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Now 50 years since my law school graduation, I am filled with pride as my son, Matthew Riskin, steps into a significant new role as a Partner at the esteemed Canadian national law firm, Bennett Jones.

Matthew’s dedication and hard work have led him to this moment, embodying the qualities of a great lawyer. His journey reflects not only his commitment to excellence but also the enduring values of our profession. This achievement is more than a personal milestone; it represents the continuation of a legacy and the promise of future contributions to the field of law.

Congratulations, Matthew, on this remarkable achievement. Your journey is an inspiration, and I eagerly anticipate the continued contributions you will make to our profession. Here’s to the future, and the legacy you will build.

To see Matthew’s bio, click here.

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To win, your firm needs “peak performance” from all your people, which, in turn, requires that they be motivated and receive constructive coaching.


In my experience, working with hundreds of firms globally, there is a common propensity for people to react negatively to even well-intentioned feedback.  The person receiving the feedback often experiences the following thoughts about the person giving the feedback:

  • hasn’t taken the time to thoroughly investigate my role and my work so the feedback does not fit and is unhelpful
  • overlooks the obstacles that the firm puts in my way, whether intended or not
  • overlooks that I frequently go the extra mile usually without any acknowledgment or thanks.
  • Candidly, some feel that feedback like this is annoying and demotivating and just makes people want to avoid the person who gave it to them, and at worst, may start looking for a different employer who will appreciate them more.


A few days ago, the Harvard Business Review published this well-crafted article, which may very well be a useful resource in training your people to receive feedback with greater resilience.


“When You Think You’re Doing Good Work – But Others Don’t”

Five steps to take when you learn that others’ perceptions don’t match up with your own. by award-winning author Marlo Lyons.


I suggest you consider sharing the article with those to whom you will be giving feedback. You can use it as a catalyst for having a training discussion.

Those who will be giving the feedback also need training and I intend to share this article with them as well as a way to sensitize them to the challenge of giving feedback while avoiding an unintended reaction.

As always, I’m interested in your comments and would be happy to discuss and compare experiences. Please feel free to email me.

Gerry Riskin

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Dr. Mark Goulston

The passing of Mark Goulston is a very personal and private matter for me… we have been close friends for some time.  

Mark was a celebrity, and therefore I share his loss with so many he touched.

I have been asked to share some memories which I am honored to do.  (Those of you who knew Mark well will know that I am hearing his voice coaching me on how to do this.)

Mark earned the admiration of so many. He did that through his books, speeches, professional practice, membership in organizations, friendships, all the way down to his breakfast group which as some of you know included the likes of Larry King for a period of years.

Conversation with Mark allowed one to experience that special feeling of being the only person in the world who mattered.  Mark defined “being present”.

I called upon Mark for his sage advice and guidance in my professional consulting practice to the legal profession. As I encountered situations that seemed to be dead ends, he would effortlessly show me another path or two.  He had questions to suggest I ask that would part the waters in biblical proportion.

Mark was selfless. He could not comprehend focusing on what benefited him unless you include benefiting from helping so many others. 

Mark greatest gift to me was making the time and effort to hang out with me.

On the day of his passing, I sent him a note letting him know when I would next be in LA so we could conspire on when to get together.

I was heartbroken to learn only a few hours later that the in-person meeting planned in February would not happen.

Here is what WILL happen.

I will be meeting with Mark frequently. I will be visiting his legacy materials by way of books, articles and posts and even his recent TikTok series called “I’m dying to tell you”.

I will also be with Mark in moments of quiet contemplation when I will speculate on the advice he would give me extrapolating from the abundance of wisdom he shared with me during his lifetime.  

On a personal note, in moments of self-doubt, I will remember and be fortified by the generosity of his appreciation of me.  I will endlessly be grateful for the privilege of having him as my friend and I will appreciate him continuously and endlessly.


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Dr. Mark Goulston is an eminent psychiatrist who for 35 years dedicated his practice to preventing suicide. In all of those years, he did not lose one patient to the outcome he worked so hard to prevent.

