September issue of Edge International Communiqué now online

Sept EICThe September, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC) was posted recently on the Edge International website.

The issue begins with our group’s tribute to our late partner Ed Wesemann, which I republished in the previous instalment of this blog.

In addition, in the September EIC Sam Coupland presents issues relating to the introduction of new compensation systems in law firms, where cutting partner profits into equal segments is no longer an acceptable option. “Do We Need to Slice the Pie Differently?” encourages law firms to consider their own histories and cultures, along with several “big picture” criteria that Coupland sets out, to create a new system that will be acceptable to partners.

In “Business Development: Strategic Client Relationship Management,” Shirley Anne Fortina reminds readers that client relationships are crucial to the success of law firms, and suggests ways in which those relationships can be improved and nurtured in order to increase a firm’s profitability – while also providing more comprehensive service to its clients.

In the final article, “Trade Associations, Conferences, and Events: Creating Warmth and ‘Reach’ Out of Thin Air,” Mike White offers a range of reasons why attending special-interest group meetings can expand a lawyer’s client base, and he sets out guidelines for turning contacts into clients with follow-up phone calls and one-on-one meetings.

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the Edge International site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Ed Wesemann: 1946 – 2016

Ed Wesemann

Ed Wesemann

Many long-time readers of this blog know of my close friendship, deep respect and profound affection for Edge colleague Ed Wesemann who recently was taken from us after a valiant battle with cancer. The full impact of our loss personally and professionally will be felt for a long, long time. The following article, which appears this week in the newest issue of the Edge International Communique, is an indication of how much our group revered Ed and how grateful we all are to have known and worked with him. Rest in Peace, Ed – GAR

It is with deep sorrow that Edge International acknowledges the death of our longtime partner and friend Ed Wesemann. Ed passed peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia on August 1, 2016.

Those who worked with Ed mourn the loss not only of an esteemed colleague and friend, but an essential contributor to the knowledge that made Edge International a respected, leading legal consultancy around the world. Says founding principal Gerry Riskin of Canada and Anguilla, “For many years, as Edge’s focus on strategy for global firms became our hallmark, Ed has been our ‘man on the mountain’ from whom wisdom was always available — wisdom that always stood the test of time. Ed was a mentor and a leader at Edge, and many of our achievements have been accomplished thanks to him. On a personal level, I am bereft. It’s unimaginable not to be able to pick up the phone and talk things over with Ed.”

Adds U.K. principal Nick Jarrett-Kerr, “I have worked with many extremely clever people throughout my career, lawyers and consultants whom I have admired and respected. Ed is right at the top of the list! There was a great deal about Ed to love and respect: his deep knowledge of the legal profession, his ability to command respect every time he opened his mouth, his intuition, his humility, his respect for others, and the pithy phrases that distinguish his many articles – all of which were well worth reading. But above all, I will always value his friendship that transcended the long distance between us and enabled us – every time we spoke – to continue where we had last left off. This was a man I truly loved.”

Ed Wesemann was considered a leading global expert on law firm strategy and culture, particularly issues involving market dominance, governance, merger and acquisition, and the activities related to strategy implementation. As well as in the U.S., he worked with law firms in the U.K., Europe, Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada and Mexico. Sean Larkan – longtime Edge principal based in Australia – explains in part why Ed’s work was so widely admired: “Ed helped to engender a genuine culture of caring for and about clients. What strikes one is how well he is remembered from past trips and assignments, and how fondly by those who met him. As a result, he created a wonderful atmosphere around the Edge brand.”

“Ed’s passing hits hard for all of us. His legacy, however, is remarkable and worthy of celebration. His skill with clients, his deep knowledge of his market and his contribution to colleagues are just a few things I will remember every time I take on an engagement.” – David Cruickshank, Edge principal, New York City and San Diego

Atlanta-based Edge principal Mike White also admired Ed Wesemann’s work with clients. He says, “Ed had a remarkable ability to synthesize seemingly irreconcilable inputs and ideas, derive trends, and deliver insights more efficiently than any consulting professional I’ve ever been around. The legion firm leaders who relied on Ed habitually went to him for unfiltered direction (‘Just tell us what to do!’), and Ed always delivered. His clients ended up implementing Ed’s recommendations with noteworthy conviction and confidence.” Nick Jarrett-Kerr echoes that statement, saying “He had a unique incisive diagnostic ability to get straight to the heart of every issue and immediately to be able to frame options that might solve the problem.”

