15 posts categorized "LexThink Chicago"


LexThink Attendees

I have added all the LexThink attendees to my Non-Solo Resources links on the right-hand margin.  If you were wondering who the cool people are, look no further than these links ...

LexThink To Do List: Create Billing Standard

I think everyone at LexThink agreed that the current hourly billing model needs substantial reform.  One thing that I want to see happen is for the LexThink group is to agree on a set of principles which we can subscribe to which formalizes new billing concepts and guidelines.  These are simple practical things such as :

  1. no charging for copies and long distance;
  2. no billing for  phone calls under 10 minutes (just the action items which come out of phone calls);
  3. the difficulty of the task determines the fee rate, not the lawyer who happens to be assigned (thereby pushing easy stuff down to lower billing rate);
  4. matching clients with billing structures which meet their needs (flat fee, contingency, value hour);
  5. working within a client approved budget;
  6. creating a documenting efficiency incentives;
  7. the lawyer should take on some level of risk with each project.

This is an outcome I hope to work on over the next year. 


Virtual Paralegal/Clerk Update

I have hired two virtual law clerks and one virtual paralegal.  These folks work as independent contractors on a project and task basis.  There was much interest in this concept at LexThink so I thought I would create a separate category for the topic and provide an update.

So far, the program is going very well in the following areas: 

Task Based Projects & Budgets:  Every assignment to a virtual worker is narrowly defined, documented and budgeted.  Unlike traditional firms which assign tasks to paralegal and clerks which are open ended and designed to create billable work, these tasks are designed to accomplish the opposite.  We reduce billable work by posing narrow questions and asking for narrow answers and solutions to narrow problems.  Each task allots so many hours of work to completion.  If the worker needs more hours, they must be approved.  All incentives push hard towards efficiency and answers.

Overflow Capacity: These virtual workers provide much needed overflow capacity for my practice.  I still have not sent out announcements for my new firm since I can barely handle the current workload.  The virtual program will create the capacity for me to deal with the inevitable increase in work that those announcements will generate.

Alternative Billing:  By pushing easier tasks down to lower billing workers, I am in a position to deliver much more bang for the buck.  On my flat fee cases, I increase my margins by not doing the work myself (and assuming I am working on another case while the virtual workers performs a task I would have otherwise performed).  On my value billing (hourly) cases, I push tasks down to the appropriate billing level which saves the client fees.

Profit Center:  As every non-solo knows, profits are tough when there is only one set of hands doing the lifting.  Each project or task assigned to a virtual worker results in profits for the firm.  Working properly, everyone wins.  The client pays lower fees.  The firm profits by assigning tasks to the lowest appropriate billing level.  The virtual worker wins by having flex hours and self-managed projects.  I am able to pay the virtual worker more since I don't have to provide office space, etc.


Us & Them .... TechShow Thoughts

I had a nice day visiting with two of the 'us'  ... Ben Cowgill  at an eggs lunch and Monica Bay for morning coffee (thanks for the cookie). 

Bloggers Dinner number # tonight, then off to the House of Blues to see Toots and the Maytals...

Reflections on the day ...

  1. Adobe Standard 7.0 should be mandatory for every law office.
  2. Bloggers were the unkown variable fo the TechShow.  Will blogging be a fad  ... Or is it important?
  3. Will technology move the balance from 'form over susbsance' to equal prioritization of 'substance' and 'form'?


Best TechShow Laugh

During the afternoon session of 60 sites in 60 minutes, the following link received a well deserved roar of laughter.


Race to Post. . Messing Around at TechShow

Ben Cowgill and Monica Bay decided to see who could take a  photo and post the fastest.  I came into the contest late but my bluetooth rocks.  Here is Ben trying to get his post up before Monica....

