Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices

Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices

Brainwriting Clobbers Brainstorming

Posted in Knowledge Management, Law Firm Innovation, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Management, Law Firm Strategy, Law Firm Training

brainwritingIn most law firms, brainstorming processes are dominated by power partners or simply those with force of personality. When this happens, the scope of the process is narrowed and many participants may be disenfranchised. If the goal of a brainstorming session is to tap the brain trust of all participants, then “brainwriting” might be a brilliant solution.

In an article about brainwriting published in Fast Company, Rebecca Greenfield writes:

[In her book Creative Conspiracy], Thompson found that brainwriting groups generated 20% more ideas and 42% more original ideas as compared to traditional brainstorming groups. “I was shocked to find there’s not a single published study in which a face-to-face brainstorming group outperforms a brainwriting group,” she said.

Have a look at the article and the accompanying video (which is less than four minutes long). Let me know what you think about this approach, or any other matter, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.


Does your Firm Need a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

Posted in Law Firm Client Service, Law Firm Communications, Law Firm Design, Law Firm Innovation, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Management, Law Firm Marketing

200_suggestion_box_for_web.jpgAwareness among businesses of the importance of customer experience has never been greater. By considering how companies assess this experience and work to improve it –  such as the introduction of the chief experience officer (CXO) position to management teams – law firms can also improve their competitive advantage.

Businesses increasingly recognize that if they want to remain competitive, they must understand their consumers’ experiences with their products. In most law firms, too, there is a greater emphasis than ever before on looking at legal services from clients’ points of view. From attracting new clients through the improvement of existing relationships, many firms use a combination of metrics and intuition to guide and refine their efforts to provide greater client satisfaction.

However, in a new article on TNW, social media marketer Garrett Heath points out that perceptions of the nature and quality of customer/client experiences are often little more than guesswork on the part of existing managers. Enter the chief experience officer (CXO), a relatively new position in many companies that is intended to focus exclusively on the entire customer experience – from the identification of customer needs through the assessment of how well those needs are met, from a host of different perspectives.

While the concept of the CXO at this point seems to be restricted almost exclusively to the corporate world, I believe that creating a position with responsibilities similar to that of a corporate CXO would be of extraordinary benefit to almost every law firm.  (I recently had a chat with a seasoned cardiologist and mentioned that I was intending to do this post about CXO’s.  To my surprise, he said “oh yes, our hospital has one of those”.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter in the comments below, or directly via email.


The Voice of Experience: Ten Tips for Managing Partners

Posted in Law Firm Client Service, Law Firm Communications, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Management

GARJan1415In 2013, Gregory Jordan left his position as managing partner at the international law firm Reed Smith to work as general counsel at PNC Financial. At a recent Law Firm Leaders Forum hosted by Thomson Reuters, he was invited to share his thoughts on effective law-firm management from his new perspective as general counsel to a major financial-services company.

In a November, 2014 article in Above the Law, David Lat outlined ten tips that Jordan offered to managing partners at the forum. Jordan called them “The top 10 things I wish I knew when I had your job….”

They included: keeping client communications to essentials; paying attention to corporate clients’ quarterly schedules; staying close to clients on an ongoing basis so that you will be on their radar when they need you; and several other useful points.

I found Jordan’s tips, and David Lat’s article, interesting and insightful, and I hope you will as well.

As always, I invite your feedback on this and any other subject – either through the Comments section below, or directly via email.

Alternative Fees For Litigators: Timely and Practical Advice

Posted in Law Firm Client Service, Law Firm Economics, Law Firm Management, Law Related Publications, Legal Project Management

AFS-LCI am delighted to recommend to you a new book by my esteemed colleague and friend, Patrick J. Lamb. Alternative Fees for Litigators and their Clients is published by the Law Practice Division of the American Bar Association.

Most law firms today are wrangling with issues related to alternative fee structures. Whether we want to change or not, client expectations demand that we make choices that will move us away from the traditional billable-hour approach. Deciding what new billing method(s) to implement in our various areas of practice can be difficult, and the implementation of them can bring a host of other challenges.

Patrick J. Lamb has thirty years of litigation experience to his credit, and has experimented with several forms of alternative fee structure. His book is a compendium of everything litigation lawyers should think about when they consider new fee structures, and offers practical advice on putting them into practice.

And as always, I encourage all law firms whose work includes litigation to check out Patrick’s book. I invite your feedback on this and any other subject either through the Comments section below, or directly via email.


Listen up!

Posted in Law Firm Client Service, Law Firm Communications, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Management, Uncategorized


Many of the thousands of lawyers we have trained in client relations skills, or coached to enhance their book of business, have told us that listening is the most important skill they can possess.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.39.10 AMInvest 7 minutes and 47 seconds to listen to this TED Talks episode by sound expert Julian Treasure, and learn five ways you can improve your listening skills right now.

