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September 2007
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October 2007

Good Lawyers Define Deliverables

I typically start out my cases using Mindjet mapping software.  I create a couple of second level bullets, in the following categories: Background information, leverage, risk/reward, client goals and phase one/two/three deliverables.  Oftentimes, I will continue to extend the mind map throughout the case, editing and adding as I go along.  It always amazes me at the end of a particular project to look back at the mind map and realize that we followed the strategic plan to a tee and delivered each and every deliverable defined at the very beginning of the project.

Mind mapping software from Mindjet is far superior to outlining in Microsoft Word or other outlining tools.  To be able to launch a go-to meeting at the end of a project and show the client the very mind map you started with is extremely powerful, especially when you deliver each and every item you promised on the front end.

Hourly Billing Undervalues Attorney Work

One of the big problems with hourly billing is that it may not fairly represent the value provided to the client.  Let’s face it.  Not all “hours” are created equally.  Under the hourly approach, there is no distinction between the hour in which the lawyer devises the strategy which ultimately wins the case and the hour he/she spends trudging through a meaningless deposition transcript which is never used for any purpose. 

Flat fee or outcome-based billing rewards the lawyer for delivering results in the least time possible.  If a given result is worth $5,000.00 to a client, both the client and lawyer benefit if the lawyer achieves that goal in three hours.  The lawyer’s hourly rate on those three hours might be $700.00.  But the value to the client was $5,000.00.  The fact that some lawyers could have spent $10,000.00 worth of time going in circles without achieving the result is a real risk.  Thus, the client benefits by the fact that the lawyer obtained the result irrespective of how much time it took. 

I sometimes get asked by clients whether or not they will be paying too much on a flat fee basis.  They want to know whether or not they would be better off on an hourly basis.  The answer is always the same.  No client is better off on an hourly basis if they can help it.  The reason for the answer is simple.  An hourly lawyer has no incentive to get the job done in any amount of time.  The hourly lawyer has literally no stake in the end result. 

A value or flat fee billing lawyer that defines the deliverables on the front-end is far more likely to achieve the client’s goal than the hourly billing attorney.  The hourly lawyer does better if the result takes a long time or is never delivered.  I often find myself laughing on the odd occasion where a prospective client requests to be billed by the hour rather than a flat fee.  I send those clients on their way to the next attorney, knowing they’ll end up paying two or three times as much as my flat fee quote with no commitment by the hourly lawyer to any particular result.

The Power of Confidence

There is a big difference between believing that something can happen, and believing it will happen.  In starting this firm, I rarely if ever questioned whether I would be able to make it happen.  I pursued each day, believing that my success was inevitable.  I started blogging about obtaining business off the Internet from the very beginning of startup.  In my heart, I believed that business would come through my websites.  I posted passionately about obtaining clients as a result of the search engine results obtained through blogging.

In retrospect, I generated a relative few clients my first year of startup off of my various blogs.  But some of the cases were big time damages cases.  In reviewing the statistics, I see that I was blogging about obtaining clients from the Internet before I was actually obtaining a large number of clients off the Internet. But in my mind, I knew it was inevitable.  I knew that if I kept blogging and delivering good content within niche practice areas that the traffic and clients would come. 

The reality is that I believed well before the reality.  I was only a few months off my prediction.  In a relatively short period of time, more and more clients did come. Now, approximately 50 percent of my business comes off the Internet.

Did believing it would happen, make it happen?  No, not directly.  But believing that it would happen caused me to wake up each day and deliver more valuable content.  My belief in the inevitable drove the result because it drove my actions.  My actions built a foundation.  That foundation created potential.  In the end, I realized the potential.

The moral to the story is this.  If you don’t believe in yourself, you drastically reduce the chances for success. 

Knowing it will happen

Well I don’t doubt that luck, hard work, karma, talent and other factors play a role in achievement, and I also know there is a more important ingredient.  You have to believe your achievement before it occurs.  I’m not thinking about the little engine that could.  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” won’t cut it.  It’s more like “I know It will, I know it will, I know it will” that drastically increases the chance of moving the ball.  Knowing your future without one shred of doubt compels you forward each day.  If you only think you can, you still run the risk that doubt will paralyze action reducing your chance of achieving your goals. 

