Does Social Media matter to law firms?

PUNCHLINE: If Social Media matters, then it matters to law firms because everything that matters to society in general must matter to law firms sooner or later.  Watch this and make your own decision.

Wolfram Alpha from Steven Wolfram (a computational knowledge engine)

This is the most important technological breakthrough I've seen in 10 years.  The fact that it was not designed specifically for the legal profession should not deter you from availing yourself of this resource starting NOW.

Google is amazing…  Wolfram Alpha transcends it.  Try it out !

WATCH THIS DEMO - 13 minutes that will change your life.

(Thanks to my son Daniel Riskin, PhD for making me aware of this.)




Say something important and relevant and people will listen

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The week after Bernard Madoff was charged with running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, Proskauer Rose, a New York firm of 750 lawyers, offered a telephone briefing on the scandal for its wealthy clients. With only a day’s notice, 1,300 Madoff investors dialed in.

“This is a financial 9/11 for our clients,” said Proskauer litigation partner Gregg Mashberg, one of the lawyers on the call. “People are dying for information.”

You may not have anything on the scale of 911 that you can help your clients with but the principle remains valid:

Is what you have to say to clients relevant, timely and valuable? 

If so, they will listen!

These extreme economic times are not the place for the long-term marketing-speak consulting-mumbo jumbo about branding and image.

Your clients (and prospective clients) need your help and they need it now.  How can your firm help your clients with:

strategies to deal with slow paying customers (even potentially bankrupt ones)

employment strategies that allow for layoffs (if necessary) without retribution

renegotiating contracts of all kinds - including leases.

international assistance especially where foreign currency value fluctuation could hurt your client

PUNCHLINE:  You don't need my list - you need to sit down with your practice group, industry group and/or client team and determine what your clients needs from you.  By the way, don't hesitate to involve your key clients in this discussion - they will enthusiastically participate (remember to tell them the meter is off if you still bill by the hour).

Note:  The Bloomberg quote and Madoff image above are from a story today called "Madoff Case Promises Fees for Firms Facing Worst Year in Decade" 

How Optimistic Law Firm Leaders Might React to Wall Street

The image above is the core of the post of internet phenom, Rajesh Setty, in his post today at Life Beyond Code: Optimists and Pessimists - The big difference is..

Couple that with the wisdom of lawyer and legal profession provocateur, Patrick Lamb, in his post today: Silver Lining in Black Economic Cloud? in which Pat says among other things:

If you don't see the opportunity to restructure relationships in ways that produce savings for your clients while at the same time strengthening your relationship with that client, you need to open your eyes.

Punchline:  My asking Managing Partners to treat the deterioration of the economy seriously is in perfect harmony with seeing the situation as a competitive opportunity.  My view of Dynamic Resilience as an alternative to a traditional strategic plan is just that - exploiting the opportunity to be stronger than competitors in challenging times.  (Remember the hiking joke when one hiker says to the other “I don’t have to run faster than the bear; I only have to run faster than you”).

I invite you again to push the button.



Lehman Liquidation? Merrill Acquisition? Greenspan: "worst economy I've ever seen"?

Managing Partners, you may have a disaster plan for fire, perhaps for terrorism - do you have one for the economic train coming off the tracks?

Listen (and watch) what Greenspan said yesterday Sept 14th (50 seconds)

Punchline:  You are getting fair warning - are you acting on it?  This is not a time for traditional strategic planning - it is time for scenario planning that will create "dynamic resilience" that may become the life support system your firm will need should the economy worsen. 

It's time, as Nike would say, to "Just Do It".  

Push the button. (click it) then let's talk about this privately.




When Better Service Is a Bad Thing

What is your initial reaction to the title of this blog post?  I thought it was daft… until I read the complete post by Susan Cramm on June 25, 2008 on her Harvard Business Blog: Having IT Your Way.

