The following note is prompted by the comments of Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University® and her post about Kimberly, a young mother who just gave birth to her third child and was a 3L law student at Stetson. She became ill but failed to go to a doctor to address her own health. She was busy with her family and "stuff."
This is for all of you out there whether lawyer or law student, mother or father, who puts
themselves last. You put off going to the doctor for that chronic cough while you rush your child to the pediatrician for a hang nail. You eat your cold dinner out of a jar standing up and talking on the phone while you make sure your child’s meal is hot and she’s seated lest she choke on her food. You do so because ‘you can handle it’. Well, here’s the truth. You can’t.
You can’t care for your kids or your spouse if you break down physically. You can’t care for your clients if you don’t take time to reinvigorate and refresh. Remember the airline admonition: Put your air mask on first and then help your child and others around you. None of us are superhuman or immortal. There is nothing more important than your health, no final, no brief, no exam, no trial, no event. Remember this the next time you get no sleep or ignore that persistent cough or inexplicable pain in your side because ‘you don’t have time’ to slow down. Remember you can break down, too. No machine and certainly no human can work without stop and without repair from time to time.
From Alan Weiss, my coach, who develops pithy sayings to sum up the human experience. In his latest one, he says It's not "garbage in, garbage out" these days. It's "garbage in, garbage gets stuck and clogs everything up."
So let's look at the world as it is and, to paraphrase another saying, work with what we can control and ignore the rest. Our lives would be much happier and more productive.
Every time I have a complaint, I see the person next to me with a greater problem or challenge. I realize how blessed I am. Have a great Monday and rest of the week..
Last night, I saw the film, Life of Pi. It was a uniquely inspirational story of survival, a boy on a stranded raft in the Pacific Ocean. There are parallels in today's legal world where sole and small firm practitioners are struggling in the waves of our economy.
Today, I received a question from a reader, asking the meaning of "specialize or die." I responded that this is a catchy phrase used by those who believe that one can succeed only if they specialize. While it is true that the specialist generally earns more money than does the generalist, there still remains an important place for the generalist … and in a changing economy, the generalist will, again, generally, be more nimble and flexible to provide services in a changing marketplace of ideas. In both instances, however, there is a struggle to survive ... and to thrive. In all cases, however, the lawyer is providing loving and caring help to those in need. Money is merely the by-product.
Today, I also received an email about a cowboy and his dog, named Skidboot, in Texas. It is an incredible story and one of great inspiration. I hope you take the time, about 8 minutes, and enjoy and marvel at the dog as much as I did. This cowboy knows how to do more than survive with the blessings bestowed on him by his dog. I suspect we can all do more to appreciate what we have.
In which category do you place yourself? These folks on a private farm have a sense of humor.
I am in another cycling camp this week. This is the second one in two months.
I’ve never treated myself this well before. Isn’t it time that you think of yourself as well?
I met with a client in the Southeast last week; he used to go the “Y’ regularly until recently; he became so successful that he didn’t have time to work out and take care of himself. Like my 3Dimensional Lawyer™, there are 3 parts to our lives: Mental, Physical and Spiritual. Don’t let the physical atrophy or the other parts will as well. I encouraged him to get back to his workouts. He will find that his revenue will not dip appreciably, but his enjoyment of life will be enhanced considerably.
The old West still lives!
You want to be sure not to break anything!
At the TTT truck stop. One of the Country's finest. In Tucson.
Sometimes, you have to be explicit. Here, NO Motel is offered.
There's more than one way to see things!
Seen in Arizona!
Customer service is appreciated whenever it occurs. My wife and I (and I dare not forget Bandit) are spending a few days in Tucson, AZ at the Lazydays RV Park. Gathered with us are close to 100 other Airstream rigs, from trailers, to motorhomes ... from new to vintage as is ours. The amenities are outstanding and, as usual, it is the people that make an experience memorable. They go out of their way to be friendly and accommodating. Their brochure says that all their employees take weekly service instruction. Can you identify a law firm that has done that?
I hadn't thought of it before I received Marsha's email. Next year is 2013! And if you abhor the number 13, you're in for a long, hard year. As with Marsha, I also feel that 13 is a lucky number. And a baker's dozen is 13, a gift of one extra roll. So, what bonus will come to you this next year? Marsha provides us with 13 ideas for making next year a good year. Can you add another 13 to will make your life better?
In a recent USA Today article, texting and music listening while driving and walking are leading to an increase in the death of pedestrians. People are still talking on the phone and texting while driving, despite the statistics that prove it can be deadly and despite it being against the law.
But now, we have new statistics that show the same result -- injury and death -- arises from just walking and texting or listening to music and being in "another zone." All of which confirms that multi-tasking is a misnomer. We can do one thing at a time, not many different things at the same time.
Those who reach the pinnacle of success are able to do many things ... but focus on one thing at a time. There just ain't no such thing as multi-tasking.
Elio Martinez, a friend, makes a good point. Perhaps we need our day of national election to be a national holiday. This may tell us (and the world) that this is an important day, that we should focus on our decision more than we do, and that we are very serious about the decision we make on this very important day.
At the end of the day, the value of our law practice is based on our success and the many people we have touched over the years. This is a significant legacy we will leave on retiring from the practice.
Most lawyers all around the country with whom I've spoken don't understand this and can't comprehend even the possibility that their many years of effort may actually have produced a monetizeable value of some significance. This value can enhance their retirement. It is a challenge to overcome such deep-seeded beliefs among many Baby-Boomers as they get ready to move on to their second season. This is the difference between personal goodwill and organizational goodwill. There is more of the latter than most people believe.
My conversations have convinced me that the most feared word in the English language is “retirement.” That may contribute to the refusal to consider an alternative to closing the office; we will maintain our office and work until our last breath. It is possible, however, to do both! The sale or merger of your law practice, rather than the closing of the office, should be an alternative that is kept open for your consideration.
Leave it to a law school in our nation's capitol to teach its male students how to wash their hands!
The College of Law Practice Management met this past week to welcome 18 new inductees as Fellows of the College. Carolyn Elefant, one of the inductees, is shown here with Ed who was pleased to support her entry into the College.
The ABA likes to believe that its ethics opinions carry the weight of law. If that be the case, and if ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating the law, how can one know the law if it's not disclosed? That would be like saying that 35 miles per hour is the maximum speed limit, but not telling anyone about the limit. In fact, speed limits are written into the Vehicle Code and posted on the streets. Shouldn't there be the same disclosure required of the ABA?
By attempting to copyright its opinions, and thereby restricting their distribution, it seems the ABA doesn't think so. But, then, I guess the ABA is "super" law. See more.
For growth and expansion, there are two philosophies:
Trail your growth (conservative), or
Hire for the future (confident and assertive)
For troubled times, there are two philosophies:
Slow to hire
Quick to fire
Lawyers should do only two things:
Market for new business:
Only they know if they want to represent the prospect
Only they know if they’re competent to handle the matter
Only the lawyer is licensed by the state to practice
All else can and should be handled by others
In a recent display of enthusiasm, pizza shop owner, Scott Van Duzer, gave President Obama a bear hug when the President visited his shop on a Florida campaign tour. The visit and the ensuing bear hug provided quite a spectacle. After all, how could the secret service have permitted this? But, both the owner and the President seemed to enjoy the moment.
What impressed me more was the interview of the shop owner. He said, in response to a question about whether he feels that Obama has let the country down, “The bottom line is this: I own a small business. I take accountability for my business. I’m not looking to blame the government. And if people had the same mentality of taking care of their own businesses instead of looking to blame somebody when things are a little bad—just tightening things up and doing the best they can—I think we’d be better off that way, too. The whole world is not in a good place right now, and I’m not looking to blame someone. I think that’s the problem. We’re looking more so to blame him for our misfortunes.”
In other words, we’re not “entitled” to a particular way of life; we have to work to achieve our success; and we are accountable to ourselves ... neither the government nor anyone else has “done it to us.” Blaming someone else merely allows us to feel like a victim. We do have power and control over our own lives to a far greater degree than we admit.
By analogy, in a show the other day, Katie Courac talked to two teenagers who were bullied. Their common characteristic was that they refused to feel like a victim. They remained upright and confronted their attackers. Their stories provided an interesting perspective
Can we use help? Absolutely. Do we need rules of the road to assure that we have a level playing field? I believe so, but that's my bias. Should the government provide us with help? Before you answer this question, read the Time Magazine article by Jeremy Styron to understand how the government actually is in our daily lives, more than we know, more than we care to admit, providing us with material assistance just to get through our normal day's routine.
But, without the accountability to ourselves, without rules that apply to all, equally, we go nowhere. Thank you, Mr. Pizza Shop Owner, for putting entrepreneurship and small business in the proper perspective.
A laundry list of charges … be careful what you do in this taxicab!
Oftentimes, especially in the family law environment (but also in other matters), our emotions control us to the point of ignoring reality. We seek to hurt the other party to the litigation through our attorneys. And, far too often, our attorneys are willing accomplices.
As the attorney, what control do you have over your client? Do you perceive yourself as the master of the ship, or the mouthpiece ... do you consider yourself the advocate for the best interests of your client or the alter ego of your client.
Marlo Van Oorschot, as an outstanding family lawyer in Southern California, this week puts another spin on this question, asking whether you're a surgeon or a gangster.
On this date, 11 years ago, many of our readers suffered losses, both personal and physical. From these losses, a number of my clients gathered with me over the following two years to create Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Planning for Law Firms, intended to deal in the future with catastrophes such as this to become and stay prepared for the future.
This note is just a moment to pause to give remembrance for those losses, to express the solidarity of our readers and to provide mutual support in time of need.
Fact checking should be the backbone of every lawyer. I'm wondering why so many politicians, many of whom are lawyers, fail to fact check, or if they do fact check, fail to tell the full truth in their assertions.
Below is a list of "fact checkers" concerning recent assertions by politicians. Knowing that no political group is immune from "truth" distortions, we'll see what the Dem list looks like after their convention. We'll see if the distortions/lies are about the same issues.
Clint Eastwood says lawyers shouldn't be president in reference to Obama, but Romney is a lawyer as well. And as a profession, lawyers have made the greatest contribution to this country. It's truly sad when we as voters cannot rely as factual what is being said and then focus on the issues and values of each perspective. Can we get back to what is truly important?
The ABA Journal has opened the nomination process for its annual Blawg 100, a list of the 100 best law-focused blogs on the Web.
The publication is requesting short submissions from people who have found that my blog, LawBiz Blog (www.lawbizblog.com) has provided valuable and timely information in my area, law practice management.
If you have enjoyed my blog postings over the past year (and prior years), I hope you will act as one of my “friends of court.” The process is quick and easy, and will take no more than a few moments of your time.
Simply click on the link below and fill out the short form. The deadline for submission is 7 p.m. ET on Friday, September 7th.
Thanks in advance for taking part!
The Blawg 100 Amici Nomination Form
Can one ever be rehabilitated from moral turpitude?
Remember Stephen Glass? He was the young journalist (in his 20’s) who lied and fabricated news stories. He was found out, disgraced and fired, never again to be hired as a journalist. A movie was made of his escapades, Shattered Glass. Fast forward through psychoanalysis, moving from New York to California, studying law, writing a successful book about journalism and “growing up.”
He went to law school, clerked for two federal judges, and interned in a law firm. He applied to the New York Bar, but withdrew his application when he learned that he would be rejected on moral turpitude grounds. He has now applied for admission to the California Bar. He worked for a California personal injury lawyer. Each of his employers has supported his application.
Despite his literary success, his scholastic achievement, and his apprenticeship in the law … and the passage of more than 10 years since his misdeeds, the State Bar of California opposes his admission to the Bar, as did New York. He pursued, however, and the matter is now before the California Supreme Court, after a 10 day confidential bar trial.
The real question is whether Glass is rehabilitated. If you defile one profession (journalism), are you forever tainted thereafter? Is our “penal” system meant for retribution or rehabilitation? We allow lawyers who have stolen from trust accounts because of alcoholism and drug addiction (diseases) to reenter the practice of law. Is there a different standard here? Not being privy to the trial testimony, one can only wonder why the Bar is so adamant in its position, given the support for Glass that is public.
We don’t have a really good definition of moral turpitude beyond platitudes; it’s on a case by case basis. And we don’t have a really good definition of rehabilitation; again, this is on a case by case basis. But, Glass’ experience in the legal community suggests that he has learned his lesson … a particularly important lesson when one is an officer of the court and the court relies on attorneys’ assertions representing clients.
Perhaps I am a bit cynical here. But, I wonder why the Bar is so harsh on Glass when we all can call out the names of lawyers who misquote case citations in briefs and otherwise misrepresent to the court in order to advance their position. Yet, these lawyers are seldom reprimanded, let alone disbarred. And in the field of sport, we know athletes “cheat” in order to better their chances of winning a race, often with impunity. Yet, here we have a person who has “paid a high price” for his cheating, has done what he could to rehabilitate himself, and yet is being denied the license of his new chosen profession.
Why is it that drunks and alcoholics can be considered rehabilitated even when they have stolen from their clients trust accounts or have been involved with terrible accidents, sometimes causing death to their victims? But, liars? Liars who have not caused anyone physical injury? With due respect to the Bar of which I am a member, Glass did not commit a heinous crime and should be given another chance.
Chicago... laid back life style!
For those in and around the Chicago area, come join me for breakfast (my treat) on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at the Allerton Hotel at 701 Michigan Avenue. Aug 23, 2012. Please send me a note that you will be attending. I look forward to visiting with you.
Today, I realized that it is the 10 year anniversary of my riding up one of the most famous mountains in the world, Alpe d'Huez!
I rode a major mountain here in California earlier in the year, Mt. Figueroa about 1/2 hour north of Santa Barbara. It is the same mountain climb that many professional cyclists ride in the early months of the year to train for the Tour d'France and other major races. When I reached the top, the coaches at CTS Training (Chris Carmichael, then the coach of Lance Armstrong) assured me that this climb confirmed that I could climb any mountain in France. Well, in some disbelief, I made reservations the following week to go to France in July 2002. And I did climb several of the other major climbs in that year's Tour, as well.
It's now 10 years later; time has taken its toll. But, I did start training to climb Mt. Fig. again this year. Wish me luck, though I'll need more than that ...
What's in your bucket list? What are you doing to achieve your goals?
I was very touched by the inscription on the wooden box I was given in appreciation of my 20 years on the Board of Directors of the Mammoth Estates Board of Directors.
This is the inscription:
Ed Poll Please accept this as a token of our grateful appreciation and thanks for your many years of counsel both personal and professional. Your concern and conviction, time and input on committees of the Board, have been invaluable. You will be missed.
Happy travels with Paula and family. Mammoth Estates Homeowners Association July 2012
The "Super Bowl" of cycling, the Tour de France, has begun. It's a joy to see how the cycling teams work together. While there is serious competition amongst the teams, there is still civility and respect for one another. Lawyers would do well to see this as an example for their own conduct.
The Belgium countryside is exquisite; one scene pictured 3 frisky horses reacting to the passage of almost 200 cyclists (and the entire entourage) right in front of them. What a site!
More need not be said.
Should we have similar signs for our Baby Boomers?
Probably the best dog park we found in our 3 month journey.
Bandit was certainly happy!
Two weeks ago, I purchased a Motorola Razr Maxx from Verizon and an iPad. I'm happy with both, but both need some adjusting. Perhaps I would be more correct in saying that the owner of the devices needs some adjusting ... or relearning.
In any event, I went into Verizon this afternoon, the same store from where the purchases were made., and asked for assistance. I was told that they now have a new policy: They would help me if I want to buy a new device or accessory. But, they would need to make an appointment with me for another time if I want to ask questions or get some help about the devices I already own.
The old policy was to wait your turn until a representative had finished with a current customer and was available to meet with you. That seemed fair.
Apple, a much larger store, will put you on their list and you wait your turn. Yes, they will also make an appointment for you at the Genius Bar. And there are many knowledgeable sales people walking the floor who can answer most of the questions I've had ... and are willing to do so.
This reminds me of the lawyer who plays telephone tag with a client ... to the frustration of the client. If you're not in when the client calls and cannot return the phone call quickly, have your assistant make an appointment. It's clearly better, however, to take that call on the first attempt if you're in the office. Failure to connect is still the #1 complaint against lawyers.
Verizon does not seem to get this simple fact of customer relations! Do not let the customer go away angry because you are unwilling to answer his/her questions about the device you sold. Oh, yes, I forgot. They can be as nasty as they want because they have you tied to a two year contract! Just think what would happen without that contract? I'd be back at AT&T in a heartbeat!
Duh. You think?
Don't know about you, but I would be half way up the hill before I could even read this sign. :-)
In the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal, two fellows from the Brookings Institute espouse the philosophy for deregulating the legal profession. Let anyone practice law; whether they've gone through law school or not, and allow anyone to own a law firm.
These are not new ideas, but the assertion that these ideas are key to lowering costs of delivery of legal services is misplaced.
First, most of the rules in place are there protect the public; they are not there to protect the interests of lawyers. For example, an individual must be competent to represent and advocate for the interests of a client.
