Reducing the Tedium of Meetings: Wise Words from a Meetings Expert

As all of us know, most meetings are a pain. Many attendees are there only out of obligation or fear of being negatively perceived.

A recent article by Paul Axtell in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “5 Common Complaints about Meetings and What to Do about Them,” takes a refreshing look at how meetings might be significantly enhanced.

The article lists five of what Axtell – a corporate trainer and author of Meetings Matter – has found to be the most common complaints about meetings. These include, “One or two people dominate the conversation and no one does anything about it,” and “We keep having the same conversations because nothing gets done between meetings.” He addresses each complaint in turn with useful suggestions and tested strategies. Axtell’s article not only speaks to the meeting facilitator, but also to its participants.

No one (I hope) calls a meeting for no reason whatsoever. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the meetings they call – and those they attend – are not only productive, but also as pain-free as possible. If everyone attending a meeting read Axtell’s article (in advance of, not during the meeting), and thought about what they could do to make the meeting more effective, I have no doubt that the improvement in outcomes would be both immediate and considerable.

Do Axtell’s complaints sound familiar to you? Can you suggest other ways to address them? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

The Legal Profession Faces an Epidemic (And It’s not Bird Flu)

The Mad Clientist – the blog of the BTI Consulting Group – has diagnosed a growing epidemic among law firms: complacency.

“Wishes do come true,” they write. “Legal spending is up. The existential crisis is over. And urgency is retreating as success is just a little easier to come by.”

The result, they say, is a decrease in concern about the future.

“Complacency now stands as the number-one source of insomnia for law firm CMOs, at 24.9%,” they write, basing their conclusion on in-depth interviews with more than 160 law-firm marketing leaders.

The BTI Group’s post suggests that as law firms enjoy renewed financial growth, lawyers become less interested in ensuring that the growth continues. They identify three factors that contribute to complacency, and point out that firms that succumb are placing themselves at risk.

I agree. In fact, I see many law firm leaders who are looking for any justification to ignore the evolution of the legal profession because it is hugely inconvenient to keep track and lead in a fast-changing environment.

As always, a few exceptional leaders will not only capitalize on these changes in the short run, but will soar like eagles above the rest of the profession in the long run.

Is complacency creeping into your firm? What are you doing to combat it? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

How Do Super-Productive People Do It? Seven Traits They Share

The Harvard Business Review reports on a study of attributes and behaviours of highly productive individuals from a range of industries that was undertaken in an attempt to understand their much-better-than-average outputs.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman collected data on 7,000 workers, from code-writers to butchers, who had been rated by their managers as “super-productive.” They studied the behaviours of these people directly and through reports from their colleagues and co-workers, and found seven attitudes and practices that were common among the ten percent rated as most productive.

The attributes included such predictable traits as “Have knowledge and technical expertise,” and “Take initiative,” along with others that may be less intuitive, such as “Set stretch goals” (they take on big projects, rather than a series of smaller ones).

Are these behaviours applicable to your work? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

Why is Alcohol Abuse such a Problem among Lawyers? What Can We Do About It?

As this blog and many other law-related publications have reported, a 2016 study sponsored by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association found that more than 20% of lawyers are problem drinkers – a rate that is higher than that of any other profession. The study also showed that those in private practice are at the highest risk, especially associates.

Some firms are now trying to change the drinking culture of the profession through various practical measures, such as bringing in counsellors and reducing the number of alcohol-related firm events, but as law.com reports, the reasons why this phenomenon exists have still not been identified, which continues to make the issue difficult to address.

In an episode of LegalSpeak, an ongoing series of podcasts from law.com, Patrick Krill – the lead author of the 2016 study – spoke with Steven Wall, managing partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, about Wall’s experience with alcohol abuse – including how he stopped drinking, how he stays sober, and what resources are available to lawyers in similar distress.

“The wakeup call for me,” Wall says, “was when I realized that despite all my efforts at maintaining the image of the successful professional partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, that the cracks were getting bigger and everything else around me was beginning to fail.”

The Krill-Wall podcast is enlightening and constructive.

I encourage you to listen it, and to consider implementing some of the strategies it suggests for helping lawyers to minimize stress, and helping those who are suffering to address addiction problems while avoiding the stigma that many struggling alcoholics fear.

I welcome your reactions to this podcast, and your thoughts on any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

U.S. Law Invaded by Big Four

I believe that the greatest threat to the legal profession is the incursion by the Big Four accounting firms. The writing is indelibly on the wall. And yet most American law firms are complacent. They believe that U.S. regulations make them untouchable.

Not so fast.

An article published yesterday by The American Lawyer reports that “The British arm of Deloitte is announcing a ‘first of its kind’ alliance with U.S. immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, as the Big Four accounting firms continue their push into legal services.”

Read the article carefully, and I think you’ll see how maneuvering around the rules can be effected with elegance and sophistication. This statement may be of particular interest:

In addition to the alliance, which gives BAL access to Deloitte’s scale and expertise outside of the U.S., Deloitte UK will acquire the law firm’s non-U.S. business, which extends across eight different countries.

And this:

Much of the [preparatory] work involved ensuring that the alliance did not run afoul of bar rules prohibiting Deloitte’s American entity from providing legal services [italics mine]. Deloitte U.S. is party neither to the alliance nor the acquisition of the overseas offices.

“Our primary responsibility was to make sure that the strategic alliance met those requirements,” [Deloitte partner and global immigration specialist Kalvinder] Dhillon said.

