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    2015 Predictions – Part 1!
    Friday, December 19th, 2014

    ♫  I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
    I can see all obstacles in my way
    Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
    It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
    Sun-Shiny day…♫

    Music, lyrics and recorded by Johnny Nash.

    2015

     

    This is the best time of the year in terms of being able to ask so many dear friends to put on their thinking caps, gaze into the future and share with us their vision for what is in store for the legal profession in 2015!

    We received so many great ideas that this post is going to be published in two parts.  Part 2 will be published on Monday Dec 22, 2014.

    Thanks to all these thought leaders whose visions will be here in Part 1 or Part 2:

    • Sharon Nelson
    • Nicole Garton
    • Ross Fishman
    • Dr. Frank Fowlie
    • Michael McCubbin
    • Nikki Black
    • Andre Coetzee
    • Simon Chester
    • Jordan Furlong
    • Andrea Cannavina
    • Ann Halkett
    • Garry Wise
    • John Tyrrell
    • Mitch Kowalski
    • Stephen Gallagher
    • Roger Smith
    • Andrew Clark
    • Joseph Kashi
    • and yours truly!

     

    And without any further ado, here are the predictions!

    Sharon Nelson:

    Sharon Nelson 2

     

    1. Cybersecurity is now universally the chief worry of large firms. We have already concluded that we cannot keep determined intruders out. While law firms will continue to try to keep them out, 2014 showed the mantra shifting to “detect and respond.” My prediction for 2015 is that those who hack into our systems will spend a lot of time and effort to make detection harder. What do you do when breaches are all but invisible, even to the best of the best? I suspect we’ll find out.
    2. The popularity of tablets that can really take the place of a laptop (I wouldn’t travel without my Microsoft Surface Pro 3) will soar.
    3. Now that IBM has announced that Watson will enter the legal market, you can bet that Watson will replace humans at an ever-increasing rate. Watson can do the legal research and analysis in near real-time, can predict outcomes (should you settle or go full steam ahead?) and search data to determine the probable budget for a case. The list goes on and on, but I believe Watson is a much greater danger to legal jobs than Legal Zoom and its brethren.

    Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., is the President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc, a digital forensics, information security and information technology firm in Fairfax, Virginia. Ms. Nelson is the author of the noted electronic evidence blog, Ride the Lightning and is a co-host of the Legal Talk Network podcast series called “The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology” as well as “Digital Detectives.” She is a frequent author (twelve books published by the ABA and hundreds of articles) and speaker on legal technology, information security and electronic evidence topics. She was the President of the Virginia State Bar June 2013 – June 2014. She may be reached at snelson@senseient.com.

     

    Nicole Garton:

    Nicole Garton

     

    1. There will be continued uptake of mobile devices, cloud computing and social media by lawyers in small, mid-size and large firms alike.
    2. In an age of decreasing loyalty, ubiquity of information and outsourcing, technological advances will permit smaller firms to outperform their large and mid-sized competitors as more efficient, cost-effective deliverers of legal services.
    3. And the billable hour is not dead and has no chance of extinction anytime soon, despite what pundits may say on www.slaw.ca and otherwise!

     

    Nicole Garton is a lawyer, mediator and parenting coordinator and practices in the areas of wills, estates and family law matters.

    Nicole is the principal of Heritage Law, which has been described in the media as “one of the most streamlined, automated and forward thinking legal business models in Canada.” Nicole has won awards in recognition of Heritage Law’s innovative structure and effective use of technology, including the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch Work Life Balance Award and the Business in Vancouver Top Forty Under 40 Award. Nicole is also the principal of Heritage Trust, which will provide executor, power of attorney, trustee and escrow services, commencing sometime in mid 2015.

     

    Ross Fishman:

    Ross Fishman LAW headshot 2012

     

     

    1. IBM’s Watson technology will become the legal profession’s game-changer technology. 

    It may take a while, but it will ultimately provide every small-town solo generalist with the same insight and expertise possessed by the highest-level, most narrowly focused specialist at the world’s largest law firms.

