“Daring to be human” in job interviews. What do you think?

Lars Dalgaard

Lars Dalgaard

Lars Dalgaard is a venture capitalist with a track record of entrepreneurial success. He sold his last company, SuccessFactors, for $3 billion.

In recent interviews, Dalgaard has set himself apart from his peers with his emphasis on establishing a personal connection with employees. In a Business Insider article, Eugene Kim quotes Dalgaard as saying, “We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it.”

Kim reports that when Dalgaard – now a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz – owned his own businesses, he always asked one question during employment interviews that was intended to take interviewees out of their comfort zones. The question was this: “What did you learn from your mother?”

Dalgaard described the question to The New York Times as “incredibly powerful…. Basically I’m testing them to see, ‘How human are you ready to be with me?'”

What do you think of Dalgaard’s approach? Does the question blur boundaries that should be left untouched, or open doors to greater workplace trust and collegiality? I invite you to share your thoughts on this and offer any other interview questions you favour, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.




Cybersecurity: A Growing Area of Practice

Safety concept: opened padlock in cyber space.In June, Bloomberg BNA reported that Akerman had become the latest law firm to venture deeply into the field of data security and information governance when it established an 18-person group specializing in data law.

Martin Tully, co-chair of the new Akerman group, told Bloombeg that “while the breaches at Target make national headlines, smaller breaches occur on an almost daily basis.” He said that “Akerman is working with outside technology vendors to help the firm’s clients install better security systems, and make plans in the event of a data breach.”

In the area of information governance, the Akerman group helps clients determine what data they can safely get rid of, and what they need to continue to store for legal reasons. Tully also expressed his opinion that eDiscovery is becoming an important focus of growth in the field.

As others have pointed out as well, Tully believes that law firms need to demonstrate their capacity to deal with data issues and knowledge in the field of data security in part to avert client concerns about their own firms’ data security systems.

Has your firm begun to address this area of practice? Let me know your thoughts on the subject, or on any other matter. You can contact me via the comments section below, or directly via email.

“Focus on Forever” and Other Rainmaking Skills

BCI BlogA survey conducted by BTI Consulting Group, as reported recently on its Mad Clientist blog, shows that rainmakers book five times more business than the average law firm partner.

In answer to the obvious question, “How?”, BTI president Michael B. Rynowecer proposes possibilities that range across such areas as self-discipline, relationship management, communications skills, values and focus.

Among other behaviours Rynowecer theorizes that rainmakers have developed to a greater extent than have other lawyers is “The ability to focus on forever.”

“Rainmakers say there is no such thing as one and done,” he says. “They work at figuring out client needs and finding the right firm resources—this includes skills, chemistry and bringing these resources up to speed. The focus is on filling a broad range of needs seamlessly with the right resources so the client need not look elsewhere—ever.”

In his post, Rynowecer discusses four other behaviours that distinguish rainmakers, stressing his observation that building relationships is the key to business growth for law firms. He has expanded on what he has learned about successful rainmakers in his new book, Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits.

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts on this or any other matter. You can contact me via the comments section below, or directly via email.

Securing New Litigation Work

Based on a projected thaw in the litigation market in 2016, the Sept. 30, 2015 installment of BTI’s blog, The Mad Clientest, features a useful and user-friendly infographic entitled “How to Capture the Money Clients Spend on Litigation.”

BTI’s visual, which includes a link to the company’s recent report, BTI Litigation Outlook 2016, illustrates effective approaches to accessing new work in the litigation field, particularly in the growing and lucrative “Bet The Company” area.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.44.54 AM

Check it out and let me know your thoughts – on this or any other matter. You can contact me via the comments section below, or directly via email.

The “Start With Why” Approach

Lamb2GARIn a recent post, Patrick Lamb of the Valorem Law Group talks about one of the most-watched-ever TED Talk videos, Simon Sinek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” – nicknamed “Start With Why.”

Lamb explains that in the video, “Sinek compellingly argues that why an organization exists is more important to its success than what it does or how.”

Lamb goes on to explain how he and his partners at the Valorem Law Group have put Sinek’s principle to work for them. Using the failure of Dewey & LeBoeuf as a catalyst for their discussion, they came to the conclusion that “client well-being is irrelevant in most law firms.”

In order to figure out why this was the case, and how it applied to their firm, Lamb and his partners entered into a long and multi-layered discussion, and emerged with an agreed-upon rationale for Valorem’s existence: “We stand together to serve our clients and help them avoid any problem that can be prevented, successfully handle any problem that cannot, and learn from every encounter so we inspire continuous improvement.”