Good luck trying to sanction the law firm involved. There are many precedents in the U.S. that see the courts putting the interests of the clients before the interests of law firms, and this looks like another situation where this is something clients wanted… and only coincidentally of great benefit to Deloitte’s hawkish approach to the business of law.

Stay tuned…. This just gets more interesting every day.

Let me know your thoughts about this issue, and about any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

 

 

 

RIP LSAT. Long Live the GRE.

Above the Law reports that the UCLA School of Law is inviting applicants to submit their GRE scores rather than completing the LSAT. The article by Kathryn Rubino points out that this decision makes UCLA one of nearly twenty law schools in the U.S. that have dropped the LSAT requirement and allow submissions of GRE scores only – including Harvard, Columbia, St. John’s, Brooklyn, Northwestern, Arizona, Georgetown, Hawaii, Washington University in St. Louis, Wake Forest, Cardozo School of Law, Texas A&M, BYU, John Marshall Law School, Florida State, Pace and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The article points to a Kaplan report saying that nearly 25% of U.S. law schools are considering similar moves, and Rubino indicates that the American Bar Association seems likely to adopt a policy that permits law schools to forego other forms of standardized assessment in favour of GRE scores.

UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin said, “This step will open doors to prospective students while allowing UCLA Law to maintain its high standards.”

The title of Rubino’s article is “Another Law School Goes to the Dark Side and Accepts the GRE.” What do you think about this move? Is it progress, or is it a move to the “Dark Side”?

I’d be pleased to know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either through the comments below or directly via email.

Legal Secretary Secretly Amasses Fortune, Donates Most of It to Charity

Screen capture of New York Times article published May 6, 2018

Check out this heart-warming story from the New York Times.

The article describes how Sylvia Bloom, who worked as a legal secretary at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for 67 years, created a fortune of more than $9 million through savings and investments before retiring at the age of 97. When she passed away, shortly after retiring, she left most of her wealth to charity – specifying that it should go to “an organization that offered educational opportunities to low-income youth,” according to her niece who is also the executor. The major beneficiary is the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of New York City, which will use its record-breaking $6.24 million gift to establish scholarships.

I thought you would enjoy this refreshing story about a woman who exemplified such time-tested values as loyalty, frugality, and humility: not even Bloom’s closest friends were aware that she was a multi-millionaire.

I welcome your reactions to this story, and your thoughts on any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

Slicing and Dicing the Demographics of Law-Firm Surveys

As my clients and those who have listened to my presentations are well aware, I am an avid proponent of the use of demographics as an analytic tool by law firms.

I had the opportunity to expand on this stratagem in the most recent issue of Edge International Communique (EIC), in an article I entitled “Slicing and Dicing Survey Results with Demographics.”

By determining how responses to in-house surveys differ among various demographic groups – by gender or by age, for example – senior management is in a much better position to create appropriate strategies and action plans. In law-firm management, as elsewhere, one size does not fit all.

Each month, members of our global consultancy, Edge International,  publish 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. The Edge International Communique (EIC) 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 feedback on this article or on any other issue related to the law, either in the comments section below, or or directly via email.

Crowdsourcing Dispute Resolution on the Blockchain

An article in The Artificial Lawyer reports that Reuters Thomson has invited Kleros, a blockchain-based legal arbitration platform, to participate in its incubator program. The Kleros platform, described by its developers as “The dispute resolution layer for virtually everything,” facilitates the resolution of disputes arising from smart contracts anywhere in the world. In a white paper, it describes its function as “bringing justice to the unjusticed.”

When Kleros is up and running, parties to a smart contract will be able to choose the platform as their resolution protocol should a dispute arise. In that eventuality, the Kleros platform will facilitate the self-selection of jurors to assess and vote on the dispute, and the payment will be either returned to the contractee or paid to the contractor depending on the outcome. The platform uses game theory to assess the value of the contribution of each juror, and either rewards or penalizes them.

The Artificial Lawyer article is thorough and concise, and well worth reading. The following video provides more information on the Kleros platform itself, including how jurors are selected and paid:

The Artificial Lawyer describes the Kleros function as “crowdsourcing justice,” and calls the move by Reuters Thomson “an unusual step for the legal tech and information giant,” and one that “would seem to be an area that will get lawyers talking.”

Has it got you talking? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence vs The Legal Profession: Can Both Survive?

Will artificial intelligence send lawyers the way of the Cryolophosaurus?

In an article on the World Economic Forum’s publication Agenda, Paul Rawlinson – global chair at Baker McKenzie – explores a question that is much on the minds of those who have been watching the growing impact of technology on the legal profession: “Will lawyers become extinct in the age of automation?”

Rawlinson acknowledges that today lawyers must increasingly attempt to strike a balance between their traditional role as “the Trusted Advisor” with increasing demands from their clients for quick and efficient resolutions to their legal matters.

Rawlinson pulls no punches. He predicts that “The market will kill those who don’t adapt.” However, he says, those who are able to use artificial intelligence and related technologies to augment their own intelligence and creativity –  using them as springboards to new approaches and new areas of practice – will not only survive, but will thrive. He uses his own firm’s work in the area of drones and aviation law as an example.

Rawlinson also sees a continuing need for lawyers to build relationships of trust with clients.  “Trust is what we crave,” he says. “It’s what separates us from machines; empathy, human instinct, an ability to read nuances, shake hands, and build collaborative relationships.”

Is your firm ready to meet the future? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either through the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

 

 

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