“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.”



Jorge Carey receives the Latin Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award

CareyI extend my heartiest congratulations to my friend Jorge Carey who has received a lifetime achievement award from Latin Lawyer. During his formative years Carey, who is chairman of the largest law firm in Chile, completed a Master of Comparative Law as a Fulbright Scholar and worked for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. His achievements since are too numerous to mention, but you can read about them on the Carey website. Currently, he is president of his firm’s executive committee, president of Moneda Chile Fund, vice-president of Minera Quebrada Blanca, Enaex, AFP Provida and director of Cemento Melón, Masisa, and Instituto Libertad.

Jorge Carey is an ongoing inspiration to me, both in his personal and his business life. He appears to believe that the lowest acceptable rank is #1, and I am certain that it is this quality in part that has led him to this award and the numerous others he has received over the years.

Congratulations, Jorge!

As always, I am interested to know your thoughts any matter related to the law. Your comments are welcome below and you can contact me directly via email.

May Issue of Edge International Communiqué now available online

May EIC cover

May, 2016 issue of EIC

I am pleased to draw your attention to the May issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC), recently published on the Edge International website.

The issue leads off with a welcome to the newest principals at Edge International, Sam Coupland and Neil Oakes, both of whom are also directors at FMRC, Australasia’s leading professional development consultancy. Their expertise combined with that of existing principal Sean Larkan provide Edge International with an unmatched ability to provide outstanding legal-services consultation to Australasian law firms.

In addition, the May, 2016 issue of EIC includes my article, “Five Things Lawyers Hate to Hear Clients Say.” Originally published in Attorney at Work and recently republished as part of the Attorney at Work “Friday Five Classic” series, “Five Things” offers a short course in avoiding prickly conversations with clients on topics that can often turn into hot spots – such as obtaining retainers, delegating work, talking about bills that are higher than estimates, etc. (By the way, Attorney at Work publishes “one really good idea” for lawyers every day, and I highly recommend that you subscribe to it.)

In third article in the May issue, Edge International principal David Cruickshank outlines some approaches large firms use to maximize the potential of associates who are on partnership trajectories (and also those who aren’t), and discusses how the same strategies may be adapted for use in small- to medium-sized firms.

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.

Predictive Coding: Document Searches for the Courtroom

predictive coding

A recent decision by the UK High Court means that litigation lawyers in Great Britain will now be allowed to present evidence based on automated searches of documents, rather than traditional searches conducted by human beings.

This decision follows similar ones in the US and Ireland, and it can only be a matter of time before Canada, Australia and other countries follow suit.

The technical term for the types of key-word searches, filtering and sampling to which the UK High Court has given judicial approval is “predictive coding” or “technology assisted review” (TAR). In an article about the ruling, Michele Lange of Kroll Ontrack wrote in JDSupra, “Summing up his decision, Master Matthews stated that predictive coding is just as accurate, if not more so than a manual review using keyword searches.” She says that “Master Matthews also estimated that predictive coding would offer significant cost savings in this particular case and that the possible disclosure of over two million documents done via traditional manual review would be disproportionate and ‘unreasonable’.”

Lange acknowledges that judicial approval of the use of predictive coding is not universally welcomed by the legal community. She lists some of the objections raised by UK lawyers in a survey conducted by her company, most of which related to risk aversion, fear of loss of revenue, and lack of understanding of the technology.

While lawyers may continue to object to the digitization of legal work on principle, the demonstrated costs savings and increased effectiveness of such technologically based tools as TAL, and now their approval by the courts, means that their use is likely to become standard procedure before much more time has passed.

Is your firm embracing or resisting the new forms of technological assistance that are available to lawyers… or are you somewhere in between? As always, I am interested to know your thoughts on this (or any other) matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.


Edge International Welcomes Two New Principals

I am very pleased to welcome two new principals to Edge International: Sam Coupland and Dr. Neil Oakes of FMRC, Australasia’s leading professional development consultancy.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 11.05.04 AMSam Coupland has worked exclusively with the legal profession for 15 years, assisting firms in strategy development, practice planning, equity valuations and equity transfers. Sam is also a frequent presenter on practice-management-related topics, delivering dynamic presentations through FMRC programs and professional conferences in the areas of financial management, business development, succession planning, strategy, and people management to hundreds of lawyers every year.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 11.04.51 AMNeil Oakes, PhD has been a director of FMRC for 20 years, assisting law firms with strategy and profit growth, partner/director management and profit sharing, key talent management, management structures, and succession management consulting. He regularly conducts law firm planning retreats and helps large and small, private, corporate and government legal organizations to function optimally.

Our newest principals join Sean Larkan, Edge International’s first Australasian principal, allowing us to further extend our market-leading reach in Australasian legal-services consulting. We are delighted to have them on board.

The full announcement regarding these new appointments appears on the Edge International website.

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


BTI Survey Shows Dramatic Growth for AFAs

BTI Consulting

BTI Consulting survey shows growth in use of AFAs for outside counsel, particularly among the largest clients.

A survey conducted by BTI Consulting Group in mid-2015 shows that alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) are experiencing a massive growth in popularity, particularly among larger clients.