Second, technology provides many avenues to reduce legal costs. Removing the licensing requirements has no impact on this issue. Yes, requiring a license does cost money and does cost time (opportunity costs for the student), but it also impacts the quality of services delivered ... just as in the case of medicine (oh yes, and plumbing), etc. Why not remove licensing requirements for everyone in everything, from medicine, to plumbing, to driving a car. Licensing assures a minimum standard of quality. Licensing requirements in every area of human endeavor are society's way of protecting clients to some limited extent. Caveat emptor is acceptable, but not to the degree apparently desired by the authors of the Brookings report.
If lower legal costs is the objective, the argument should focus more on the pricing modalities as impacting the cost of legal services, not governance of the law firm. We've talked about this on previous occasions.
Third, the underlying premise that licensing provides an insurmountable barrier to entry and substantially raises costs by controlling supply might be true if one doesn't look at the facts of recent and current reality. There are many more lawyers than the current demand can accommodate. Many lawyers cannot find work. They do provide legal services at lower rates. Even large law firms find significant resistance to raising their rates. Are legal expenses high? Yes, but compared to what? How low should these prices be before they are acceptable? And, if there is no regulation, we might likely see larger law firms pattern their pricing after one another, just as airlines currently do so that the benefit of lower costs would not be evident.
There is no price regulation now in the airline industry. Yet, it's remarkable how similar airline prices are. Yes, there are a few low cost airlines such as Southwest. And, yes, there are also lower cost law firms as we sit here today, even with the regulations we have in place. The only benefit of the authors' "non-licensing" proposal would be the destruction of minimum standards of quality. Caveat emptor might be o.k. if the public had a way of knowing what the quality standards should be ... but they don't and they won't.
Combining other skills such as accounting into one organization is not required ... many law firms already work closely with allied professionals for the benefit of clients. This is merely a non-issue.
Dewey, which went into Bankruptcy Court last night, did not fail for lack of credit. The firm had extended bank lines of credit. It failed for lack of effective management. It's unlikely that investors or others would have given Dewey more money if they understood the true nature of the firm's economics and governance. Thus, this is also a non-issue for the author's arguments.
In sum, the functioning of a law firm is as is all other businesses. Good, solid business decisions must be made to attract customers/clients and operate cost-effectively. Dewey failed on both counts. The arguments put forth by the authors would not have changed this outcome. But, in the terms of business, by going into bankruptcy, the firm may be able to disgorge its unfunded pension obligations and become a viable candidate for acquisition by another large firm.
Isn't this the truth ...
too bad our current politicians fail to understand that about our environment as well as our body politic psyche to tolerate their misdeeds.
Failure to act when needed is equally a misdeed.
It's a humongous uphill and equally steep downhill.
Did you ever feel that way when you opened your first law office?
Please bring plenty of fuel ... or money.
Have we lost accountability? Have we lost taking personal responsibility for our own actions. Some in the political arena are saying that government has little or no legitimate role in our lives. We need to restore caveat emptor and all will be o.k. again. While we may have more government involvement n some areas than we'd like, we probably have too little in other areas. And if we truly had caveat emptor all over, we would soon have anarchy and civil unrest.
In one area, however, this issue was brought home to me in a very different light. A former military man spoke on television recently (as well as written a book) about the lack of responsibility of the American people. He said this in the context of so many of our troops returning home with maladies, who need treatment of one sort or another, and who need jobs ... and their needs are not being met. His assertion is that the American public can ignore these issues because we are not involved in the war. Yes, we pay for it ... maybe. But, that's it.
In the past, there was a draft. If we went to war, the draft increased and many of the people we knew would be called up. Today, we have a professional army and so our daily lives are not disturbed. In the past, when we went to war, there was a special assessment or increased tax to pay for the war. When we went to war in Iraq, there was no such increase. In fact, taxes were lowered, a significant factor in our current deficit discussions.
The point is that we've lost touch with our personal responsibility and accountability ... and we need to get it back. Not sure how to do this, but we need to have this discussion. Perhaps the forthcoming political debate will address this issue. Just my $.02 worth.
And they say there is no climate warming!
Judge Lippman, Chief Judge of the New York Appeals Court, announced a pro bono requirement to gain admission to the New York Bar. Every new lawyer will have to prove their performance of 50 hours of pro bono practice before being admitted to the New York state bar. Mandatory pro bono is now a reality in New York.
He said, "If pro bono is a core value of our profession, and it is—and if we aspire for all practicing attorneys to devote a meaningful portion of their time to public service, and they should—these ideals ought to be instilled from the start, when one first aspires to be a member of the profession."
His first error of judgement, in my opinion, is to conclude that pro bono is a "core value" of the legal profession. While many lawyers "give" many hours freely of their time and expertise, it is not the essence or "core value" of the legal profession. This has been substantiated many times over when bar associations call on their members to provide free services for low and moderate income people. Many do step up to the plate. But, not all. Thus, it's obviously not a core value of the profession.
He then said that "We think that if you want that privilege, that honor of practicing law in the state of New York...then you are going to have to demonstrate that you believe in our values." He is really saying that if you want to practice law in NY, you better meet my values. Interesting that he says that practicing law is a privilege, not a right. Seems as though we're taking a test to get our driving license. Driving a car is a privilege and in order to get you on the streets, you need certain requirements. I guess Judge Lippman equates getting a law license with a driver's license.
Why does this new requirement apply only to new lawyers? Why doesn't this requirement apply to all lawyers in NY, even those who have been practicing for a few years? Judge Lippman's excuse for this discriminatory practice is that existing lawyers' practices are very diverse and some lawyers already are having difficulty earning enough money to put food on the table. Thus, they should be excused from this requirement. The real reason is that the Judge would have a rebellion on his hands if he tried to spread the requirement to all present lawyers in the state.
I wonder which dog wrote these rules?
In current times, we are becoming more familiar with law firms imploding, collapsing and even going bankrupt, literally. Wall Street Journal and it's reporter, Jennifer Smith, seem to be taking a great deal of pleasure in highlighting and repeatedly featuring the sad demise of the Dewey law firm.
Dewey highlights the unfortunate interplay of bad luck (the unexpected change in the general economy) and poor management (failure to anticipate alternative scenarios). One or two articles with new information would be illustrative; howevwe, the Journal seems to relish in "kicking the dog while down."
In the future, the Journal might do an article about how a firm in Dewey's position might avoid collapse. Would that be too much to expect?
We all seek the summit.
It's the journey, though, that counts. And every journey is unique.
Those who enjoy the search are the lucky ones.
Rebecca Mieliwocki, was named the 2012 Teacher of the Year and honored today by President Obama at a White House ceremony. She went to law school, among other things in her career. To me, this transition is not peculiar. Lawyers are, after all, teachers. They tell stories to persuade jurors and judges for the benefit of their clients. Law is a helping and caring profession, just as is teaching. Ms. Rebecca Mieliwocki took that same talent and focused it on young people in Burbank, CA. Congratulations to her.
Another double entendre.
Literally by a dam!
But, I love it.
Were these signs made by prisoners with nothing else to do, or do we actually pay good taxpayer money to have such signs made?
I wonder who created this thought?
There is a new certification being promoted: Certified Divorce Financial Specialist
This takes specialization to a new level: Learning more and more about less and less … and pretty soon we’ll know nothing about everything.
It's fun to play with the Gods!
Our RV fit right in ....
Best wishes for a very happy Passover and Easter. This is the beginning of Spring and the planting of crops ... and a time to reflect and renew in our own lives as well. Best wishes for a happy holiday.
The Continental Divide is not just one spot. It's a long line.
We kept crossing it, back and forth as we traveled.
As one coming from a desert community, seeing so many tall peaks is quite spectacular!
Location, Location, Location!
The lawyer and bail bonds person are neighbors, and both are adjacent to the jail and the courthouse. Otherwise known as the "revolving door." One's commute tends to be minimal here.
In the 1960s, insurance carriers began to request lawyers to demonstrate what they did for their insureds. The metric was time. How much time did you spend on each matter, each task. What used to be a management tool soon became a pricing tool. And for decades, we've been using hourly billing as the modality for determining legal costs. With technology advances, I predict that alternative billing (fixed fees, contingency, capped fees, etc.) will once again prevail.
But, wait a minute. The legal community is not the only one controlled by insurance companies. I went to a cardiologist. All I wanted was a stress test to confirm that I'm fine. No, no cardiologist (I called more than one) would give me a stress test without a previous consultation. O.K. I can't beat the system. I made the appointment. The doctor agreed I should have a stress test and an electrocardiogram. Fine. Can I make one appointment to do both in the same visit? No. Why not? Insurance won't pay for both when done on one visit.
Insurance companies should do what they're supposed to do. Pay for that which is covered. Instead, they get in the way by forcing professionals to alter their procedures in order to get paid. Or is this a case of doctors bilking the system to obtain greater revenue?
One rule for us and a different rule for everyone one else?
Interesting and well-written article in today's LA Times, written by Sam Farmer. He describes the scramble in the passing-oriented National Football League created by Peyton Manning' search for a new team. His indecision to date has created chaos for other quarterbacks in the free agency pool. Until Manning gets settled, other free agent quarterbacks aren't sure of their future.
But one case is of particular note. Manning interviewed quietly with San Francisco 49ers, and took a physical exam; meanwhile, Alex Smith, their quarterback last year (his best season to date) and currently a free agent, has been talking with the team about a new contract. But, if Manning signs with SF, Smith is out of a job.
So far, business as usual. .... But, both Manning and Smith are represented by the same agent, Tom Condon. Shouldn't Condon be pushing SF to sign Smith? Or is o.k. for an agent to act as nothing more than a distributor carrying several competitive products with no loyalty to any?
A lawyer who did this would definitely be guilty of violating the rules of professional conduct ... Obviously, sports agents are not governed by such "rules." But, isn't there a degree of professionalism and ethics violated by such an agent. Shouldn't he have to withdraw or create a "Chinese wall?" Something just doesn't smell right ... at least not the way Sam Farmer describes it.
John Wayne lives large!
A fabulous place to visit and hang out, especially if the temperature is over 100 degrees.
Today, I think I heard the most succinct new year’s resolution of all time:
Fatter wallet and Slimmer waste!
Now that’s focus!
Does one have to suggest that Boot Hill is "open all year?"
Are undertakers ever on holiday?
Do you feel as though you're being given a gift, a free day? Best wishes for a great day! Today, we leap forward. Make it a very special day!
We couldn't wait to "get out o' Dodge!"
Now I know the origin of the expression. No offense intended to the good people of this community, but it was hotter than H... when we were there and the people in this business were not dog friendly.
What do you do with your pet when it's over 100 degrees in the shade? Can't take your dog into the mall, into a restaurant, into a movie and not even into this outdoor museum.
Quaint city with some nice features, but not in this heat! :-)
You got that right, by golly!
This should be the slogan of the legal profession. :-)
Dr. Oz, the popular television medic, recently said that high blood pressure is the "silent killer." Stress, he said, is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.
Lawyers I talk with almost universally tell me about the stress under which they labor. Because of this, I am on the lookout for ways that my advice about improving the lawyer's operations may also have the impact of reducing his/her stress level. Thus, I am always viewing the practice from a holistic perspective, addressing revenue improvement, operations changes that impact profit, and stress reduction that improves both the professional and personal life of the lawyer. Just knowing that you now have an accountability partner (me as the coach) goes a long way to reduce the stress. For the first time, you really have someone to talk with who can be objective and with whom you can show vulnerability.
In the February 13th edition of the L.A. Times, an article featured a lawyer who clearly is a workaholic. But, she has a marvelous and somewhat unusual perspective of her workload. As the headline says, "stress can hinge on attitudes about work." In other words, if you love what you're doing, it's not work; if it's not work, you may be exhausted at the end of the day, but you won't be stressed out and unable to cope with your environment. Clearly, this lawyer enjoys what she does. Of course, the feature article didn't hurt her publicity efforts either.
With this article, came a new word or label, at least for me: "engaged workaholic." Said differently, if you are engaged with what you're doing, if you love what you do, then it's not "work." It's play ... and how can you get too stressed when you're playing.
Or, as my father used to say about his work, "... This is my hobby. This is what I love to do."
My hope for you (and therefore your clients) is that you love what you do ... and enthusiastically show your clients how to successfully address the challenges they bring to you.
Are you Abel or Able?
Are you “for sale?” (See the sign in the background.)
Is this a sign or is this a sign?
The building and the land on which it sits are equally large.
Must be a personal injury law firm.
St. Louis has not yet realized that the legal age for having fun is 18!
Traveling in the heat of 2011 was an incredible journey, one with many complaints ...
until we learned about the hardships Lewis & Clark suffered ...
with no maps or other guides to refuge. We again learned to be happy with what we had ...
there is always someone who suffers more.
I've written extensively about lawyers planning for the succession of their practice, whether by merger, sale, or simply retiring by just walking away one day, closing their door forever more.
Some failed to plan well or spent their working lives increasing their standard of living to meet their compensation level -- and not saving; others suffered financial losses in the economic downturn; and still others have lived beyond what they expected with their savings depleted by normal bills or chronic illness.
But, what are the numbers? I haven't seen hard and fast numbers for the legal profession ... but here are some numbers for our country ... which I believe shed some light on the legal community.
The unemployment rate for Americans older than 75 years is twice what it was only five years ago. The rate might be higher if older folks were not embarrassed to say they are looking for work.There has been a 25% jump in the number of older people in the work force in the last 5 years. By 2018, the government projects that 10% of people over 75 years of age will be working or seeking work. Average net worth of households with at least one person over 70 years of age went down by 27% between 2007 and 2009. In 1981, social security paid 52% of the average worker's pre-retirement earnings; in 2001, the percentage was 39% and expected to decline further.
This is where our 1968 Ambassador Airstream was made... Jackson, Ohio.
It was great to visit SteSpot's birthplace and see how they do it today.... :-)
There are many examples of how the legal profession is moving toward commoditization. The most recent commentary on the subject is Richard Granat's blog post.
Other examples include: Legal Zoom, currently in battle with the North Carolina Bar Association about the unauthorized practice of law; forms available in books (remember Novo?); and online (see Granat's blog post for some). People who believe they need legal help but can't afford it, will do the next best thing...get a form from these resources. This happens in estate planning, real estate transfers, even in some litigation, and in other practice areas as well.
This will result in greater segmentation (a marketing term) of the legal industry. The "bet the company" cases and large companies will still use good law firms; others with less serious matters will use lower cost lawyers or do-it-yourself forms. (Whether these forms create more legal work later is another and unimportant issue for now.) And at the lower end of the economic spectrum, you can expect to see great competition. Even large law firms at the higher end are experiencing competition, just at a different level of sophistication.
Change is in the air. Hold onto your hats; the legal world is moving!
Amazing how many people seek to find shipwrecks.
One of the best is the one in Kansas City, MO ... The Arabia.
It's an incredible museum, privately owned and operated by the folks who found and brought up the steamboat ....
Not only inside, but "even in the street!"
That's a first.
Oh, and get rid of those bikes and horses!
The system of lighthouses along the coastline is truly remarkable ...
and stands to commemorate a bygone era.
Are you going to the dogs?
This state is serious!
The Grand Hotel has reached the pinnacle of success.
Unless you are staying at the hotel or going for a $40 lunch, you are excluded from entering the hotel!
When they say "Grand," they mean it.
I just finished watching the film. It was gripping, based on the book by Ayn Rand. I'm not sure I can agree with the portrayal of a future of total incompetence of our government and distorted way of life. But, after listening to some of the political debates recently, one could see how her picture might come into focus. A truly scary thought.
One of many charming lighthouses along the Great Lakes.
Technology/automation has had its impact on these lighthouses as well ...
Do these rules apply to the legislators as well?
Home of some of the wealthiest boat owners!
This day was absolutely gorgeous.
In a recent blog post, I made reference to the ABC News series that if only 5% of our businesses were to buy only American made products, we would increase the number of jobs in this country by 250,000!
A funny thing happened when I watched television the other day ... Harry's Law. The protagonist was arrested by a police officer for driving a Mercedes in a small town that made it illegal to own, drive or park a foreign vehicle in the town!
Though coincidental, this program takes the idea to its ultimate. The argument in opposition to the law, obviously, was the Commerce Clause (and perhaps not so obviously, the First Amendment) ... One point of the story was that this country was founded on the principles of of tolerance and inclusiveness; that is our strength.
In California, as all over the country, state support for higher education is decreasing. For example, in 2001, 70% of a state law school's operation's costs were covered; in 2010, such funds covered only 30%. In 1965, my enrollment costs were in the hundreds of dollars; in 1991, tuition and fees for the academic year were a bit more than $3,000; and today, the number is close to $45,000 ... PER ACADEMIC YEAR. All states are in similar positions.
And on the federal level, Congress is considering eliminating the student loan program! If that does happen, higher education will truly be only for the rich and perhaps truly gifted who may be eligible for scholarship.
No wonder students have to borrow money to go to school. I'm surprised that the average debt on graduation is as low as it is; the last figure I read was about $100,000.
From the seller's perspective, i.e., the law schools, one must ask why should they lower tuition? My alma mater recently sent me a letter that stated their next entry class of 321 students comes from an applicant pool of more than 7,000! Almost 25 to 1! With demand like that, I wouldn't lower my price, either.
But, with such high cost of entry, graduates and students are now asking whether the schools have an obligation to assure their employment after college ... In fact, several lawsuits have already been filed, and more to come, asking this very question. As I wrote in an earlier blog, the schools are not managing students' expectations very well.
