2012 Law Firm Strategy Lessons from the Apollo 13 Moon Mission

Your law firm’s success in 2012 may require considerable ingenuity under extreme pressure just as it did from the crew of Apollo 13 for their safe return to Earth.

Apollo 13 was the third mission in the American Apollo space program intended to land on the Moon. The number 2 oxygen tank in the Service Module exploded en route to the Moon, approximately 200,000 miles (320,000 km) from Earth.  The developing drama was shown on television and depicted in the Apollo 13 movie based on the mission.

If you saw the movie, you may recall that the head of Mission Control assembled a team in a conference room and requested that the materials available to the astronauts in the Service Module be brought to the room because they had but a few hours to learn how to make oxygen to save the astronauts’ lives.

By contrast, when the senior leadership team in most law firms meets to explore strategy, there is no sense of urgency. Worse, after extraordinarily bright people come up with some amazing plans, in most firms they are doomed to atrophy due to a lack of execution.

As you consider 2012, I recommend that you:

  • Take off the rose colored glasses… the apparent good economic news is at best an exercise in extreme optimism and at worst the willful concealment of the truth
  • Clients have tasted economic power in the lawyer/client relationship and they are not going to give it up. In fact, if you are not exploring legal process management (LPM) in harmony with some of your most important clients, your firm is headed for rough seas.
  • Make your plans as if they were a matter of life and death because they very well may be. In today’s perilous times, your firm’s fate may be as precarious as that of the 3 astronauts when the oxygen tank exploded.

I confess that I have framed this in a slightly melodramatic way in order to be provocative. The serious lesson I ask you to take from this is that your plans need a deadline and they must be executed as if life itself dependent upon them. That is why in Edge, we make no apology for being obsessed with action.

Your comments would be appreciated as usual.


(Thanks to Wikipedia for the image and details)

Recovering from information overload (McKinsey Quarterly)

All of the Managing Partners with whom I work are devoured by their "multitasking work environments".  "Recovering from information overload" (McKinsey Quarterly, January 2011) authors Derek Dean and Caroline Webb have succinctly laid out their take on the problems and solutions:

Problems (multitasking):

slows us down,

hampers creativity and

makes us anxious and it’s addictive)

Solutions (Coping with the deluge):


Filter and


Perhaps the most valuable part of the article lies in an exploration of how to hit the "reset button".

If you are the Managing Partner (or have any leadership responsibilities in your firm) I suggest you read this article twice, once to assimilate it and next to make your action plan for the parts or pieces you want to implement.  Download the PDF or read online.








Attorney at Work Delivers Daily Ideas for Lawyers

I am honoured to be in the esteemed company of the publishers and advisors of Attorney at Work that promises “One Really Good Idea Every Day”

There is no cost to subscribe and the ideas will flow starting in January.

I recommend that you subscribe now

Congratulations in particular to my long time friend, Merrilyn Tarlton who conceived this idea with Joan and Mark Feldman


Finding Success in a Global Paradox (Keynote ALPMA Sydney 22 Oct 2010 -- Password Protected -- registered participants only)

THANK YOU Patrick Lamb for your "WOW" post

Patrick Lamb is synonymous with Valorem Law Group which is a driving force in changing how legal services are valued and acquired. After learning that Jordan Furlong was joining us, here's (an excerpt from) what he posted:

It's like adding Wayne Gretzky in his prime to the team that already was the best team in the league, or adding an all-star to a team of all-stars.  Great move, my friends.

Read the complete post here: WOW! Jordan Furlong joins Edge International!

If you lead a law firm and do not yet subscribe to Patrick's blog, In Search of Perfect Client Service, then go now and take care of that oversight.

If you want to learn more about Patrick, choose one if his bios:

In his own words

Pat's formal (boring) bio

Now as for Jordan Furlong, Jordan thanks again for joining us,  You are more like Gretzky than even Patrick may know.

I was practicing law in Edmonton during the Oiler dynasty and saw Gretzky informally as well as on the ice.   He was a young man of values and integrity… a great contributor to the community… and always selfless… ego-less… always doing his best… and his best, we all know in hindsight, was truly awesome. 

Having known Jordan Furlong personally and professionaly for many years, I can attest to the attributes that Patrick Lamb affords him and add that he is the kind of dream teammate we so much appreciate at Edge International.  In fact Jordan inhales and exhales integrity - it's the core of his DNA.  (Heck - he even comes from Ontario, Canada and brings endorsements - thanks to Patrick).