Here is an excerpt from her blog post:
Over the past decade, IT organizations have worked hard to improve services and in turn increase IT’s impact on the business. But in the quest to deliver great service, IT actually may have been disabling rather than enabling the enterprise.

How? In two ways. First, continual hand-holding leads to a loss of precious time that could be devoted to more important activities. Second, helping others who can help themselves circumvents learning. It lets them off the hook and alleviates their sense of responsibility. And ultimately it slows down progress as communication is constantly being run through an intermediary. In delegation lingo, this is called taking on someone else’s monkey.

PUNCHLINE:   Based on my observations in the firms I serve around the world, I would say that too many lawyers pride themselves on their IT incompetencies believing that it makes them somehow charming and brilliant.  I say they might as well be sneaking into the firm at night and taking cash out of the safe.  The costs associated with that attitude include:
  • poorer client service by failing to capitalize on the efficiencies technology offers
  • competitive disadvantage (clients do not find incompetency charming ever)
  • wasted IT personnel time
  • distracting and therefore delaying or discouraging the latest IT initiatives
  • <I’ll bet the IT folks out there can add lots to this list>
Allow me to transpose one of Susan’s comments for Managing Partners and CIO’s in the legal profession:
Pleasing partners shouldn't be IT’s ultimate goal (or that of the Managing Partner). Rather, the ultimate goal of the Managing Partner and the CIO is to ensure the success of the firm. Help IT serve you and the firm by making sure that IT isn’t doing anything for individuals that they can, and should, do for themselves.

"once-in-a-lifetime" - Valorem Law Group

As Nicole Nehama Auerbach joins Valorem, she says:
“I saw Valorem as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really make a difference in the way litigation is handled... I was captivated by the firm’s commitment to provide real value to business clients, and, in particular, its emphasis on alternative fees. Alternative fees are more important than ever to clients as the economy fluctuates and rates continue their upward march. Traditional law firms have been slow to recognize the need to satisfy their clients’ economic concerns."
Valorem Law Group represents a head on assault on the billable hour.  Here's an excerpt from thier new web site:

The top ten list…
  1. We are all refugees of elite BigLaw firms;
  2. We are skilled courtroom lawyers, in practice and at heart;
  3. We are revolutionaries and risk-takers, entrepreneurs at heart;
  4. We bring a single-mindedness to the notion of client service;
  5. We believe you are entitled to budget certainty, to a real and realized commitment to help you deal with the cost pressures you face;
  6. We believe that the practice of law is an art, not a science;
  7. We believe in collaboration and hold the team rather than the individual sacrosanct;
  8. We love technology and efficiency -- the more red tape we hack through, the better;
  9. We take our work very seriously -- ourselves, not so much;
  10. We are real people, with supportive spouses and wonderful kids (who, at least today, appear to really like us).
They even have the audacity to say this:

We provide value or you adjust the bill.

I recommend a thorough tour of their web site.

My Opinion:  Don't bet against these people - they are proven champions as individuals and together they are going to disturb the peace of the billable hour.  I say BRAVO!!  The leader is Patrick Lamb (center in photo above) - learn even more at his famous blog: In Search of Client Service

Answer Your Outsourcing Questions

Answer Your Outsourcing Questions
  • Why do some corporations and law firms outsource legal work while others do not?
  • What ethical issues arise in outsourcing legal services?
  • Who is doing the outsourced work and what qualifications do they have?
  • What type of legal work is being outsourced? What are the concerns regarding the outsourcing of patent drafting and patent searches?
  • What impact, if any, will legal outsourcing have on the elite guild nature of the U.S. legal profession?

The International Out-Sourcing and the Legal Profession conference will be held on April 25, 2008 at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

I suggest you decide whether your firm can afford not to have someone attend.

For more information, contact The Institute for Global Challenges and the Law at  the University of California, Berkeley School of Law:
Telephone: 510.642.7830
Fax: 510.643.2362  
Registration is a modest $150.