    2. WordPress will become the preferred website platform for sophisticated law firms.  
    2015 will be the year major law firms seriously decide to move their websites away from the closed, proprietary software owned by a single website-development company, and toward powerful, flexible, open-source platforms like WordPress.
    Ross Fishman, JD, is the CEO of Fishman Marketing, one of the legal profession’s leading branding and website-development firms.

     

    Dr. Frank Fowlie:

    Frank Fowlie

     

    I’d like to offer prediction that one of the areas ripe for the adoption of ODR is with  Sport.  In Canada we have a very well developed and respected technology assisted ODR system with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada.  The SDRCC is established in the Physical Activity and Sport Act, and has been in existence for over 10 years.

    The SDRCC deals with disputes ranging from doping discipline cases, to team selection, athlete carding, or general dispute resolution.  The SDRCC does technology assisted mediation and arbitration.  I am a mediator with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) out of Lausanne, Switzerland.  My view is that Sport, either through National Sports Organizations, National Olympic Committees, Multisport Games, or International Sport Federations will increasingly turn to ODR.

    I foresee that the SDRCC Canadian built technology will serve as a model for the above noted sporting bodies.   Presently, for example, CAS opens an Ad Hoc court at the site of an Olympic Games some two weeks before competition to be able to deal with athlete or team accreditations.  ODR would allow for a longer window, with the Ad Hoc members still in  their home locations.  I think that ODR can also be helpful to CAS when it potentially dealing with participants from across the globe who now must convene in Lausanne for mediations or arbitrations.  For example, a sport dispute could involve activity in a multisport games in South America, with competing team from Oceania and Africa, with a named mediator from North America, and a court registry in Switzerland.  There is great complexity and expense in drawing all of these parties to one spot at one time for a mediation.

    ODR provides an opportunity for prompt, cost effective and relevant dispute resolution.

    http://www.crdsc-sdrcc.ca/eng/home

    http://www.tas-cas.org/news

    Happy New Year!

    Dr. Frank Fowlie is presently the Ombudsman at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He was previously the inaugural CEO of InternetOmbudsman.Biz. In addition, Frank Fowlie was the inaugural Ombudsman at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN).

    ICANN is the agency which administers the global domain name system which serves as the backbone for the Internet. He served as the Ombudsman from November 2004 to January, 2011.

     

    Michael McCubbin:

    michael mccubbin

     

    I will step out on a limb and join those whose names can go down in history for the inaccuracy of their predictions. Let me toss out a few and hope that I hit on one of them:

    1. All clients will begin asking questions about data security as concerns proliferate and more lawyers become digital. Lawyers are reasonably good about it, but the problem remains that most of our efforts are frustrated by the insecurity associated with services like Gmail which our clients often use. I have only had 2-3 clients who even bothered using my secure client portal in Clio – I think the insistence on this kind of option will appeal more to clients now that we see how Jennifer Lawrence and Sony feel about weak data security.
    2. We are going to start seeing larger tablets and way more touchscreens (touchscreens will become the norm in new devices in 1-2 years)it only took 5-6 years for colour screens to take over in the cell phone market). Why is the standard tablet not 8.5×11”? People think I have a large, ancient laptop with my 17” screen, but the reality is that I want the screen space to read and work with multiple documents. I was just speaking to my dad this morning, who is raving about my mom’s new Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It looks great and its features are those of future devices, but I want a bigger screen. In the office, I set my 17” laptop next to a 24” external monitor for an extended desktop, and I still would like my laptop screen to be bigger.
    3. Courts will continue to move (far too slowly) toward digital practices and not just in the admission of digital evidence…PPT in court, paperless communications, etc. I did a Passenger Transportation Board hearing last week. Virtually all pre-hearing matters and even the exchange of much of the evidence during the hearing, occurred via email. It was much easier and more convenient for all involved, particularly as it involved over 20 different parties (lawyers, clients, and Board members/staff included) spread around the province.
    4. Apps geared toward delivering tangible value to clients and not just making lawyers’ lives easier. There have been a few launched and crashed (like Launch Lawyer), but there is room for someone to make a move in this market in a substantive way. There are many ways in which apps could be rolled out to the client’s benefit, but lawyers are not getting into this, likely for the same reason that many of us do not even know how to type.
    5. We will find out if Ross is the real dealhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/the-law-page/university-of-torontos-next-lawyer-a-computer-program-named-ross/article22054688/. OK…maybe we’ll only get a taste next year, but if this is the kind of product that can be scaled and rolled out to the legal profession for a subscription fee similar to that of Clio, Quicklaw, etc., then it will change things. It will take the grunt work out of lawyering, mean that the quality of research conducted will not be nearly as important as actual human judgment and analysis once that research is done. That will mean that a lot of large law firms will not need to hire droves of articled students, junior associates, and paralegals. It will also mean that productivity will dramatically increase, so clients will get more bang for their buck.
    6. Increasingly user-friendly lawyer software. This will include integrating DMS, chronology generators, discovery documents (including XFD transcripts) and making it really usable with tools like hyperlinking etc. Software like PC Law or Worldox is not nearly as user-friendly as Clio or the kind of simple, effective UIs we see in most mobile apps. The fact that a device as complex as a smartphone comes without a user manual should tell you just how user-friendly our software should be.

