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    Roger Smith on Contrast between BC and UK Legal Aid Cuts has Valuable Lessons
    Monday, October 20th, 2014

    ♫ Our contribution to the revolution…♫

    Lyrics and Music by Michael Jacobs and Patrick Regan, recorded and Created by Lucent Technologies Public Relations (2000) (this has got to be the geekiest music video I have ever seen!)

     

    roger smith

    Roger Smith

    This is a guest post from Richard Zorza on his blog: Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog.  It is a very thoughtful piece about innovation here in British Columbia by the Legal Services Society when faced by massive budget cuts, as compared to what has been done elsewhere (such as the UK) when faced with a similar situation.  This blog post follows Roger Smith’s recent visit to us here in BC (where I was fortunate enough to have a fascinating lunch with Roger and others at the LSS offices) and Roger’s own blog post (mentioned herein) on this topic.  Hat tip to Erin Shaw, a lawyer who has an extensive background in policy analysis, dispute resolution and justice and law reform, for pointing this post to me this last friday in Victoria!  This post is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

    I want to draw your attention to a blog post by the UK’s wonderful Roger Smith contrasting the BC and UK approach to cutting, and response to cuts in, legal aid budgets.  His essential point is that the BC cuts, while apparently just as draconian, were structured to allow for flexibility and innovation, and the challenges were  approached in that spirit.

    A couple of paras of contrast from the post:

    The crucial difference between our [UK] position and that of BC is that, unlike by Chris Grayling and the Legal Aid Administration, cuts were not seen as an end in themselves. Yes, the government wanted blood but, provided legal aid could work within a reduced budget, then its administration was left free to do the best that it could. At first, the extent of the slaughter left little wriggle room and lawyers still argue that they should have been the first beneficiaries of any discretionary cash. But, the Legal Services Society, the legal aid administrator, has gradually sought to re-engineer its purpose as not only to provide representation in core cases but to deliver self help and advice designed to assist people to resolve legal problems on their own.

    The difference a decade after BC’s cuts is that I have come all the way to Vancouver to see the brilliant work that the Legal Services Society, the Justice Education Society and the Courhouse Libraries are providing in digital delivery to those on low incomes. Google clicklaw.bc.ca, families change.ca, familylaw.lss.bc.ca (soon to be mylawbc.org) for a host of cutting edge provision in the province. Even the Ministry of Justice is joining in. Legislation in 2012 allows the funding of an online small claims court, the civil resolution tribunal, which will come on stream next year. Try even to file an electronic document in our own dear courts. No chance. No imagination. No innovation. Just a Minister and a Ministry shorn of any interest save in reducing expenditure. Cuts, Mr Grayling, are the easy part. Making sense – or even the best – of them takes imagination and innovation. Get on a plane; meet your BC counterparts and be appropriately humble about your government’s limited imagination and barren approach to policy.

    In some ways, the cuts in these jurisdictions put them roughly where the US is now.  So the question is whether we approach digging ourselves out of the access crisis with the same creativity.  Or are we only nibbling at the edge of change.  Inevitably, in the US the answer is “it depends” usually on the state and on the quality of leadership in the state.  But I fear that our fragmentation means that we lack national leadership on things like a broad roll-out of self-help centers, forms, unbundling, and the other elements of the continuum of services, and all the quality and cost benefits that would come from national strategies.  An exception is special kudos to LSC, Pro Bono Net and others for creating a near-national network of websites (although all would agree that the integration could go much further particularly on the marketing/partnering end.)

    I hope that we as delivery innovators never forget that there will always be cases in which lawyers are needed — even as we work through simplification and innovation in both community based and court-based legal aid to reduce that percentage.  But I also urge right to counsel folks not to forget that explicitly or implicitly taking the position that lawyers are always needed makes their proposals far more expensive and both politically and legally much more likely to build resistance.  It’s an interesting question how the recent Boston Bar (article) (Report) and Maryland Right to Counsel reports deal with this challenge.

    The key, of course, is triage and the key to the politics of a solution to the differences in perspective is common research and understanding about triage.

    p.s. There is a newly updated website on right to counsel developments, including an interactive map, recently launched by the Coalition.

    I hope you have enjoyed this little contribution to the revolution!  Thanks Roger, Richard and Erin!

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Lawyers and Pricing – Part 4
    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

    ♫ That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: George “Shadow” MortonJeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, recorded by The Shangri-Las.

    promotion

    In the three prior posts on lawyers and pricing, we have looked at how price is only 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. Part 3 examined how the people on your team can have a big impact on how your services are delivered. In fact, 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 this post we are exploring how promoting your business can be a distinguishing feature, setting your business up as being different from the competition…allowing you to price your services differently from the competition.

