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    Archive for the ‘personal focus and renewal’ Category
    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 »
    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 »
    What is on Your Bucket List?
    Thursday, August 14th, 2014

    ♫  Get on your boots and visit the North Pole
    Try every sport until you score a goal
    Follow the path of a butterfly
    Go to Ground Zero and do nothing but cry
    We don’t know how much time left we got left in this world
    This beautiful world…♫

    Lyrics and music by  Nelly Furtado, Rodney Roy Jerkins, Rodney Jerkins, recorded by Nelly Furtado.

    ground zero

    Having just returned from my summer vacation, I came across an article on Lifehack.org that struck a resonate chord deep within me.  The article is entitled: The Ultimate Bucket List: 60 Things You Should Do Before You Die.  Perhaps it was the all-too tragic death of Robin Williams.  Perhaps it was my visit to Ground Zero this summer.  Perhaps it was just the sense that life is passing by all too quickly.  I do know that I wished I had written this article as I think that Thomas Mondel has done an excellent job and he should be justifiably proud of what he has crafted.

    What is on the list of things that he has compiled? Here is just a sampling:

    Forgive the people who treated you poorly.  Thomas states that there is nothing more refreshing than to sincerely forgive someone. Just forgive then and move on – it gets rid of the anger and it frees up your mind.

    Be curious about people.  Thomas observes that the people who are interested in others are the most interesting people themselves.  Learn to listen and learn something new from everyone you meet.

    Swim Naked.  In the best case this is under the crystal clear sky. Yahoo!

    Email one of your heroes and Meet up with one of your heroes.  Try to reach out to the people who you value or you feel inspired by.  As Thomas notes, how awesome would it be if your hero actually responds?

    Witness the birth of a child.  I totally agree with Thomas – it is kinda magical! Thank you Lauren for being my magical moment!

    I hope you read the entire article by clicking here.  The time to start on our own bucket list is now…we never know how much time we have left.

    (cross posted to slaw tips.ca)

    Posted in 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Change Management, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Trinity Western University Law School
    Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

    ♫ Swear allegiance to the flag
    Whatever flag they offer
    Never hint at what you really feel…♫

    Lyrics and music by: Mike RutherfordB. A. Robertson, recorded by Mike + The Mechanics.

    michael-mulligan

    This is a guest post by Michael T. Mulligan, Barrister & Solicitor in regards to the upcoming special general meeting of the Law Society set for June 10.  I would note that at all times the views expressed on this blog are strictly personal and in particular do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia.

    I am posting this guest post from Michael as I feel that this upcoming Special General Meeting reflects some very important issues that should be discussed fully, openly and respectfully.  I know that this particular matter has garnered considerable press and generates some fairly intense views both in and outside of the legal profession.  I feel that informed dialogue and discussion among the profession is the way to resolve this issue and accordingly here is Michael’s post:

    In anticipation of the June 10 Special General Meeting of the Law Society of BC, please find here a legal opinion prepared by Dr. Melina Buckley and J.J. Camp, QC.

    The opinion addresses the following issues:

    1.    Is the Trinity Western University (“TWU”) Covenant Discriminatory?

    2.    What is the role of the LSBC in this matter?

    3.    Does the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in TWU v. College of Teachers [2001] 1 SCR 772 (“BCCT”) determine the outcome of the LSBC’s decision.

    In addition, please find below links to two of the submissions considered by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Both submissions include a detailed legal analysis of the applicability of the BCCT decision and come to the conclusion that it would not be determinative. The submissions further analyze the discriminatory nature of the TWU covenant and the obligations of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

    http://lsuc.on.ca/uploadedFiles/TWUCameron,AngelaandMcGill,JenaandChaisson,AngelaMarch28.pdf

    http://www.lsuc.on.ca/uploadedFiles/TWUTheAdvocates’SocietyMarch28.pdf

    If you are interested in reviewing the debate and material relied upon by the Law Society of Upper Canada in coming to the conclusion that TWU ought not to be accredited, that can be found here:

    http://www.lsuc.on.ca/twu/#transcriptsetc

    In a recent email to the profession, the president of Trinity Western University argues that it would be “unfair and discriminatory to preclude TWU graduates from practicing law in BC because of a religious belief.”