     

    Michael draws on a broad variety of life experience that allows him to understand and relate to most clients that walk in the door.

    He opened his office with the view that there was a better way to practice law, one that avoids the needless expense of conventional law firms and focusses on client outcomes. Today, his clients value things like not being charged for printing and file storage fees, as well as the responsive, efficient service associated with a digital practice that still has a bricks & mortar office in a Vancouver heritage building.

    Michael frequently speaks on legal technology issues and participated in one of the first paperless Court of Appeal hearings in British Columbia. He is an active member of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC and sits on its Legal Aid Action Committee.

     

    Niki Black:

    ABA Editorial

     

    In 2015, lawyers will become more comfortable with the concept of web-based computing and will increasingly utilize cloud computing software to help manage and streamline their law practices. Similarly, wearable technology will make its mark on the legal profession and upon the release of Apple’s Watch in early 2015, you’ll see more lawyers incorporating smartwatches into their daily workflow.

    Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase.com, a law practice management software company. She is the author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authors “Social Media: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson West treatise. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Record and has authored numerous articles and has spoken at many conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile computing and Internet-based technology. 

     

    Andre Coetzee:

    andre coetzee

     

    Here are some of my predictions:

    1. The amount of data that is produced and stored has increase exponentially over the years. Having one centralized search tool that can search any data a user has created or has access to both on their local network as well as data that is stored on the Web i.e. a user can search and get quick access to their data whether it be an email, in a proprietary database or in a Word document is going to be a trend.
    2. The ability to be able to integrate legacy legal applications therefore getting rid of duplicate data entry and preserving data integrity.
    3. More people want to use whatever device they want at work. The trend of bring your own device (BYOD) will therefore continue and is becoming the norm. This BYOD trend will also drive more firms to seek online services and products so as to simplify integration.
    4. Bigger focus on going paperless and being more efficient process wise. This will reduce costs and increase efficiency.
    5. More and more lawyers starting smaller boutique firms. The smaller law firms will be leverage technology and internal processes and practices to be more efficient which will impact their bottom line. They will also change and be more creative the way they bill their clients. They will also be innovative the way they practice law (depending on the law they practice) by coming up with products and services that can be quickly and more easily produced and customized.
    6. PC sales will continue to decrease and mobility devices such as tablets, smartphones, Ultrabook’s will continue to increase – this is driven by BYOD
    7. The hype is over and hence more firms will move from on premise IT infrastructure to hosted products and services. Security, disaster recovery and backup, management costs and standardization being the biggest drivers for the move.
    8. A heighted awareness regarding compliance and security for Canadian law firms using Cloud Services.
    9. Firms who are have on premise PCs don’t move to Windows 8 and wait for Windows 10. The start button is back in Windows 10 and hence be an easier transition for firms.
    10. The Canucks will win the Stanley Cup – we can always live in hope :-)

