Care about your clients? …let them know.

Riskin EmpathyAfter working with thousands of lawyers, I have learned that there is a tremendous gap between the way they perceive their interactions with their clients and how they actually interact.

When I ask lawyers if they care about their clients, the answer is almost always a resounding, “Yes.”

The next question I ask is, “Do your clients know you care?”

That question typically receives a puzzled look and then a response something like, “I think so.”

When I then ask, “Why do you think so?” the answers normally have nothing to do with conveying that the lawyer cares. They typically include how hard the lawyer works for the client, including early hours and late evenings, or reductions in fees that the client often doesn’t even know about.

When I press the point by asking “Have you told your client you care?” the answer is almost always the equal of “No.”

Most lawyers are reluctant to show empathy and caring because they feel it will make them look weak or too personal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Empathy and caring can be demonstrated in an assertive way. For example, a lawyer can say, “I can see how frustrated you are at the actions taken by the other side, and I think you’re very much entitled to those feelings. I think you have every right to pursue your position aggressively and I will do everything in my power to get you what I believe you deserve.” (Qualifications can follow from there to manage expectations, but you get the idea.)

A blog post by Ilina Rejeva entitled How Can Empathy Help You Differentiate Your Law Firm? published at LegalTrek argues that empathy can be a strong differentiator. I agree, and I encourage you to read the article.

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

 

The Successful Lawyer – Now Available on your Computer, Tablet or Smartphone

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 12.14.22 PMThe Second Edition of The Successful Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Transforming Your Practice is now available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

Among the kudos the first edition of this book attracted was one from Tom Peters, the highly acclaimed writer on business-management practice and author of In Search of Excellence, who described The Successful Lawyer as “Well argued and exceptionally practical.”

Sections of the book include: Putting Client-Relations Skills to Work; Increasing Your Value; The Business of Law; and Time and Money. The 48 chapters include: “Meeting Prospective Clients,” “Managing Client Expectations,” “Becoming More Valuable,” “Dealing with Difficult People,” “Harnessing Technology,” “Managing Time” and many others.

The Successful Lawyer is truly a gift that keeps on giving. If you already have a copy on your shelf (which I hope you do!), you may want to consider giving one to other lawyers in your life, to help them attract more work, reduce stress and gain greater enjoyment from their practices. Adding a copy to your office library will benefit your entire firm.

The Kindle version is readable on any electronic device, and you can obtain a Kindle app for any device you have. There’s a link to the app on the Amazon page where the book is listed. You can also order The Successful Lawyer from your favourite independent bookseller.

Law Firms Can’t Afford to Underestimate IT

The most recent issue of PwC UK’s Annual Law Firms’ Survey 2016 is out, and legal journalist Neil Rose has written an excellent and comprehensive summary of its findings.

“The Big Law Firm of the Future: AI, Digital Robots and Blockchain” (Legal Futures, Oct. 24, 2016) contains enough disturbing findings and predictions that it is likely to send most readers to the original report to have a more thorough look.

Rose focuses in particular on one section of the report, entitled “The Firm of the Future.” In it, PwC predicts the evolution of big law through lenses that include “the impact of the global ‘megatrends’ such as the rise in digital technology, shifts in global economic power and changes in demographic/social power which are creating unprecedented levels of disruption.”

Rose invites readers to consider such PwC forecasts as these:

  • The use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence not only to manage routine law-firm operations “around the clock,” but also to determine which practice areas and even specific clients and cases are worth pursing;
  • The use of digital pricing models incorporating algorithms to set fees and manage profitability;
  • The increased use of automated workflow and document assembly tools;
  • New technologies like Blockchain “that could either enable or entirely displace the role of the lawyer…”

However, Rose points out that the PwC report also found that very few firms are taking a long-term view of how AI and digital support mechanisms will impact their practices. Where there is interest at all, it is primarily related to short-term benefits.

Also alarmingly, Rose reports that the new survey – which analyzed data around such indices as firm income and gender balance among partners at the top 100 firms in the UK – confirmed “downward trends in profit margins in all but the top 10 firms since 2005. Margins in the firms ranked 26 to 50 have fallen from 30% to 23% in that time.”

Rose’s article and the PwC survey itself  provide yet more reminders that law firms of all sizes that want to succeed in the years ahead must start now to pay serious attention to the information technology that is changing the legal landscape.

