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:

HOW TO WRITE EFFECTIVE EMAILS

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

 

 

I was delighted to be asked to create an article on leadership for the Law Practice Management Magazine of the American Bar Association.

My hands-on work with law firm clients has been very focused on the pandemic, remote working, and the need for extra special consideration of members of firm teams due to the strains and stresses created by the pandemic environment.

Smart people tend naturally to focus on the “efficient and effective”, however sometimes there are other management dimensions that need attention. This article explores the dimension of managing in light of pandemic-induced fragility in every firm

I am grateful to the ABA and the Law Practice Management Magazine for publishing my article and for granting me permission to re-publish here and in the Edge International Communiqué.

Gerry Riskin specializes in counseling law firm leaders on issues relating to the evolution of the structure and management of their law firms and the architecture of competitive strategies.  He has served hundreds of law firm clients around the globe from small boutiques to mega firms including working with the largest law firms in the world.  Gerry is still a Canadian but has resided on the Caribbean Island of Anguilla, British West Indies for more than 25 years.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns that you would like to discuss with me, I would be more than happy to explore them with you.  Email me at riskin@edge-international.com or text or call me at +1 (202) 957-6717

Why it matters:

Complacency will hit US law firms hard. That complacency stems from the illusion that American lawyers are protected from the incursion of those who are not licensed to practice in the US.

The Story:

Artificial Lawyer spoke to Emily Foges, the new lead partner of Deloitte’s Legal Managed Services (LMS) group. They explored the group’s growth plans, how it will serve clients, leveraging legal data, not using the billable hour, and how it will work with its US-based Deloitte counterparts.  The story includes this 22 minute video which you would be wise to ask your firm’s leadership to watch.

 

As always, I am interested in your personal reaction and welcome questions and comments by email.

Why it matters:  

The digital transformation war is escalating in many ways:

 

  • The number of credible entities that are combatants 
  • The talented individuals that the combatants must retain or acquire

 

The result will be the evolution of smarter and better platforms and processes that will be like nectar to GC’s and which will drive down cost without killing profitability for the providers.

Many traditional law firms are oblivious to what is happening and will not see overt client grabs but rather will begin to notice plummeting work intake levels and talent departures.

The Story: Process War Heats Up As UnitedLex To Spend $100m on Digital Transformation

As always, I am interested in your personal reaction and welcome questions and comments by email.

THE STORY: In this video series that was produced by the Law Society of the United Kingdom and Wales, Nick Jarrett-Kerr – my Edge International colleague – offers guidance that is comprised of pure gold and precious gemstones.

CAREFULLY CONSUME EACH VIDEO: Watch as Nick in his laid-back style takes you to places that most modern thinkers have not visited.

ABOUT NICK JARRETT-KERR: Edge International Principal Nick Jarrett-Kerr is a law office management legend. He was the managing partner of a prominent UK firm that saw a meteoric rise in revenues and prosperity under his stewardship. As a consultant, he has helped countless law firms around the world do everything from re-imagining themselves, to restructuring, to planning for a more prosperous future.

THE FUTURE REQUIRES A STRONG  RECOVERY: Sometimes I think Nick is a time traveler….  He must have seen the future, because his insights are beyond well-imagined and well-informed.

Experience all of each of his four videos – pay close attention to the content and then discuss each episode with your senior leadership team.

VIDEOS: WATCH EACH OF THE FOUR EPISODES HERE

I INVITE YOUR FEEDBACK: As always, I am interested to know your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to law firms and how they are managed. Reply either in the comments section below or directly via email.

Managing Partners: Capitalize on your firm’s opportunity to enhance your outreach program to clients.*

Why It’s Important

The extremely fragile state of mind of your clients makes this essential for three reasons:

  • It’s the right thing to do. You will help them.
  • The unique opportunity is NOW, when client needs are intense.
  • Your firm’s relationships with your clients will be forever enhanced.

My Research / Hands-On Experience

In my research with individual attorneys and client firms I have learned that:

  • Many attorneys have been reaching out to at least some clients.
  • Some have done an effective job of showing care and concern.
  • Others have been a bit mechanical and missed the opportunity to show caring.
  • Those participating in the outreach can learn a lot from each other by sharing experiences.

Questions to Ask Your Attorneys

(test your attorneys’ client-awareness)

How are your clients doing right now?

What are their situations?

  • Living alone or with a significant other?
  • Kids?
  • Pets?
  • Do they have at-risk friends or relatives?
  • Is any family member or friend sick?

What are they doing to stay sane professionally or personally?

  • Virtual Happy Hours?
  • Virtual lunches?
  • Virtual coffee?
  • Other?

How are they coping with working from home (WFH)?

  • Regular work hours/routine?
  • Sleep – OK, or not so much?
  • Stress – how bad is it and what are they doing to reduce it?

Note: Attorneys who cannot answer these questions are not really in touch with their clients right now.

Ask, “What benefits would accrue to you or your practice group by showing you care about your clients?” (In a facilitated discussion, record these benefits.)

How Do You Do the Outreach?

Have each attorney list some client contacts and referral sources, active or otherwise.

Ask your attorneys to invite several clients a day to communicate.

  • Attorneys should suggest video.
  • They should explain why they’d like to use video.
  • Feedback from others suggests most people prefer video.
  • As a precaution, they should allow clients a choice (phone).