Jordan, (blame this on Patrick Lamb), I now pronounce your Edge International nickname to be "Gretz" from this day forward.   Welcome aboard, Gretz !


The Great Voice Mail Debate

How your people use their voice mail may seem at first both trivial and unimportant. BZZZZZZZZZZ WRONG!!!

The reason you open you wallet wide for a Ritz Carlton is because of the experience.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that you are greeted by name at the front desk?    (Did you see the secret service-type ear phone worn by the doorman who opened your car door and asked if you were checking-in and for your name?  As you walked form your car, the front desk staff was given your name – they did not not need to recognize you from last time.)

Two highly respected bloggers, Tom Collins of morepartnerincome and Patrick Lamb of In Search of Perfect Client Service respectfully disagree in their respective posts: Voice Mail -- a Lawyer's Friend or Foe and Voicemail--Useful Tool Or Devil's Folly?  Tom sets out some rules worth considering and Patrick builds on them adding his own perspective.

PUNCHLINE:  Take five minutes, read the posts, and then do the unthinkable.  Create your own protocol (that you think optimizes the client’s experience with your voice mail system) and then ask your partners, associates and staff to comply.  Trivial and unimportant?  Your competitors hope you think so.

Signs of Bozosity


Guy Kawasaki two days in a row? Not my fault - his. Guy was traveling on:






when he decided to create this email gem called The Effective Emailer. Guy recites a dozen sensible and perhaps essential rules of email etiquette.

I almost called this post: "Don't FUQ with me and I won't FUQ with you" but then I thought it may not be so obvious that this Kawasakism really means "Fabricate Unanswerable Questions". As for the title I chose, when you read #10 in his post you will learn how to avoid "a sure sign of bozosity"!

FASTFORWARD: Our Edge International project for a non-email protocol to dramatically reduce emaill within organizations continues. I think we're ahead of the curve (few people know they want this or care) which is exactly where we want to be. In the meantime, email behaviors neeed all the help they can get and I thing Guy Kawasaki's contribution is the best I've seen recently. Stay tuned.

You = Your Calendar


Thank you Tom Peters for this tidbit from a post called "Stuff…":


ALL THERE IS. Damn it! I keep forgetting this! Leaving it out of presentations! Namely, a PP slide that simply reads : You = Your Calendar. THIS IS MY #1 BELIEF ABOUT MANAGEMENT. Or: "You can't bullshit your calendar." Or: "Your calendar knows ... do you?" All we have is our time. The way we distribute it is our "strategic plan," our "vision," our "values." Period. So how'd you spend your precious time today? Tell me, and I'll tell you what you actually care about—it's simple and unerring.

FASTFORWARD: I have an expression I use when talking for senior power partners in client firms: "Your behaviour is so loud, I can't hear what you're saying". This is usually in the context of seniors lecturing juniors about perfection but the juniors have their eyes fixed firmly not on what the seniors are "saying" but what they are "doing" Tom Peters has this so right — a reminder to every single one of us to make sure that our 2006 calendars consist of the behaviours that are in harmony with what we aspire to (otherwise we are engaging is self deception). Thanks for the reminder, Tom

Law Firm Email Volumes Must be Reduced

computer jokes - in utero email.gif

Today's story in the Register, Server bug cripples Dublin law firms, is about Dublin law firms getting one-half million unwanted emails on top what Is likely a large volume in the first place.

I contend that the usual flow of emails is crippling. So, at Edge International, we are working with pilot clients on dramatically reducing the volume of emails through the use of internal Blogs and Wikis.

If you are involved in the senior management in a law firm (or other professional services firm) and are very interested in strategies to reduce email volumes without losing the beneficial data and communications, drop me a note and I will happily keep you posted on our progress.

Jim Calloway brings us The Smorgasbord Effect


"The Smorgasbord Effect. Our choices are like a smorgasbord at a restaurant, so many, that we try to take a little of each and thus overload our plates. We need to return to the restaurant model, where we make a deliberate choice, and then enjoy a fixed amount of food. It has been noted by someone that we are often afraid to make deliberate choices because we realize that every choice precludes others. If we take the mountain road, we cannot drive by the lake along the valley road as well. So some people put off making a decision (like getting married) just to keep their options open. Others simply try to say "Yes" to everything. "Yes, I'll have some of this and some of that and some of that, and, Oh look, I must have some of that, too."

This is from Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog, in particular, a great post called Just Too Busy which brings us via Robert Harris, this and seven more thoughts about why we are so busy. Jim Calloway says: "These points are very brief so you do have time to read them." He's right.