Look like GAL and his bluetooth enabled cell phone wins!Image002

Favorites from ABA Tech Show

It is Friday at the Tech Show.  Here are my favorites thus far:

  1. Bloggers Dinner:  The coolest people at the TechShow ...  There is a buzz around bloggers, blogging and blogs.  These folks are different and  this year the buzz will get louder ..
  2. The Lawyers Guide to Adobe Acrobat - Speaker: David Masters  ...  Acorbat is the still the standard as more offices go paperless. 
  3. Craig Ball on PowerPoint:  Speaker: Craig Ball.  Man, can that guy make PowerPoint go.
  4. 60 Tips in 60 Minutes:  Speakers: Ellen Freedman, Reid Trautz, Laura Calloway, and Dan Pinnington.  Worth the price of admission. I can hardly wait to review the links provided on the CD.  I can easily commit to 50% of the tools identified and expect to see significant increases in office and practice efficiency.

I am revved up.  One o the more interesting vendors I have visited is Buzz Bruggeman with his ActiveWords product.  Here is what Slacker Manager a has to say...

I am in love with ActiveWords

The best thing, in my view, about ActiveWords is that the initial learning curve is so short.  If you do nothing but install the program and one add-in (misspellings), you'll reap some benefit immediately as ActiveWords corrects common misspellings on the fly, no matter what the context.  You could be in a word processing program or in a text field on the web--doesn't matter.  ActiveWords will correct a misspelling immediately after you type it.  I'm still startled by it when I mistype something and the word disappears then quickly reappears, corrected.

I'll let you know how the free download trial goes ...


BlawgConnect.2005! Get's Things Rolling

The BlawgConnect.2005! dinner is now behind us.  We had our first chance to see the Catalyst Ranch and meet some of the people behind the faces behind the keystrokes. All these people are connected by the concepts of blogs.  What a strange ad hoc way to create a group of people.  But yet perfect as well.  You can read each attendee's blog and know each is committed to making a difference in the profession.  I suspect there is tremendous diversity within specific goals to achieve and how to go about achieving those goals.  Sunday's LexThink will be far more focused, challenging and engaging.

As I looked around the room and tried to gage every ones motive and interest, I was struck by the commonality in the group.  The group affinity was palpable.  Here are my observations, not of the event itself, but of the people attending. 

  • There is tremendous diversity among the bloggers, their stories, their situations and the paths which brought them to this point in their careers.
  • Within that diversity there is passion and excitement about having an impact on the practice of law and delivery of legal services.
  • This group is neither naive nor diluted about the reality and hurdles which we face in our individual and collective efforts to make a difference within the profession.
  • These people are prone to action which is probably why they started blogging in the first place.  They got tired of sitting on the side-lines.
  • This group is far more open-minded than the average joe/jane. They are ready for change and innovation.  They won't be deterred by the magnitude of the problems, or the relatively small size of the group leading the charge.
  • These people have a fundamental faith that blogging, which is little more than the sharing and discussion of ideas, can be the fuel which drives the change. Blogs and the ideas expressed on them, can draw large audiences quickly and inexpensively.  As those audiences grow, those ideas become more powerful tools of change.

It will be interesting to see if the diversity becomes a  strength or weakness within the group.  While I strongly suspect the former, this is truly uncharted territory for everyone. 

Dr. James ...

Post Lex Think party ....

MP3 File


Response By Opposing Counsel to Professionalism Letter

It works!  Below is the response to my professionalism letter I sent to opposing counsel last week.  No offense was taken to my observations about the need to question our approaches to confirming letters.  Linking to LexThink gave my note legitimacy.  By reminding our brother and sister counsel that we can restore professionalism to our profession, we advance the ball.

Thanks for you note.  I agree that we must restore professionalism to our profession, and apologize if you took offense at my email.  My client feels very strongly about this matter, and I try to be zealous, but professional, in representing my client’s interest.

We would like to resolve this matter amicably, professionally, and expeditiously.  .... Again, thanks for your note, and I hope that we can maintain a professional, cordial, and open relationship.  We may even cross paths or work together on future matters.


Legal Budgets: Why Lawyers Hate The Concept

I stumbled across a thoughtful analysis of negative law firm attitudes towards working within budgets for their clients.  LexThink Attendee Patrick Lamb, a partner with Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd, LLP, a  32 lawyer Chicago litigation firm, asks "Why Is Budgeting The Hardest Part Of Litigation?" Some of his explanations include:

  • Lawyers have never learned to be accountable for how they spend their client’s money.
  • Lawyers don’t run their practices as businesses.
  • The billable hour.

