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.

Lisa Kirby joins Diversity Lab

Lisa Kirby

Our congratulations to Lisa Kirby, JD, who was a consultant with Edge International from 2012-2016, on her appointment as Director, Research and Sharing at Diversity Lab.

Diversity Lab is a think tank and ideas-facilitation organization that “creates and invests in innovative talent and diversity initiatives to help organizations find and keep the best talent.” Three of its recent initiatives are “WomenLegalExperts.com” and the “Onramp Fellowship,” both of which focus on women in the law, and a judicial diversity initiative. The Lab’s Talent Think Tank Blog is a valuable resource for those who are looking for creative ways to enrich the legal talent pool on a personal, corporate or profession-wide basis.

Lisa Kirby has been a practicing attorney, a talent management professional, and law firm consultant. Her knowledge and experience were much appreciated while she was with Edge International, and we know that they will be great assets to Diversity Lab as it carries out its very important work.

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

 

 

“Thank you” can be hard to say

 

An article in Fast Company provides an excellent reminder to those of us who feel awkward when someone offers us a compliment: Simply saying “Thank you” is often the most gracious and most appropriate response.

In her discussion of The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want by Amanda Owen,  Fast Company writer Laura Vanderkam reflects on the ways in which many people inadvertently mismanage compliments. They may negate them (saying, for example, “This old tie?” or “It was nothing”), use them as an opportunity to talk at length about marginally related matters (“Well, my mother started me off on paisley ties. She had a thing for paisley. She also baked an excellent cream pie”), or even take them too seriously and allow them to influence their behaviour.

Vanderkam points out that you don’t need to agree with the compliment to receive it well – i.e., with a brief expression of gratitude. “You do not have to feel great about yourself in order to thank the person for introducing some positive vibes into the universe,” she says. “Nor do you have to change any boundaries, or change any decisions you have made about what to do because of this moment of positivity.”

Compliments are positive experiences and most of us enjoy receiving them. Owen and Vanderkam suggest that by responding simply and graciously, we increase the likelihood that we will receive them more frequently in future.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter. You can contact me either through the comments section below, or directly via email. If your feedback includes a compliment, I promise to say “Thank you.”

 

 

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