit since last year some people said there wasn’t enough time per slide to really see the image. I hope this works better!
Best wishes for a safe holiday!
(For those interested, the slide show was created originally in PowerPoint, converted to Keynote and converted into a Quicktime file on a MacBook, then uploaded to ScreenCast.com).
Prior Seasons Greetings slide shows can be viewed here:
♫ ‘Cause In These Times, These Changing Times
A Transition Is Occuring And I Am Not Blind
As The Pendlum Swings A New Age We Enter…♫
Music, lyrics and recorded by The Beastie Boys.
This is a guest post from the British Columbia Land Title & Survey Authority. I am publishing it here as it raises important issues for all those who file documents in the Land Title System in British Columbia.
LTSA Updates System Requirements for its Electronic Services
Support to end for Internet Explorer 7 and 8, and Windows XP
December 5, 2013
The Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) has updated the system requirements for its Electronic Services in anticipation of the myLTSA portal which will be in full operation on May 1, 2014.
The new system requirements recommend customers use Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) versions 9 or 10. Customers should apply all software updates to their browser, have compatibility mode disabled, and set their browser’s encryption level to at least 256-bit.
As of January 2014, the LTSA will discontinue support of IE 7, and one year later in January 2015 will discontinue support of IE 8. The LTSA will also end support of Windows XP operating system in April 2014 which is when Microsoft will terminate its support of this operating system. Support by Microsoft of IE 7 and IE 8 will end in January 2015. For more information, see www.microsoft.com
To comply with the LTSA’s updated system requirements, these important changes may be required:
- Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8 and Windows XP users should upgrade to a higher version within the time period specified. To upgrade, visit www.microsoft.com
- Compatibility mode settings should be disabled in all versions of IE (this is the default setting)
- Minimum encryption level should be 256-bit in all versions of IE (this is the default setting in IE 8 and higher)
The LTSA’s Electronic Services can be used on any computer with an Internet connection and support the following versions of Internet Explorer and Windows operating system:
Internet Explorer version 7
- Apply all Microsoft software updates.
- Support for Internet Explorer 7 will end in January 2014.
Internet Explorer version 8
- Apply all Microsoft software updates.
- Support for Internet Explorer 8 will end in January 2015.
Internet Explorer versions 9 and 10
- Recommended. Apply all Microsoft software updates applied.
Microsoft Windows XP
- Apply Service Pack 3. Support will end in April 2014.
Microsoft Windows Vista
- Apply Service Pack 2.
Microsoft Windows 7
- Recommended. Apply Service Pack 1. (more…)
♫ Let’s tell the future
Let’s see how it’s been done
By numbers, by mirrors, by water
By dots made at random on paper…♫
Lyrics, Music and recorded by Susan Vega.
(images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_craker.jpg and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:San_Diego_Fireworks.jpg – creative commons licence)
“The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it” has been variously attributed to many authors, particularly Dennis Gabor.
Accordingly this is a call for all gentle readers to contribute their tips and predictions for 2014! Last year we heard from Stephanie Kimbro, Nate Russell, Tom Spraggs, Richard Granat, Jean Francois De Rico, Mitch Kowalski, John Zeleznikow, Andrew Clark, Colin Rule, Robert Denney, Ross Fishman, Noric Dilanchian, Steve Matthews and of course, Jordan Furlong.
I think that this is the most interested series of posts in the year and so I invite everyone to submit a post and we all can see what everyone thinks the future of law and legal practice will be like!
Let’s tell the future!