The Dean of my alma mater, a top tier school, said at graduation this year that he is sad to say that last year's class still has a considerable number of unemployed students ... and that this year's graduating class will likewise find a tough employment market. Not only are many, a rather large percentage, unemployed, they also lack the practical knowledge and skills to open their own law practice. This is a skill the law schools do not even feign to teach. It is beyond their "professional standing."
Under these circumstances, perhaps schools need to post a consumer warning on each application: Caution: Attending Law School May Be Hazardous To Your Pocketbook. There is no guarantee that you will be gainfully employed for your ability to practice law. And, in fact, disclosing you have a law degree may be deleterious for other employment. The prospective employer may worry that you're just hanging around, waiting for a legal position to open up, or that you are too smart for the job under consideration.
Isn't that a double whammy!?
Is higher education a right? No. Should it be? Perhaps. But three things are clear:
- Without good lawyers, society as we know it is at risk.
- Without universal education (paid for by the state and federal government), our people will lack the skills needed to be an informed electorate needed for a free country
- Without a quality, universal education system in this country, we are doomed to move away from the dream and vision of our forefathers, the vision that made us so different and so much better than contemporaries ... and our place in history will be in jeopardy
Politicians need to take note: The teaching of our youth, even through college, is our primary responsibility and should not be compromised. Fighting war cost trillions! Educating our young cost millions! The former is irrelevant if the latter is left untended.
Great tree ... and so inviting to climb!
On one evening of the year, we can be legitimately scared. But, don't run your practice out of fear the rest of the year. Know the financial metrics for your success and how to achieve it by improving the condition of your clients.
The Haunted House:
Minnesota has many who express their opinions. This is the home of the "great walkout." After the last great bru-ha-ha, recall votes were taken ... and now the legislature is more evenly balanced .. Surprise! The legislators are actually doing what their supposed to ... legislating and compromising to meet the issues of importance to the people
This protester was seeking to complain to Pres. Obama. A hunger strike for 68 days .. could have fooled me. He didn't look too hungry. He must have been HUGE when he started his strike.
What good is a permit? Guess they really want to protect the judges whose decisions may be questionable.
If they're trying to protect the adversaries, I don't think this building will protect anyone.
Not a laughing matter ...
Do we usually state the obvious?
Wouldn't we know we're on a down hill?
And if we don't see slower vehicles, we'd certainly know it when we hit them ...
What am I missing?
“With these lawsuits,” Law School Transparency says, “nearly 10 percent of all ABA-approved law schools across eight states will be accused of tortiously misrepresenting job placement statistics and violating state consumer protection laws.”
The complaint says, among other things, that law schools' employment figures include work outside the law. And Senator Barbara Boxer of California wants the ABA to require all law schools to better determine where their graduates go after school and what kind of employment they get.
In a recent teleseminar I conducted, recent graduates were angry that they spent so much of their money (and incurred so much debt) to receive an education in a profession that does not offer them employment opportunities. They considered it fraudulent for the schools to have taken their money.
Those feelings and this law suit are different. On the one hand, the students want jobs and feel the schools have an obligation to help them get jobs. On the other hand, the current spate of law suits merely wants information -- consumer information -- to be accurate and available to law school entrants.
What is the obligation of the law school? How could anyone have predicted the shifts in our economy and the disruption of the profession? Not even senior partners are safe in their firm positions. Why should students be protected? We need to watch these developments as the profession continues to change ... caused by the economy ... and perhaps more significantly, caused by technology.
Reminds me of John Wooden's "Be fast, but don't hurry."
This State limits the fine on speeding but doubles the cost of everything else.
This city either doesn’t want cyclists … or doesn’t want pan-handlers.
Can you tell which?
This was the first time I’ve been to Nebraska. The people were super friendly, the architecture was outstanding and the downtown sculpture of Omaha was unique, featuring the pain and stamina of our pioneers. They came to know the “good life.” Here, I learned from the people about some of their social beliefs and economic successes. And don’t let anyone suggest that Nebraska is flat. There are many rolling hills here. As a cyclist, I can attest to this.
It became evident why people conclude that a president of our country must get out of the “bubble” of D.C. to truly understand and stay connected to his national constituency. One area of the country is quite different from another.
It was a pleasure for me to share “the good life” for a short while with the folks from Nebraska.
It's Fair time all over the country. Here, at the Minnesota State Fair, Elvis made a return appearance.
Language is everything.
What do you think the State is trying to tell us with this sign?
Our travels have taken us over 8,000 miles thus far. We finally turned the corner in Cleveland and have begun our trek back west. Today, we left Chicago for Madison and will go to Minneapolis and Omaha before boogeying back home. We will likely have traveled more than 11,000 by the time of our return.
Despite the diversity of our geography and of our people, I have found that lawyers are facing the same issues irrespective of whether they are in small communities or larger cities, in solo practice or in major law firms, in general practice or in a specialty boutique. Are there differences? Yes, but I like to view it in terms of nuances rather than differences. In other words, the "differences" are smaller in nature than many contend.
Oh, I know, we all think we're different. We all think we're special and face special circumstances. My experiences in both industry and in law tells me different, that all commercial enterprises, whether professional or trade, have the same basic characteristics. In other words, we all have to get the business (marketing), do the work (production) and get paid (finance). Each of us excel in certain areas and need guidance and support in others.
My travels has renewed my energy to coach and to produce more material (audio and electronic) that will guide lawyers to improve their connection with their clients. Though our trip has not yet concluded, it's never to early to thank those many lawyers who've attended our programs and been generous with their comments of support. I look forward to continuing our work together.
The road to Pike's Peak was windy, z-turns, with treacherous drop-offs and only a few guard rails. The average grade was 6.7% with many areas at 10%. The park rangers tell you to drive up and down in low gears ... and to allow at least one hour each way. With my wife feeling nervous (white knuckle time) and oxygen deficit affecting both of us as we ascended, I was not looking for a speed record.
When we got to the14,110 foot top, we were met by the beauty of the area ... and something even more spectacular for me. A plaque with a bit of important American history.
In 1895, Kathleen Lee Bates reached the top and was so struck by the scenic view that she wrote a poem. The poem was called America and published on July 4th. Later, in 1910, the lyrics were put to music and the song, America, the Beautiful was born.
One stanza which I don't remember ever knowing is:
" ... thy liberty in law ...." More people should take these words to heart and develop both a higher respect for and tolerance of the law!
I nearly flew down the mountain with a greater love and respect for the institutions which those before us wrought.
We met and talked with Dale “Pee Wee” Schwamborn, a cousin of Wally Byam, the creator of the Airstream travel trailer. He regaled us with stories about the starting and growth of the concept and the company … and his own travels as a youngster with Wally through Mexico and Central America and then through Africa. To be right there as history is being made, traveling in such a unique fashion and meeting so many people in “high places” is quite unique.
During a respite from driving, and Paula picking up the chore, I had the opportunity to talk to a bar executive about a forthcoming presentation that I will do for his bar in a couple of weeks. I commented that I was learning about our country from the ground level. From the people I have met, and the discussions we've had after a presentation for lawyers, and conversations in RV parks and elsewhere, I have learned how much we have in common. If you don't talk about politics and religion, we're very similar.
Then, suddenly, it hit me. What we lack is tolerance! For some reason, the intolerance some people have for others is what keeps us apart and what stirs the pot of hatred. We need to remember that reasonable people can differ ... and we need to retain the personal engagement despite the differences. Yes, hard to do but necessary for our survival as our country becomes more densely populated and with peoples of so many varying cultures with one goal in mind: to share a bit of the "American Dream."
While walking the streets of Missoula last week, we came upon a store. The sign in the window with the hours of operation concluded, “… Saturdays by Chance …”
Too many clients believe that lawyers are only “…open by chance.” They know lawyers work hard, work long hours, and are generally not available to clients when they need them. Why? Because the number one complaint against lawyers with State Bar disciplinary boards is still failure to return phone calls. When we first meet with clients, there should be a conversation about how to communicate. How long the lawyer will take to respond (90 minutes, 24 hours, etc.) and how the client wants to receive the communication (email, telephone, etc.), among other issues.
And make sure you understand the client as well as the client understands you. Some people call this “active listening.” Without it, you are talking at each other rather than to/with each other.
Last week, while in Idaho for a couple of days, we drove alongside the Lochsa River. Some 25 years ago, I went on what turned out to be my only white water rafting tour. It was great and the Indian meaning of the river’s name, Winding Water, certainly proved to be correct. It was a category 5 river and was absolutely beautiful. Of course, getting knocked out of the raft and into the depths of a swirling river was no fun, but it makes for a great story as long as you survive.
It was a pleasant and unexpected drive along the river. My wife is the navigator and I didn’t realize that would be our route that day … after all, I’m a Teamster … I just drive … where I’m told to go … She’s the navigator … The Lochsa merges into the Clearwater and then into the Snake River. And, if my reading is correct, then into the Columbia. The waterways in this part of the country are spectacular …
July 4th, the birth of our country was also the birthdate of Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream Travel Trailer, a unique way to travel.
There was a rally in Baker City, the town of his birth 115 years ago. This attached photo is the final group photo ... Paula, Bandit and I are on the ground, to the right. A good time was had by all ... and it's now time to get on the road again, heading toward Denver and Cheyenne, our next stops. Please join me.
After leaving Ashland, we made an overnight stop at 7 Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville. This Indian owned facility is one of the best of it's kind. After we set up, Ed grabbed his bike and off for a ride.....then the sky turned dark and it poured most of the rest of the afternoon and evening....
The scenery in Central Oregon along the I-5 corridor is simply green and beautiful......Interesting big rigs hauling everything and anything....We made a stop in Salem, OR to have dinner with a dear friend at DaVincis.....and we caught a glimpse of the State Capitol and the Justice Building after dinner....it is light longer here.
Check out our other pictures and events on the LawBiz® Tour Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/LawBizTour
William Shakespeare (middle 1500s) and Harper Lee (middle 1900s): What did they have in common? Julius Caesar, the play, was about the relationship of individuals to their government; in this example, a small group of people changed history by murdering the leader of Rome. And Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird, writes about another society’s deep division and the fate of one man determined by a few, the few on the jury, though influenced by the environment’s social mores. Murder is the end result for the individuals and a major shift in the general society in each period.
I saw both plays on the same day. The similarities in concept were remarkable. The uniqueness of the theatrics of each were thrilling. The impact on the audiences was remarkable.
This was a marvelous festival ... and the atmosphere surrounding Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival was enthralling. Just walking the streets of Ashland in balmy, sunny weather was a thrill. Now is the time to move on and travel the country with our sponsors, including Fujitsu’s ScanSnap.
Donna recently suffered the loss of her oldest sibling. She described the pain her oldest brother suffered before his death and her very great loss in his passing. She describes the lessons she learned from his death, lessons we should all heed. She said "His passing is a wake up call:
::Tomorrow is promised to no one
:: Good health doesn't just happen - eating well, exercise, moderation, etc.
:: All the money in the world doesn't mean a thing if health problems exist...."
Amen, Donna, and my condolences. These lessons should not only be learned once, but practiced every day we have left.
Riding in the Carmichael Camp ... cold but beautiful day ... and always great when riding!
William Hebert, President of the State Bar of California, is leading the charge to dismember the State Bar. Hebert's plan would eliminate six lawyers' seats on the Board of Governors, shrinking the current 23-member body to 17. The Governor and Legislature would still name six non-lawyers to the Board, but the state Supreme Court would choose the remaining 11 lawyer-members, stripping Bar members' current power to elect them.
In other words, despite paying dues, practicing lawyers would no longer have any say in the election of the people who govern their every action, their every responsibility to the public and their very right to earn a living. Does this sound a little like “taxation without representation?”
Yes, the state Legislature’s edict was to study the issue of governance and respond to Legislature. But, there is an option not being pursued by the Bar: Responding that the status quo works just fine, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, let’s identify exactly how the Bar is being unresponsive to the public and address those issues. A wholesale change being contemplated will not change the public’s perception nor will it protect the public any more so than the current body does. This reminds me of the recent insurance discussion. The public would have been protected only be demanding that lawyers have malpractice insurance. But, the Bar didn’t go that far. Instead, they merely made it a requirement to notify clients if they didn’t have such insurance. In other words, we’re looking for band-aids; we’re not looking at the real issues. The Legislature didn’t help by connecting this report to the dues bill. And eliminating the voice of lawyers in the election of its governing body likewise will not address the Legislature’s core concerns.
The issue, raised by a body whose members no longer contain a meaningful number of lawyers, is about public protection ... and the perception by some that the State Bar’s sole mission should be to protect the public. I don’t know where these folks have been hiding, but that is the mission of the current Bar. All one has to do is read the Rules of Professional Conduct. All one has to do is speak to the hundreds, if not thousands, of lawyers who feel the wrath of the Bar by its actions and in-actions (and I’m not referring to the disciplinary system that appropriately charges a small percentage of lawyers with misdeeds).
In fact, only one State Bar President in recent memory was so bold as to suggest that the State Bar has two goals: One is to protect the public; and two is to help lawyers be more effective for their clients and more efficient in the delivery of their legal services, again for the benefit of the public. Neither the staff nor any other president in recent memory has publicly uttered anything but the first goal.
And if it’s a question of being “more responsive to the general public,” there are other approaches that can be suggested. But Mr. Hebert doesn’t even look in that direction. Merely cave into the Legislature out of fear that a dues bill might be held hostage. Does this sound like a British leader we remember in dealing with a certain tyrant? Appeasement won’t work in this circumstance either.
I have been a very strong supporter of the integrated bar all these many years since law school. However, Mr. Hebert has finally caused me to flip the switch. I am now in favor of converting the State Bar to a licensing and disciplinary agency only. The result will be a savings to lawyers of at least 20% of their current dues. It takes 80% of the dues to run the disciplinary system. That’s close to$32 million. Lawyers can then join voluntary bar associations, either local or state-wide, create the education programs they need for their betterment, lobby for laws that will benefit the public without impediment, and otherwise create activities that improve their professional conditions.
This evening, taking a break from LegalTech Show, I went to dinner at the Oceana, near the Hilton Hotel. Outstanding food.
From there, I went to see Colin Quinn in the "Long Story Short," written by him and directed by Jerry Seinfeld. It's not often that a play/script is above me. But, this one was so good ... it is a historical comparison of Greek and later times to today ... The lines were so clever that I missed savoring them before Quinn was on to his next bit. This is one where I would like to sit with the script and slowly inhale the words. A remarkable piece of writing ... and the delivery was good, but too fast for me.
As mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I traveled to Costa Rica over the New Year holiday. It was quite an experience, one we’ll obviously remember for a long time. Attached is a photograph taken of us just before we boarded the craft to take us down river into the Rain Forest, a unique place. We were lucky; it rained hard during the evening, “rain drops dropping on my head” as the song says, but only mildly during the days when we could see the birds and other animals in full color.
Back from a great adventure to Central America, Costa Rica to be specific! It was a great time. Joined by my cousin, we spent 10 days traveling from one side of the country to the other, experiencing a variety of different environments. Our trip was like tasting various appetizers rather than eating one entry.
Following are several of my impressions:
This is a country of beauty and contrasts. Poverty and crime is apparent in the cities while there is exquisite beauty and serenity in the countryside. "Pura vida" is the country's motto, meaning "life is good." There are major resorts (such as J.W. Marriott) on the Pacific Coast, taking advantage of the scenery and water for surfing and other water sports. The Coast area has been in constant development over the last 20 years, attracting many Americans for vacation and retirement.
The Rain Forest on the other side of the country is a rich eco-system and nationalization of much of these areas are designed to protect the country's and world's future. The power and influence of Google was demonstrated recently. In the northeast part of the country, part of the Rain Forest area, Google's map drew the boundary between Nicaragua and Costa Rica south of the line that has been deemed to be the boundary between the two countries. (According to our guide.) Nicaragua moved its army to claim, and has continued to claim, a significant segment of this territory. Despite Google later admitting its error, Nicaragua still refuses to withdraw.
Costa Rica dissolved its army in 1948. Several countries offered to send military forces to help Costa Rica, but the country has rejected this … preferring instead to seek a peaceful solution. Let's hope they succeed.
The country's literacy rate is among the highest in the world. With this, there is a focus on the country's people and their well-being. Their health system is available to all. The challenges for the future of Costa Rica are the same as those of all developed countries including an aging population, economics of social security, etc.
Recently, several states and the ABA have been reviewing and discussing the limits to which lawyers may use social media ... LinkedIn, Facebook, et al ... without violating the restrictions on advertising.
Now, there seems to be a similar but more mild review and reaction to judges using social media. I'm somewhat surprised that lawyers are being restricted but judges are not in their use of social media. For example, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and South Carolina similarly answered the friend question ... Judges can befriend attorneys and others. The warning, if one were to call it that, is that judges need to tread carefully...Not to befriend lawyers and others who are to appear in their court.
But, how do you know that someone you "friend" today won't be a party or lawyer in your court tomorrow? While I normally do not concur with the Florida restrictions on lawyer advertising, I am more inclined to support their somewhat more stringent approach in this area. In 2009, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee for the Florida Supreme Court decided that judges could not add lawyers who appear before them as friends online. Personally, I don't think this restriction goes far enough.
