Essential Sales Skills (for Lawyers, Too?)

One of my tech clients has his sales team subscribe to sales educator and coach Andy Paul. Paul identifies the following attributes as essential human sales skills:

  • authenticity
  • connection
  • rapport
  • empathy
  • context
  • insights and
  • relationships

Substantive knowledge and skill are the conditions we normally think of as precedent for being allowed to serve clients. Do your firm’s communications with clients also exemplify essential human sales skills?

I believe that these skills lead to:

  • Client satisfaction
  • Client appreciation
  • Prompt payment
  • Repeat business
  • Recommendations, and
  • Referrals

When you prepare for (or draft) your next interaction with your valued clients or prospective clients, try asking yourself if you are exuding these essential skills.

As always, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

The Ascendency of the Law Librarian

In a keynote address delivered to the PPLIP (Private Law Librarian and Information Professional) Summit in Washington DC in July, legal analyst Jordan Furlong – a former colleague of ours at Edge International – predicted a promising future for law librarians.

Reporting on the speech in Above the Law, Robert Ambrogi said Furlong predicts that as much of the “commodity” legal work leaves law firms for cheaper delivery systems – including computer platforms and accounting firms – lawyers will need to focus on the more complex components of legal services.

“Law firms will still need great lawyers with leading-edge skills. But they’ll also need embedded knowledge beyond any one lawyer’s individual capacity,” he told the PPLIP.

That is where the law librarian comes in: complementing the work of lawyers by fulfilling their needs for “deep client intelligence,” “legal data and analytics,” and “embedded firm expertise.”

Ambrogi writes: “The need for this knowledge within firms will give rise to what Furlong described as the legal knowledge supply chain — the variety of personnel within a firm who help create that advisory knowledge. He divides these personnel into two functions:

  • Data miners, including IT, operations, finance, practice groups, and business development.
  • Data refiners, made up of law librarians and information professionals.”

I encourage you to check out Ambrogi’s article, and then to let me know if you are seeing an increasing role for law librarians in the work your firm is doing. If so, how are you addressing it?

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Your Hologram Can Really Speak Their Language

A tip of the hat to Michael Anderson for drawing my attention to an article at futurism.com that explains how hologram doppelgangers of ourselves can make us sound a whole lot more linguistically agile than we actually are. Equally mind-boggling: the technology is available today.

At a recent Microsoft Inspire partner conference, company executive Julie White gave a demonstration of how it’s possible “to not only create an incredibly life-like hologram of a person, but to then make the hologram speak another language in the person’s own voice.” Microsoft has combined virtual technology with text-to-speech techology to create holograms of individuals that can speak in local languages almost anywhere in the world.

Here is a segment of White’s presentation:

This technology would have saved me about 8 million miles in the last 25 years. When it comes to rolling it out in practice, clearly the devil will be in the detail – but there is no doubt that at some point in the not-too-distant future, global meetings are going to look and sound 今日とは全く違う *

I welcome your thoughts on the potential of holograms to deliver talks at meetings and conferences, or on any matter relating to the management of law firms. Please contact me either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

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* totally different from today

 

 

 

 

Only a Tiny Proportion of CEOs Are Women, but Women Score Higher than Men in Most Leadership Skills

In a June 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman remind readers that the persistently low rate of representation by women in senior corporate positions makes no sense when it comes to actual leadership abilities and perceived competency. In fact, research conducted by Zenger and Folkman indicates that women consistently score higher than men on most measures of leadership competency and effectiveness.

Zenger and Folkman have twice analyzed databases of 360-degree reviews of leadership effectiveness, the first time in 2012 and then again recently. In both cases they found that, while the differences between men and women were “not huge,” to a statistically significant degree women were “perceived just as — if not more — competent as their male counterparts.” And yet, the authors point out, only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women.

As the authors also note, it is likely that women continue to occupy a very small portion of the most senior levels of corporate leadership due to historical biases (both conscious and unconscious), and inaccurate theories regarding whether women actually want to reach the top. Zenger and Folkman conclude – based on their research and other data – that the reason women are not advancing to top corporate positions has more to do with lack of opportunity than lack of competence or ambition.

Among the leadership skills on which women scored higher than men were “taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty.” In fact, the authors write, “they were thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies that we most frequently measure.” The surveys showed that men were rated as being better in two areas: “develops strategic perspective” and “technical or professional expertise.”

I encourage you to read the HBR article, as the intricacies of the research Zenger and Folkman include are both fascinating and illuminating. Clearly, outdated stereotypes and unfounded biases are counterproductive in today’s highly competitive marketplace. All of us should consider whether we are part of the problem or the solution when it comes to creating opportunities for the advancement of women with leadership capacity.

As always, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

Opportunities for Legal-Tech Education on the Rise

The Artificial Lawyer reports that a significant number of institutes of higher learning around the world have responded to a demand for opportunities to study legal technology by creating relevant undergraduate and graduate-level programs. Among the colleges and universities that are now offering such courses are The University of Law and BPP University Law School in the U.K., Suffolk University and Vanderbilt Law School in the U.S., several universities in Europe and one (so far) in Australia.

These programs include courses in legal innovation, legal technology, project management, design technology, blockchain, artificial intelligence, marketing, and several other areas of relevance to law firms. There are now so many courses on offer that the Artificial Lawyer has compiled a Legal Tech Education Guide, which it intends to update on a continuing basis. As the article points out, such courses can be undertaken by current employees of law firms as well as those contemplating careers in the field, including prospective lawyers, which means that growth in this area of education could soon begin to have an impact on legal practice in several countries.