For questions or to register by phone, please contact Emily Arntz: 510-642-7830

To see a full description on line, go to the Institute for Global Challenges and Law


click on image for larger view

LOGITHISER – a new term for law firms
The Logical Empathiser. The accepted wisdom is that anyone who possesses great reason and logic is quite devoid of humanity and warmth. The Logithiser is living proof that wisdom, in this case, is fallacy. Yes, Logithisers are capable of shutting down their emotional mechanisms to perform feats of objectivity and accurate thought. But equally, they have great powers of empathy.
Faced with a stressed colleague or a concerned client, the Logithiser readily sheds their tough exterior, listens quietly and offers sound, careful advice.
I did not (would not) make this up.  This unique approach is used by the Eversheds firm (based in the UK) to attract recruits.  If you liked Logithiser, perhaps you will like these:
KNOWLIVATOR The Knowledgeable Motivator
INNOVATEER The Innovative Volunteer
PERFORMIBUTOR The Performing Contributor
PROACTILOPER The Proactive Developer
PROFESSIONARY The Professional Visionary
PRIORICATOR The Prioritising Communicator
WINNOMAT The Winning Diplomat
The "Graduate Recruiting" portal at the Eversheds site features videos as well.   The shooting approach is for us to view the video as if we are part of its production – take a look – see what I mean!

PUNCHLINE:  In a profession based on precedent and tradition where few are willing to risk being unique, one firm has.  Like it or hate it, give them credit for the courage to stand out.  BRAVO EVERSHEDS!!

Based upon (and thank you to) Roll On Friday - original post: on this subject. Eversheds recruitment effort

Leaders: Genuine Inspiration from Sir Richard Branson

Is the UK's wealthiest man also its wisest?  If you have about 1/2 hour to sit in on a fascinating conversation with Sir Richard, head over to Adventures in Strategy, my Edge colleague and friend, Robert Millard's blog post: Richard Branson on Life, Succeeding in Business and Everything
(Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 30:44.)

I am very biased - Richard Branson is one of my heroes - nevertheless I will risk exclaiming that there is no Managing Partner who could experience this discussion and not be inspired.

Can you pass the Critical Thinking test of a Global Law Firm?

Lovells offers a “try out” Critical Thinking test which you can take right now, anonymously.

Lovells is one of the largest international business legal practices, with over three thousand people operating from 26 offices in Europe, Asia and the United States.

It is amusing to hear Americans debate the non-constitutionality of asking applicants to submit to testing while the rest of the world has absolutely no problem with it and in fact sees significant benefits.  I will leave that debate to others but thought you might have some fun with a sample test.

Take Lovells' Critical Thinking test HERE. 

PUNCHLINE:  Enjoy!!  I’ll tell you my score if you tell me yours!

NOTE  The test is no longer accessible

Offshoring in India Changing Legal Services in the West

In Three myths about legal services offshoring (The Hindu) there is some very very sobering information especially for those who hope that it means offshoring will just fade away sooner or later.