    Andre is a director of i-worx. i-worx is a premium managed service provider focusing on enhancing productivity through virualization infrastructure solutions. OfficeOneLive i-worx’s flagship solution affords companies the ability to access virtual desktops in the data centre

    Specialties:Project Management, Business Analysis

     

    Simon Chester:

    simon chester

     

    1. The Ipad becomes the device of choice in law firms. So long PCs.
    2. Blackberry’s revival sputters. Lawyers are among the last to abandon their beloved devices.
    3. The first significant external investments in Canadian law firms happen in Halifax and Winnipeg, when Slater & Gordon establishes a bridgehead in North America. Toronto firms are still waiting for their Law Society to make a decision, and to figure out the fine print of regulating entities not individuals. Or rather both individuals and their firms.
    4. Another Canadian firm follows Heenan Blaikie over the cliff. Could it be in the oil patch?
    5. Other Canadian Law Societies follow the leads of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, the Law Society of Manitoba, the Barreau du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association’s Futures Report in completely rethinking their regulatory stance, encouraging innovation unless there is an obvious threat to consumer interests or professional values. American observers are horrified. English and Australian commentators see Canada as just playing catch-up.
    6. Privacy Commissioner lambastes law firm security precautions in light of major data leaks from hacking attacks.
    7. Biometric password protection becomes a standard precaution. And firms no longer hand out unencrypted flash drives.
    8. TWU Law School sets up to train paralegals and legal technologists. Unless it can become a faculty of dentistry.
    9. Supreme Court of Canada further constitutionalizes the status of the legal profession in its decision on the application of money-laundering laws to the profession.
    10. A major Bay Street law firm will discover Twitter.

    AND

    The Seventh Pacific Legal Technology Conference is a huge success – not much of a prediction that one.

    Simon Chester is a law firm general counsel who has spent most of 2014 helping manage the largest law firm dissolution in Canadian history. His earlier career included law teaching, government service, senior positions in bar associations and organisational consulting.

    For twenty years, he has helped law firms navigate the complex and shifting landscape of professional regulation and solve an array of professional crises that threaten regulatory compliance, liability risk and reputational harm. He is one of Canada’s leading experts on conflicts of interest. With roots in three continents, he is a global lawyer, qualified in both Europe and North America. 

    Simon is a frequent commentator, writer and master presenter, delivering high-energy, provocative presentations to legal conferences around the world about change in the law and the pressures that firms face.

    A technological innovator throughout his career, he has earned an international reputation for his insights into the future of legal practice.

     

    Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped all of us part the clouds of the future so we can see clearly now!  Stay tuned gentle reader…Part 2 will be published on Monday!

     

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Call for Predictions!
    Friday, December 12th, 2014

    ♫ If you should see me walking
    Through your dreams at night
    Would you please direct me
    Where I ought to be
    I’ve been looking for a crystal ball
    To shed the light
    To find a future in me…
    To find a future in me…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: Tommy Shaw, recorded by Styx.

     

    The Swami

     

    To say that we have been thru a tremendous time of change in the legal profession is a wee bit of an understatement. Furthermore I believe that the rate of change is accelerating. This means that the changes that are coming at us like a Tsunami are totally unprecedented.  New competitors, new business structures, new technology, new ways of resolving disputes, new ways of communicating, new devices and services…there is hardly a corner of the legal profession that will not be impacted.  Then there are all the pressures from outside the legal profession to increase access to justice and bring the legal system within reach of the man on the Clapham Omnibus.  Of course a tremendous time of change is also a tremendous time for opportunity.

    Last year we heard from:

    • Jordan Furlong
    • Ross Fishman
    • Sharon Nelson
    • Ann Halkett
    • Richard Granat
    • Nicole Black
    • Colin Rule
    • Brian Mauch
    • John Zeleznikow
    • Michael Downey
    • Robert Denney
    • Mitch Kowalski
    • Buzz Bruggeman
    • Andrew Clark
    • UnitedLex
    • and yours truly!