As I've noted in a previous post, judges must "not only be chaste, they must also appear to be chaste." (With due apologies to the Bard.) Appearances of appropriate judicial conduct is essential. And judges' participation in social media networks violates the appearance of impartiality.
Just saw this movie ... There are many levels to this film. First, Anne Hathaway, the female lead, is drop-dead gorgeous. It is impossible to take your eyes off of her (if you're male. <g>). The guy's o.k., too, but not my type. <g>
I thought this was going to be another "chick-flick," o.k. by me. But, it's far more. It's a condemnation of the drug industry on the one hand, and a very serious commentary about Parkinson's disease and those suffering from it.
I went to see the film without knowing it's subject. Just thought it would be a feel-good film without violence, a requirement of my wife to see a film together.
Frankly, it hit far closer to home than I expected or wanted. It's a film very much worth seeing ... and I don't say that lightly.
The turkey is on ... he is now marinating in wine, stuffed with fruits and veggies. Two and a half days from now, my family and I will enjoy a very tender bird.
This is the one day of the year that I expect my kids to come to my home, with my grandchildren, and enjoy the turkey that I cook. It's a great day.
This time of year is when all the stress of the season begins, the retailers seek your attention with great offers and on-line spam/scam seems to increase geometrically. It takes a great deal of meditation, yoga or just good ol' fortitude to keep oneself calm. Today, the first day of the holiday week, our household seems to be controlling the angst better than usual. Yes, there is still hope.
My wish for you is that you have a peaceful, happy and fruitful holiday season.
In August 2009, the California legislature enacted a law requiring the State Bar to examine how it governs itself. I don't think any other state in the Union has a legislature overseeing the bar. This is usually a function for the State Supreme Court. However, in California, since the 1920s, the Bar must get permission for it to send out dues bills to members; thus, the legislature has the power to impact the legal system through the back door.
Does this remind you of law firms whose compensation structures govern what its lawyers find to be important? If the firm emphasizes and rewards new client acquisition more than work performed, that is what lawyers will spend their energy doing ("eat what you kill"). If, on the other hand, the firm compensates more for hours expended, then focus on new client generation will go down and billable hours will go up.
The same is true in the relationship between the bar and the legislature. Today, with less than 30% of the members in the legislature having a law school degree, there surfaces an animosity between lawyers (the bar) and those (the legislature) who approve the dues to be paid by lawyers to retain their license. Oh, did I forget to say? California is a mandatory license state, meaning that you must be a member of the State Bar in order to practice law. Voluntary bars exist at the county and local levels, not at the state level. The state is mandatory. Voluntary bars exist, but only at the local (county and city) levels.
So, what's the big deal? The fear by legislators is that a self-regulating body (more than half of the Board of Governors are elected by lawyers; others are appointed by the Governor and others) will serve the interests of their constituencies, not the public interests. I thought that was the whole point of public members being part of the Board; they are, they participate and they have a significant influence from the Board. The legislature wants the Bar to "protect the public" only; the well-being of lawyers is unimportant.
More than 50% of lawyers earn less than $100,000, a relatively paltry sum when considering the number of years of education required and the good that lawyers provide. (Yes, I know there are a few bad apples, but that is true in every profession ... hmmmm, even with law makers.
If lawyers were helped by the bar and did earn more money, there would be far less temptation to invade clients' trust accounts. This would be real public protection.
I have yet to find a set of rules of professional conduct that favor lawyers over the public. And what the rules of professional conduct does not "catch," the penal code does. And sometimes rules are made that hurt the public. For example, in the loan modification fracas, the legislature enacted a new penal code provision that made it a felony to take money from clients for loan mod work before the work is done ... can't even take money for the clients' trust account! The rules of professional conduct were similarly altered. But, no intelligent, business savvy, lawyer would now represent such clients unless pro bono. If the client has insufficient funds to keep the mortgage current, what makes legislators believe such clients will pay their lawyers after the modification is completed? The clients didn't suddenly get flush with money! So, lawyers will not now help the people who need help the most, those about to be kicked out of their homes ...
A new wrinkle to this, however, is that the law seems not to apply when a lawsuit is filed. So, the lawyer might take the client into bankruptcy or sue the lender on some pretense, all with the ultimate objective of merely getting a loan modification. This is more costly and adversarial than needs to be ... if the law makers kept their hands off! There were already rules on the books sufficient to punish the "bad apples" in the profession who were guilty of fraud on the clients.
Back to the main point: If the legislature removes governance from lawyers, the resulting agency will be merely a licensing and disciplinary agency ... and lawyers who volunteered their time and expertise to the bar for the benefit of many in the public and produced much good work will go elsewhere. That would be a grave loss that will hurt the public.
The Bar should push back and fight the legislature ... All the more reason for the separation of powers! Let the legislature do its job ... and this does not include determining how lawyers govern themselves.
When I was in Washington, D.C., I saw two views of the White House, one of which was normal and one of which exhibited a far different personality. If we have to live behind wire, if we have to be strip searched everytime we go into court houses, public buildings and transportation centers, and if we have to watch one civil liberty after another disappear, then we've already "lost the war" with only one transgression. September 11th has changed our lives more because of the politicians than because of the actual dangers we face.
I find the same mentality being exhibited by state bar associations who see danger in almost every new idea expressed by lawyers in their effort to communicate with clients and prospective clients. There are already enough rules on the books to protect the public. We have penal codes that make stealing from clients (theft) illegal and we have rules of professional conduct that prevent lawyers from doing "bad" (however you want to define lawyers' conduct) things (moral turpitude. So why do we need new rules that effectively prevent lawyers from helping economically fatigued clients in their effort to renegotiate their home mortgages? And why is it that using technology (social media) to communicate with prospective clients is subject to rules that are different from the existing rules on advertising and client communications? Why is it that truth in advertising is no longer sufficient despite a new mode of delivering the communication? Oh, and I guess a more basic question: Why is it that the single goal of bar associations is to "protect" the public? Why is this not just one of two goals, the other to protect and promote the interests of its members, lawyers?
This seems to br a novel concept. When the president of the State Bar of California said the Bar had two co-equal goals, to protect the public and advance the interests of its lawyer-members, people (staff) almost went into convulsions. Well, that novel idea didn't last very long … and with new presidents, has gone right out the window.
No different in other states … except the latter goal never even made it onto the table. Tell me if you see this differently.
In today's WSJ, a lead article talks about the courts in New York requiring the lenders in foreclosure suits to be honest in the filing of their documents. This follows the Florida cases with "robo signers." Affidavits claiming full knowledge of the facts of each matter were signed by employees of the lenders and the mortgage servicing companies as well as improperly notarized. Lawyers are being blamed for filing defective documents.
Lenders made the loans, their servicing agents prepared the information and signed the affidavits under penalty of perjury. Yet, the focus of attention seems to be falling on the attorneys. Somehow, attorneys are expected to verify that their clients are telling the truth. I thought that was the function of the trier of fact, either the jury or the judge. What am I missing here? Or, is this just one more case of seeking to toss the blame anywhere but where it belongs.
Lawyers in our system of justice are the messenger. Lawyers present the evidence in the light best suited to tell the client's story ... but it is the client's story ... and the only obligation on the part of the attorney is not to allow known perjury to be placed before the trier of fact. How and why is that now being altered?
The mortgage companies are now saying that the cost of foreclosures and loan modifications will increase, hurting consumers! Wow, it is an affront to human intelligence to suggest that the cleanup of their corruption (filing false documents with the court) will cause consumers to pay more!
Here are additional photographs from the Balloon Festival. It was a spectacular event.
We spent two weeks traveling 2500 miles with our Airstream trailer. Our ultimate destination was New Mexico and Albuquerque's Balloon Festival, I believe the largest of its kind in the world. This year, there were 550 balloons in the area. See six photographs taken by my wife as we enjoyed the R & R. During our travel to and from the Festival, we saw Arizona's Canyon de Chilly … and Twisters, a throw back to the 1950s with its absolutely fabulous malted milkshakes in Williams, AZ on Route 66. A great time!
We are approaching the end of our vacation. We left Albuquerque's Balloon Festival (its 39th year) and then went to Canyon de Chelly in AZ. A unique experience. On our way out, we stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post, operated in the Navajo Nation by the Hubbell family until about 1964. From there, we traveled toward Flagstaff on Hwy 40 with the intent to go to Williams (for an outstanding chocolate malted milk) and then to Prescott , AZ to spend time with friends.
En route, however, we heard that there had been 3 tornadoes between Flagstaff and Williams. We got off the highway, waited for an hour ... and after we were told that the DOT could not predict the weather for the balance of the day, we decided to go south instead of west.
I had to sacrifice my malted milk ... oh well. I had two in Williams the week before. As we traveled south, we bordered the tornado path but missed it. The rain was heavy and we hoped we could also escape hail. We lucked out, although we did stop under some underpasses when the rain was so heavy we could not see.
We're safe and o.k. And tomorrow, we start our last stage en route home.
Stuff happens when you're planning. Success is the intersection of preparation and luck. And preparation must include flexibility, the ability to change as circumstances change. Perhaps we can think of such changes as "change orders" in the construction industry. There are many paths to achieve our goals.
At the recent California State Bar conference, held in Monterey, CA, Ed stopped into the Expo booth of the Legal Secretaries. Most lawyers fail to appreciate how important a good secretary is to their success. Creating a good team best serves our clients… and they know it when they see it. That's the way to create a loyal bond between law firm and client.
After a very busy September ... and a very exciting month, indeed ... we're (me, my wife and Bandit) on vacation, traveling in the Airstream en route to the Balloon Festival in NM ... Today, we're in Williams, AZ. Last night, here, we stopped in to Twisters. This is a throwback diner to the 50's ... on Route 66.
The pricing on the menu ends in 66 as in $5.66. And an old Ford Fairlane sits in front. This place is a hoot, creating all kinds of memories for me.
But, the best is their chocolate malted milk shakes ... make with chocolate ice cream and served in a tall glass ... and with the stainless steal canister in which it's made. This means 2 1/2 glasses of a great tasting malt. A friend told us of this place and it's one of the best recommendations I've received. It was so good that I intend to return for one more .... Of course, that will mean the need for a longer bike ride to burn off the calories ... Hey, you only go around once, right?
This month has been chock-filled with activity, capped off today with an incredible honor.
First, I was the keynote presenter at the Lexis-Nexis customer conference; second, I chaired the West LegalEdcenter Midwest Law Firm Management Conference. And, today, I was surprised and very honored to received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from The California Bar's Law Practice Management & Technology Section! Wow, what an honor to have this new award named after me, and given to me as the first honoree.
A lawsuit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Immigration authorities for searching and even confiscating electronic devices such as laptops, cameras, media storage devices and related items. The suit, according to an LA Times article this week, was filed by the ACLU, New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, criminal defense lawyers and a student.
According to the article, the lawsuit “... says policies adopted by U.S. government agencies permit the search of all electronic devices that ‘contain information,’ including laptops, cameras, mobile phones and data storage devices.”
How is it that American citizens, despite the tragedy of 9/11, are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties so hard won over the last centuries? How is it that the government has the right to peek into our thoughts, contrasted to our actions? Thinking of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is not illegal, only doing it is.
Seen Matrix? When will the first brain dump be required by the government? If they can see and review our personal thoughts contained in our electronic journal (our laptop, etc.), how much further before they decipher the brain inside our head? What's the difference? And if we have been thinking naughty thoughts, having fantasies or otherwise thinking outside the norm, will we be “confiscated?” That’s what the government is doing now.
Lest you think this is happening to foreigners traveling on our soil, the article points out that more than 6,500 people have had their electronic devices searched since October 2008 as they cross the Canadian-U.S. border, nearly half of them are American citizens!
Where are you, Tom Paine, when we need you?
The Business of Lawâ is continuously changing— from fee structures, to marketing strategies, to client preferences. In today’s economic climate, law firms have no way to catch up once they fall behind.
The good news is that the success or failure of your firm is completely in your hands. If you learn the newest practices, develop your business plan, and understand the economic situation you’re operating in, you can achieve financial performances you’ve only dreamed of.
The good news is that the success or failure of your firm is completely in your hands. If you learn the newest practices, develop your business plan, and understand the economic situation you’re operating in, you can achieve financial performances you’ve only dreamed of.
So what’s the fastest, easiest and most innovative way to update traditional methods and boost business to the next level?
So what’s the fastest, easiest and most innovative way to update traditional methods and boost business to the next level?
Introducing the 2nd Annual Midwestern Law Firm Management Conference- The New Norm: Understanding How To Thrive in the New Economy.
Introducing the 2nd Annual Midwestern Law Firm Management Conference- The New Norm: Understanding How To Thrive in the New Economy.
Lance Armstrong, and many other celebrities, will appear on television for a national telethon, Stand Up To Cancer (no commercials). The program is scheduled for September 10 ... Check you local listings.
Law practices sometime serve up challenges. With forethought (plan) and some courage (and, yes, good fortune), we can meet and overcome the challenges we face … and thrive. Here, at the Golden Gate Bridge, we had some challenges, from heavy fog on the Bridge to narrow passages to navigate on the Vista, returning to the highway under the Bridge. While the fit was snug, we did just fine. In this case, there was no plan, some courage and, yes, good fortune.
As in many instances, including the operation of your law firm, thriving is the intersection of preparation (hard work) and good fortune. We had that on this day. What are you doing in your practice to prepare for your future?
We're in Canyonville, OR, at the Seven Feathers RV Park. This is the best RV park I've ever seen ... and they claim to be among the top 4 in the country. What a way to end the day.
We were staying in Yreka, CA, using that as a base to commute to Ashland, OR for the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Got to see two great plays, She Loves Me and Twelfth Night. Then, today, my wife said her patience will permit us to stay in one spot only for 3 days. So, we got up and left Yreka.
En route, we developed a flat tire in the trailer. Had to call Good Sam to bail us out. They were great, get us help within the hour. The RV park my wife selected not only is one of the best, but also has a truck and tire facility adjacent to it ... the only one open today, July 4th! What a coincidence. They looked at our tire; they believe it was the stem, not the tire ... and took care of it. They will even come to the RV Park tomorrow to check it again, making sure the tire pressure holds, before we embark on our next phase of the trip.
That is service! That is caring for the customer ... What have you done with your clients lately to compel them to say such things about you? His name and number will go in my book ... and should I ever need someone of his skill set anywhere in the State of Oregon, he's the first one I'll call. Will your clients and former clients call you before they call anyone else? Will they call you on behalf of their friends and colleagues before they call anyone else? If not, why not? Look inward to address your operations and client management challenges before you look outward ... Why waste your money on marketing if you can't satisfy your clients once they arrive?
Today is the first full day of a journey/vacation. We may be gone for 3 weeks+, depending on how we feel as we travel through Central and Northern California on to Northern Oregon, and then returning by way of the Pacific Coast ... My wife is a bit anxious and I'm a bit eager. For cross country purposes, this trip will be our "dry run." If we do well, next year we'll go across the country from L.A. to N.Y.
If you want to follow our trail, tune in to Facebook.
I've always believed that over a life time, there is a balance of life. But, at any one time, there is a focus on that which you're doing, not a balance. Today, and for the next few weeks, I'm going to test out whether I can focus on relaxing, "smelling the roses," and appreciating the beauty of our surroundings. Being me, of course, it's not likely that I will do no work. In fact, I've brought material with me. But I hope to do a fair amount of reading and learning en route. To me, that's balance. In fact, that's the basis of our trailer license, STESPOT.
I'm in Las Vegas on assignment. The heat index is down, making it more comfortable to walk ... The last time I was here, the city felt depressed, I think reflecting the economy. Today, the spirits of the people seem to be "up," the money flowing more loosely and the people again seeking a good time. This, too, seems to be reflecting the spirit of the country. While the feeling seems to be more subdued than before, I sense a degree of optimism not present during my last assignment here.
Since the economics of law firms follows the economics of clients, I suspect that our legal community will reflect more positive results this year, though not yet a break-through. The question becomes whether it will take another decade for the Great Recession to be only a bad memory or whether we will see a real sea change.
The "circle of life" is a concept I've heard a lot about throughout my life. To me, that means that you start in the world as a baby with dependency on others ... and you end your life with dependency on others. But, there is a difference. When you enter the world, you have a certain DNA pattern that will enable you to grow, learn, develop and contribute to others. By the time you are on the other side of the spectrum, you have contributed mightily to the betterment of others in many ways.
Note that I used the word, "spectrum." This infers a straight line, or at least the absence of a circle. John Wooden, dead just a scant 4 months before reaching 100 years of age, is a classic example of having contributed to the well-being of so many people.
Life is not circular. We need not whimper out; we need not abandon ourselves as we age. We can age gracefully and courageously. That is my hope for all of us.
Just shy of reaching 100 years of age, we have lost a great inspiration and role model in the death of John Wooden.
The last few days were spent in the peaceful environs of Tehachapi, CA with a group of Airstream trailer folks. While there, we visited Edwards Air Force Base. After seeing the new F-35, F-22 and old F-16, among other weapons of mass destruction, I walked away marveling at our ingenuity and our capacity for bending the laws of nature (to an extent) to our will. While there, we heard the breaking of the sound barrier from one of their tests. Ah, if we could only be so ingenious in finding ways for peace. One would think that we would get it right after more than 2000 years of trying.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our April contest! I hope that you all have enjoyed my new book, Growing Your Law Practice in Tough Times. If you haven’t read it already – don’t worry! There’s still time to enjoy it and share your feedback here on the blog, on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LawBizManagement), on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LawBiz), and on the book’s page here.