Another great quote:

The lawyer’s continued devotion to an economic model that causes their economic well being to be diametrically opposed to their client’s deserves special comment. No one would ever dream of a contingency fee agreement that rewarded a bad result. Yet the hourly rate frequently generates more make-work and more "creative timekeeping"
than any other economic model. More tangents and issues are explored, regardless of real relevance, because of the billable hour than would ever be pursued under any other economic model. All of these flaws in the system would be sufferable if the system produced superior results. Few really believe it does, however.


Our duty to help other lawyers be professional ..

How many times have you received a letter from opposing counsel saying you said something you did not say?  I receive several letters each week from opposing counsel which either tortures our conversation or outright misrepresents what was said all together.  This usually starts a letter war which wastes attorney time and client money.  Of course the goal is to be able to waive the letter in court and convince a judge and gain unfair advantage in the case.

I have struggled with this issue for years.  I have tried fighting fire with fire.  I have engaged in the CYA letter war fighting furiously over what was said and what was not.  i wonder what would happen if we dedicated ourselves to counseling other attorneys on professionalism in a non-threatening manner.  Today, I dedicated myself to sending a private response an an example of which follows:

Greg:  I have passed you email onto my client for review.  However, I did want to send you this personal note.  You included in your email the following statement:

“In our telephone conversation of yesterday, you represented to me that if we could document to you that [my client] had requested that your client register these domain names as an agent and paid for them, that you would advise your client to transfer the domain names immediately to [my client] .”

Obviously, I did not say this at all, although I agreed that it would be relevant information to know so I could advise my client. Creating the impression of non-existent agreements for the purpose of leverage is a common tactic in our profession. I receive slight exaggerations and overreaching quotes attributed to me each day. I’m certain you do as well.  And to each of them, I am now responding privately and would encourage you to do the same in a non-demeaning, non-threatening way. I think we all tend to simply play by the rules which everyone else plays by after a while.  We give up questioning whether the rules are appropriate or even helpful.

I also have come to believe that these tactics (perhaps they are not even tactics any more since no one pays much attention to them) have never really provided any real value to my client in my experience.  I have come to believe that such ‘tools of the trade’ really do work to undermine the level of professionalism which we must all come again to expect from each other as lawyers and the profession as a whole.  I have committed not to do it moving forward in my career.  I won’t say I have never done it myself since that would be untrue.  I spent years fighting fire with fire.

I have also come to believe that such habits also work against the interest of my client since they more often than not undermine the prospect of resolution, rather than further my client’s goals.  To the extent such overreaching undermines the attorney client relationship of the opponent; the client is again disadvantaged in most instances.  An exception might be when you know the opponent is being lied to by their own lawyer.

I look forward to working with you on this matter towards a resolution. I am recommitting (since at this point in the legal profession I’m sure this email sounds downright stupid) that the client’s goals must remain secondary to the legal profession itself which makes those goals possible.  Granted, our profession has gone in directions which none of us should be proud (I’m sure you have your list as well).

Why this email?  I am working with a group of top attorneys and other professionals nationally to reclaim the professional aspect of the legal business.  Each of us has committed to creatively and constructively attempt get involved ‘on the ground’ in order to shift the system back towards its ideals (which I know we all would appreciate).

You can view the link here if it sounds interesting

If I received an email like a year ago, I’m sure my initial reaction would have been “F__ Off.”   I hope you receive this email in the spirit in which it is offered.  I have not copied my client or yours. 

We must be proactive with our colleagues on the issue of professionalism if we are to restore professionalism to the practice of law.  But we must find ways which have some prospect of obtaining results.  I propose we all take responsibility to help our brother and sister professionals remember what the practice of law was supposed be.  Too often, they are just playing by the wrong rules that others before them established.  Click this link to hear my audio blog comments about this issue.