    It is precisely at this juncture that I am calling on my friends, colleagues and readers to submit their predictions for 2015 in order that all of us can benefit by the collective thoughts and gaze into the crystal ball to shed the light ..and see where we stand …in order to find a future in all of us..

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Craft Your Future One Hour at a Time
    Thursday, December 11th, 2014

    ♫  Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make this garden grow
    All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground…♫

    Lyrics and music by: David Mallett, recorded by: Peter, Paul & Mary.

    a dream is a wish

    Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying: “The best way to predict your future is to create it”

    Brian Tracy in his blog talks about the Golden Hour – a time that you set aside at the start of your day to work on the most important task you will have for your lifetime – namely your personal development.

    Brian states:

    [T]ake 30-60 minutes and read something motivational, inspirational or educational. Be sure that the first thing you put into your mind in the morning is positive, healthy and consistent with the kind of life you want to lead.

    A colleague of mine, Tom Grella, has been following this philosophy for as long as I have known him.  He takes an hour a day to read books and study leadership as it applies to lawyers.  His time invested in this activity has paid off in spades.

    Tom, the managing partner of McGuire, Wood & Bissette in Asheville, N.C., in 2012 was named the recipient of the Samuel S. Smith Award by the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section.

    “I cannot think of a more deserving honoree than Tom Grella. He epitomizes everything this award was created to recognize,” said Thomas Mighell, chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section. “Tom stands out as a leader in LPM, the ABA and his law firm. His commitment to the improved growth and education of law practice management is steadfast, as demonstrated through his continued participation and leadership in LPM section activities.”

    The lesson here is to start – today – in investing in yourself to become the person that you wish to be. Inch by inch, day by day, you will be making progress towards your goal.

    Brian Tracy has great advice on how to make this happen. He says:

    After you have completed your morning reading, take a spiral notebook and write out your top 10-15 goals in the present tense, exactly as if you have already achieved them. Write goals such as, “I earn $100,000 per year”; “I weigh 165 pounds and am superbly fit”; “I drive a brand new grey BMW”; “I live in a beautiful 3500 square foot home” and so on. Rewrite your list of goals every morning without referring back to the goals you wrote the day before. This is a very important success factor for you to practice in order to achieve your goals.

    Only you will know what your goals are.. eHow says:

    Think about what you value in life. Your goals and aspirations need to be in line with your values in life. Defining your values will help you to set a direction for your goals and keep you focused and on track.

    Your goals can be as big and as broad as your imagination.  They could be to help your family and your children excel. They could be to make your business succeed. They could be to build your relationship with your spouse to be strong and powerful. Or they can aspire to achieve world peace and help end hunger.

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips | Permalink | No Comments »
    Lest We Forget
    Monday, November 10th, 2014

    ♫ It seems a long, long time ago
    A young man far away from home
    Friends made and lost along the way
    Some memories will stay

    Those who died – those who live, you will not forget
    If this year’s your last year – we will not forget…♫

    Lyrics and music by Michael Reynolds, recorded by Felicia Urquhart.

    poppy

     

    This is a guest post from Chris Green of Greenway Legal Centre in Langley, BC.  I have been a fan of Chris’ email newsletter for some time but this post truly struck home for me.   It is reproduced here with his kind permission and approval.   By the way you can subscribe to Chris’ newsletter by visiting his website.

    Our November newsletter each year is always a departure from our usually irreverent and light-hearted banter. It is the one edition that we try to play straight, in deference to the solemnity of our topic: saluting the sacrifices made by our veterans in wars past and present. This year is no exception, especially in light of the cowardly murder of a guard of honour on the steps of our National War Memorial. Last year’s piece, Charlie’s Tree, was one of our most read postings ever, and it recently attracted a link to a new YouTube video, “The Black Sedan”. Scroll down to the comments to watch the Jon and Larry’s video and see if you can spot Charlie’s Tree.