If you intend to practice law for 10 or more years then:   READ THE ARTICLE

Here are some teasers/excerpts:
"Attacks on the competence of Indian lawyers and law graduates are about as valid as saying that Indian software engineers are incapable of handling sophisticated IT (information technology) work. To the contrary, the Indian IT industry is a world leader, and the same will be the case with offshored legal services."
"A recent study conducted by Harvard Law School and LexisNexis reveals that 75 per cent of US law graduates admit they do not have the necessary skills to practise law."
"So you would expect that these deficiencies would be met by rigorous training programs undertaken by Western law firms. Guess again! The Harvard-LexisNexis study reveals that 64 per cent of young lawyers receive no organised, on-the-job training."
"By contrast, reputable legal services offshoring companies in India provide rigorous training to their lawyers, and the hours spent on training do not appear on invoices to clients."  
"…at least in the US, law graduates for the most part are notoriously incapable of writing effectively in English. The problem is so severe that some large US law firms now assign a writing coach to each incoming associate. However, most lawyers in the West never receive this kind of training. By contrast, reputable legal services offshoring companies in India train all their attorneys in English writing."
"The future of the legal services offshoring industry in India appears very bright."
"Corporations, not Western law firms, will drive the market in the years ahead."
"Another way that corporations will drive the market, indirectly, is by obtaining flat (or fixed) rate billing from their outside counsel, instead of hourly billing. For example, the mega law firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, now handles all of the litigation for Cisco Systems for a fixed annual fee."
"Every sector of the legal offshoring industry will grow dramatically, including lower end services, such as document coding and legal transcription. Ultimately, however, the biggest impact, the long-term mother lode, will be higher-value services such as legal research and drafting – services that constitute the bulk of the legal work now done in the West."
"Long-term, India’s enormous, mostly untapped population of over one billion citizens will continue to make India competitive in relation to other offshore destinations… ultimately it will not only decrease poverty, but increase the number of law graduates."
"On the most positive note, the growth and development of the legal offshoring industry in India will help bring about a major change in the way legal services are delivered in the West."

In Memory of the Billable Hour

“Ford & Harrison, a 190-attorney labor and employment firm, has tossed out billable-hour requirements for first-year associates. The program aims to close the practical-skills gap of law school education and increase value to clients. The firm also hopes it will enable associates to handle meatier matters more quickly.“ according to Leigh Jones of The National Law Journal.

I have the privilege of knowing C. Lash Harrison (pictured) and his remarkable stature within his firm.  When I read about this bold initiative I was in no way surprised that it was Lash who had the gravitas to pull this off.  It may be prophetic that the tag line on the Ford & Harrison firm’s website reads:  “THE RIGHT RESPONSE AT THE RIGHT TIME”

"Everyone sits around and complains about the problems," said C. Lash Harrison, managing partner of the law firm. "I figured, what the heck, maybe we can try something."

Observation:  The issue of newer lawyers recording time on files is a bit of a hornet’s nest in most firms.  If the time is billable, it detracts from the billing partner’s realization rate and perhaps even hours billed.   Carefully measured associates steer away from files where they can’t record billable time.  This creates a tension that is based on economic reality but serves neither the associate’s training objectives nor the client’s desire to optimize value.  Thank goodness for fresh thinking and bold initiatives.  That makes C. Lash Harrison a hero to me.

Thank you to LAW.COM for its post Firm Kills Billable Hour for First-Year Associates

First Law Firm Goes Public - shares up 40% on first day of trading

The Wall Street Journal posts: Slater & Gordon: The World’s First Publicly Traded Law Firm

Managing Partners and other members of law firm C suites had better look at Slater & Gordon’s prospectus – it’s a gold mine, (pun intended).

Have a look at how risks are described – the Wall Street Journal post quotes the passage balancing professional responsibility and shareholder profits.

"Lawyers have a primary duty to the courts and a secondary duty to their clients. These duties are paramount given the nature of the Company’s business as an Incorporated Legal Practice. There could be circumstances in which the lawyers of Slater & Gordon are required to act in accordance with these duties and contrary to other corporate responsibilities and against the interests of Shareholders or the short-term profitability of the Company."

I adored the "Key Risks" page (click on it to download pdf of this page):

PUNCHLINE:  If this does not fascinate you, you should resign from your leadership position.  I am not saying you should follow suit – I want you to know what your options are and what your competitors might be up to way sooner than you would like to think.

Science fiction movies adore time travel and ripples in the primordial fabric.  We are witnessing a collision - the future has just exploded into the present.  With Clemente in the UK just over the horizon, please fasten your seatbelts - this is a pivotal moment for the legal profession and for the Managing Partners within it.  Like Dennis Hopper's famous line in the movie Speed, "what are you going to do, Jack"

You may want to reference my earlier post:  The end of the legal profession as you knew it...