As always, I invite you  to share thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

 

 

 

November Issue of Edge International Communiqué online

Nov 2016 EICThe November, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC) is now posted on the Edge International website.

This issue of EIC begins with a tribute to John Plank, a long-time Edge International colleague and friend who I consider to have been one of the finest speaking and presentation coaches in the world. John passed away in October, and he will be deeply missed.

Neil Oakes contributed the second article in this issue – “Employing Graduate Scholars.” He suggests that by hiring new law-school graduates and training them, rather than looking for people who’ve been out in the field for five or so years, small practices can ultimately save money while developing long-term talent. Neil offers some suggestions on how to find – and keep – new lawyers who have long-term potential.

The issue concludes with “Business Development Skills and the Billable Hour,” by David Cruickshank. David imagines a legal-office environment in which existing management talents are deployed toward encouraging new business-development skills in lawyers rather than toward increasing their billable hours. He reminds readers that in a world where every partner needs to contribute to the bottom line, business-development skills are increasingly essential.

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 EIC 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.

In Memory of John Plank, 1943 – 2016

John PlankIt is with great sadness that I must report that John Stewart Plank, our colleague and friend at Edge International, passed away on October 19, 2016 after a valiant fight against illness.

John was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and during the 1970s and 1980s he worked as a director of Shakespearean theatre in Stratford and Peterborough, Ontario. In subsequent years, he deployed his theatre talents and background to assist executives and professionals from a wide range of fields to improve their speaking and presentation skills. It was in that capacity that he acted as a consultant to several principals of Edge International and to a number of our clients. As part of his association with our group, he also crafted a number of eloquent and perennially practical articles for Edge International Communiqué, such as “Charisma: The Quintessential Leadership Skill,” published last May.

I had the privilege of bringing John into law firms where he might work with a dozen lawyers over the course of a day. Despite the fact that at least a few of these individuals would often be gifted communicators already, by the end of the day they would typically be amazed at their own transformations. John had the capacity to use powerful questions and a very light touch to help individuals transform their presentation performances with a speed and magnitude that you had to witness to believe.

We will miss John profoundly. He lives on in what he taught us, and the mindset he instilled in us to strive for excellence in our communications. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Susan and the other members of their family. Additional information may be found on his website.

Taking Your iPad to the Office

Readers of this blog who are fans of Apple products may be interested in a 27-page report entitled The Lawyer’s Guide to a Well-Appointed iPad (Third Edition), recently published by TechnoLawyer. The report is free, and although it is necessary to sign onto the site to download the PDF, doing so also gives you access to other reports and newsletters in the TechnoLawyer library.

The guide opens by arguing against the notion that iPads (and presumably other tablet computers, although only the iPad is mentioned) are suited exclusively to leisure rather than professional activity, and then goes on to discuss how these devices may be most effectively deployed in support of a legal practice. To create the report, seven lawyers – including Neil J. Squillante, the founder and publisher of TechnoLawyer – contributed their collective knowledge and experience to advise readers about choosing the best iPad from among the various models currently on offer, and then selecting the best apps for use in legal contexts. Three of the authors argue for different apps in each of three categories – document management, PDFs, and handwritten note-taking – and the report leaves readers to come to their own conclusions as to which particular apps they may find most useful in their own practices.

As an avid iPad user myself, I would have liked to have seen the authors mention Notability, a note-taking app I find particularly user friendly; in general, however, the report is comprehensive and likely to be useful to anyone who is looking to add an iPad to their legal-technology repertoire – or wants to learn how to use one more effectively.

I invite your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

A Noteworthy Tribute to Ed Wesemann and Ward Bower

Woldow on WesemannIn an eloquent article posted recently on At the Intersection, my former Edge colleagues Pam Woldow and Doug Richardson remember Edge member Ed Wesemann and Ward Bower, their former colleague at Altman Weil.

They begin their post with the words, “The legal landscape is a sadder and emptier place today, following the recent deaths of two giants in legal consulting.”

They are so right. If you knew either man, you will find yourself nodding your head as you read their moving tribute.
________________

As always, I welcome your feedback on any matter related to the law either in the comments section below or directly via email.

Time Is Money: Except When You Fail to Bill It

ABAItemWhen I saw an article in the ABA Journal entitled “Lawyers are only billing a fraction of their time; how can they be more efficient?”, I thought the contents would be a reminder about the lack of discipline lawyers exhibit in recording their time. A lot of revenue is lost simply by failing to record time when it is allocated, failing to remember enough detail days later, and not having time registered when the billing lawyer creates the invoice.