I know that our law firm will become one of the dominant firms on issues of cybersquatting, domain name disputes and domain theft.  When I wake up in the morning I naturally set in motion actions which validate that reality.  I create the very foundation necessary for me to turn effort into realization. 

Hard work is the element which keeps the ball moving forward.  Luck is taking advantage of the opportunities that I in fact created.  Karma is the influence of how I go about making things happen.  Talent is the fuel which keeps the engine running fast and smooth. 

I’ve often wondered about how people get from point A to point B in life.  I understand and appreciate that the universe is a dynamic and powerful force which often takes us in directions we don’t expect.  But I also appreciate the power of the will of man.  I don’t discount the impact which people have on their own lives. 

So when you start thinking about creating your own law firm, jumping ship from big law or changing the way law is practiced, don’t forget to incorporate the certainty that only confidence can bring to the occasion.  Know what you are going to do and where you will end up.  Know it in your heart and in your soul.  Believe it blindly and in spite of the naysayers.  Pursue it with talent and tenacity.  Build the foundation upon which your goals become inevitable.  Jump.  Jump.  Jump.

The Verasage Institute Offers Alternatives.

I came across this site and just had to share it with all of you.  Verasage Institute is a think tank for professional knowledge firms.  Verasage challenges professionals to break free of practices "that hurt the professions, undermine their purposes, and fail their clients." I love it!  Among their goals is to bury the billable hour and archaic timesheet pricing models "recognizing that professionals are knowledge workers, not machines."

Check out the Verasage website here

What Will You Build on Your Foundation.

Everyone everywhere is standing on their own foundation of possibilities.  Everyone’s foundation is different although everyone’s foundation is connected.

Let’s face it, not everyone has every opportunity equally available to them.  Our experiences are unique.  The place where we are standing at any given moment of life is unique.  But everyone has their own opportunities at any given moment in time.

The dreamers are the ones who are standing on a foundation that could never support their desire.  Their goal is unrelated to their foundation in many instances.  So what makes the difference between a dreamer and an achiever?  A dreamer dreams of possibilities, unlimited in their nature and scope.  An achiever sees the possibilities and either builds the foundation necessary to see those possibilities come to fruition or exploits the opportunities already available to them.  An achiever keeps overcoming the next apparent obstacle, continually building on their foundation.  Their goal may be out in the future, but they are undaunted by moving down the field of play in order to get there.  An achiever realizes you just don’t wake up in the end zone.

Sometimes dreamers hit the first obstacle and they give up.  Some dreamers can only conceive of things in their mind but cannot execute them in their real life.  An achiever is a blend of person who has no problem rolling up their sleeves and forcing themselves onto the universe and push hard for a certain result.  An achiever is do-er, constantly participating in and compelling motion.  An achiever is someone with enough creativity to constantly be solving problems or, even better, turning those problems into assets.  Achievement demands motion and action.  Achievement also demands vision and creative (in contrast to critical) thought.

A Different Perspective of Making Things Happen.

If we were to solve the riddle of how things happen, we would’ve in fact solved the riddle of the universe.  I’ve always been a student of the universe-exploring how and why things happen. 

This morning I woke up early while it was still dark.  The light in my closet has been out for two months.  It makes it challenging getting ready in the morning when it’s still dark and the only light is on the other side of the bedroom. 

I’m cleaning out the garage today.  I would love to listen to old Prince songs while I am doing my chores.  My wife has an Altec Lansing inMotion boom box for her iPod.  I began looking for a place to plug it in outside.  It then occurred to me that batteries were a better option.  We’ve owned the boom box for over a year.  But there’s never been a battery in it.

These and others realities are faced by us every day.  What decides whether something happens or doesn’t happen?

Creating the Perfect Law Firm.

I started to think about how things happen as me, Mark and Brian set out with our “perfect law firm” Tuesday morning and Thursday lunch meetings.  Each of us has an expectation about the future.  Each of us harbors paranoia about the future.  We want specific things to happen.  We wonder what will really happen.  What I realize is that there are many ways to affect the world.  Where will this law firm be in six months, a year, three years, five years, and ten years?  Will we overcome our fears and realize our dreams?

The answer to the above question depends on our view of how things work and our ability to execute that view.