To find out how they came to this “declaration of independence,” as they call it, and how they are working to “institutionalize value for the firm’s clients,” I invite you to read the article. You are welcome to share your thoughts on this or any other matter, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

So, you make the best saddle on the market….

horse saddleWhen I am working with law firms that seem to be falling behind the times, and I want to remind those firms of the disruptive effect of new technologies on the legal landscape, I like to introduce the metaphor of the saddle maker.

Prior to the mid-1800s, the leatherworkers who built saddles were among the most highly valued craftspeople around: they constructed a product that almost every home and business needed, and some of them were true artists who carved leather designs of lasting beauty, as well as creating comfortable and useful items that people could put to good use every day.

Not just anyone could make a saddle: you needed some basic training and knowledge before you could even figure out how to turn a piece of hide into something that could be used for extended periods of time without causing discomfort to horse or human. But there were also those who went far beyond the basics and became true artists, and some of the saddles they created are now collectors’ items.

Obviously a legal matter is not the same as a saddle, and law firms are not blacksmith shops. However, the analogy should be clear. Sometimes firm leaders need to look up from the work the firm is producing – despite its elegance and beauty and the obvious depth of knowledge and experience that its creators have acquired – to make sure that the clients they want to attract and keep are still riding horses.

Your thoughts on this or any other matter are welcomed, either in the comments section below or directly via email.


Are You a Hospitalian?

GAR-AFAPCheck out this TEDx Talks video in which Bobby Stuckey, world-renowned master sommelier, asks industry leaders everywhere: “Are you a hospitalian?”

Stuckey opens his brief presentation by telling the story of a couple who, on their 40th wedding anniversary, arrived at his restaurant – Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO – half an hour late and furious with one another. The evening could have been a disaster, but a server who took a moment to do something special for them managed to turn it around in an instant. Stuckey labels the server a “hospitalian.”

He then goes on to point out that, to his mind, the difference between hospitality and service is “looking out instead of looking in.” He says hospitality has to do with changing how the other person feels, rather than just doing something that they need to have done.

I invite you to consider how this principle could be applied to the client or inter-office relations at your firm – or even to entertaining your Aunt Gayle.

And as always, I invite you to share your thoughts on this or any other matter, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.



Change and the Law: Take Control of Your Own Future

GAR In the most recent issue of Edge International Communique, I explored the issue of change in the legal profession, advising readers to take control of where their practices are going in a world where technology is altering not only how legal matters are carried out, but where and how they are accessed.

My article begins:

Today, speakers, writers and consultants in our field are besieged with questions about the impact of change on every aspect of the legal profession. Law societies, bar associations, corporate legal departments, private practice law firms and sole practitioners alike all want some expert to illuminate for them the mysterious path into the future.

My advice to you is avoid prognosticators: they will probably prove to be wrong. Also avoid listening to those with expertise in explaining the reasons for change after the fact. Instead, I suggest that you take matters into your own hands. There are steps you can take on your own that will be of enormous help to you when it comes to finding your way to the future.

You can read the rest of the article here – including my suggestions on how you can not only anticipate change, but use it to your advantage.

In the same issue of EIC, John Plank talks about how to make your client seminars effective for all attendees — no matter what brought them to your session — and Mike White raises crucial issues about law-firm succession planning.

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.

New General Counsel at Client Companies a Wake-Up Call: Rynowecer

Michael B. Rynowecer, President and Founder, The BTI Consulting Group

Michael B. Rynowecer, President and Founder, The BTI Consulting Group

Michael B. Rynowecer, President and Founder of the BTI Consulting Group, warns law firms that they should consider the appointment of new general counsel at any of their major clients to be a “wake up call.”

He supports this caution with some interesting statistics, which he posted recently on his Mad Clientist blog: within fifteen months of being hired, he says, more than a third of new GCs have started working with at least one new law firm. This statistic becomes even more significant when he adds that about 16% of all large companies have appointed new GCs within the past 15 months. Rynowecer predicts that the rate of GC turnover is likely to surge in the near future.

Rynowecer’s statistics have implications for all law firms that are working with major companies: 1) if you are not pulling your weight, or if you don’t apprise yourself of a new GC’s goals and strategies, you are likely to be gone within 1.5 years of the GC’s arrival; and 2) the arrival of a new GC at a company within your area of expertise may signal a potentially fruitful opportunity for you to pitch the benefits to them of working with your firm.

Rynowecer’s advice to law firms?

Consider any announcement of a new GC a wake up call. Working styles, goals, objectives, and law firm preferences are going to change. The biggest complaint from new GCs: Law firms continue to work in the style their predecessor liked—and the newcomer doesn’t. This does not bode well for leaving a client-focused first impression.

I encourage you to read Michael Rynowecer’s column thoroughly for suggestions on how to ensure that your position on major clients’ law firm panels remains secure.

I also invite you to share your thoughts on this or any other matter, either in the comments section below or by contacting me directly via email.