In addition, Mark trained hostage negotiators for the FBI and is the author of a number of bestselling books including “Just Listen“ which was the subject of a global speaking tour.

In his acclaimed podcast, “My Wakeup Call“, Mark interviews a wide array of individuals from celebrities to authors to others credited with accomplishments in a wide array of disciplines.

His first podcast featured his dear friend, the late Larry King, with whom he had breakfast every morning for the last couple of years of Larry’s life.

It was a special honor for me for Mark to include me as a guest in his “My Wakeup Call“ podcast. I hope you enjoy it.

Link to: Guest Appearance on Dr. Mark Goulston’s “My Wakeup Call”

Five Things Lawyers Hate to Hear Clients Say

By Gerry Riskin

Do some things your clients say leave you speechless? Gerry Riskin has advice on how to respond in a way that helps build stronger lawyer-client relationships.

In situations involving you and your client, the adversarial system is your worst enemy. The only win is a long-term client relationship that is sustainable, and a short-term victory gained by your legal swordsmanship almost guarantees a failure on that score.

For Better Lawyer-Client Relationships, Resist the Impulse to Parry and Thrust

Although certain things clients say are sure to get your dander up, I respectfully suggest you put the sword away and try a response designed to maintain the relationship.

Below are five conversations most likely to test your client relationship skills, along with possible responses.

Of course, I offer these possibilities assuming you always offer unsurpassed quality, give solid value for your fee, really care about your client and are prepared to provide excellent service. The options are meant to be catalysts to help you think through responses in your own natural style and language — these are not scripts.

1. Asking for the Retainer 

When you ask for a retainer, your client might say something like: “Why am I being asked to pay in advance — don’t you trust me?”

Possible response: “Of course, I trust you — if I didn’t, my firm would not represent you. Be assured that you are not paying in advance. In fact, you are paying as the work is being done. The retainer allows my firm to draw funds as they are used. As long as you remain in step with what we’ve requested, I can assure you it will be fair to both of us. Would it be more convenient to provide the $5,000 today, or would you prefer to provide $2,500 today and $2,500 more by a week Friday?”

Be aware that your client may say: “I am short of funds right now.” In this case, the possible response is: “Let’s establish a pace for your file that your resources allow.” Where this is not practical, you might use an alternate response, such as: “Our law firm is not equipped to lend you money for your legal work, but we can certainly help you explore options to borrow what you need.”

2. Delegating Work to Someone Else

When delegating to another lawyer in your firm, your client might say something like: “I don’t want anyone else working on my files.”

Possible response: “Why?” (Wait for the answer, and get the real reason if you can. Typically, your clients will be afraid that you will not be personally involved and that they will lose your caring concern … or that someone else may not have your intelligence and skill. By finding out the real reasons, your response can address them specifically. Then you might say: “I can assure you that I will take personal responsibility for your satisfaction. I will know how this matter is unfolding at all times and will step in if I think it is necessary. You are welcome to contact me at any time if you have any concerns.”

3. Proposing Additional Work

When proposing work your client needs (let’s say drafting a policy manual or doing some risk prevention training), your client might say something like: “Our people can ill afford the time that would be required.”

Possible response: “If you still feel that way once we make our initial report, then let’s leave it there. We will only move beyond that point if you decide some aspect of this is a priority for you — is that fair?”

4. Your Bill is Greater Than Expected

When fees exceed the estimate, your client might say something like: “I’m a good client, surely I deserve a break.”

Possible response: “You deserve the very best our firm has to offer and rest assured we will always ensure you get it. As I mentioned, I have gone over the file with a fine-tooth comb and eliminated any time where the value to you might have been questionable. I have also determined that the reason we exceeded the original estimate is based on circumstances that neither you nor we could have anticipated. Finally, we brought this to your attention the moment it came to ours. I can tell you that our proposed invoice is fair and represents strong value for you. If you disagree, it is important for me to understand why so I can either explain it or compromise if necessary in order to ensure that you are completely satisfied.”

5. A Complaining Client

When delivering a complaint, your client might say something like: “I’m very unsatisfied and frustrated….”