    While Trinity Western University has tried to characterize the issue before the Law Society as one relating to the admission of future theoretical graduates based on their religious beliefs, this is simply not the issue before us.

    In my respectful judgment, a person’s religious, political or other beliefs should play no part in a decision concerning their fitness for call and admission. The Law Society is a regulator of conduct, not belief.

    Moreover, as a profession, we are better off having members with a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs.

    What is being considered, at this stage, is whether the Law Society should give its approval to a proposed faculty of law. Doing so, in this case, would countenance an institution which acts in an offensive and discriminatory manner. It is Trinity Western University, not a theoretical future student, that is seeking our approval at this time.

    Section 3 of the Legal Profession Act sets out the objects and duties of the Law Society. These duties include upholding the public interest in the administration of justice and the preservation and protection of the rights and freedoms of all persons. This section also grants authority to achieve these objectives by, amongst other things, permitting the Law Society to establish standards and programs for the education of lawyers.

    The objection to the application for approval of a university that operates in a discriminatory fashion is not founded on, as TWU suggests, an emotional appeal. It is founded on a carefully considered analysis of the correct legal test for the granting of approval of the sort requested.

    In addition to being in accordance with the legal objects and duties of the Law Society, the denial of approval for TWU is the morally right thing to do. We should be leaders in ongoing efforts to end unacceptable discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    Thank you for taking the time to carefully consider this important issue.

    Sincerely,

    Michael T. Mulligan

    Barrister & Solicitor

    Mulligan Tam Pearson Law Corp.

    3rd Floor – 536 Broughton St.
    Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 1C6
    Ph: 1.250.480.4040
    Fx: 1.250.480.0004
    Toll Free: 1.800.664.2785
    www.mtplaw.com

    Thank you Mike for this guest post on such an important issue.  Voting will be available at the various locations for the Special General Meeting until 6 pm PDT on June 20, 2014.  The information posted by the Law Society of British Columbia regarding this meeting is as follows:

    Special General Meeting June 10, 2014

    Information about the special general meeting on June 10 along with the material considered by the Benchers in their discussion and decision on April 11 are available here.

    Read the Notice of Special General Meeting update.

    Read the Notice of Special General Meeting - includes messages from the Benchers and lawyer Michael Mulligan.

    A transcript of the Bencher discussion and decision is available here.

    The webcast of the meeting is available here.

    The opinions that were before the Benchers for consideration at their April 11 meeting are available here.

     

    Personally I agree that a student should not be faced with the moral dilemma of either possibly forgoing a legal education or a having to sign allegiance to an offensive discriminatory policy as a condition of being admitted to law school and never being able to admit how they really feel while they are in attendance.

     

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, 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 »
    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 »
    Learning to Lead from Your Inner Executive
    Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

    ♫ Ah, there’s an elephant standing in the room
    Ah, though we’re all alone
    It’s not just me and you…♫

    Lyrics and music by E.A. Morillo, H. Romero, J. Nunez, J. Wilkinson, B.M. Burton, recorded by Alexandra Burke.

    elephant

     

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

    All of us have these two parts within – the wise and intentional inner executive and the unconscious inner elephant, which does a good job for us most of the time. The friction between inner executive and inner elephant occurs when they have different ideas about desired behavior. The inner elephant is concerned about its own needs and comforts, and is often stronger than the inner executive. The inner executive can see the bigger picture even if it has not learned how to guide and control the elephant.

    For a leader, the ideal situation is for the inner elephant to work as the servant, the inner executive to work as master. Of course everyone faces situations where the inner elephant’s urges seem far stronger than the inner executive’s good intentions. This is like the inmates having more influence than the warden. Managers who do not have a well-developed inner executive will not lead themselves consciously and intentionally, just as a company without a CEO and executive team will not have an intended strategy or the capability to coordinate disparate departments for strategy execution.