As always, I invite your feedback on this and any other subject either through the Comments section below, or directly via email.


(Thanks to Jathan Janove, Director of Employee Engagement Solutions at Ogletree Deakins, for bringing this TED Talk to my attention.)



Why Google Values Predictability

Posted in Law Firm Human Resources, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Management, Law Firm Training

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.31.08 AM


A recent post on the Human Capital League website talks about “The Boring Trait that Google Looks for in its Leaders.”

Contrary to what most of us might think, the article says, “The most important character trait of a leader is one that you’re more likely to associate with a dull person than a dynamic leader: predictability. The more predictable you are, day after day, the better.”

The article points out that Google may be a reliable source of guidance for other businesses due to the thoroughness with which the company collects data from employees by means of “upward feedback surveys,” on leadership qualities and other issues. The author then goes on to explain why consistency and reliability may be more important in leading others in the workplace than, let us say, the ability to inspire. In short,

“…when managers are predictable, they remove a roadblock from employees’ path — themselves.”

I encourage you to check out the article, and then to let me know what you think about it — or any other matter — either through the comments section below, or directly via email.


Verrill Dana: A Ceiling Smasher!

Posted in Law Firm Diversity, Law Firm Human Resources, Law Firm Leadership

VerrillDana2Kudos to the law firm of Verrill Dana LLP for ranking as one of the top law firms in the US for its percentage of female partners.

A nationwide survey by Law360 showed that Verrill Dana is among the top 25 firms in the country with the highest concentration of female partners – earning the company 14th place in Law360s “2014 Class of Ceiling Smashers.”

At Verrill Dana, a full-service law firm with more than 100 lawyers, 32% of the firm’s partners are women. Law360 reports that, by contrast, only 21% of law-firm partners nationally are women – despite the fact that women make up 43% of all non-partners.

Obviously, the national balance between male and female partners will not be equitable until it reflects the gender balance in the practice as a whole, but firms like Verrill Dana LLP are to be commended for their achievement, and congratulated for their well deserved national recognition.

As always, I invite your feedback on this and any other subject either through the Comments section below, or directly via email.



Don’t Let “Age Profiling” Slow Your Firm

Posted in Law Firm Communications, Law Firm Diversity, Law Firm Human Resources, Uncategorized

I recently wrote a post for Edge International Communiqué on the perils of making age-based assumptions about our legal-profession colleagues. I share it here for those who missed it.

Business People Working on DocumentsBoth older and younger lawyers can let all kinds of intergenerational nonsense get in the way of clear thinking. The misunderstandings that result can do actual damage to their firms.

Older lawyers have told me that lawyers in the younger generation simply do not have the values that they did. “The younger generation expects to have it all. They didn’t need to earn it the way we did. They lack our principles and they lack empathy. Mature lawyers have to suffer and figure out what to do with these aberrations.”

For their part, younger lawyers have knowledge of technology that the senior lawyers at the firm do not. Some seem to believe that the mature generation should just scramble into their graves. Then, free of the deadwood, they will be able to get on with utilizing the best and most modern technology to serve the clients of the firm.

As most rational people realize, both points of view are riddled with emotional nonsense. The younger generation is not lazy. The younger generation does not lack values. The younger generation has empathy and wants to serve others. They may want to do things a little differently than their predecessors, but they are no less righteous or valuable.

For their part, some senior people at law firms understand technology better than the newer generations. “What?” you may say. “How can this be? The younger generation texts rather than using voicemail. These younger lawyers understand gaming technology. Isn’t gamification an important new concept with a host of real-world applications?”

These are opinions. But what is the reality? In my work with law firms, I have noticed that while the younger generation may text rather than use voicemail, and may prefer email to picking up the telephone, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the thirty-something lawyer has any clue about how to use current technology to manage projects or to streamline systems. Please note that I didn’t say that the younger generation isn’t at the forefront of the evolving technology. It is. But for the most part, the technology leaders just don’t happen to be lawyers. Furthermore, in many of the firms I serve, it is the senior practitioners who have been struggling to figure out how to add value to quench the insatiable appetite of the ever-more demanding clients. Not every senior lawyer is so forward-thinking, to be sure, but a good many of them are.

In short, you simply can’t predict mindset or receptivity based on vintage or era. To do so is “ageism” – whether you are making presumptions about younger people or older ones.

My strong recommendation to those law firms who do not yet have research and development (and/or “skunk works”) groups is that they get busy and start forming them. And don’t let your bigotry exclude any generation. Invite those who are interested. Invite those who care. Let them run up the mast and be your early warning system. Give them some room. They don’t need a lot of budget to read and explore and understand what is going on around them. And if they do recommend something, be slow to reject their recommendation.


I invite you to read the August, 2014 issue of Edge International Communiqué (EIC), where this article appeared. You can also subscribe to the newsletter by clicking EIC’s “Join Our Mailing List” button.