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February 2007

Speaking of the Client…

One of the many benefits of going through the previous exercise which forces you to analyze all aspects of the client’s interest is that it tends to spit out something we call "strategy." The high hourly rates that lawyers charge are no secret. We are supposed to earn that hourly rate doing high-level things for our clients. Too often, lawyers spend too little time on strategy.

Sure, we have some general idea of what we are going to emphasize and how we’re going to defend or prosecute a matter. But the high-level strategy that I am speaking about is several steps beyond the general sense of how a case might be won or a matter resolved.

Let’s face it. Either you will deliver tremendous value to your client or you won’t. By constantly forcing yourself to put yourself in your client’s shoes, allows you the chance of identifying real client goals. Once you have identified tangible and documented client goals, a good lawyer can continually focus on the strategy that can reasonably achieve those goals. A great lawyer will be obsessed with this mission.

Wireless as a Supplement to Your Office Network

Wireless is all the rage. Many law offices have installed wireless networks. A good number of attorneys are working exclusively by laptop.

I have a Lenova IBM ThinkPad Tablet PC, fully loaded. But I still plug in my network cable every morning before turning my laptop on. Sure, I have a high-end wireless network in my office. But wireless does not run at the same speed as a cable network. Windows explorer doesn’t open as quickly on the wireless network. PCLaw doesn’t run nearly as fast on the wireless network (in fact, they told us when we ordered it that PCLaw did not work on wireless networks). Files open faster. All of this means less system crashes and blue screens.

When I first installed my wireless network, I thought that would be it. I never imagined also running Cat-5 cable into every office. But I soon learned the truth about wireless. Cat-5 is faster.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my wireless network. We have laptops all over the office performing various functions. I take my laptop into meetings and unplug from the cable network on numerous occasions throughout the day. But when I am sitting at my desk, I want the fastest network speed available. Right now, that means a cable network.

What is your experience with wireless in your office?

Web 2.0 Demo on You Tube

Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle had a great post which she obtained from Lisa Solomon. This is a must see presentation for anyone interested in understanding Web 2.0. It used to be that the Internet was about information. Web 2.0 illustrates that the internet is becoming the portal though which the global village is being created.

Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle had an interesting post about all those who kept the identity of the Greatest American Lawyer Author secret over the last two or so years. I had never really thought much about the fact that so many people could have easily "outed me," but didn’t. The concepts behind Web 2.0 involve more than simply connecting people together by hyperlinks. People are in fact connected in a meaningful, social, and personal way. My blogosphere friends, many of whom I have never met in person or even spoken to on the phone, thought enough of me to keep my identity a secret. This is the essence behind Web 2.0. Not only do people connect, they care.

Being a Father is Not About Your Heart, it is About Your Soul

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our good blogging friend Patrick Lamb whose father died yesterday.

For many of us blogging is something more than the words that appear in the post. Blogs are certainly not websites. Sure, they allow for online publishing of what otherwise might be called articles and in blog jargon posts.

But blogging is, more importantly, an outlet for many people like Pat and myself. For those of us who are unafraid to share our lives thoughts and ideas with the world, blogging provides an unique opportunity. There is no other technology, besides perhaps the coming of age of You Tube, which allows us to expose ourselves to the world.

Blogging is, very much, part of Web 2.0. Blogging builds communities of like-minded people who not only link to each other in hypertext, but as friends and kindred spirits. We care about each other, in many instants despite the fact that we have never met. Carolyn Elefant over at My Shingle recently posted about the interesting phenomena of our blogging community as it related to the anonymity of the Greatest American Lawyer. She appropriately noted that many people knew that the Greatest American Lawyer was in fact Enrico Schaefer, but they never said a word. Why? Because the community in which we live, a community of respect.

What is this phenomena which makes it safe for bloggers like Pat to share with us the passing of his father. Pat says, "it has nothing to do with client service or the management of law firms. But it has everything thing to do with who I am as a person. And it is a measure of how important this blog is to me that I turn to it when I have something like this to share."

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have posted about the death of my father-in-law, and the death of my grandmother, here and here. In our times of need, we immediately turn to our blogs because we have something important to say about a special person and because we know we will be embraced by those in our blogging community.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Patrick Lamb and his family on the death of his father Robert E. Lamb. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time.

Coke and Google

Reading up on Larry Bodine's blog, I stumbled upon a link he had to another blog: Bookworm-SEO, and a post from Gab Goldenberg about his troubles with Google, uniquely titled: "Top 10 Reason Google Sucks My Chia Pets".

As you can tell by Goldenberg's title (or maybe not) he isn't a fan of Google, and he raises some very valid complaints regarding the giant search engine within this post. Forgetting about the merits of the different complaints right now, Goldenberg's post also begs the question - can you do business with anyone other than Google in internet marketing?