    The tragic events in Ottawa have led to a lot of talk around the water cooler at GreenWay, and interestingly, one of the main themes has been the changing nature of Remembrance Day. Hal commented to me last week, as he completed preparations to lead his youth pipe band to play at the Pitt Meadows Cenotaph, that when he himself had been a young piper in the band, the war still seemed so very real, as his fellow pipers included many veterans of the Second Great War, who treated the annual piping gig at the cenotaph as a personal act of remembrance.

    Like Hal, my younger life was populated with the veterans of both wars, so those conflicts have always seemed more like current events-like headlines from last week’s newspapers, rather than chapters in a history book. One needed to go no further than the dinner table for anecdotes or reminiscences of the war, and the lives of almost all of the adults in my life had been touched by the war, be they parents, grandparents, teachers, employers or mentors.

    In consequence, for them and for me, Remembrance Day has always been a time to remember real people: my father, who fought in Italy, my step father, who stumped around for the rest of his life on an ankle destroyed by shrapnel in France, or Grandfather Green, who once famously summed up the entire First Great War, and surviving the trenches of the Somme, in a single sentence:

    “Yeah, I visited France once – didn’t like it much.”

    As the veteran’s numbers decrease, and we contemplate a time in the not too distant future when we mark the passing of the last veteran of WWII, (just as we recently saluted the passing of my namesake Florence Green, who was officially the last known veteran of WWI, when she passed in 2012,) of necessity, the nature of Remembrance Day changes.

    Increasingly, I think, the day is viewed, at least by younger persons, as an abstract contemplation of the horror of war, or a day to pause and pray for peace. Laudable thoughts for sure, but so very different from putting your elbows on the beer-soaked, terry-towel tablecloth in a smoky Legion hall, in company of those who were actually there, and getting maudlin hoisting a few, to toast those who still live in your memory.

    And for how much longer will those Legion halls, smoky or not, feature prominently in Remembrance Day celebrations? Sadly, despite the fact that this year will likely see record numbers turning out for the wreath-laying ceremonies, it appears that their days are numbered. Once a mainstay of every small town, Legion halls are quietly disappearing everywhere. No vets to visit them and no money to support them.

    Last month, while visiting Ucluelet, I glanced down a side street and noticed a boarded up building with a large For Sale sign – it was the Ucluelet Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall. My trip home took me along Hastings Street in Burnaby, where the wrecking ball has now claimed the former home of Branch 148 of the Royal Canadian Legion. Closer to home, I happen to know that the Port Moody City Hall keeps a ‘development package’ under the front counter, touting the virtues of the Clark Street Legion Hall as a great opportunity for re-development, in case any developer drops in to inquire about possible sites.

    What will Remembrance Day look like, years from now, when there are no veterans of the Great Wars, nor Legion Halls remaining? Until recently, I would have predicted a slow decline – a secular day off with all but a quiet handful of wreath-laying politicians ignoring the meaning of the day, but I think I’ve changed my mind.

    Consider that, with each year of the Afghanistan conflict, as the casualty list grew, so too did the crowds at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

    Then, remarkably, came the spontaneous gatherings on the overpasses along the Highway of Heroes, a moving tribute to the fallen warriors returning home, made more powerful because they were impromptu, home-grown and unsanctioned.

    And then came Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

    The spirit of Remembrance, if indeed it had begun to wane, has been re-kindled for another generation.

    This year, please, join me at the cenotaph. This year, it’s important.

    Thanks Chris for reminding us of what is important.  Indeed we will not forget…

    Posted in Adding Value, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    The High Note
    Monday, November 3rd, 2014

    ♫ Boy, you’re going to carry that weight,
    Carry that weight a long time
    Boy, you’re going to carry that weight
    Carry that weight a long time…♫

    Lyrics and Music by Lennon & McCartney recorded by The Beatles.

     

    mccartney

     

    This is a guest post from Ann Mehl and originally appeared in her Newsletter and blog under the title “The High Note“. To say that it struck a note is putting it mildly.  I hope you find it to be as moving and reflective as I did.  It is reproduced here with her approval and consent.