I am pleased to announce the winners of last month’s contest.
First Place – Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Blog will win a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Scanner, plus ½ hour coaching session with me.
Second Place – Daniela Romero of the Law Office of Daniela P. Romero in Pasadena, CA will receive ½ hour coaching session with me.
Third Place – Dan X. Nguyen of the Law Office of Dan X. Nguyen in Fountain Valley, CA will receive my set of 4 Special Reports (electronic versions).
Congratulations to all!
Growing Your Law Practice in Tough Times is available for sale at West’s webpage here. Keep reading LawBizBlog for more contests and opportunities to win LawBiz® prizes.
In the recent California Lawyer’s Annual Professional Liability Insurance Report, the writer quotes the ABA. Their study shows that 44,000 claims were lodged against insured lawyers nationally within the study’s three year period. Of this group, “...(s)olos and smaller firms were sued the most: 70 percent of all insurance claims were brought against lawyers in firms with one to five attorneys.”
I suppose this was the basis for arguing that lawyers either need malpractice insurance or should disclose to their clients that they don’t have such insurance. Yet, if 70% of the legal community works in the small firm environment, wouldn’t it make sense that 70% of the claims would be filed against this goup?
Despite these statistics, there is no study ever cited that shows how many claims, IF ANY, were filed against the approximately 30,000 (20%) attorneys in California who do not carry malpractice insurance. There is no study to conclude they have claims filed against them; there is no study to conclude they have been unable to negotiate settlements with their aggrieved clients, if any; there is no study to conclude these are “bad” or negligent attorneys from whom the public needs protection.
Despite this, the Bar (now about 23 states) has moved forward in lock-step to punish this group of attorneys by increasing their already marginal cost of operation and forcing them to become adversarial with their prospective clients by having this discussion.
Clever lawyers who may seek to avoid the negative consequences of this new rule can take a number of alternative paths to side-step the issue. They can obtain the most minimal policy, the true net effect of which will leave nothing for the client at the end of any malpractice litigation. They can bury the required disclosure language in a long written engagement agreement, seldom read by clients, thus avoiding the necessity of raising the issue with the client. Among other tactics.
As in other instances, the Bar fails to protect its members who pay their salaries and fails to protect the public by availing attorneys with affordable negligence insurance.
Welcome to LawBizBlog’s new contest in celebration of my new book Growing Your Law Practice in Tough Times. With the book hot-off-the-press, I thought we should have some fun this month and give away some exciting prizes.
What is the contest?
The contest will run for the entire month of April. At the end of the month, participants’ names will be drawn out of a hat raffle style to determine the first, second, and third place winners – and announced here on the blog.
How do you get your name in the hat?
To get your name in the hat ONE TIME:
- become a fan of LawBiz Management on Facebook (www.facebook.com/LawBizManagement)
- follow LawBiz Management on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LawBiz)
- be sure to leave a message on the Facebook wall or send an @ message to LawBiz announcing that you’re LawBiz’s newest fan!
To get your name in the hat THREE TIMES:
- take a fun picture of you with the book and post it on Facebook or Twitter (be sure to @LawBiz Management so we know you posted)
- post the picture on your own blog or website (be sure to post link on our Facebook wall!)
To get your name in the hat FIVE TIMES:
- read the book and write a review. Post it on our publisher’s website. Follow this link: http://west.thomson.com/productdetail/163575/40930118/productdetail.aspx
- post the link to your review on our Facebook.
What can you win?
FIRST PRIZE: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Scanner, plus ½ hour coaching session with Ed
SECOND PRIZE: ½ hour coaching session with Ed
THIRD PRIZE: Set of 4 Special Reports, written by Ed (find all 4 at store.lawbiz.com/books.php)
Remember, you have all month to enter (but that doesn't mean you should wait)!
I actually saw it! It was shown on NBC television. I was young (not THAT young) and actually believed it for several years.
The BBC reported on April 1, 1957 that Swiss farmers were harvesting a huge spaghetti crop due to the near-elimination of the spaghetti weevil. Coverage showed peasants picking spaghetti from trees!
This was confirmed by USA Today on April 1, 1995.
I'll be in Chicago and would like to get together with my clients and colleagues for breakfast on Friday, April 9th, from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. If you're near the downtown/Loop area, let me know.
Breakfast will be on me! And we can chit chat about the challenges your practice faces in today's environment. Send me an e-mail r.s.v.p. (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll designate the location by return email. I look forward to seeing y'all.
Ed Flitton, 67, formerly the managing partner of Holland & Hart in Colorado and the Finance chair of the ABA's Law Practice Management Section, died suddenly while at the ABA's LegalTech Show. I was there and just saw Ed on Friday, the day before he died. While I remember thinking he looked a bit more tired and a bit older than his usual self, there was no indication of illness. Wow! What a shocker!
This gives more meaning to two guiding principles that I do my best to live by, sometimes more successfully than others: i) Do what you enjoy doing; life is not split into work and personal lives. Life is one and enjoy what you do or go do something else. ii) Take care of yourself, no one else will. Eat well (healthy), exercise and get up every morning with a smile.
No one knows what tomorrow (heck, the balance of today) will bring. If you're doing what you enjoy, then when the time comes, you'll at least be in a good place. My condolences go out to the Flitton family.
Welcome to the third LawBiz® photo caption contest! In honor of Legal Assistant’s Day this Friday, March 26, I thought I’d host another contest. The first two contests were such successes, so this time use your creativity to show appreciation to your hard-working legal teams.
Of course, the ever-popular Bandit is once again the subject of the photo. I know Bandit will be celebrating Legal Assistant’s Day this Friday, will you? Be creative, be serious, be funny – post whatever you think the caption for this photo should be!
At the end of the contest period, we’ll choose a winner who will receive a FREE copy of my new book just released by West last week Growing Your Law Practice in Tough Times, as well as a FREE ½ hour consultation with me.
There are a few rules to this contest, so please take note:
- No more than five (5) entries may be submitted per person. Limit of one (1) per day.
- Entries should be submitted as comments and must include e-mail addresses.
- Entries must be received by 5pm PST on Friday, March 26, 2010 to be considered.
- No lewd language or vulgarities. Such language will disqualify entry and will be removed by the administrator.
- Have fun!
A winner will be picked by Monday, March 29, 2010 and announced here on the blog. Good luck!
Yesterday, I had a colonoscopy procedure. All's well that ends well. <g>
Yesterday, I spent the day with my daughter, Deena, who became certified as a Physical Therapy, Women's Health Certified Specialist. She was among a charter group of only 61 physical therapists in the country, 6 in California, who qualified for this specialization. I'm a very proud father ... :-)
It was great to spend the day with her, see her interact with her peers and witness her receiving the specialization certificate on the stage. What a day!
In the teleseminar today sponsored by West LegalEdcenter and LawBiz Management, we heard from 3 recent graduates. Their comments were poignant. Law school deans and management should take heed, listen to these comments and then take action.
For the first time, prospective law school students are considering the economics ... they are conducting a cost benefit analysis ... considering their return on investment (ROI). And some are saying the ROI is not good enough.
What is your opinion? What are the considerations that would cause you to go to law school today?
And, if you're a lawyer, what did your law school do or not do that prepared you for today's real world in the legal profession?
The following is a comment from a very successful consultant, Alan Weiss, one who has had experience with both large corporations and individual executives and consultants: "Small businesses employ far more people than major corporations, and they create many more net, new jobs than do Fortune 1000 companies. They are the real engine of the economy. ... They are poorly treated at the moment by the banks and the government."
Sole practitioners and small firms comprise between 65% and 80% of the profession, depending on whose statistics you believe. One would think that the Bar would be advocating for these members and focusing their educational efforts to help this group of lawyers improve the economics of their practices. Somehow, as suggested by Weiss above, this body of lawyers is "poorly treated ... "
If a dispute over fees every arises in the future (as it did in the Pete Wilson, California Governor era), don't be surprised if the Bar fails to garner support from this group.
California has new rules. If you're part of an HMO, doctors will be required to treat patients within 10 business days of the patient's phone call; and patients seeking urgent care that does not require prior authorization must be seen within 48 hours! Telephone calls to doctors' offices will have to be returned within 30 minutes!
This is in response to a 2002 law that mandated more timely access to medical care.
Can you imagine the State mandating that lawyers respond timely? That people have timely access to legal care? We now have mandated legal care iin criminal matters where the defendant can't afford a lawyer. And, California is experimenting with providing the same rights in selected civil matters.
In medical care, it seems that government intervention is required in order to provide timely and effective care. When will lawyers learn to do that which is right ... providing effective legal care on a timely basis for their clients ... without Bar or government intervention? And when will the Bar understand that its members are lawyers, not clients, and truly seek to help lawyers effectively deal with the economic challenges they face?
In a recent article, I suggested that bar associations offer a specialization certificate in law practice management:
Congratulations to Phil A. Taylor of Taylor Law Office in Stoneham, MA! He submitted the winning caption, which you can see below. Anthony will receive a LawBiz® Media Pack and a free ½ hour consulting session with me.
Thanks again to everyone who participated. While fewer captions were submitted than before, they were all great nonetheless, and the decision was tough.
Remember, The Business of Law, 2nd ed., along with all of my other books and products, are available for sale at our website.
When I think of the entrepreneurial spirit, I think of the hardy folks of the early 1900s, or earlier, but not the 1960s. Yet, in the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, I learned of just such a spirit in the body of Bill Keys.
We (my wife, Bandit, our Airstream, and I) have been spending the last few days in Twenty Nine Palms, home of the largest Marine training base in the U.S., adjacent to the National Park. We joined an Airstream rally.
Among other activities, we toured the ranch owned and operated by Bill Keys and now under the control of the Forest Service. His is a remarkable story. He survived off the land, gained control of water in the area (a rare commodity in this area), filed numerous gold mine claims and leased them to others to do the back-breaking work (perhaps an early franchisor), among other ventures. He sold his land to a friend, making money on the transaction. The friend wanted to create an recreational vehicle resort; this idea had to be abandoned, however, for lack of water. He swapped the land with the U.S. Forest Service for land in the San Diego area, later to be the location of the San Diego Chargers stadium ... he parlayed a small investment into quite a fortune!
With a view to the future and persistent effort (and, of course, some luck!), even lawyers can grab the entrepreneurial spirit and thrive!
As you read this on the first working day of a new decade, it is clear that our profession has been buffeted with many challenges. There is considerable discussion about whether we will ever have "business as usual" again or whether change (however great that may turn out to be) will be permanent.. However, it is clear that lawyers who listen to their clients and adapt their approach to the delivery of legal services to their clients wants will thrive. Those who ignore their clients and focus only on their own needs will ultimately fail.
Which will you be? To help you analyze what you're doing now and what you may want to do to become more effective with your clients, more efficient in delivering your legal services and more profitable, consider engaging a coach. A skilled, independent and objective person working with you can create a shortcut for your success.
Best wishes for a great new year!
Welcome to the second LawBiz® photo caption contest! The first contest was such a success, so I thought I’d host another. And, since Bandit was so popular before, he has once again become the subject of the photo. Be creative, be serious, be funny – post whatever you think the caption for this photo should be!
At the end of the contest period, we’ll choose a winner who will receive a FREE LawBiz® Media Pack, including my Small Firm Logistics 3-CD set and my Exit Strategy DVD, as well as a FREE ½ hour consultation with me.
There are a few rules to this contest, so please take note:
- No more than five (5) entries may be submitted per person. Limit of one (1) per day.
- Entries should be submitted as comments and must include e-mail addresses.
- Entries must be received by 5pm PST on Friday, December 18, 2009 to be considered.
- No lewd language or vulgarities. Such language will disqualify entry and will be removed by the administrator.
- Have fun!
A winner will be picked by Monday, January 4, 2010 and announced here on the blog. Good luck!
It has been suggested that I was a bit harsh in asserting that sole practitioners are not competent.
Far from that! Many sole practitioners are the leading experts in their practice area. In fact, most lawyers are sole practitioners, even those that find themselves in BigLaw environments. There are few law firms that are truly collegial in nature.
Nor do I think that law school graduates leaving school to start their own practice immediately are necessarily incompetent. What is true, however, is that they are less competent than they will be a few years hence ... and generally they have few, if any, colleagues to guide them through the murky competency waters of law practice. That being said, however, the nature of the cases "new" lawyers take on tend to be matters where they can learn the needed skills as they grow in their practice, without prejudice to clients. And everyone is benefited, the client who may receive service at a lower price and the lawyer who learns on the job ... the point being that he/she learns and is better for the following client.
Because of the financial difficulties faced by law firms in the last couple of years, with declining client demand, declining revenue and declining profitability, the nature of the profession is changing ... and private apprentice programs are being developed. If these are successful ... and I have every reason to believe that programs like Howrey's will be ... law schools and bar associations may be motivated to participate in developing meaningful apprenticeship programs and perhaps even change the requirements for becoming a lawyer.
Something to watch on the landscape while others such as Richard Susskind actually challenge the very foundation of today's law firm business model.
As an aside, but on the subject of the economic impact of being a sole practitioner, I encourage you to participate in an upcoming West LegalEdcenter tele-seminar on the issue of required disclosure to clients of the lack of malpractice insurance. This is a topic that impacts, almost exclusively, about 20% of the lawyer population, almost all solos, in approximately 23 states. These State Bars have given only lip service to helping sole practitioners while at the same time adopting mandatory malpractice insurance disclosure with significant economic consequences, among many other similar increased cost programs.
I also encourage you to join our new community for lawyers at http://www.lawbizforum.com and invite your colleagues as well to express your legitimate opinions and concerns of the profession.
Happy 99! ... and many more.
He continues to lead Bruins all over the world by his inspired thinking ... and example of an outstanding citizen of the world.
"Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow."
"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
... and of course, his Pyramid of Success.
Congratulations to Anthony Bushnell of Minnesota! He submitted the winning caption, which you can see above. Anthony will receive a copy of The Business of Law (2nd edition) and a free ½ hour consulting session with me.
Thanks again to everyone who participated. There were many great captions, which made the decision tough.
Remember, The Business of Law, 2nd ed., along with all of my other books and products, are available for sale at our web site.
Welcome to the first ever LawBiz® photo caption contest! All week you’ll have the opportunity to post captions for the picture above of the newest edition to my family, Bandit, a 2-3 year old boxer. Be creative, be serious, be funny – post whatever you think the caption for this photo should be.
At the end of the contest period, we’ll choose a winner who will receive a FREE copy of my book The Business of Law2nd ed., (valued at $120) and a FREE ½ hour consultation with me.
There are a few rules to this contest, so please take note:
· No more than five (5) entries may be submitted per person. Limit of one (1) per day.
· Entries should be submitted as comments and must include email addresses.
· Entries must be received by 5pm PST on Friday, September 25, 2009 to be considered.
· No lewd language or vulgarities. Such language will disqualify entry and will be removed by the administrator.
· Have fun!
A winner will be picked by Wednesday, September 30, 2009 and announced here on the blog. Good luck!
See the newest edition to our family. It's been 10 years since our dog died and my wife refused to get another because of the emotional pain and suffering. But, suddenly, after we saw perhaps the most elegant Boxer I've ever seen during our maiden voyage in the Airstream, my wife suddenly changed course ... and we now have our own majestic rescue Boxer, age 2 to 3 years. The addition certainly will alter our lives in ways we can't yet even imagine. He's smart, good looking and very energetic. <g>
Could the addition of the right staff person or attorney similarly revitalize your law practice?
My wife calls this our satellite office. We've taken delivery of our 1968 Vintage Airstream trailer ... 1968 on the outside, 2009 on the inside. And I'm working on a new manuscript to be delivered to West Pub. next month.
The last month has been a bit rough.
We buried my sister-in-law in Oak Grove, MO, just outside of KC.
On returning home, my son-in-law went to the hospital with a heart attack. It was mild an he's doing fine now. He's eager to get back on his bike.
My brother-in-law had chest pains and went to the hospital with chest pains, announcing that he would die in the same hospital as his wife just did. He's physcially fine but in deep depression over the loss of his wife of more than 50 years.
And last Friday, while I was out of town, flying to a conference, my wife went to the hospital with chest pains. She, too, is now fine; all the tests proved negative. Doctor's prescription: R & R.
So, we're taking a few days in our just delivered Airstream trailer, or as my wife calls it, her "cocoon." Thanks for your good wishes and support.
Funny, Paula changed our food regimen about 4, 5 weeks ago ... we're now vegan/vegetarian ... no meat, chicken or dairy ... seemed like that would have been impossible ... but she's cooking up a storm and I haven't eaten so well, ever! My mother, who in her youth was vegetarian (my father was meat and potatoes, and occasional tomatoes as his only vegetable), would be turning over in her grave if she were able to see how well I'm eating now. Paula has lost weight already, probably about 10 pounds though we don't know for sure because she doesn't know her starting point ... and I've lost about 6-7 pounds ... without losing energy (and I'm faster on my bike) or strength ...
I've asserted that there is no "balance" in life; at any given moment, we are focused on one activity or thought. But, we live one life and we must think holistically, taking time each day or each week, to rest and take care of ourselves. We are living in very stressful time with tremendous economic pressure. Without our health, we have little. Paraphrasing the commercial, please take care of yourself. I'd like you to come back here to read more.