My LexThink Outline

LexThink has asked me to comment on the following issue:  "How would you build the perfect professional service firm?"  I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation (please allow for download time) which captures my baseline thoughts on the issue.  I prepared it last night and this morning just before ....

Well, if you read this far, you have likely also read the above post.  You already know I had answered the question of the day before the question had even been presented.

Perhaps the question for LexThink should be one step further back from the one asked.  Maybe the question should be how could anyone build a service centered firm under the current system of  law?  How could anyone solve their client's problems with assholes on the other side of the 'v' obtaining retention contracts, placing barriers to resolution and perpetuating legal matters to line their own pockets with hourly fees?  How can we win this war if we don't attack, fight and risk it all to reclaim a justice system closer to its ideals? 

And even one step further back ... Isn't society right about the law and lawyers in general?  Can we blame citizens for their frustration with lawyers and the legal system?


… My Wife's Top 5 Questions about LexThink

After being invited to attend, I was immediately struck by the question: “What is the goal of LexThink?”

Dicitonary.com defines “lex” as follows:
lex  n. pl. le·ges : LAW

So I can only surmise that LexThink is probably suppose to make you think…about law.  [I am certain that it the consistent demonstration of analytical skills which has placed me squarely on the invite list to this important conference of legal thinkers, albeit at the very last moment after a few concilations.]

Attendees will come to LexThink  fresh off a 3 day ABA Tech Show, which itself is preceded by the Blogger’s Dinner .  Attendees should each come with our top 5 most important issues in law and practice.  Attendees raise the issues they bring to the floor in an informal Open Space meeting format (self-managed workgroups with no agenda ;-). In the grand spirit of the internet itself and Ayn Rand’s objectivism, problems are identified and solutions proposed in a sort of anarchistic framework where Darwinism rewards the strength of only the best ideas.

With all the ‘thinking about law’ I have done these last 4 hours or so, my brain is abuzz with notions of changing everything about the practice of law.  So it was no wonder that within hours of being invited to LexThink a mere 2 hours after arriving home, I have already bored my wife to tears with all the details of who is coming [“No I have never met them or seen them on TV”].  I have explained in great detail - but without much by way of specifics - why this conference is so very important [“yes love, some of them even make money and work for real firms”].   She patiently listened to many things that have nothing to do with getting the children (7, 5, 3 - all boyz) in pajamas and bed. She privately wondered, I have no doubt, about the wisdom of taking 5 days off from a newly opened law practice to go hang out with a bunch of computer geeks who will never be clients. 

I know LexThink must be an important event because my wife smiled and tried to look interested as I rambled and she even pretended that she thought it was important as well ... and that almost never happens at my house during bed time.

In tribute to my beautiful wife’s patience and for not dousing my obvious excitement in cold water [at least yet. I can hear screaming children upstairs right now], I present to you the reader with …

… My Wife's  Top 5 Questions about LexThink:

  1. So I don't understand, are they lawyers?
  2. You mean you aren’t the only one whose marketing plan is to attack the entire legal system?
  3. What, you’re not coming home from Chicago until Sunday night now?
  4. Doesn’t it scare you that no one can think of an agenda?
  5. So you’re saying law.com will pay you to write stuff?

I will dwell on the questions my wife has posed, although I am confident that the answer is yes to all but the last question on the list.  And as to that question, I will let my wife dream of publishing riches, so that I can safely go to Chicago for 5 days of my own slice of heaven. 

On a serious note, I do hope that the answers to important LexThink issues will advance and change the way law is practiced. I couldn’t stand to think about an entire career trying to represent my clients against parties who are represented on the other side by the traditional hourly billing model.

I come to LexThink with passion in my heart and actions behind my words. I come ready to learn and listen. I sincerely appreciate the invitation.

LexThink Chicago

I just received an invitation to LexThink Chicago.  Thank you Matthew Homann from the [non]billable hour for including me.  I am excited to contribute. 


Changing the foundation of legal practice is critical if new business models are to take hold and succeed.  We need to focus on our professional obligations, incorporate technology into our business process to reduce overall client costs and make changes in the justice system which allows for more economical dispute resolution without giving up the right to a jury trial.