Ed held a Masters of Public Administration degree with Honors from Roosevelt University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Valparaiso University. He served on the adjunct faculties of a number of law and graduate schools of business including the Case Western Reserve School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the Carnegie Mellon School of Public Affairs and the Gordon Institute of Graduate Business School of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Long-time Edge International principal Jordan Furlong, now at Law21.ca, says, “It’s hard to know what would be the best single word to describe Ed Wesemann. ‘Professional’ would certainly be appropriate, reflecting the world-class expertise, loyalty and dedication with which he constantly helped achieve the best interests of his law firm clients. ‘Leader’ would also be fitting, as anyone could attest who saw him easily command the attention and respect of high-powered lawyers and consultants, and help direct them towards their optimal outcomes. But I think that as a naturalized Southerner, Ed might appreciate no description more than ‘gentleman’ – a word that goes only some way towards expressing his extraordinary generosity, his gracious hospitality, and his stalwart friendship. We will not see his like again, and we are immeasurably poorer for his loss.”

Bithika Anand, Edge principal based in Delhi, India, remembers the warm reception she received from Ed when she joined the group. “He was a wonderful professional and a human being,” she says. “His passing away has left a void.” Adds Mike White, “As good a consultant as Ed was (and he was simply the best!), he was an even better person. He was both an ‘idea’ person and a ‘people’ person, and everyone he touched became more of the latter.”

Ed was the author of four books on law firm management, including Looking Tall by Standing Next to Short People, Creating Dominance: Winning Strategies for Law Firms, and The First Great Myth of Legal Management Is That It Exists. In addition to having published over 100 articles, he was a frequent speaker and the author of a monthly email message that was read by thousands of law firm leaders around the world.

Toronto-based John Plank joined Edge in 2004 after meeting Gerry Riskin and Ed in Savannah. As a communications coach himself, John ranks Ed Wesemann as one of the top communicators in the profession.  “Shy by nature, Ed put effort into communicating simply, clearly and as economically as possible.  Whether conversing, presenting or in his writing, Ed’s genius was to be able to make the complex simple, to make sense out of chaos and to achieve it in simple, eloquent and inclusive language and style that was always infused with Ed’s abundant warmth and humanity.”

Ed’s legacy to Edge International is massive. In the words of Sean Larkan, “There are few professionals who leave behind what I call ‘capital fabric’ – a basic, solid foundation for their firm that will benefit it in years to come. Ed is certainly one of those people, in terms of culture but also learnings and approach, and the actual materials and references he unselfishly shared with us and left for our use.”

“There is a saying that ‘no one is irreplaceable,’ but in the case of Ed Wesemann that simply does not apply.” – Gerry Riskin

Ed Wesemann is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Janice, his children William and Emily, Emily’s spouse Erin, and his grandchildren Carmella and William. The formal obituary may be found at Fox and Weeks Funeral Directors. Any clients or friends who would like to share their memories of Ed with us are welcome to contact Edge International directly.

August Issue of Edge International Communiqué now online

AugEIC2The August issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC)  has now been posted on the Edge International website.

We start off with a warm welcome to Shirley Anne Fortina, our newest principal, after which the issue features an article Bithika Anand developed particularly for small, niche, family-run law firms in India. In “Acquisitions as an Exit Strategy in Indian Law Firms,Bithika discusses the advantages to such firms of considering acquisitions when founders are thinking of retirement.

In “Are Traditional Profit-Sharing Models the Enemy of Diversity?” Neil Oakes discusses the implications of various types of partnership profit-sharing strategies in law firms, and explores some of the ways in which adding profit-based sharing to the mix can foster diversity and flexibility.

In the final article in the August issue, David Cruickshank explores the pros and cons of sharing partner-level revenues and profitability figures among some or all partners in “Sharing Your Profitability Numbers: All For One?” 