In the case of Robert Bowman, New York judges overruled the Bar's entrance committee. He lacks the requisite character and fitness to be a lawyer, according to the judges, because of his extensive student loans accumulated over 26 years of study. He will not be granted the license to practice law.
Because of a very tough youth and at least two major accidents that required extensive rehabilitation, his education was extended ... and during that time, Mr. Bowman accumulated somewhere between $270,000 and $400,000 in student loans. He admits to not paying any of it back ... yet. He needs a job to do so. He's passed the bar and been deemed to be morally fit and of good character by the entrance committee. Oh, yes, except for the student loans he's not repaid or even paid down. (A side question might be, who made such loans, and why? But, I digress.)
As with a number of our politicians of recent note, I find it both interesting and disturbing when small-minded (yes, I know, this is a moral characterization) people sit in judgment on others on issues of this nature. Mr. Bowman apparently faced incredible physical odds in his life, not of his own making, and overcame them. But, in the process, he needed financial help.
I guess it was just bad timing for Mr. Bowman. Because had he accumulated this debt after he were licensed, and then went into bankruptcy, there would be nothing said about his character fitness. Before today, I had not experienced lawyers going into bankruptcy. Today, that is no longer an uncommon occurrence. In fact, bankruptcy is an approved strategy to avoid debt payment, used by a number of large law firms, including the Heller Ehrmann firm recently ... to avoid payment of the firm's lease obligations ... and therefore protecting the financial interests of their equity partners who might otherwise be exposed to collection efforts. I have difficulty understanding why the lawyers of Heller are morally fit to practice law, owing millions of dollars, and Mr. Bowman is unfit because of a few hundred thousand dollars.
Oh, and how about some of the lawyers in our community who give the profession a bad name by virtue of the way they practice, and the scams they pull on their clients ... and theft from client trust accounts that result in slaps on the hand or temporary suspensions? No, that seems to be o.k., but somehow, Mr. Bowman's case is different.
Perhaps moral integrity and character fitness should be grounds at least every five years for investigating every lawyer who renews his/her license. After all, don't we do that when we renew our driver's license?
Today, I'm a super proud parent (though I'm always proud of my kids!)
My daughter received a certification as a WCS (Women's Health Certified Specialist), 1 of only about 50 in the country.
Take a look at today's WSJ in the Personal Journal section ... talks about our personal critic ... our worst enemy ... and suggests that challenges to our self-esteem are so devastating to our well-being. This may be one of the most important lessons I've learned and re-learned ... and continue to deal with ... in recent years! I always knew it, but never put it in the right context before listening to my coach. Self-esteem goes beyond the bravado attributed to lawyers and that has been dubbed "arrogance" by those outside the legal community.
Just one of many benefits I've received over the last few years from being in my own business coaching program with someone I trust and have a high regard for.
Self-worth may be more important than any other attribute. It allows one to hold one's head high, a very important angle for the human anatomy.
I competed in two events at the Senior Olympics held this week in Los Angeles. I previously reported my results. I've been thinking further about the process of the competition and came up with ideas about how the competition relates to my life, and the lives of many people in our profession. Below is how I see the Senior Olympics on the one hand and how they are a metaphor in real life. If you have other events in your life that you care to share, please write me.Continue Reading...
Just returned from the 10K … can’t believe I did it … yesterday's 5K was 10:03 minutes; today's 10K was 19:57 minutes… Today equalled two 5Ks, back to back. And my time for the first half of today's ride was 6 seconds faster than the time from yesterday … With my average speed for twice the distance today being the same 18.4/18.5 mph. Verry good for me...
So, I did better than I’ve ever done. I wasn't first, but I wasn't last. I was 8th out of 9 in yesterday’s competition … a bummer … but then I was ahead of thousands who didn’t even show up …
Tomorrow, I ride in the cycling 5K Time Trial event of the Senior Olympics. This will be my third competition on the bike in my life, and I'm eager to ride. I chose to ride the Time Trials rather than the road races because I want to compete against myself without fear of an accident. Lance Armstrong can go down in a road race, but then he's riding for millions of dollars; I'm riding for fun!
I'll let you know how I did. :-)
I normally refrain from any political observation or commentary. But, in a speech in front of the US Constitution, President Obama made an important observation. President Obama said: "Prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man.."
In other words, if several people agree, we can imprison people without charges and without power. In Britain, 28 days is the longest someone can be detained without charges. Wow! I didn't really appreciate the discussion in England when Tony Blair proposed 3 months' detention as the maximum detention without being charged with a crime. The House of Commons finally adopted a 28 days standard. I guess I figured that discussion was there, and we don't have that here, so not my problem.
But, we now have it here!!!!
I'm sorry, but threat of future criminal activity has never been allowed in the US ... But, then, perhaps I'm too much of a Constitution stickler ... Some might call this "too liberal." I call it "conservative." Conserving the principles of our founding ancestors who left such behavior to create a new, safer and more open society.
What happened to us?
Yesterday, I took my restored 1983 Porsche Cabriollet out for a spin. I've always loved this car, but some of its aging has caused me to enjoy it less. No more! It's as fit as new, even with a new coat of paint.
I returned to the car from an appointment. As I was standing there, opening the door and getting ready to get in and return home, a garbage truck pulled up next to me. All kinds of images went through my head, but I certainly didn't expect what happened next.Continue Reading...
In today's WSJ, there is an article about a blogger being sued for defamation. There is greater leeway for "reporters," and this may be a threshold case. Is a blogger a "reporter" or "journalist" that would provide the writer with greater latitude? But, even reporters cannot defame others. As a regular blogger, I will be interested in the outcome of this case.
I just received this note from a Michigan Circuit Court Judge ... Her comments are well taken.
I am a Circuit Court Judge in Lenawee County. I want to thank you for your comments in the May 18, 2009 Michigan Lawyer's Weekly Coach's Corner encaptioned "Arrogance Of Lawyers."
I grow increasingly concerned about the inability/unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their actions or their failure to act in many cases. I served as a Probate Judge before being elected to the Circuit Court. I know our adults are sending a dangerous message and setting a bad example for our children. I have often said "accept responsibility for your actions, put on your big girl/boy pants and move on."
Thank you for summing it all up. I will investigate your other writing at the Lawbiz website.
What do you do when you reach 60 years of age, are a partner in a major law firm, and suddenly get laid off? More than 4,000 lawyers and 6,000 staff persons are facing this dilemma.
One such lawyer went to the extreme. As I've said previously, we are in a depression, not just a recession. And with that, as in the 1930s, people take drastic steps, even life-ending steps, when the one involved sees no way out of the depression. Heather Milligan puts a gentle spin on this; she suggests that we are more than economics ... we are people with hopes, fears and aspirations. How does the organization meld all of this during hard economic times? A tough challenge for all.Continue Reading...
Recently, I had cause to complain to the Motel 6 chain.
I had requested a non-smoking room. Yet, it was clear that many people had smoked in this room before. On departure, I complained to the agent at the desk. She expressed her sympathy with my failed expectations and said that she had proposed to management that they assess a penalty against anyone who smoked in their room. But, her idea had been rejected.
So, I wrote a letter to both the president of the parent company, Accor, and to their customer service department. Quickly, in the same day, I received a response. In fact, two responses, one from the corporate headquarters and one from the regional supervisor. Both, however, were form and electronically generated letters. I have yet to hear from the president.
It is clear that I am not the first person to complain about this ... and it is also clear that this hotel chain is not willing to follow other major chains that have converted all their properties to non-smoking venues. The light of Motel 6, Tom Bodett notwithstanding, will no longer be lighted for me, however.
I’m reminded of a sales mantra by this exchange between me and the hotel. An objection or complaint is a way to further engage the customer; it’s a way to learn what the customer really wants and to provide it. Here, by merely sending form responses, Motel 6 has missed an opportunity to engage me in a serious way. They do not feel my pain, they do not understand the seriousness of their action to my health and they have done nothing to make me want to return to do business with them.
What are you doing in your law firm to engage your clients? What are you doing to understand what your clients want? And how are you handling any complaints that the clients might be raising for your consideration?
It's that time of year again, April 1st.
The greatest April Fools' Day joke was the Swiss spaghetti harvest. In 1957, the BBC said Swiss farmers ere harvesting a huge spaghetti crop due to the near-elimination of the spaghetti weevil. Coverage showed peasants picking spaghetti from trees.
I believed this hoax. As a kid, what did I know? And, if it were on television, it had to be true! I've learned a lot since then. But, I believed this story for years ....
What hoax's are floating around in your law office on this day? How long have they been floating around? Do you want to perpetuate them, or clean them up and enhance the morale of your colleagues? You do have the choice on how your firm operates, even in a depressed economy.
The other day, I was cycling up Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, NV.
I went from about 2500 feet to 4713 feet. En route, the road was rolling hills. So, sometimes I went down, but then there was an ascent next ... all the way to the top, about 7.75 miles from the start.
Before I reached the top, however, I was complaining to myself about how hard this ride was ... and whether I could complete the ride as I had intended. When I reached the final plateau, not having ever ridden there before, I was not sure that was the top. I thought there were more rolling hills ahead of me. I asked a couple of cyclists who were descending. When they told me this was the top, I was elated I had made it to the top, relieved that the pain of the trek was over and quite surprised at how hard I had fought with myself.
How many of our clients don’t realize or appreciate the success we bring to the table for them? What have you done to educate them about the process of your representation? I was fighting myself because I had never been in Red Rock Canyon before. Most of your clients have never been involved in the judicial process before. And even sophisticated clients with previous involvement don't truly appreciate what lies ahead. What have you done to show them a preview of what’s to come? What have you done to make their journey easier? What have you done to shine a flashlight on the road in front of them?
When you shine the flashlight, and they still agree to move forward, the likelihood is that they will pay you your full fee without question and promptly in accordance with your engagement agreement.
Use the flashlight!
Seth Godin suggests an interesting question:
"Travel agents... gone.
Stock brokers... gone.
Real estate brokers... in trouble. Photographer's agents, too.
The problem with being a helpful, efficient but largely anonymous middleman is pretty obvious. Someone can come along who is cheaper, faster and more efficient. And that someone might be the customer aided by a computer."
We've seen this happen in the legal community. Many more people are representing themselves, pro se, because they can't afford lawyers or ... heaven help us ... they can serve their own interests just as well as the lawyer.
Lawyers must bring creativity, judgment and experience to the table to maintain their position in the affiars of business. Being a commodity, or being "run of the mill," just isn't enough anymore. And a major differentiating factor for most clients is the "care and feeding" offered by lawyers. Impersonal and expensive (a relative term) is no longer accepted. We've got to move past the point where the single largest complaint against lawyers is their failure to return phone calls, the failure to respond quickly to the concerns, wants and needs of the client. Until that happens, the legal profession is in jeopardy of losing its franchise.
I knew there was a reason for us to get into an Airstream. For those who have followed our adventures, here's how we now feel.
Bruce Crist, mentioned in my previous blog post, sent me another note. Seems I'm wrong again.
I mentioned that California attorneys are required to take 12.5 hours per year. The actual requirement is that lawyers receive 25 hours (down from 36 by recent amendment) of MCLE approved education. That works out to be, according to C.P.A. Bruce, 8.33 hours per year.
And Bruce admits that this is less than plumbers are required to take in MA. Bruce says now that plumbers are required to have 44% more education than most lawyers. Taking a line from Bruce, "... and the point is?" I made my point earlier.
Bruce, thanks for the "joust" and for reading my article.
Have a great day!
Our economy is in the doldrums ... or better said, we're experiencing a depression. Signs abound. From unemployment exceeding 10% and more in some areas, to now thousands of lawyers and staff terminated from the large firms. Who knows how many more there are in small firms ...
One large firm managing partner cited an even more frightening fact: Many lawyers have been given generous severance packages in order to obtain liability waivers/releases and to keep the goodwill of those departing. In other words, they won't feel the impact for 6 to 12 months after leaving. We will see a ripple effect. As bad as it is now, it will get worse .... Unless the federal government is able to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
Our country was built with credit. One of the major thrusts for the Obama administration is to get banks to start lending again. Banks didn't do this with the first half of the major funding passed in the Bush administration. They horded the money to protect their own balance sheet. Will they do it with the second half, and with other bailout handouts?
Today, I had a conversation with a banker. He said that the federal regulators are requiring a higher capital input from the buyer than ever before. "In the old days" (not that long ago), one could buy a building for very little down payment (10%, e.g.), Today, loan to value ratio has to be 30% and in many cases 40 and 50% This is not the way to growth.
With this type of stagnation of credit, one can be assured that the prices for real estate will continue to slide downward with ever greater consequences. And with continued worsening of our finances, law firms and lawyers will be further impact. If we have too many lawyers today for the work available (as discussed in an earlier post), demand will continue to shrink, and additional law firm layoffs will result.
Wearing the Bruins logo, I "trucked" up a canyon in the Buellton, CA area last week. It was a great riding week.
Pushing oneself to improve is the essence of our journey here. Helping others is the essence of being a lawyer. And continuing professional education enables us to be better qualified to help others. In one survey after another, staff have said that they make job decisions, all other things being equal, based on the availability of paid education support by the firm for staff as well as for lawyers.
Think about what skills your staff should have to better serve your clients; how can you provide more education to your staff to enhance these skills?
I recently returned from a week in the Santa Ynez Valley, CA area. The purpose of my vacation was to ride a bike with 35 others from around the world who were similarly enthusiastic about cycling, plus coaches and staff. The Amgen Tour of California started in Northern California and went south, passing through this area (Solvang, Los Olivos and surrounding communities). I watched the Tour’s time trial held in the valley. It was exciting to see Lance Armstrong and other elite cyclists pitting themselves against the clock to see who was the fastest.
Armstrong finished 12th in the time trial, one of his specialties before retiring 4 years ago. And he finished the overall Tour in 7th. In other words, in two races he's entered (the other last month in Australia), he's finished in the top 10 ... after only a few months of training ... and 2 competitive races! And he is 37 years old, an age past which most cyclists are not seen in competition. What a remarkable achievement.
From a psychological perspective, the man is unhappy at not finishing higher up the ladder, because he has such high expectations of himself. He has to continually be coached to greater success as well as to recognize his progress, to keep reality in place. His plan is working and is on target.
Trust the plan. Work the plan. Good advice for Lance Armstrong, a winner in all respects. And good advice for lawyers wanting to achieve greater success.
Prepare a plan. Work the plan. Trust the plan. Make adjustments where and when appropriate as you progress through the benchmarks of your plan.
Today, we rode in the rain and cold, just like the pros did in the Amgen's Tour of California. Being from Southern California, it was particularly hard for me since we have so many warm, sunny days - so few rainy days that I stay in when it rains. Even had to go out and buy rain gear!
But, it's great ... the people are outstanding professionals who understand their customers pleasure in cycling and do everything in their power to address the wants and needs of the customers. Boy, what a lesson lawyers could take from this experience.
In the State Bar meeting referred to in a recent post, I was the one who raised the issue ... who are we talking about when we ask questions like "affordability" and "availability" of malpractice insurance? These folks were not mentioned by name ... it's the approximately 18% of the California Bar, 30,000, who have no malpractice insurance. If we don't mention them specifically, we can draw all kinds of conclusions ... they're not good lawyers, they're marginal folks, they are the ones clogging the disciplinary system, etc. Yet, there is no empirical data to this effect.
The Bar wants to survey lawyers to determine why they don't have insurance (they'll never send surveys to these people, I'll bet!). They want to find out what lawyers think is affordable malpractice insurance ... how much are you willing to pay to be covered against claims against you from clients. Response to this question should be interesting, though I'm not sure how illuminating, since the market place will govern anyway. And there seems to be no political will to create a mandatory State-wide program.
I was invited to join this group because of my original vocal opposition to the concept of forcing lawyers (these very same 30,000) to affirmatively tell their prospective clients (the word used is "disclose," as though it otherwise were a deep, hidden secret) that they have no malpractice insurance.
Someone referred to this group, after a bit of discussion, as "Ed's People." I was flattered to be their representative. But, throughout the conversation, I think it was intended as a pejorative, as though these 30,000 lawyers were not successful ... and perhaps didn't deserve the same protection and service as other lawyers in the Bar. Rather, it is the "public" that deserves the protection of the Bar. Who will preserve the rights of these 30,000, "Ed's People?"
Am I being paranoid?
I came from an immigrant family as many people in my generation did, and still do. Growing up, my parents were involved in the labor movement and unemployment insurance was a big deal. In today’s context, unemployment insurance s hardly significant. But, don’t tell that to the many who are seeking this benefit and can’t crash through the long lines and busy telephone lines.
NPR did a piece today on what unemployment insurance is today and what it means.
Here are some statistics that I find fascinating, and which I did not previously appreciate. There are about 10 million unemployed workers, about half of them being in only eight states including California, Florida, Michigan and New York. There are millions more who don’t even qualify because they were self-employed or have been out of work too long ... they sort of get lost in the system.
For those who don't yet subscribe by RSS feed or direct e-mail, our current edition of LawBiz® Tips for this week is now posted.
The Edge Annual Question Center asks the question for 2009: What will change everything?
