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January 2008

Fulfill Your Potential

I have never presumed myself to know much about anything.  I don’t pretend with myself.  I don’t pretend with my children.  All the greatest mysteries in life are to be discovered on an individual basis. 

But I do try and bring home one message.  We were all put on this earth to fulfill our potential.  Everyone’s path is their own.  But you need to work diligently throughout the course of your entire life to find and navigate that path.  At the end of the path lies your special talent, your fundamental purpose and your sense of fulfillment.

Like most parents, I know there is only so much that we can teach our children.  But I have to say that this last weekend has been pretty special.  I spent eight solid years on the bunny hill snow plowing on my Telemark skis.  Even finding my way to the blue runs didn’t help much.  For eight years, I have had one kid on a harness while skiing.

This year is the first year I’ve been able to take telemark turns despite the fact that I’ve owned Telemark Skis and equipment for eight years.

My Son Echo is fairly cautious.  He does not take chances. As a father pushing potential, this bothers me.  But I’ve always tried to be patient.  This weekend, Echo made up a poem which blew me away.  It was so different than anything he’s ever said or thought before.  That tells me that he listens to the things I try to teach.  In his own words, here is a poem from my son which I could not be more proud of:

Try, try, try until you are at your best.  And when you’re at your best, try some more until you’re at the best you can ever be, and when you’re at the best you can ever be, try even more.  Never give up! [Download Listen_to_Echo.wav (2335.6K)]

They Don’t Call Me Nothin’ for Nothin’

My Son Fielding, who is eight, had a great quote the other day that I wanted to share.  He said, “They don’t call me nothin’ for nothin’.”

Now, I’m not so sure why these words struck me as so funny.  But they clearly did.  There’s something brilliant in those words.

Maybe it’s because we always want to think of ourselves as special.  Maybe it’s because we put ourselves on pedestals.  My Son Fielding points out that there’s no such thing as nothing.  Perhaps it was the way he said it with such enthusiasm and excitement.

I think I’m going to try and take myself less seriously this next week.  I’ve been on one of my over-focused, not enough vacation, impatient, creative, frustrated phases.  Maybe I just need to remember that most of things we think are the most important everyday really are nothing over the expanse of an entire life, let alone the life of the universe.  I think we all need to remember to take a big step back sometimes and take a healthier perspective on the relative trivialities of everyday life.  We have a lot more to offer to our families, clients and firm when we approach even the most serious things of the day with a healthy dose of perspective.

Blogging: What Do You Have to Lose?

Today I overheard two businessmen talking about advertising.  Both of them were unhappy with the amount of response to their latest advertisements.  One mentioned that he advertised via cable television while the other advertised exclusively in print media, including magazines, newspaper, and mail flyers.  At a minimum, each was spending $400.00 per advertisement type.

The worst part was that these advertisements had a predetermined shelf life.  They were printed or shown on TV, and then they were gone; never to be found again by interested consumers.   Despite the unsuccessfulness of these ads, both businessmen mentioned how they continue to advertise and hope that one consumer will walk in the door because of it.

Why not blog?  For less than what would be spent on one print advertisement in a newspaper, we are able to provide as much content as we want throughout the year.  Not only is our content available every minute of every day, but more importantly, it never goes away.  Of course, if the Internet ever does go away, so would our advertisements.  However, I’m sure you all agree that that will never happen.  Instead the Internet continues to become the preferred method by which consumers search for information, providers of goods and services, and new things on which to spend money.

What better way to show your expertise, communicate to interested consumers worldwide, and gain an amazing return on investment than through a blog.  Not only is it quick, easy, and effective, it’s also quite fun. So go out there and start blogging.  Before you know it, your blog will likely become the main avenue through which you bring in new customers.  Brian

This Blog is My Blog, This Blog is Your Blog

Enrico, Mark, and I met last week to discuss our blogging efforts.  We all agreed that publishing content to our blogs and on other online trade journals are extremely important.  Not only does it allow us to broadcast our expertise across the world, but it also allows us to comment on the state of the law as seen through the eyes of other experts.  Moreover, it truly allows us to expand our knowledge base and hone our ability to effectively communicate our position on important and popular topics.  In fact, emerging areas of law receive as much attention through blogs as other material.

As we discuss the importance of blogging for our business, we also realize the importance of blogging for the Greatest American Lawyer.  Enrico made clear, as can be seen throughout the historical posts on the Greatest American Lawyer, that the Greatest American Lawyer is not one person.  Rather, it is an ideal.  As such, we are continuously striving as a firm and individual lawyers to become the Greatest American Lawyer.  There is no reason why all three of us should not be posting great information and content to the Greatest American Lawyer blog.

There are definitely days where I believe Enrico is in fact the Greatest American Lawyer.  However, I see his point and his vision through this blog.  As such, I will happily be posting more often than before.  Not only does it allow me to continuously strive to become what we envision to be the Greatest American Lawyer, but it also allows me to hone my ability to communicate, learn new technology areas that will advance our business, and continue to differentiate myself as a lawyer from the millions of others who practice law on daily basis.  So, keep an eye out for new information and happenings through the eyes of this Greatest American Lawyer. 