Are you or your employees considering – or already taking – courses in legal technology? I would be interested to know your thoughts and experiences relating to this – or any other – matter related to the management of your law firm, either in the comments below or directly via email.

Steven Rogelberg on How to Make your Meetings Less Awful

Watch this episode of Daniel Pink’s Pinkcast, featuring Steven G. Rogelberg, winner of the 2017 Humboldt Research Award and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How to Take Your Team to Peak Performance.

The video will take less than three minutes of your life, and can improve endless numbers of minutes and even hours in the lives of you and your colleagues.

As always, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Wellness Escalating: This Time via Parental Leave

It is great to see another news item on The American Lawyer website that puts a spotlight on the mental health and wellness of those employed in law firms. In this case, the focus is on how Paul Hastings LLP – like several other major firms recently – has upped its game a notch in the area of parental leave.

Dan Packel’s article reports that the international law firm – based in Los Angeles and with 22 offices worldwide – “now offers 14 weeks of paid [parental] leave to all attorneys and staff,” and that birthing parents are eligible for an additional eight weeks for childbirth recovery. “All parents are free to use their paid leave all at once, or intermittently within a year of a birth, adoption or foster placement,” Packel writes.

Parental leave does cost firms money, so it is refreshing to see a law firm that is not only offering a benefit, but is including those who are not lawyers.

I say “Good job, Paul Hastings.”  I hope other firms follow suit.

Please contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Brandi Hobbs of Poyner Spruill named Small Firm Sales and Service Executive of the Year

Brandi Hobbs, Client Service and Strategy Director, Poyner Spruill LLP

I extend my sincere congratulations to Brandi Hobbs, Director of Client Service & Strategy at Poyner Spruill, who in early June was named Sales & Service Executive of the Year in the small firm category by the Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO). The LSSO’s Sales & Service Awards “salute the efforts and results from individuals/teams who have helped their firm drive revenue.” Specifically, the Executive of the Year Award recognizes “a leader who played a crucial role in retaining clients and/or growing firm revenues in [the previous year].”

The award citation reads as follows: “Poyner Spruill is a 93-attorney firm based in North Carolina, and Hobbs spearheaded a program to set strategic marketing and business development choices by focusing on ‘Clients as Advocates.’  Throughout the year, Hobbs developed new approaches to training and increasing efficiency in the firm, with a focus on client service and learning client’s businesses to deepen relationships.” LSSO expands on Hobbs’s contribution to the firm in its award-winner profiles

Knowing Brandi, this accolade comes as no surprise. She has an extraordinary and unique education that enables her to see the future of the profession as well as understand where it is now. I know that her firm appreciates her very much, and it is easy to understand why.

My advice to Brandi? Get used to receiving awards. I doubt this will be the last.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on any matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

France Bans Statistical Reports on Judges

In what can be described as an incidence of the criminalization of analytics – possibly the first on the planet – the Government of France has banned the reporting of statistical analysis of the decisions of individual judges. The maximum penalty for contravention of the new law is five years behind bars.

The Artificial Lawyer notes that “owners of legal tech companies focused on litigation analytics are the most likely to suffer from this new measure.” The Artificial Lawyer believes that the law – included in Article 33 of France’s Legal Reform Act – is the first instance of such legislation anywhere in the world.

French sources contacted by The Artificial Lawyer explained that the law arose from French judges’ displeasure with an unanticipated effect of the country’s recent efforts to make case law available to everyone, specifically the opportunity this freedom afforded analysts “to model how certain judges behave in relation to particular types of legal matter or argument, or how they compare to other judges.”

In short, [judges] didn’t like how the pattern of their decisions – now relatively easy to model – were potentially open for all to see. – Artificial Lawyer

The Artificial Lawyer article, which I highly recommend as it analyses in detail the causes and specific potential outcomes of the new law, points out that judges in the UK and US – unlike those in France – seem to have accepted that their decisions can now be analyzed and modelled.

Among other points at issue, The Artificial Lawyer wonders how a legal system can forbid the use of material that is legally available to everyone. I echo that question. What is your opinion?

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

Lawyer Exclusivity May Erode Further if Licensing of Legal Technicians Increases

An article in the ABA Journal reports that the New Mexico Supreme Court is considering licensing legal technicians to provide civil legal services.

Los Alamos lawyer George Chandler, a member of the New Mexico Commission on Access to Justice, said, “Justice should be accessible to everybody, and lawyers are priced out of reach of as much as 80% of the population[…]. I want to improve access to justice for people who don’t qualify for legal aid and free programs but who can’t afford a regular lawyer.”

The measure is one of several ideas under consideration to address a serious shortage of lawyers in the state, where many people do not have access to the legal services they require.

The state’s supreme court has established a work group made up of lawyers (including Chandler), the state’s chief disciplinary counsel, the chair of the state board of bar examiners, educators, a representative of the state bar’s paralegal division, and a law professor who teaches in a community lawyering clinic. The group is to report on the plausibility of the idea of licensing legal technicians by January 2020. “Twenty-one percent of New Mexico’s counties have five or fewer lawyers,” the ABA article states, quoting a court press release, “and two counties have no attorneys. [….] In fiscal year 2018, 51% of new civil cases filed in district courts had at least one party without an attorney. That’s up from 36% in fiscal year 2011.”

Other states, including Washington and Utah, have already implemented measures of this nature. In addition to lawyer shortages, cost is a factor.

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My view is that if we as lawyers can not address issues related to access to justice – including cost – we stand to lose the traditional exclusivity of our rights and privileges.

I invite your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

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