    While scanning the radio in my car for a good song, I stumbled upon an interview with Paul McCartney. He was funny and engaging, so I stopped to listen for a while. He was asked about his voice, and if, at age 71, he could still sing all those old Beatles songs. His answer was honest and revealing. “Well,” he said. “I can’t hit all the high notes like I used to, but I’ve probably got better technique now, and you learn ways around that.” Some of those techniques? Changing the melody ever so slightly, letting his back up singers hit the high notes for him, or simply calling upon his audience fill in the blanks. Music legend Sir Paul McCartney has had to learn that even he has musical limitations.

    This got me thinking: How much of our lives are spent trying to chase a high note that we are no longer capable of hitting? And what does this cost us in terms of health and happiness? In my own life, I know I hit a high note when I ran my first marathon at 3:26, a personal record for me. It’s unlikely I will ever do it again, and that’s okay. I’m interested in different goals now. But it can be very hard to let go of who we used to be, or who we imagine we still are. We see it all the time in professional sports: the athlete who retires, only to “unretire” six months later. The boxer who wants “one more fight” when everyone around him knows he should have quit years ago.

    Most of us are not athletes or professional performers, but we do know what it’s like to chase our former glories, and to hunger for that intoxicating high note. Maybe it’s the version of ourselves that is 10 years younger, or 20 pounds lighter. Maybe it’s the earlier excitement of a new job, or the rush of a new romance. Most of us yearn for these peak experiences, and once experienced, seek to recreate them.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to a lot of frustration and heartache in the present. The problem with chasing only these moments, is that they are generally very fleeting, if they exist at all. And we can miss out on some of the really great moments happening in between. Martina Navratilova said it best: “The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.”

    I knew of one serial entrepreneur who made a killing on his first venture, to the tune of almost $10 million. He went on to create several other successful companies after this, but none as big as the first. Measured against this impossible standard, he felt he was constantly failing, even when, by all outward signs he was a massive success. To his family and work colleagues, he had become a bitter pill who could not enjoy his own success. He was enslaved to the high note, in his case, some arbitrary number below which anything spelled failure. He was Sisyphus, compelled to roll an immense boulder uphill, only to become demoralized every time it rolled back down on top of him.

    There are two basic roads that we can travel: one is the road to freedom, and the other is the road to tyranny. The road to tyranny is based on always hitting the high note, and a refusal to accept anything else. It enslaves us to the past, and blinds us to new opportunities in the present. After all, who are we if we can no longer hit the high note? The road to freedom, on the other hand, accepts that all things are in a constant state of flux: our bodies, our minds, our relationships. What we are able to do in our 20s and 30s is very different from what we can do in our 40s, 50s and beyond. And not only is this okay, it is natural.

    At the root of all unhappiness is our refusal to accept that all things eventually must end: our youth, our beauty and eventually even ourselves. What we are really fighting against is our own mortality, and that is one battle we will never win. But like Paul McCartney, maybe we can learn some new techniques. We can accept that while a relationship has changed, it does not necessarily have to end. We can accept that while a job is no longer as exciting as it once was, it may offer its own kind of reward in the people we meet. We can accept that through age or infirmity, a parent is no longer the person we once knew, and try to develop a new connection based on who they are now.

    I’m not suggesting we give up or don’t stretch ourselves, only that we don’t have to be slaves to our past successes (or failures). Graceful surrender to the here and now is always preferable to screeching, or God forbid, ruptured vocal chords. Paul McCartney may not be able to hit the high notes like he used to. All he can do is make friends with the voice he has now, and the many beautiful notes he still can sing. And when the voice cracks, or won’t go where he wants it to go, he invites the audience to sing along.

    Thanks Ann for reminding us that unless we learn to gently acknowledge and adjust to the fact that we may not be able to hit the high notes like we used to, we will be carrying that weight a long time…

    (Hat tip to Stewart Levine for originally drawing my attention to Ann’s article).

    Thought for the Day: “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Paul McCartney.

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, 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 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 »