    When in its proper role, the inner elephant thrives as a follower, not a leader. Ideally, leaders will understand their own elephant, and will be conscious of its habits and needs. When a person is “unconscious,” however, he or she tends to live at the mercy of the inner elephant, following its needs and impulses without concerns for others or a bigger picture. When “conscious,” a leader can be intentional about doing the right thing (p. 11-12).

    From: Daft, R. L., (2010). The executive and the elephant: a leader’s guide for building inner excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Ohio Leadership Center Updates:  OLC now has a blog so the discussion about Leadership Moments can continue.

    WANT TO DISCUSS TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MOMENT?

    Go to OLC’s  blog and share your thoughts, ideas, or answer the questions below:

    When have you used your inner executive to see the bigger picture?
    How can you become “conscious” about doing the right thing?

    Thanks Beth and her team for continuing to foster the development of leaders and helping us understand our inner elephant!

    Posted in Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Must See: Helen Lawrence at The Stanley
    Friday, April 11th, 2014

    ♫ These days go by
    And they’re gone before you know it
    So come on, open your window
    Let the light shine in
    This is life don’t miss it…♫

    Lyrics, Music and recorded by Francesca Battistelli.

    helen lawrence

     

    It is not too often that I get to write about technology and theatre.  However, to every rule there is an exception.   And this is an exceptional exception.

    Helen Lawrence is playing at The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver  until April 13, 2014.  This is a world premier. If you haven’t already seen it – I urge you to take a moment and head off to one of the remaining shows.  It will be gone before you know it.

    The writeup for the presentation is as follows:

    “World premiere Acclaimed visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Boardwalk Empire) bring you an intoxicating mixed-media spectacle set in the Vancouver of 1948. Visit the vanished worlds of the old Hotel Vancouver and Hogan’s Alley—the city’s hot spot for gambling and vice.Helen Lawrence is an intriguing, hard-boiled tale of loyalty and money that illuminates our city’s politics during a time of historic upheaval.”

    It is stunning in its use of visual effects. The acting is simply outstanding – it is crisp, exact and precise. The tone is perfect. The use of visual angles to great effect only accentuate the story.

    In a word I loved it. I don’t want to say more as I don’t wish to be a spoiler.  But this is a show not to be missed.  Bravo!!!

    Posted in personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Wake up and Live Now!
    Thursday, March 20th, 2014

    ♫ Wake up and live, y’all!
    (Wake up and live) Wake up and live now!
    You see, one – one cocoa full a basket,
    Whey they use you live big today: tomorrow you buried in-a casket…

    Lyrics and music by Bob Marley, Anthony Davis, recorded by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

    palm tree 2

    This post is being written up in Whistler BC while on a spring-break ski trip.  Garry sent me an email that he will be off to Jamaica this week to lie under a palm tree.  Whether it be snow or sand that calls to you, the important thing is to heed that call and take the break from your routine and live big today!

    The WebMD says:

    Get away — often.  It’s a fact: People who take vacations have lower stress and a less risk of heart disease — not to mention a better outlook on life and more motivation to achieve goals.

    Need more motivation? Psychology Today in an article entitled “The importance of vacations to our physical and mental health” says:

    Chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury. When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.

    So there are multiple reasons for taking that break!

    Psychology Today goes even further:

    In a 2009 study, Canadian researchers Joudrey and Wallace reported that “active” leisure pursuits (such as golf!) and taking vacations helped to buffer or ameliorate the job stress among a sample of almost 900 lawyers.

    Advantage Behavioural Healthcare says in regards to vacations:

    Relationships are enriched

    Spending time together enriches a marriage, which strengthens the family foundation. Through traditions and rituals, such as vacations, any relationship can be enriched. Vacations and other traditions make memories and are the glue that binds us. Vacation can provide an opportunity to talk with one another, learn new skills or discover new interests.

    It is not just the taking of the vacation that has benefits. The WebMD goes further:

    Even better, the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation. You can feel the effects up to 8 weeks prior to your trip. And when you’re done with that retreat, start planning the next one. Simply having something to look forward to can be rewarding.

    I can hardly wait to start planning the next ski break!  Wake up and live now!

    (concurrently posted to slawtips.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | 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 »