In today's age, Google has become synonmous with internet search itself. In fact, in common English, "google" has become both a noun and a verb, as consumers "google" rather than "conduct an internet search". What Coke is to the beverage business, Google is to the search engine one.

What this really means is that if you want to do business in internet advertising, you have to do it with Google; because that is where all of the consumers are going - whether or not you like it.

The Origination Disease

I love this post from the inside the firm of the future blog, authored by Christopher Marston from Boston Massachusetts. Chris posts that "fixed-pie thinkers need not apply." He’s referring to the mentality of lawyers who have been infected by the origination disease. You know this disease. It’s the one that drives lawyers to compete directly against each other within the context of the same firm. You would recognize it if you saw it. It is the same greed that drives lawyers to drain every penny from their clients’ pocket. It is the desire of lawyers in traditional firms to "originate."

Many traditional firms have partnership formulas, which are somehow tied to origination. Origination is supposedly this magical benefit to the firm, which no one else can match. It is the bump in the partnership formula which allows a small number of partners, or even one partner, to take most of the profits.

Here’s what Christopher has to say about the "infected lawyers"…

Everyday infected lawyers go to work and fight over origination credits, pad their time sheets or try to out-bill their colleagues in order to get one of the "fixed" number of partnership positions at the firm. Firms get into bidding wars over the "fixed" number of graduates in the top 2% of their class (as if such a designation were the ONLY redeeming quality of significance to a firm). What are you working for? There are only 24 hours in the day . . . the game is "fixed" folks! You don't win in a competition where the prize for the pie eating contest is . . . well . . MORE PIE! That is, unless you are infected with fixed-pie disease. Somehow they just never learn. . . and so I will continue to watch them chase down my pennies much to my amusement (fortunately for them . . I mean my pennies . . . they will never be out of a job!) Life will continue to throw these poor souls crumbs of bread and the rest of us will watch them posture for their crumb slices as those of us who truly understand value create loaves of bread from air!

The most interesting part of this post is not the tragedy of the origination mentality. It is the fact that people think in terms of the "fixed-pie." What Chris is suggesting here is that fixed-pie thinkers assume there are only one hundred units to go around. They want 65% of the partnership profits. They design the numbers to achieve that goal.

But those of us who don’t think in terms of fixed-pie see the endless limits of a good business model and tremendous customer service. We don’t think that a dollar we earn has to be taken from a partner or an associate. We wake up each day thinking about how good work infects a firm with solid profits, no matter what. We see the possibilities as infinite.

Who’s That GAL Contest Winners

We have completed the drawing on the Who’s That GAL contest and have two winners. Check out the You Tube video of the drawing and Congratulations to Mr. Garrett, who one the iPod nano, and Ms. Baron, who won the week stay at the Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, MI.

We received approximately thirty correct guesses.  The author of The Greatest American Lawyer blog is in fact from Traverse Legal, PLC. Everyone who participated in the contest will receive a prize.

Thank you all for participating and stay tuned for some great blog posts in the coming months.

The Greatest American Attribute

Why do we make the practice of law so complex? The practice of law is really very simple. Put the clients’ interest above your own interest. That’s right. Put your client first.

Every time you come to a crossroad in the handling of a client matter, actively ask yourself the question "what’s in the best interest of my client here?" see if the answer comes out different if you ask yourself "how is my own interest best served here?" Once you identify in an objective way the answer to these two questions, put your clients’ interest first, head of your own.

It’s really a simple exercise. But I think it’s an exercise that most lawyers never think about. Lawyers can get wrapped up in their own world so easily. You have to think of your partners, the associates, the secretaries, your family, the formula, your future, the past, etc. I don’t think lawyers realize the sheer number of factors which influence the decisions they make each day. I am certain that lawyers don’t realize how many of these factors fall squarely on their side of the fence, often to the detriment of their client.

So try this simple exercise throughout the day and see how it impacts the decisions that you make. See if you find yourself going in a different direction than you have first anticipated. Putting your client first doesn’t mean that you represent the jerk client, the client that won’t pay, and the client that wants you to answer the phone in the middle of the night or similar ilk. It should mean that you analyze your client’s interest independent from your own as you work your way through the client matter. Try it. See what happens.

The “Haves” and the “Have-Nots”

Ed over at Blawg Review turned me on to this link by Dennis Kennedy over at the between lawyers blog. Dennis has identified several legal technology trends for lawyers, law firms, and law departments to look for in 2007. One of his trends is as follows:

"By the end of 2007, we will be talking about a clear and growing digital divide between technology-forward and technology-backward lawyers and firms and a subtle restructuring of the practice of law."