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the Edge International site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Edge International Welcomes Shirley Anne Fortina

Shirley Anne Fortina

Shirley Anne Fortina

(This article is reprinted from the Edge International website, where it was posted on July 31, 2016)

Edge International is very pleased to welcome Shirley Anne Fortina as our newest principal. Based in Perth, Western Australia, Shirley Anne joins our other Australasian principals – Sean Larkan, Neil Oakes and Sam Coupland – to further extend the group’s legal-services consulting reach in the southern hemisphere.

Shirley Anne Fortina began her professional career in South Africa, where she was born and educated. Fourteen years ago, after working for several years in the UK, she and her husband moved to Western Australia. Director of the POD Consultancy PTY Ltd., Shirley Anne’s workshops, presentations, programs and coaching focus on a wide range of areas including strategic and business-development planning and implementation, women in leadership, managing client relationships and relationship building, team performance and fostering business acumen. She has worked with engineering and accounting professionals as well as individual lawyers and law firms. Shirley Anne is the author of a report entitled ‘Women in Business’ and co-author of ‘Strategic Internal Communications: Boosting corporate culture, productivity and profitability,’ both of which were edited and published by The ARK Group (Australia and UK).

“Shirley Anne’s diversity of experience, not only professionally but also geographically, enriches her ability to work with our law-firm clients,” said Edge International co-founder Gerry Riskin. “We are very happy that she has joined our group.  I am confident that she will enhance Edge International in many meaningful and distinctive ways.”

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You are welcome to contact me either through the comments below, or directly via email.

July Issue of Edge International Communiqué Available Online

The July issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC)  has now been posted on the Edge International website.

Sean Larkan leads off this issue with “Building Trust: The Inviolable Rule.He reminds us that “we sometimes forget how much of successful legal services business is still about human relationships and building trust.” He explores the notion of trust as it applies to the legal profession, and talks about how it affects all of the work that lawyers do.

In “Helping Partners Jump Hurdles,” Nick Jarrett-Kerr discusses the problems many partners have with marketing and business development, and points out the negative effect these attitudes have on the firm’s bottom line. He suggests ways “to help partners face up to their responsibilities,” helping not only them, but their firms, to prosper.

In the final article in this issue, Sam Coupland writes about the reality many firms are facing in which senior partners are about ready to retire (or possibly are not ready) from firms that have no solid succession plan for the transfer of clients and resources. In “Successful Succession,” Sam offers suggestions to firms both large and small about how to plan ahead for smooth and well paced transitions when partners leave the firm.

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the Edge International site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique andAmazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Is the billable hour turning off talented young lawyers?

Speigel Billable HoursIn an article published in the Globe and Mail earlier this month, Allison Speigel, a commercial litigator with Speigel Nichols Fox LLP, argues convincingly that the billable hour may be at the root of the disaffection of so many recent law graduates with firm-related work.

Among Speigel’s arguments against the profession’s most cherished and wide-spread billing system are ones we have all heard (or should have heard) before:

1) The system rewards time spent over value, creativity and other client-beneficial approaches;

2) It pressures lawyers – especially those newest to the firm – to work as many hours as they can, at the expense of family and life balance; and

3) It denigrates the value of non-billable hours, including those spent on professional development and pro bono work.

Among her several other excellent points, Speigel also argues that placing this kind of pressure on new lawyers means that they do not develop the skills they will ultimately need to become desirable candidates for partnership.

Speigel concludes her article, which I highly recommend you read, with the following statement: “Law firms should be spending more time figuring out how to keep their most valuable assets happy.”

No one can argue with that.

Let me know your thoughts on this and all other matters related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

Alternative Legal Providers: A Warning to Law Firms

Friedrich Blase, Thomson Reuters

Friedrich Blase, Thomson Reuters

Friedrich Blase, Global Director in Legal Managed Services at Thomson Reuters, is warning traditional law firms – especially the larger ones – of the potential threat to their existence of alternative legal providers, including the growing range of legal-market ventures and forms of disruptive technology. Blase believes that alternative legal providers could present an “existential threat” to law firms as early as 2020.

Blase says that large firms tend to dismiss the threat because alternative legal initiatives are currently estimated to occupy less than one percent of the market, and to be growing at a rate of 20% per year. Such figures may seem insignificant over a ten-year period, but Blase points out that the growth in market share of alternative providers is more likely to be exponential than linear: he predicts that it will be closer to 50% by 2020. In addition, he says, the “displacement effect” of revenue that alternate providers take from law firms will have an unanticipated impact, and the whole formula ignores the fact that law firms need to grow, not shrink, in order to keep their stakeholders happy.