Attorneys should be trained to ask open-ended, big-picture questions, like

  • How are you doing? (Make it clear that you really want to know.)
  • Are there any surprises – things you did not expect WFH?
  • What’s the hardest part about WFH?
  • What’s the best part of WFH?
  • Do you need anything? How can I help?

Encourage your attorneys to:

  • Probe (dig deeper): “What’s that like?”
  • Avoid leading questions, like “It’s not so bad, right?”
  • Use empathy in your answers: “That must be pretty difficult.”

Do Not Sell

The outreach is about showing care, concern and empathy. If you are perceived to be looking for more work you will have reduced your credibility to ZERO.

Tracking the Outreach

  • Ask attorneys to list those to whom they have reached out.
  • Ask attorneys tell you about how each client reacted.
  • Publicize the anecdotes in your team meetings.
  • Give the attorneys who do this well some recognition. Ask them to detail in a team meeting.

Conclusion

Your outreach is a condition precedent to maintaining or enhancing client relationships.

The door to this opportunity is wide open – walk through it.

Do a good job, not a perfect job. (Don’t be the perfectionist who missed the opportunity.)

MAY I HELP YOU? If you would like to have an informal discussion about this topic, please let me know and I’ll set up a video meeting with you (no fee).

I INVITE YOUR FEEDBACK: I would be interested to know your thoughts on your outreach to clients or any other matter relating to law firms and their management – during crises or at any other time. Reach me via email.

* This article originally appeared in Edge International Communique (EIC). Each month, EIC publishes 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. In addition to the most recent edition, the EIC site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

 

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: In this year of the COVID-19 pandemic, far too many meetings and conferences are being kicked down the road to new dates that should instead be converted into virtual events. The decision by the American Bar Association to move its annual meeting online is a sign of true leadership. Over the years, the ABA has been criticized for many things, but right now I think they deserve a salute from all of us for leading the way.

THE STORY: Due to the uncertainty regarding the safety of holding major in-person events through the spring and into the summer – especially ones that require travel – the board of governors of the ABA has made the decision to move its annual meeting online. The entire event, originally scheduled to be held in Chicago, is being offered as a complimentary member benefit.

In her announcement of the transition, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said that “The virtual meeting will offer the highest quality programming with a revised schedule to accommodate members’ home locations and time. Events will include governance and business meetings, CLE Showcase programs, virtual networking opportunities, the General Assembly with the presentation of the ABA Medal, and the House of Delegates.”

The ABA has posted a Q&A for those interested in knowing how the decision to move online was reached. Registration details will be available soon.

I INVITE YOUR FEEDBACK: Will the decision to move the ABA conference online – and to offer it at no charge to members – increase the likelihood of attendance by lawyers in your firm? As always, I am interested to know your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to law firms and their management. Reply either in the comments section below or or directly via email.

In most of the cultures on this planet, it is not polite—nor is it easy—to say “no.” In fact, in most cultures, saying “no” is considered inappropriate behaviour. As a result, due to our backgrounds most of us find it very difficult to say “no” when we have to, or when we should, in business or professional situations. However, we do ourselves no justice, nor do we serve our clients well, nor do we serve those with whom we practice well, if we say “yes” to everything.

People who say “yes” and take on too much simply fail to perform to expectation. We are far better off to be selective about what we undertake, but to always perform to expectation.

Saying “No”

In a lecture I attended, Alec Mackenzie, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Time Trap, focused on the art of saying “no.” His is not the only system but it is a good one.

Mackenzie’s approach consists of five steps. The first is to listen carefully in order to understand the request that is being made of you. There is nothing worse than saying “no” to something you do not understand. Paraphrase or provide feedback if necessary, saying for example, “Let me just make sure I understand. You want me to prepare the document by Thursday at noon. Is my understanding correct?” Make sure you have it right.

The second step is to say “no” — politely, but firmly. You will note that you do this before giving any explanation. Your “no” might sound something like this: “No. Candidly, I am not able to produce the document by Thursday at noon.”

Step Three is to offer an explanation — explain why you cannot fulfil the request. Say, “I would be unable to fulfill the other obligations I’ve undertaken and also prepare that document by Thursday. I would have to renege on another promise I made, and I am unable to do that.”

The fourth step is to offer assistance or alternate solutions that will allow the person who made the request to accomplish his or her mission. In this way you will show that you are willing to assist as best you can, even though you are unable to say “yes” to the request. Say, for example, “Would it be of help to you if I looked around to see if there was anyone else available who could help you get that document done on your time frame?” Or, “Is it possible that you could manage the client’s expectations so that I could do that document by Friday instead of by Thursday?”

The fifth and final step is to politely admonish the person who made the request. (This one really threw me for a loop when I first heard it. Admonish? I mean, normally we are talking about a client, or we are talking about someone who may be superior or senior to us in the firm. “Yes,” Mackenzie says. “Admonish.”) Your intent is to give a little bit of corrective feedback that might help the person making the request avoid getting into this kind of situation with you again in future. You say something like, “Gee, I wish I had known about this when you first learned that you might need this document, because at that point in time I might have been able to schedule it in and get this done for you.” Or, “In situations where you think I may be able to help in future, let me know as soon as possible, and I’ll clear the decks and see what I can do to help.”

Those are Alec Mackenzie’s five steps for saying “no.” Given some practice, they can serve you well.

I INVITE YOUR FEEDBACK: I would be interested to know your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to law firms and their management, either in the comments section below or directly via email.