    Think about all the different ways that your clients learn about your services.  Certainly word-of-mouth is the gold standard of referral marketing, but not everyone who is a client in your firm came in the doors as a result of a personal referral.  When it comes to marketing your practice, the one truth is that whatever works today will stop working at some time in the future for reasons that you might never know. Accordingly you need to change up your promotional or marketing activities and keep trying new things. Small changes can have big effects.

    Social media is all the rage today and for good reason. Facebook has now reached 1.3 billion people – and that doesn’t include anyone in China!  LinkedIn and Twitter are the other members of the “big three” social media networks. Have a look at your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile and your use of Twitter.  You can choose to not be on any of these (after all you can choose how to market your firm and your practice) and if these wouldn’t resonate for you or your clients ..fair ball. What is worse is being there but not having updated anything for some time.  This indicates lack of commitment and follow-thru.  Same goes for a blog – I personally find blogging to be one of the easiest and more effective ways for a young lawyer to establish themselves and their expertise in the market, if done consistently and well. Combine a blog with your thoughtful use of twitter on developments in your legal area of choice and you can become known as an authority in short order.  For a great overview of how Canadian lawyers are blogging see the Clawbies website – the Canadian Legal Blog awards.  You can be as creative as your imagination will take you..provided you still stay within the marketing ethics of your jurisdiction.

    If social networking is not for you, there are a host of more traditional marketing methods.  In person presentations and webinars are one way to get known and demonstrate your knowledge of your area of practice.  Financial institutions are always putting on presentations.  If writing is your thing, then offer to do a regular column in a local or community newspaper (you can then reuse these articles in a blog or newsletter).  You can clearly show your involvement and interest in local affairs, schools, sporting events, churches and other organizations and help them – thereby building your presence in the community.

    Whatever you do, try to ensure that your marketing makes you stand out from the pack.  After all that is its purpose – to show that you are different from the rest.  You want your clients to have fallen for the leader of the pack.

    (cross-posted to slaw tips.ca)

     

    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, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    2014 Solo and Small Firm Practice
    Thursday, September 25th, 2014

    ♫ I only need to tell myself
    See what the future holds… ♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by S.P.Y.

    solo and small firm

    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!

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Lawyers and Pricing – Part 3
    Thursday, September 18th, 2014

    ♫ 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.

    bus

     

    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)

    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 »
    Lawyers and Pricing – Part 2
    Thursday, September 4th, 2014

    ♫ Keep moving, never stopping sharks
    Keep moving…♫

    Music, lyrics and recorded by Further Seems Forever.

    shark

     

    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…

    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 »
    Lawyers and Pricing – Part 1
    Thursday, August 28th, 2014

     ♫ Zoom Zoom Zoom ♫

    A Capoeira song performed by Jibril Serapis Bey.

    price

     

    When it comes to legal services, it seems that many law firms see price as the sole basis for competition.  However from a marketing perspective, price is but one of seven criteria that make up the ‘marketing mix’ for services.  Since legal services are ‘intangible economic goods’ lawyers have to sell the perceived benefits of their services and see how they match up against the needs of the clients.  All other things being equal, clients evaluate services on price.  But this assumes that you are delivering commodity-like services that are largely indistinguishable from those offered by the competition.

    If you can distinguish your services from the competition and come closer to meeting the discerned needs of the client as compared to the competition, you are now engaged in a differentiation marketing strategy.  This is based on Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School.

    michael porter strategies

    michael porter strategiesmichael porter strategies

    From this matrix, you can see that there are two major determinants of how you market your practice.  The first is whether you appeal to a large target market or a smaller one.  The second criteria is whether you choose to compete on price or on differentiating or distinguishing your services from the competition. The focused differentiation strategy seeks to market niche legal services to a target market.  There is another factor at work here.  Distinguishable legal services have a higher margin as compared to cost-focused strategies.

    As you start to think about how to distinguish your services from those of the competition you move from thinking about the ‘reference value’ of your services  (your price compared to the price of competing services) to the ‘differentiated value’ of your services (how the quality and method of delivery of your services compare to the competition).

    When you start thinking of how this is done in other markets, for example in the automobile market, you see that autos can take you (and others) and transport them to new locations – that is their function and on this level they are commodities.  Every auto sold does this.  What distinguishes one auto to another can be neatly summed up in the phrase used by Mazda: “Zoom Zoom”….

    In subsequent columns we will explore each of the 7 components in the service marketing mix and what they mean for lawyers.

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Start the Year off Right
    Thursday, August 21st, 2014

    ♫ 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.

    story

     

    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)

     

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