Profound question, indeed. And the answers are equally profound. Scroll down the pages and see the responses from the brightest minds of our time ... my head was swimming just reading the titles of the responses.
Thank you Matt Homann for bringing this to my attention.
Bankruptcy will be an important practice area for the legal profession, obviously, in 2009 and 2010, as we continue to move through the major upheaval in our economy. And our law firms will benefit. Many are now seeking to bolster their bankruptcy practice groups.
Many are now seeking to bolster their bankruptcy practice groups.
However, one aspect I did not expect was that lawyers and law firms will likewise face economic hardships … And I'm not addressing the obvious issues coming from the collapse (for other reasons of the large firms such as Heller, et al.).
I'm addressing the more mundane, the traditional, average lawyer, the lawyers that make up the bulk of our profession. When these lawyers are in trouble, the entire profession needs to wake up and pay attention.
I was just contacted by an attorney asking me to value a law firm for purposes of the lawyer’s personal bankruptcy. His law practice is an asset of his personal estate. Times are hard when the helpers need help themselves.
I like Seth Godin's response to this question:
"We spend so much time smoothing things out, we lose the opportunity for change, or for texture or creativity. Instead of working so hard to make everything okay, perhaps it is more helpful to work hard at living with a world that rarely is."
When things are out of sync, that is the time to seek change for improvement ... what a concept!
I don't know about you, but I've never really been taught how to live with tumult and "not o.k." Another term for this is conflict avoidance, a phenomenon that most people understand and seek to emulate. How do we live in a world with conflict and still be o.k.?
What is the normal state of affairs in your law office? Piled on top of the anxiety of your clients and the pressures of seeking the best results possible for your clients, how does your team fare? Do you have a peaceful place of work where everyone likes and respects one another, treats one another as a healthy family? Or is there something missing from this picture? And, if yes, what can you do to change the picture? That might be a good project for 2009!
Forty years after the Pueblo was captured by North Korea, the sailors received judgment for damages. This merely gives the sailors a piece of paper. Go collect! Not, that's the rub. And ask the Goldman family how much of their 33 million dollar judgment they've received from the assets of O.J. Simpson.
In the beginning of 2009, we need to hearken back to the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" The obvious answer is "no." But, litigation may not be the best answer either; it's certainly not the only answer.
Law firms, even the major law firms (like Heller used to be), whose litigation work makes up more than 50% of their revenue, will need to focus on greater diversity in their offerings if they want to protect their future. More than 10% in any one area always puts a business at risk. Sometimes the risk pays well; sometimes it doesn't. Just ask the lawyers who were at Heller about the high times and then the implosion.
AmLaw Daily, in an article by Susan Beck, writes about a recent conference on innovation and the law. Here is an excerpt from that article, the third in a series of three:
Several professors complained that the American Bar Association--and its outdated accreditation standards--is the main bulwark against innovation.
Last week, I attended a self-esteem conference conducted by Alan Weiss. The lack thereof is one of the most debilitating psychological factors affecting so many people, even very educated and successful people.
The conference, held in Rhode Island, was well worth the travel. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it caused significant introspection; most people shared their experiences and concerns as well. That, alone, was worth attending. We found out that many of us share the same journey, a sharing that seldom occurs, even with loved ones.
Here are some learning points suggested by Alan:
I like the thinking of Patrick J. Lamb who, in August 2008, said that a lawyer can negotiate a fixed fee even in litigation. In other words, he contests the old rubric that since one doesn’t know what the “other side” will do in litigation, fixing a fee is not possible. He also suggests that creating a budget for litigation doesn’t guarantee a profit, just that the lawyer will not bill more than the budget.
But, the point that Mr. Lamb raises is that no business is guaranteed a profit. Yet, ...
Today's economic numbers are scary. Nearly 10% of our employment is in the retail sector; and 25% of jobs lost since November 2007 are from this sector. Looks like a bleak holiday season is approaching. Years ago, 5% unemployment was thought to be the right amount for fluidity in the economy. For a long time, now, that number has been substantially lower, giving rise to some inflationary pressures. Today, however, we're looking at a current 6.5%, likely to increase to 8 to 10%!
Years ago, I visited China. I saw many people employed as manual laborers. I was told they were being kept busy to allow them to have their dignity and self-respect in contributing to the well - being of the society. They could have mechanized much of what they did, but that would have meant even greater unemployment. I remember thinking that the amount of their unemployment was equal to the entire population of our country!
Today, China is investing heavily in its infra-structure by building highways and public buildings to aid its economy and, as a result, the world economies. This same tactic was used by Pres. Eisenhower in the 1950s and is being discussed today as part of our economic alternative solutions. This also was a favorite tactic of FDR in the 1930s. It has worked. And we do need infra-structure repairs as evidenced by falling bridges and highway potholes.
While the numbers are scary, now that the election is behind us, perhaps we can come together to focus on what unites us and will allow us to achieve improvements. Perhaps we can put our differences (political party, gender, special interests, etc.) aside for awhile. I keep returning to Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" Only by doing so will be come out of the depths of economic depression.
As lawyers, our challenge will be to serve a society with a shrinking economic base. But, where there is change, there is generally opportunity. We just need to stay alert to see the opportunities in front of us. Lawyers will benefit in either event. If we can't get along, our litigators will be beneficiaries. For example, litigation has already begun over the issues relating to California's Proposition 8 (same sex marriage ban). If we can tolerate differences, at least for awhile, our transaction lawyers will be the beneficiaries when they negotiate and draft agreements, write new legislation, etc.
To survive in this environment, lawyers will need to be flexible, seize new opportunities, and serve and bond with their clients as never before.
The September 15th edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has two articles, one on top of the other, each with the photograph of a rather attractive woman. No sexism intended here, but this is the oldest tactic in the business to sell newspapers!
The first article discusses a proposed change in a Massachusetts rule of professional conduct that would require a successor contingency fee lawyer to be responsible for the predecessor counsel’s fee, unless there is an agreement to the contrary in effect. Obviously, this rule has prompted controversy. Lawyers in Massachusetts should be quite wary of this proposed rule and make their voices heard.
The second article features a well-endowed lawyer who will be the cover photograph for the 2009 Beautiful Lawyers Calendar, featuring 12 lawyers “who reportedly embody ‘the style and spirit’ of the Massachusetts bar.” If other states do not follow suit, there may be a heavy influx of male lawyers to Massachusetts. And if other states do follow suit, we may see the beginning of the demise of either Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue or Playboy!
Note to my readers: After my previous post about our economic and political systems collapsing around us, I had to attempt some levity, even if not PC ... In advance, I ask for forgiveness, hoping you will see the humor in this as I do. Perhaps, though, you need to read the newspaper to get the full impact of my reaction. <g>
I have assiduously kept this blog and all my writings focused on the effective and efficient practice of law, not personal beliefs or politics. Those are mine and to be shared only with friends and family. You don't read my thoughts to be persuaded to vote one way or the other. However, a friend's post today on his blog has prompted me to speak out, prompted in part by the enormity of the current financial challenges of our time.
One perspective that I've heard echoed frequently is a paraphrase of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930's: Even if wrong, it's important that we do something! Something is better than nothing because of the crisis of confidence. At least with something in the works, people believe we're moving forward and will fix whatever the problem is.
I generally agree with this ... but I also see a massive redistribution of wealth in the current proposals which, frankly, scares me. The rhetoric of the candidates does nothing to build confidence in me despite the fact that I will vote for one of the candidates for one very simple reason: His philosophy concerning judicial appointments, appointments that in my opinion far outlast the impact of a president on other fronts. We've lived through many ineffective presidents ... but their terms last 4 years or 8 at the most. Their appointments often last decades, a far more significant impact.
Getting back to the economy. The current crisis, I'm told, began with the housing industry and the mortgages created when buying a house. Loans were given to people who couldn't afford to maintain the payments. But, those loans were kept current until the interest rates were raised. Don't forget that many of these people could also make the new payments but for the fact that they lost their jobs -- their jobs were eliminated by outsourcing, by changes in technology and by other factors. Now comes Wall Street with new products that wrapped these mortgages into new securities instruments. These securities instruments were sold ... and there was no one the homeowner could turn to for the purpose of adjusting the term or rate of the mortgage ... a blank wall appeared before the homeowner. The bank no longer owned the mortgage.
In the recent IndyMac fiasco, the FDIC came in and worked with the homeowners, changed rates and terms of the loans. Homeowners stayed in their houses and no bail-out money was needed. In effect, the FDIC pulled out an old technique used in the 1930's. In the 1930's, Roosevelt froze bank assets and mortgages. Similarly today, foreclosures could be frozen for 30/90 days, or whatever time needed, until a reasoned solution could be developed.
Why is it that our current leaders have such a short memory of history? Are they so bent on eliminating the "middle class" and transferring more wealth to those who don't need it? Some have said we're enhancing corporate socialism ... I was taught in school that socialism was intended for the working folks -- even if you objected to this form of government. Where are the working folks in these new proposals?
Apparently, a lot of people agree with me ... Congress has just "junked" the current proposal. I'm sure another will be on the table shortly. But, it was really disheartening the other night to hear Gov. Corzine of New Jersey, a former securities industry chief executive, say that he dislikes the current bill, but it's better than nothing, that something must be done!
History will be made in this election. Good or bad, depending on your point of view. But, clearly the next generation is being mapped out for us as I write this comment. Be sure to vote and make your voice heard.
We started with my wife's dream of being part of the Airstream cult. After our first Airstream trailer was "totaled," we started over, almost literally from the ground up. I've discussed this before.
We expected to be on the road by this time ... the progress is much slower than expected, and more costly...like any construction project that is twice as expensive and twice as long. But our trailer is being built with care, love and creativity.
This picture is taken from the inside out towards the front window...(our living room)....the inside stainless steel skin is going to be riveted in place very soon!!!! You can see the two 12 volt batteries in front, the box on the lower right is the tankless water heater/furnace, the box on the left is the base for the refrigerator and that is the bathroom sink..... not in place....just resting.
In many states, the practical skills concerning “The Business of Law”® that lawyers most need to keep their practices profitable and problem free – training in effective client service and law practice management techniques – either are not covered or actively eliminated as legitimate MCLE credits. They also happen to be skills that no law school faculty offers either. In fact, in conversations I’ve had with educators, their view of law as a profession means that any such programs about effective client communication are trade-oriented and therefore inappropriate for law schools. The result was described several years ago in The Wall Street Journal by the publisher of the New York Law School Law Review, who observed that law school students are “reading about the law rather than engaging in it,” with the result that “when they graduate, young lawyers rarely know how to interview clients, advocate for their positions, negotiate a settlement or perform any number of other tasks that lawyers do every day.”Continue Reading...
In response to my last post, the following comment was forwarded to me:
Q: Isn't gaming what they teach in law school, essentially? Probing for weaknesses and exploiting them ruthlessly when found? It seems that with the adversarial legal system, gaming is built right into the DNA of the experience. I agree they are being poor ethical exemplars by gaming the rankings but I'm not sure it's entirely inconsistent with the legal system.
The WSJ, August 26th, front page, discusses law school rankings ... and the ability of school deans to "game" the system used by U.S. News & World Report to rank law schools. This reminds me of the accounting adage, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure."Continue Reading...
Many lawyers (some of whom were my clients) were directly impacted by Katrina; the practices of some were wiped out. Almost all suffered revenue declines.
Many other lawyers helped in the reconstruction efforts. Now, 3 years later, much yet needs to be done. Bill Quigley gives us the following startling (at least to me) statistics, and much more:
0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant — compared to 116,708 homeowners.
0. Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.
0. Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.
.008. Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied — a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.
1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.
1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2006 and 2007.
Why is it that we have to repeat history? In 1927, much of the Mississippi Valley was destroyed by similar flooding. More than 1/3 of the country was directly impacted by this flood! The impact, economic and otherwise, from this was devastating, not only to this 1/3 of the country, but to the entire country!
We can't control the weather, the storms that befall us. Just last night, in the news, there was a commentary about another major storm off the Gulf of Mexico. It could leave another devastating mark on the U.S., having already killed one person in Haiti. But, we seem to ignore these vagaries of nature. If we can improve our land area and structures in earthquake country, why can't we do the same in other parts of the U.S.? Where is the political will to do something? We certainly have the skill, knowledge and technolgoy! What is missing?
Marshall Goldsmith, who coaches more than 50 of the top 100 CEOs of corporate America, commented on several psychological observations that I found interesting:
- What we do at home, we do at the office, and vice versa. In other words, if we are unkind to our colleagues, our staff and our adversaries, we're probably exhibiting to same behavior to our spouses and our children.
- Among the annoying habits that can hold successful people back is winning too much. Generally, we're successful because we're competitive. Being competitive, we win. But, we don't know when to stop. We even compete on who is to select the restaurant to go to for dinner.
- Successful people often add too much value. In other words, we add something to another person's idea. Instead of saying "thank you" and being quiet, we say that is a great idea, but it would be better if you add x, y, or z. He says that the quality of the idea may go up by 5%, but the participation will go way down ... because it now is no longer the other person's idea. We have stolen the other person's investment in the process.
- Destructive comments prevents forward progress. Avoid the use of the words, "no," "but" and "however." These words discount the value of the other person and their ideas. By merely saying "thank you," we can create, maintain and retain our team with significantly greater results for all involved.
- Leadership is a contact sport! Studies show that where the leader followed-up, there was greatest improvement.
- What got you here, won't get you there. Those competitive attributes that got you to the leader's position are different than the attributes of a successful leader. You must alter your skill set in order to succeed in your new position.
The other day, I was listening to NPR; the topic under discussion was 1945 ... another date of disaster. On that date, a B-25 plowed into the Empire State Building. Fourteen people died, but it was a tragedy nonetheless. It was an accident, not premeditated murder, not a political statement. Yet, it was a large plane colliding into a tall building in a densely populated area.
Funny how we forget history. I never learned of this. The people of the time suffered and experienced pain, but it did not become a cause celebre. But, also funny (in a sad way), how the politicians of our day used this event for their personal benefit. Sad that this one event spelled the historical demarcation for Pres. Bush's presidency and how everything done after that was tied to this one event. Sad (not funny) that so many of our civil liberties have been peeled back after decades and centuries of fighting to attain them. Contrast that with 1945 when that event was the catalyst that created the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946 that allowed citizens to sue the federal government for injuries visited on them by the government. One might say that the government did something to soothe us ... rather than to rile us up as we have been in the last 7 years ...
Just a personal observation on the importance of leadership ... leadership that soothes us and that helps us recover, reassemble and build a better future. Lyndon Johnson failed to do this and it took us at least a generation to overcome his folly. George Bush failed to do this and I'm fearful it will take us more than a generation to recover, if ever. And here, I'm merely mentioning economics, not liberties which seem to be lost altogether.
Leadership is essential for the effective performance of a team ... There are many examples in government and in industry. Law firms need to find leaders to better serve their clients as well as the members of the firm. Leadership skills can be taught ... and law firms need to focus on this skill if they want to advance.
His story is inspiring. His last comment: When you walk off the field, can you say that you gave it your best shot, that you "left it on the field," and that you have no regrets, even if the end result was not as you would have liked. One of his last comments was to say that he waited until the age of 39 to marry because it took him that long to find a woman whom he loved more than himself. The love and support between these two humans, and their children, also, was a joy to witness.
His comment is an outstanding rule for life, a mantra to live by ... and it's also a very good rule for your law practice. Are you truly committed to your and your law firm's success? Are your clients the focus of your attention and your primary concern? Can the circle of your joy be extended to include your colleagues and staff? Do you have a toxic law firm environment? What can you do to eliminate this toxicity? What can you do to have a life and a law business you enjoy and value?
Hope y'all are o.k. wherever you may be.
How would you like to be a doctor and rated by several such services? Check out www.RateMDs.com, www.DrScore.com, www.Healthgrades.com, www.vitals.com, www.nursesrecommenddoctors.com, www.angieslist.com. There's a lot of "rating" going on these days.
Also, check out what your State Bar is doing about placing more, unwanted, information about you on their member websites. California Bar, for example, recently adopted a provision that will compel lawyers to notify clients if they (the lawyer) don't carry malpractice insurance ... and this information will be posted on the California Bar directory in the membership records segment that is open to the public. Other information, such as if there has been a complaint (not a conviction!)against the lawyer will also be posted. (Note that according to the Bar, about 8% of all complaints are dismissed or the lawyer is found to be innocent of the charge - but the posting will remain on the internet!) Big Brother may, in fact, be watching.
In a recent case, the courts have denied a law license to a Michigan applicant because he said he has no respect for the Michigan court that fails to protect the civil liberties of plaintiffs.
"Lawrence says he holds the Michigan court system in low regard because a majority of Michigan Supreme Court justices have been hostile to civil rights plaintiffs. He says he doesn’t regret answering truthfully when the character and fitness committee asked about his political beliefs, and he would do it again." (ABA Journal)
How can others respect the law with decisions such as this?
A new book, The Last Lecture, is written by someone not so lucky. He died at a young age. But before dying, his "last lecture" was videotaped; it inspired many people. They said that "they quit pitying themselves," "the lecture had persuaded them to embrace their own goodbyes," among other responses. The author said that he had "to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
The rule is flawed, as I’ve argued in more than one past post. Since lawyers are skilled in finding loopholes, I suspect that this new rule will be honored in its breach ... and therefore not provide meaningful protection to clients.