Possible response: “Tell me about it — in full, if you would, please.” Do not react until you have it all. Ask as many questions as it takes. Often it’s not so much about the specific solution as much as how you reach it. By demonstrating that you are a great listener and you care deeply, you will be the beneficiary of reduced tension, stress and anxiety on the part of your client. And they will be much more receptive to exploring reasonable solutions.

Then you can say: “I’m glad you took the time to fully explain this to me. I have a couple of thoughts about how we might make this right for you, but before I tell you what I have in mind, did you have any thoughts on a solution?”

If your client has no such ideas, proceed. But if your client does have an idea, you will be much more successful if you can weave that idea into a jointly conceived solution.


I have been a contributing author to Attorneys at Work for many years and was recently honored to have this article featured on their website.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Thank you for subscribing to my blog and taking the time to read this post. As always, I would be delighted to discuss this or any other issue facing your law firm. Please feel free to contact me at any time.


Illustration ©




Almost every leader experiences the same dilemma: are they pushing people too hard to get things done or are they too soft and empathetic such that people don’t perform up to par. This is Joseph Folkman’s Harvard Business Review article from May 2022 that I found quite provocative — it suggests that balance is in order… how to achieve that balance is the big question.

Click on this link to download a PDF of the article:

I hope this is useful to you and of course, I would be delighted to discuss it at your convenience.  Please let me know what you think: Email me.



How Should Senior In-House Counsel Respond to Uncontrolled Social Media Postings:

One of my Edge International colleagues, Jonathan Middleburgh, who is both an organizational psychologist and a barrister, is publishing a newsletter on Substack for general counsel.  (You may remember him as the individual in our team who was responsible for the Edge International global study on remote working last year).

Please note these editions of his newsletter:

How Should Senior In-House Counsel Respond to Uncontrolled Social Media Postings:

Part 1 – A Ukrainian GC’s View from Exile

How Should Senior In-House Counsel Respond to Uncontrolled Social Media Postings:

Part 2  – Introducing the ‘Down-Low GC’ (DGC)

I believe that the content here is highly relevant to Managing Partners, HR directors and other senior management team members inside law firms, big and small.  If this subject (social media) is not already on your plate, make room for it because I suspect it will be soon.

Jonathan has an amazing following among general counsel.  I find his insights to be intriguing and thought that you might, also.

If you think that it would be of interest to you and other members of your senior management team, by all means, subscribe to it.  If you have any questions to put to Jonathan, you can do so directly, or I will assist you at any time should you find that helpful.

As always, email me with your comments and questions.

At Peter Diamandis’s website, he doesn’t even mention that he’s a Harvard medical graduate and an MIT physicist… Perhaps these pale in comparison with his other accomplishments you can see here.

Lawyers with whom I work, whether members of a leadership teams in a global firm or simply building their books of business almost all complain that email is the bane of their existence.

Instead of focusing on our full mailboxes, maybe we should concentrate on getting our emails read by those to whom we send them.

I can’t think of anyone who will fail to get two or three great ideas for improving the effectiveness of their emails by reading Peter’s blog post:


If by chance you disagree with Peter or have additional great ideas, please share them with me…

Contact me at anytime.

I am so pleased to have been a guest on Steve Fretzin’s Podcast: Be That Lawyer with Steve Fretzin. In the episode, Steve and I discuss:

  • Leadership agility in trying times and attributes of successful leaders.
  • Learning, as a lawyer, from businesses and what works for them.
  • The fragmentation of the law industry and how it affects the exploration of new ideas and forward thinking.
  • Supplementing your own training as an individual lawyer.

I hope you enjoy!

“Be That Lawyer with Steve Fretzin” podcast with guest, Gerry Riskin

It was such an honour and a pleasure to be a guest on the prestigious podcast of my friend, Richard Levick.

Few people have Richard’s expansive knowledge and experience in the legal profession, and it was a joy to spend time with him. I hope you might enjoy our conversation.

Agility in the Face of Fragility With Gerry Riskin, Founder of Edge International and Host Richard Levick of LEVICK   
In House Warrior