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August 2007
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October 2007

September 2007

The Irony of Technology

Technology allows us 24/7 information and virtually unlimited ability for communication and collaboration.  Yet, these same benefits can cause us to insulate ourselves from each other. 

Like anything else technology can be good and bad.  Yes, technology allows us to communicate.  But an email is inferior to a phone call. And a phone call is sometimes inferior to a face-to-face meeting. 

Yes, you can launch a conference and bring people together wherever they are located.  But sitting down in room with each other and brainstorming still has its place.

In order to ensure that we are taking advantage of the benefits of technology, while avoiding the pitfalls, we have instituted Tuesday morning meetings among partners, as well as Thursday lunch meetings with partners.  The agenda for these meetings reflects the mission and priorities of our firm.  We discuss operational issues, cases, client retentions/new clients, and relative workloads on a scale of one to ten.

So when you are setting up your firm built on the foundation of technology, don’t forget to sit down in a room together on a regular basis.  There is still no substitute for looking each other in the eye and patting each other on the back. 

The Value of Strategy

Most lawyers would no doubt respond YES to the question “do you put a strategy in place for every matter?”  This strategy is always a question of degree.  Some attorneys have a strategy “Win.”  Obviously, that’s hardly a strategy.  Other attorneys dig deeper and can articulate some of the key benchmarks which they believe will take their client to victory.  The obvious ones include identifying key cases and facts which undermine the theory of liability, attacking the damages or causation elements, etc.  Still, other attorneys would dig yet deeper and make decisions concerning timing, use of procedural rules and break benchmarks down into phases.  Really good attorneys spend significant time understanding the non-legal side of the case.  Every case has practical elements to it.  Who are the personalities on the other side of the case, both the lawyer and the client?  Is there non-financial leverage which could be put in place in order to bring a benchmark to fruition?

But the best lawyers also make a commitment to the outcome of the case.  In a commercial case, they may identify the non-financial consideration of the settlement agreement as well as the exact amount they are seeking to obtain for the client.  Few lawyers put themselves out on a limb concerning deliverables.  This is a big mistake.  You never know what you can achieve if you put it down on paper at the beginning of the case and drive towards that goal each day. 

In the vast majority of my cases, we actually identify the terms of the settlement at the very beginning.  In the vast majority of these cases, we obtain those settlement terms or better for the client. 

It is no coincidence that we achieve defined goals for our clients.  Identifying the outcome based on client information gives the attorney a clear goal to achieve.  If the attorney has done a good job getting information and doing initial research, those goals will be achievable and reasonable.  Try it.  You’ll be amazed what you could accomplish. 

Interview with John Levine

The WHOIS registry is the domain name systems' legacy database that contains contact information from registrants of Internet domains. Registrants pay an additional fee to keep their information private. Often times,The WhoIs database contains inaccurate or intentionally fraudulent information. The WhoIs privacy debate is a hot topic for those for those interested in domain name registration, privacy rights on the internet, cybersquatting and the domain monetization industry. There are so many different interests involved in the whois issue, that it appears unlikely that ICANN will do anything to change WhoIs database in the near term. Invalid WhoIs data is a problem but there is little being done to fix it.  The WhoIs privacy debate is explained and explored in this interview with leading internet expert John Levine .  Listen to the interview here

Don't Call Me a Solo

As those of you who are regular readers know, I spent my first two years blogging about being an independent practitioner.  There was some early debate about the stigma associated with being a “solo” practitioner.  I always preferred independent practitioner.  We are now a firm of three attorneys.  My brother Mark has 18 years experience and Brian is right out of law school.  We are all three partners in the firm. 

There are a lot of benefits to being an independent practitioner.  Our goal, as a three-attorney operation is to maintain the culture and feel of an independent practitioner operation.  Because our business model has been successful, we really had no choice but to grow.  We added virtual law clerks, paralegals and lawyers.  But still demand outstripped our ability to quickly and efficiently achieve client goals.  We now have the capacity to handle more cases, bigger cases and more complex cases.  We can now manage more virtual workers and scale staff up and down on a larger scale.  But in order to thrive, we must support each other while retaining independent judgment. 

If anyone out there works at a medium or large firm and yet retained the benefits of independence practice, let me know.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Recommitting to Technology

Technology is not, nor will it ever be, the answer.  Technology is a component of business process. 

When you recommit to use a particular piece of technology, you are essentially recommitting to your internal business process.

We try to recommit to technology all the time.  We do it by sending an email around encouraging each other to get back in to the process.  I call it “working the technology.”  We all need to recommit to our internal business process on a regular basis.  Over time, recommitment not causes you to leverage the process you have in place but inevitably results in upgrades to the process as well.

Technology is Great but the Phone is Better

There is no question that technology makes communication easy and convenient.  We use email, extranets, text messaging and voicemail to communicate by and between ourselves and our clients.

But when it comes to relationships, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings.  A close second would be a phone call.

I think we sometimes get so enamored with technology that we forget to reach out and “touch someone.”  We have to remind ourselves to bring clients in for face-to-face meetings and call them on the phone as an alternative to email on certain issues.

Anyone who is involved with billing knows that a phone call is far more likely to secure payment than a series of emails.  And when you’re looking for new work, scheduling a client meeting (at no cost to them of course) is the best way to explore new projects with clients. 

Yes, technology rocks.  But the personal touch is still a mandatory part of any successful business plan.