But alas, that’s not what this article references at all. It is really going far deeper into the lack of awareness that many lawyers have as to how many hours they are billing, at what rates, and what they are actually realizing (based on what is collected on those billed hours).

Some day, lawyers will be billing with more sophistication than merely recording hours. In the meantime, for those many lawyers who are still married to the billable hour, this article is indeed good food for thought.

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

October issue of Edge International Communiqué now online

Oct EICThe October, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC) is now posted on the Edge International website. 
 
This most recent issue of EIC leads off with an article by Nick Jarrett-Kerr entitled “Prioritising Initiatives – Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins,” in which Nick identifies seven issues he has observed in his many years of work with law firms that often impede planning and implementation of otherwise excellent initiatives, and he sets out four criteria that can help firms avoid these potential barriers.
 
The other two articles in the October issue are grounded in the wisdom of our late and deeply missed partner Ed Wesemann. Sean Larkan shares the text of a video on leadership that Ed presented at a conference in New Zealand in 2015. In his presentation, Ed urged his audience to keep in mind that in this rapidly changing world, law-firm leaders cannot simply repeat popular aphorisms: they need to do the necessary research to create powerful visions for the future of their firms, and they must also be able to communicate those visions and then lead the firm to achieve them. 
 

My own contribution to the October issue is entitled “You Will Have It in the Morning” (which you may recognize from the previous installment of this blog), and it too was inspired by the beliefs and practices of Ed Wesemann. One of the strengths his clients often mentioned was his promptness in getting proposals to them – often as early as the day after a meeting. In the article, I present some of the very convincing reasons Ed had for “proceeding with haste.”
 
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.

You Will Have It in the Morning

running

This article won the BiglawWorld Pick of the Week award. The editors of BiglawWorld, a free weekly email newsletter for those who work in midsize and large law firms, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.

This article won the BiglawWorld Pick of the Week award. The editors of BiglawWorld, a free weekly email newsletter for those who work in midsize and large law firms, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.

I am often asked to submit a proposal which will describe how my team and I might approach a problem and what our services might cost. The person requesting the proposal often intends to share it with others inside their firm.

The question is, when should the proposal arrive on their desk (metaphorically speaking)?

In this article, I make the argument that you should do what our late partner, Ed Wesemann, would do. He would have that proposal delivered to the person requesting it by the next day.

I’m sure you have many arguments to support the notion that it will take you a lot more than one day to respond to a request with elegance. However, you would not have convinced Ed that any of those arguments would hold water.

I still remember conversations with some of Ed’s clients who would recount that they were “blown away” by the speed with which Ed would get a proposal to them.

Here are just a few benefits of proceeding with haste:

  • You will still remember the conversation(s) that led up to the request (as opposed to trying to piece together horrible notes two weeks later).
  • Your client will be impressed by the priority you attached to responding and speculate that you might attach the same priority to doing the work. (If it takes you two weeks to get a response to a request for proposal how long will it take you to do the work?)
  • Your recipient will receive your proposal while the same conversations are fresh in their mind.

Ed frequently recited the popular saying, “Do not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

He would argue that we were delusional to think that a proposal that took us weeks to write would somehow be so far superior to what we could put together right now that it would somehow impress the prospective client and win the day. Wrong.

You know 95% today of what you will know in two weeks regarding the proposal you are writing. If there is a gaping hole in your knowledge, you can pick up the phone to a colleague or other resource and get the information you need promptly.

The truth is, many of us want to procrastinate. . . . It is more comfortable than doing the task now because:

  • We want to do it perfectly
  • We want to succeed in being chosen
  • We want to be impressive and maintain or enhance our brand

Ed had virtual staff that could proofread proposals before they were delivered ­– but that proofreading would be done overnight, not over a few days.

The most compelling reason you should learn from the wisdom of Ed Wesemann is that he was consistently the top rainmaker in our global consultancy and had the best score at being chosen to proceed to do the work that was proposed in his responses.

Ed was a winner. We who worked with him for so many years have the enduring benefit of having his philosophies and wisdom well ingrained in our memories. We aspire to come close to his level of accomplishment. . . and through this article, I know he would be proud to share this framework with you, and for you to benefit from it as well.

So next time you are asked to submit a proposal, say what Ed would have said: “You will have it in the morning.”

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

 

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