Blase explores each of these factors in depth, and his points are well worth reading. His message for the long term – particularly for larger firms? Start collaborating with alternative delivery providers sooner rather than later. “Today,” he says,  “25% to 50% of the revenue of most large law firms is already squarely under attack. And that portion will only grow over time.”

Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

 

AmLaw 100 firms embrace IBM’s ROSS (based on Jeopardy-winning Watson)

Screen Capture from ROSS Intelligence website

Screen Capture from ROSS Intelligence website

The website Futurism.com has announced that the first “artificially intelligent attorney,” ROSS, will be employed by the law firm BakerHostetler “to handle their bankruptcy practice, which at the moment consists of nearly 50 lawyers.” I have recently learned that another AmLaw 100 firm, Latham and Watkins, has also signed up, as has Wisconsin-based von Breisen & Roper.

ROSS is built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, a development we discussed in a previous post. In an article in Forbes about the newest “employee” at BakerHostetler – an Iowa-based firm that has been working with ROSS developers for several years – Amit Chowdhry explained that “ROSS will be able to quickly respond to questions after searching through billions of documents. Lawyers can ask ROSS questions in plain English such as ‘what is the Freedom of Information Act?’ And ROSS will show users what the citations are for its responses. The more ROSS is used by lawyers, the more it improves its responses.”

For now, ROSS’s expertise lies primarily in the area of bankruptcy law, the basics of which the computer learned in ten months, Chowdhry says. Other areas of the law are now being added to the computer’s knowledge base.

I am interested to know your thoughts on this and all other matters related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

Economy Class, Business Class, and Air Rage: A Podcast

Dan's blogI got a shout-out from my elder son Dan Riskin on a recent episode of his podcast Recent Paper, Decent Puzzle. I’ve enjoyed listening to this new series of podcasts – and I’m not saying that just because I am the father of the podcaster. Each episode starts out with Dan (aka Daniel Riskin, PhD, whose day job is co-host of Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel in Canada) explaining a scientific paper that intrigues him, in language that the rest of us can understand. Each concludes with a mind-boggling puzzle – usually involving math and logic – that is almost impossible to solve. At least for me.

The paper to which he calls my particular attention (at about 1.02) is called “Air Rage and Class Warfare.” In it, Dan discusses a paper by two professors who have studied the causes of air rage and come to the conclusion that one major contributor is the awareness by people sitting in economy class that there are people on the plane who are having a much better experience than they are – namely those in business class.

I’m not sure how to take the shout-out, since I am a regular user of business class myself, but I have to admit that the paper presents some very interesting points that the airline industry might find it worthwhile to consider.

You can subscribe to Recent Paper Decent Puzzle. Previous episodes have included discussions about secretary birds – which kick snakes in the face. Who knew? – the resonance of the solar system, and whether animals are adapting to the radiation near Chernobyl.

And with that bit of nepotism out of the way, next week I shall return to regular programming. In the meantime, I invite your comments about this or any other matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

June issue of Edge International Communiqué now available online

JuneEICI am pleased to point out that the June issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC)  has now been posted on the Edge International website.

My colleague John Plank leads off the issue with “Charisma: The Quintessential Learning Skill,” in which he explains that while most of us know that charisma is an essential attribute of great leaders, not all of us are aware that charisma is a skill that can be learned. John points out three myths associated with the concept (e.g., that charisma is related to status) and then offers three keys to charismatic communication.

Next, in “Eight Reasons for Optimism,” Neil Oakes gives us an opportunity to consider recent positive indicators of change in legal services, such as the increasing stability of prices and the stabilization of mid-tier law firms. This is a wonderful and energizing relief from what we have been reading and hearing in a lot of other places.

The issue concludes with an article by Mike White that encourages readers to get to know their buyers and their clients better than most of us typically do. In “Know Your Buyer, Know Client’s Internal Clients,” Mike points out the range of increased opportunities for cross-selling and other business development that comes from knowing more about our clients.

Each month, EIC publishes items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. In addition to the most recent edition, the Edge International site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

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