As Bad as Hourly Billing is for Clients, It’s worse for Lawyers.

I’m a member of the Grand Traverse Bar Association for Grand Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau Counties for the State of Michigan.  I spoke at a seminar last week to a handful of local lawyers about technology and innovation.  I have to say that I was a little nervous as to whether anyone even cared about that issue locally.  I haven’t thought about it in years.  I don’t have a substantial presence locally.  Most of our clients are from somewhere else. 

But the turnout was solid.  I told them that I couldn’t possibly delve deep enough into any one thing to make it worthwhile in an hour’s time.  So instead, I told them that I would be inundating them with as much technology and innovation in the next 60 minutes as I possibly could.  The title of the presentation was The Top Ten Tech Tips For Lawyers.  I’ll be blogging in the next few days about what my top ten tech tips where.  Even cooler, I’ll be telling you about each and every piece of software on my desktop computer and how it fits into my business process.  I figure as long as I get to tell them what I’m running, I may as well share it with you as well.

But there is one thing that stands out most from my presentation.  It was how true it struck when I said the words “as bad as hourly billing is for clients, it’s worse for lawyers.”  The room was filled with silence.  No one said anything.  But I doubt anyone disagreed.  Let me say it again.  As bad as hourly billing is for clients, it’s worse for lawyers.  To live your life as though each minute spent doing something else besides billing the client was a wasted moment is a waste of life.  You know the feeling I’m talking about.  Your wife calls.  She’s telling you about some otherwise seemingly trivial part of her day (which is a huge part of her day) and you’re thinking about the fact that you’ve only got four and half hours in today and already four o’clock.  You’re trying to be polite at best, but mostly you’re trying to get back to your hours.  Imagine a life where each hour was measured exactly the same.  It sounds like communism to me.  It doesn’t matter how hard you work or the quality of your work, you get paid the same.  If capitalism is all about incentives, then we cannot help but pose the most fundamental question of all.  What is the incentive of the billable hour.

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# 1 Tech Tip For Lawyers-Copernic

I recently gave a presentation to the Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association about my top ten tech tips.  It was a difficult assignment since I have so many tech tips that it was difficult to narrow it down to ten. 

What I did not have any trouble with was determining what my number one tech tip might be.  As I have blogged previously here, here, here, here, here and here, Copernic is the number one productivity tool on the market today for lawyers. 

What does Copernic do?  Copernic does what Google search does and Windows Desktop Search tries to do.  It indexes all your emails and files on your local and server hard drive on the fly.  This means that when you punch in any search term, all emails and files come up in less than a second.  There is no better productivity tool than one that delivers the files you need in less than one second.  Copernic is my number one productivity tip for lawyers.

Equals in Opportunity

One of the interesting things we have done is to provide each partner an incentive to participate in each case.  We continue to emphasize an equality of opportunity.  Instead of the best cases be hoarded by one or two attorneys, every attorney in the firm has the ability to jump in and contribute on each case. 

The hoarding of the best cases is a side effect of a partnership compensation formula which includes as its sole feature, revenue.  Revenue in a traditional law firm is created purely through billable hours on business cases and for successful outcomes in contingency fee work.

But what if every lawyer was so well-informed about the cases being handled by the firm that they could jump in and contribute on those cases?  What if a firm was created which provided incentives for collaboration as opposed to isolation? 

Attorney collaboration can be encouraged using a variety of different technologies and techniques including:

  • A case management extranet where every lawyer could see what is happening on every case at any time;
  • A de-emphasis of billable hours so that lawyers felt comfortable and encouraged sitting down together to discuss cases, strategy and expected outcomes;
  • A healthy number of flat fee matters where the law firm’s goal is to achieve the clients’ goals in the shortest amount of time.  Since billable hours are meaningless, case strategy, process and leverage become the foundation of the daily effort.  Three lawyers thinking, strategizing and working towards a client goal are much more likely to achieve that goal in a short time as opposed to a single lawyer holed up in the office focused on billing 50 hours per week;
  • Regular sit-down strategy and collaboration meetings where the best ideas are tested, continually upgraded and where everyone has a hand in implementation.

The power of collaboration cannot be underestimated.  Most law firms today provide few, if any, incentive for collaboration.  The best cases in most law firms are handled by one or a few attorneys who guard the case like a personal possession.  None of this serves the client.  Many great minds will always be superior to one. 

Becoming an Expert in the Internet Era

It used to be you had to go to school to learn stuff. Why? Because they had the books and the experts which could teach you the things you wanted to know. If you wanted to become an expert on trademark law, you had to go to law school, work your way through the system until you were able to take electives for intellectual property, buy the book which contained the principles in the cases and listen to the expert professor walk you through each doctrine.

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