There are creative alternatives the 30,000 sole and small firm lawyers impacted by this rule may take to avoid the intent of the Board and its new rule: Continue Reading...
Of particular interest to me is how Lance Armstrong has been able to focus on his journey, not the outcomes, and thereby maintain his confidence and his self-esteem. Not that he would welcome failure, but that failure was not a factor if he prepared himself and his environment for his best effort.
Several quotes I think are particularly worth noting, at least from my perspective:
"Don't take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering." (by Don Miguel Ruiz in his The Four Agreements)
Because our “new” vintage Airstream is still being built and our “old” vintage Airstream was totaled from our December accident, we could not stay at the rally, but had sleeping quarters about 10 miles away, a short car ride. To get there, we had a short stint on Highway 550, a heavily trafficked thoroughfare in the area, so I’m told. As we got close to our destination, I noticed the highway was streaming with police. It looked like a major car accident; as I got closer, it looked like a disaster. I could tell the roadway had been narrowed by cones and police cars into one lane. And as I approached the head of the line, a policeman approached me. Suddenly, I realized that I was in the middle of a road block!
In 1957, the BBC said Swiss farmers were harvesting a huge spaghetti crop due to the near-elimination of the spaghetti weevil. Coverage showed peasants picking spaghetti from trees." ... I saw this on television as a youngster ... and BELIEVED it! For many years, I never knew this was a prank. I learned that spaghetti couldn't grow on a tree or in the ground. But, I couldn't get the image out of my mind. Not until the USA squib did I know it was actually a prank.
Reminds me of those who continue to repeat a phrase or idea, thinking that repetition will make it "right." Do you know anyone who does this?
But, when we continue to learn, we also know that there is a lot still to learn. This tends to impact one's self-esteem. In talking with several psychologists and organizational development experts, poor self-esteem is one of the greatest challenges to lawyers.
Recognizing that this is a lifelong journey may take the pressure off of current feelings about one's skills and self-esteem. That, also, may make one more sensitive to clients' needs and less aggressive with opposing counsel. Civility (a major Bar initiative) comes with self-confidence, which also tends to reduce costs for clients.
For me, this is reminiscent of the discussion I had recently with a client who asked me to do a profitability analysis of her firm She and her partner believed that the expenses of their small firm were too high My review of the data indicated that there were areas where reductions or revised characterization would be relevant. For example, several capital expenditures could be removed from the expense side of the profit and loss statement and recast as assets; a management fee could be removed or recast as a draw by one of the partners because such a fee is inappropriate for a small firm. However, the real focus for this firm should be on increasing its revenue. That would have the most dramatic impact on the performance of the firm. Recasting the expenses would not change the cash flow of the firm, but would help generate the mental toughness confidence that they are not in terrible shape, that they could succeed, and provide the mental toughness to continue seeking the appropriate client base to generate increased revenue.
Looking at the relevant data helps remove the fear of failure, engender confidence that small changes in one's own behavior can have large impact on one's success, and bring the realization that success is just around the corner.
Also, I talk about dreaming having a poor ROI. What does this mean for the law firm? Read LawBiz Tips and learn my approach.
We went to dinner while in Chicago this last week and she took several photographs. Here are two of them that are listed on Facebook, one of the sprouting social networks. One should be careful what is placed on internet boards such as this ... This entry is sedate and trustworthy. This is the first posting for me, excluding our Airstream trailer, of photos on this site.
Stay tuned for the official press release.
The legal market is not known - yet - for embracing innovation. And the life of a law practice management innovator can be lonely. That can and will change…
If you are in a law firm, inhouse department, or other law practice (not for vendors) that has done something innovative - whether with technology or otherwise - the College asks you to take a moment to review the InnovAction web site and consider submitting an application.
Karen Mathis, immediate past chair of the American Bar Association, focused her year on developing a new awareness for the legal profession. She said recently that 400,000 lawyers will retire in the next 10 years. That’s the entire current membership of the
However, as the Executive Director of the ABA, Henry F. White, Jr., at the ABA’s Solo Caucus in Los Angeles’ Mid-Year meeting, February 10th, said, “At the end of the day, it’s all about money, despite the goodness.” He, and his fellow panelists, M. Joe Crosthwait, Jr. (moderator), Karen J. Mathis (ABA immediate past president), and H. Thomas Wells, Jr. (ABA president-elect), were preaching to the choir. Continue Reading...
Respondents said "yes" (15%), "no" (84%) and "don't know" (1%). It is clear that people are tired of bombastic behavior, at least in the workplace. Can this be translated into a more collegial, and team-oriented work environment?
Patrick Lamb, a leading proponent of "value billing" has certainly committed himself to the concept of team effort. He opened a new practice with two other partners in January 2008. Collegiality, outstanding client service and billing for value delivered (not time spent) gets promoted one step at a time. Patrick has taken that first step in his new firm. Congratulations and best wishes for his continued success.
As more lawyers succeed in this business model, perhaps others will follow. Then, perhaps, will civility in the profession be achieved.
As a side note, I'm currently reading (actually, listening) the recently published book about Lincoln and his leadership skills. I'm struck by the number of lawyers who were the leaders of our country and the large percentage of our representatives in government (House of Representatives, Senate, and State legislatures) who were lawyers. At one time, the balance substantially exceeded 50%. Contrast that to today when only around 25%, if that, of these bodies are lawyers. Perhaps the lack of civility in our society in general and the legal profession in particular, is the reason for the lack of faith in lawyers. I don't know the reason or the answer to this dilemma. But, I do know that many lawyers are stressed, are "burned out" and are unhappy with their chosen profession.
Given this history, I am quite surprised and pleased that 3 of the viable, now 2, Democratic candidates for President are lawyers.
But, the legal profession merely reflects society at large. I just came across a 2007 book titled The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't written by Robert I. Sutton, a Stanford professor. Great title!
How about these statistics:
- The number of homicides in the workplace is up
- "Boss-icide" has doubled in 10 the last 10 years
- Workers murder 3 to 4 supervisors each month, double the number of 10 years ago
- "Going postal" is more than the post office violence
- "Desk rage" is a new term
- 27% of workers experienced on-the-job mistreatment, according to a 2000 study
- One in 6 report persistent psychological abuse
- 36% of employees reported persistent hostility from coworkers and supervisors, according to a 2002 US Department of Veterans Affairs study
- 91% of nurses experienced verbal abuse that left t hem feeling attacked, devalued or humiliated, according to a 2003 study.
If our society is facing these issues, how can we expect lawyers to be more "civil" than others?
The theory is that knowledge by clients will prevent fraud. I've never known knowledge of such settlements preventing thievery. But, then, I've also never known clients who walk away just because a lawyer has one sentence in a fee agreement that they have no malpractice insurance.
First, there is a very small percentage of "bad apples" in the legal profession. Second, remedies such as the "disclosure" requirement are band-aids on a scab. They are not truly remedial of the cause of the problems. While the rubric is "client protection," the real protection will come from better education of lawyers, including practice management education, providing affordable malpractice insurance, and then requiring every lawyer to have malpractice insurance -- real insurance, not self-insurance!
In the op-ed of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 29, 2008, R. Konrad Moore suggests that public defenders who choose to strike betray the constitutional rights and liberty of their clients.
Shame on you for thinking that public defenders owe more to society than other lawyers, public officials or average citizen. Mr. Moore seems to believe that becoming a government employee, a public defender, means that one's human and normal rights are checked at the door.
Yes, becoming a lawyer does mean that there are certain rights and responsibilities one takes on that are not required by others. However, I do not hear Mr. Moore suggesting that all lawyers owe a pro bono obligation to society, or that government officials are not entitled to seek increased compensation or that Corporate America has a social responsibility to its customers and a responsibility to its shareholders by keeping CEO compensation within reasonable boundaries or, for that matter, that the State Bar owes a duty to the public to require that all attorneys have malpractice insurance. And, I don't hear that the State Bar owes a duty of any kind to its members, let alone obtaining a program of low cost malpractice insurance so that attorneys could then better protect the public they serve. That would be spreading responsibilities too far. He's concerned only about limiting the compensation of public defenders.
Why then showed public defenders not be entitled to come together as any other group of employees in order to seek better conditions of work. Does Mr. Moore mean that the government can give any compensation, no matter how low, to public defenders and that the public defenders should be grateful to receive it? What about district attorneys? If they were to organize, as some have, does Mr. Moore likewise believe that there is a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens?
His argument is disingenuous and should be placed in its proper context. More to the point, why does Mr. Moore not argue that it is the responsibility of government and its citizens to make sure that defendants receive the best possible representation by compensating public defenders fairly and in accordance with compensation generally received in private law firms?
In its December 6th edition, the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal highlighted California’s “Top Neutrals.” I read the supplement with great interest ... and was struck by the very high prices demanded/commanded by these triers of fact. From a low of $400 per hour to the upper reaches of $12,000 per day, I don’t hear the complaints against these rates!
Years ago, our system of independent neutrals developed because of changes in the judiciary’s retirement system causing economic pain to judges who remained on the bench, I lamented the separation of the rich and poor ... The poor folks had their matters heard by the judiciary, paid by taxpayers. The rich had their matters heard more quickly by independent neutrals, paid by the parties. Independent neutrals who work full-time earn far more than judges.
Our system of justice suffers when economics plays such a dominant role in the determination of disputes, when the poor receive different treatment than the rich. It’s bad enough when the rich can afford to gather a “dream team” for the assertion of their claims; but, it’s outrageous when economics can determine who will be the trier of the facts.
Without knowing his connection to the Capitol Steps, I invited him to be a keynote speaker at my Managing Partners Roundtable’s Diversity Conference in 2006. During his presentation, he talked about his theory of “5 generations.” Paraphrasing him, he said that every 4 (5?) generations repeats itself. The first generation creates a new world, the 2nd generation sustains this new world, the 3rd generation enhances or expands or grows the world, the 4th generation destroys the world and the 5th generation starts with a new world again. While my paraphrase clearly does not do Bill Strauss’ comments justice, the concept of “history repeating itself” is important. Bill said that one can trace and support this theory merely by looking at the history of the world.
With his theory, he drew certain conclusions about the differences among today’s generations, what we call the generation gap. His comments resonated well with the managing partners, the partners and the younger associates in our audience of more than 200 lawyers.
With increasing longevity, and therefore more generations co-existing than ever before, it’s essential that we understand these issues if we’re to cooperate and continue to grow as a society. With his death, we have lost an important contributor to this conversation.
The bottom line is that it is the patient's responsibility to ask the doctor if he/she has any financial connection to the recommended treatment. The suggestion is that if the answer is "yes," the patient should get a second opinion. Not bad advice, but still a matter of personal trust and interaction between the doctor and the patient.
If the doctor has a financial interest in a treatment modality, this may influence the doctor's prescribed treatment. Note that there is no movement here to demand that doctors disclose whether they have malpractice insurance. Perhaps because the existence of insurance is not likely to influence the treatment modality to be prescribed.
Why is it that some lawyers misguidedly believe it is important for lawyers? It's existence or absence does not affect the legal strategy advised or vigor or competence of legal representation. As a side note, however, it is interesting to note that most of the lawyers advocating that other lawyers make disclosure DO have a personal financial stake in the outcome of this discussion. Most represent insurance carriers who whose premium income might increase. Yet, there is no disclosure required by them in their discussions of this topic. Interesting, eh?
Her response is that by envisioning what could go wrong, she can prepare for it happening and be ready to overcome it if it does happen. Perhaps her attitude is where i got the title for my book Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Planning for Law Firms.
In today's ABA email, there seems to be some vindication for her approach. An article by Debra Cassens Weiss said:
"... Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies positive psychology, says most optimists do better in life than merited by their talents alone.
But with lawyers, the opposite is true.
Seligman's survey of law students at the University of Virginia found that pessimists got better grades, were more likely to make law review and got better job offers.
"In law," he told the newspaper, 'pessimism is considered prudence.' "
There are benchmarks in life ... and in our law practices. Benchmarks might be as significant as a marriage, a birth or a death. In law, it might be graduating from law school, opening one’s own practice, winning a significant case, or in today’s world of Baby Boomers, moving into our "second season."
The Airstream trailer (see my earlier posts on this subject) has taught me and confirmed many lessons I’ve learned over the years. Here are just a few that our current trip has triggered:
Change is part of life, and we must learn how to manage change to be successful
Change requires that we be flexible
Life involves continuous improvement
Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity
Other fields of endeavor often provide us with examples of this type of thinking. See below for one example in the art world. I've seen this type of approach only twice in my life, once by Salvador Dali in possibly my favorite works of art of all time and once by my sister (also an artist).
See the Cochrane Mural
For those people that live in another part of the world, Cochrane is a community just west of Calgary, Alberta . (Not the one in Northern Ontario.)
This mural was unveiled at the Cochrane Ranche House July 1, 2007. Each tile is 1 foot square, is it's own individual picture, and each is by a different artist. All of them together form this huge mural. You can click on each of the tiles to see them in detail. Check out the horse's eye and nostril and anywhere else on the mural. Also the two below it.
Q: As a sole practitioner, I’m nervous about the possibility that new requirements that lawyers must disclose in writing if we don't have malpractice insurance. How will mandatory disclosure affect my business?
It took Thomas Friedman to teach us that "the world is flat" by going from the West to the East!
Friedman teaches, among other things, about "outsourcing." Many lawyers are using this principle (sometimes also called "delegation") to lower their cost of operation and thus increase their profit. Even sole practitioners and small firm lawyers can effectively use this principle.
I encourage you to read Friedman's book.
This week, I'm in
On arrival yesterday, my new cell phone stopped working (my first clue that things were about to change) and my wife was desperately searching to find me to give me bad news. First, the bad news: A house that I own and rent burned down. Next, the good news: No one was hurt! The family is now displaced and needs a new place to live, but they are all fine. The fire was during the day and they were out of the house. Now, the funny news: During the aftermath, a fireman asked the tenant if he smoked, thinking that perhaps a lighted cigarette was the cause. The tenant responded: No, I don’t smoke cigarettes, only marijuana! I nearly cracked up. He obviously didn’t have advice of counsel not to make such an admission. He also claims, however, to have a medical prescription. By the way, AT&T fixed my cell phone this morning.
I'll have to read my own book, Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Planning: A LawBiz Special Report. We just never know from whence or when or what kind of a disaster will hit! To the extent we can, we need to anticipate disasters and plan for recovery and continuity!
"The organization of the future is a verb, not a noun." He continued by asking: "Who will own the stock of the organization?" He said that users will control the company; his examples include www.digg.com and other similar Internet operations such as "youtube" and "facebook." Yes, the stock of the company may be "owned" by one or two people, but the control of the operation is really in the hands of the users. He cited examples of where the users did not agree with a company policy and forced the company to retract its stand.
This is an interesting concept. I'm reminded of the phrase, "... the more things change, the more they stay the same!" I'm referring to the fact that, even in the "old days," the real control of a business was and is in the hands of consumers. Unless you have customers willing to purchase your goods or services, you have no business! Unless you have clients, there is no reason for you to have a law practice. Yes, you may technically "own" the company or law firm, but you will have no business ... no revenue ... without clients.
Thus, the clarion call: Treat thy clients as they would like to be treated, or you will have no clients! This is a paraphrase of Tony Alessandra's "Platinum Rule" of asking your clients how they want to be treated, or Ben Franklin's mantra, "... take care of the pence and the pence will take care of you."
Another way of looking at this concept is to suggest that law is a verb, not a noun; that law is constantly changing. Our courts, though they use precedents, constantly interpret the written word to mean something different in different times, always seeking to keep the law relevant to the day's values. In other words, the law changes or is a verb, not a noun.
At the end of his presentation, Bhatt observed that business used to be about putting together the puzzle. Seven steps to this, five steps to that, etc. We will see how this process orientation is no longer appropriate. We will be asked to solve the mystery, not create a process. And if/when we bring value to the table to help our clients solve their business mystery, we will be their colleague, their "partner " in helping them solve the mystery then facing their business.
Pretty sophisticated stuff ... and lawyers who can "get it," will remain the top lawyers of our profession.
The tidal wave has not yet struck! That means there is still time to save ourselves.
The California State Bar Board of Governors voted today on the proposal to require disclosure to prospective clients that they do not have malpractice insurance (if they don't). Other lawyers who are either exempt under the rule or who do have E & O coverage do not have to discuss malpractice insurance or disclose anything about the subject in their engagement agreement.Continue Reading...
This is an interesting, though not earth-shattering, topic.
It is also consistent with my assertion that law is a business, or framed in the context of my registered trademark, The Business of Law® is governed by the principles of economics. Yes, law is a profession, but as Tower Snow, once managing partner of the former Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison law firm in San Francisco said, “Law is subject to the same laws of economics as any other business...” Continue Reading...
Being effective with clients, efficient in the delivery of services to clients and therefore more profitable, we are actually protecting the public by providing sufficient resources to the lawyer to feed his/her family and therefore have no need to invade the trust account funds.
To say that law is a business, a service business, is not to deny that it is also a profession rooted in the highest ideals from the very beginning of our country. Continue Reading...
"As long as you're on a personal improvement kick, you may as well be recording it in some fashion. Blog it.... "
So, it seems we now have permission from the heavens to blog, to share and to collaborate. Let's blog!