A report on the survey in BTI’s blog, The Mad Clientist, indicates that in 2015, AFAs accounted for $23.1 billion in outside counsel spending in the U.S. – up 8.2 billion over 2013. “AFAs are the biggest growth market around – registering a 19.8% compound annual growth rate for the last 3 years,” says Michael B. Rynowecer, president of BTI. The survey also shows that fixed fees are the number one alternative fee structure of choice.

In his Mad Clientist post on the survey, Rynowecer goes on to say, “Top legal decision makers credit their new love of AFAs to improved client focus, predictability in budgets, a more streamlined approach to the work, and the savings — which remain well in the double digits.”

These results dispel a widespread myth among legal pundits who believe that AFAs have little future in legal practice. Not only are AFAs being adopted by the largest consumers of legal work in the U.S., they are saving these clients millions of dollars every year.

Let me know what you think about AFAs or any other matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.

April, 2016 issue of Edge International Communiqué now online

EIC Screen ShotI am pleased to draw the attention of readers of this blog to the most recent issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC).

The issue features articles on topics that range from firm culture, through the supervision of associates, to a checklist for firms that are involved with mergers and acquisitions.

Included are:

  • An article by Jordan Furlong entitled “The Four Cardinal Virtues of Law Firm Culture: Core cultural values that will reap untold benefits for your firm”;
  • “Tailored Talent Supervision: How to move from ‘standard supervision’ of associates to a more customized approach,” by David Cruickshank;
  • Sam Coupland’s post, “Due Diligence: What to look for under the hood,” a checklist for firms grappling with mergers, sales and purchases.

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.




Retaining Associates with Potential: The Coaching Circle

Coaching CirclesIn a recent article in Practice Innovations Newsletter, Jane DiRenzo Pigott, Managing Director of R3 Group LLC in Chicago, highlights a problem faced increasingly by law firms: how to retain associates with promise and potential who are likely to be courted by other firms. She proposes the “coaching circle” as a strategy to help firms avoid the loss of their valuable young lawyers.

The Problem

Pigott points out that the market for talent and expertise at the associate level is robust partly due to wide-spread entry-level hiring reductions in recent years. In addition, according to a 2015 survey of mid-level associates by American Lawyer, there is “a strong attrition rate within this group when their expectations are not being met.” She attributes this phenomenon at least in part to the increasing numbers of millennials who are now joining the ranks of law-firm associates. “Millennials value transparency in expectations and effective hands-on mentoring,” she says. (On this subject, see also the recent article in Amazing Firms, Amazing PracticesAddressing the Generational Divide.”)

A Solution

To fulfil the expectations of millennials in particular, law firms need to become much more involved in coaching and mentoring than most are today, Pigott says. Since, for a host of reasons, most partners are not willing or able to become effective coaches, she recommends that firms consider establishing “coaching circles,” in which a coaching expert from outside the firm works with small groups of associates within the firm. She sets out guidelines for such circles that are intended to help them fulfil their potential usefulness to both the firm and the associates.

What do you think? Should firms seek outside assistance in their efforts to retain associates, or does this kind of mentoring and coaching need to come from within the firm itself? I am always happy to know your thoughts on this – or any other – matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.


Addressing the Generational Divide

generation gap

Statistics show that vast majority of managing partners in law firms in America are older (and usually male) members of the baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1955. Many lawyers from this demographic are hanging onto their practices well past the traditional age of retirement, and this phenomenon is leading to an age imbalance that could put the futures of many major firms at risk.

In an article in the New York Times in November, 2015, Elizabeth Olson explored the ramifications of this generational gap. She quotes the predictions of informed observers who believe that, among other downsides, the growing chasm could lead to the splintering of many established firms when senior partners finally do retire.

Olson points out that research conducted by Altman Weil in 2015, the results of which were published in Law Firms in Transition, showed that only 31 percent of the biggest firms had a formal succession plan.

Some firms have now begun to adopt strategies aimed at retaining promising associates. Olson talked to a representative from Bryan Cave, a 950-lawyer firm that has started a “business academy” to give associates more say in firm planning. She reports that other firms are taking more entrepreneurial approaches.

How has your company begun to address the generational divide to ensure that younger lawyers not only join and stay with your firm, but are allowed the room to grow? Let me know your thoughts on this – or any other – matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.


Tech competence not enough — need mastery

Adam Ziegler Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab

Adam Ziegler, Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab

In an article in Bloomberg BNA, Adam Ziegler – a lawyer who manages technology projects for Harvard Law School’s Library Innovation Lab – argues that mere competence in technology related to the law is not enough for those who purport to serve the best interests of their clients. Instead, he suggests that mastery of relevant technology should be the goal.

In explaining what “tech excellence” might look like for lawyers, Ziegler sets out the following points:

  1. Mastery of tech that is core to lawyers’ mission and values.
  2. Widespread adoption of proven tech that enhances quality and efficiency.
  3. Experimentation with new, unproven tech that might benefit clients.

The balance of the article, which explores each of these areas of focus, makes for interesting – and thought-provoking – reading.

What are your thoughts on this (or any other) subject? Let me know either in the comments section below, or directly via email.