Category: Management

Lessons from the Tour de France

As an avid cyclist, I’ve been watching the Tour de France with great enthusiasm and hope for all the Americans in this year’s race. Of course, I want Armstrong to win an unprecedented 7th consecutive Tour.

But, Terri Lonier, took her enthusiasm one step further … to glean certain lessons that can be applied to all businesses as well. These lessons apply equally to lawyers and The Business of Law(tm).

In her current Solo newsletter, Terri Lonier said:
“If it’s July, it means that the annual cycling spectacle, the Tour de France, is underway… There are so many things to be gleaned from this competition. I believe three key lessons for soloists are: (more…)

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Outsourcing is growing

In yesterday’s USA Today, the paper took a snapshot of “outsourcing” saying that 47% of legal service firms have outsourced a portion of their business. This is a huge number but bodes well for future efficiency in law firms.

“Outsourcing” does not necessarily mean that the work was sent to India (or elsewhere) as GE does. Many firms, both large and small, use “contract lawyers,” back office services (e.g., Pitney Bowes and others do mail room work) and what is now called “virtual assistants.”

It makes sense to focus on your core capabilities. During the era of mega-mergers, Corporate America forgot this. When financing (and profits) became more difficult to attain, business began to look for ways to shed unprofitable activities. That’s when “returning to one’s core skills” became a popular phrase.

The principle remains the same: Do what you do best and let others (even if outsourced to another company) do what they do best, most efficiently and at least cost to both you and the client.

This is not a new principle but one that law firms are becoming more focused on as law firms realize that they, too, are a business and must provide the best services at the least cost for the benefit of the clients they serve.

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Extend learning opportunities to your entire firm

Terry Brock, an Orland, FL techie guru, had the following observation:

“In Miami, Florida today, even minimum wage truck drivers are required to have three important skills, 1) Fluency in English, 2) Fluency in Spanish, and 3) Fluency in Computers. That industry requires the driver to be aware of computers, how to use them and not be afraid of them. This is for a job that starts at minimum wage and increases to $7.50 to $8.00 per hour. Check your local paper and notice how many jobs are available that don’t require a knowledge of computers. Not many!”

While Terry’s comments pertain to computers and today’s technology, they also apply to lawyer education in general. (more…)

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Maximize your Google searches

See TechnoLawyer for the following item:

“Google has a habit of introducing new features without making accompanying announcements. Therefore, even if you use Google daily, you may not know about certain features. Today, I’ll run through some of my favorites.

“A few months ago, Google released a service vastly superior to the competition – Google Maps. (EP Note: After being sent on wild goose chases by Yahoo! and MapQuest, I’m going to try Google!) The maps are clear and easy to manipulate, and the driving directions are the next best thing to having a GPS navigation system. Google Maps also provides satellite images so take a look at your home.

“Most people know that you can use Google as a dictionary. Just enter a word, and Google provides a link to a definition. If you misspell it, Google will provide the correct spelling. But Google recently overhauled this system to provide additional functionality such as a thesaurus and encyclopedia. The latter needs more work – it can provide a bio of Theodore Roosevelt, but not Bill Clinton.

“For more than a year, Google News has provided a remarkable service that few people know about – simply run a search and then click on “News Alerts” to save that search and sign up for e-mail alerts. Thereafter, Google will e-mail you links to news articles that match your search. (EP Note: This is a great service. Try “googling” your own name and see how often you’re quoted.) Recently, Google added the ability to receive e-mail alerts for Web pages that match your search as well.

“Two weeks ago, Google unveiled Search History – a service that saves all your searches. The service is optional so ignore all the controversy. Furthermore, even if you sign up, you can pause it, which means you can use it only when conducting the kind of research you’d like to save. You can also delete any of your searches….”

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Managing your staff is critical to your success

Average managers treat all their employees the same. Great managers discover each individual’s unique talents and bring these to the surface so everyone wins. An excerpt from Harvard Business Review.

Lawyers, like managers in every profession, trade and other commercial endeavor, must connect with their staff. Failure to do so will cause conflict, will cause disharmony within the firm and, worst of all, will result in poor client relations.

At the far end of the spectrum, poor law firm (attorney)-client relations is the stuff from which malpractice actions and Bar disciplinary complaints are made.

Pay attention to your most important asset in the firm, your human capital. It walks out every evening. you need to make sure that it returns in the morning, willing and able to do what’s needed for you and your clients.

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Eat what you kill?

See a discussion comparing the British way and the American way of doing business in law firms.

Yes, there are cultural differences. Perhaps the singular difference is the willingness to think as an “institution” (lockstep compensation) rather than as an “individual” (compensation based on origination). The former makes for longevity while the latter may make for for rapid growth in the short term.

Perhaps it takes the entrepreneurial spirit to get going. Then the challenge is to change that into a managerial spirit, something that proves very difficult, too difficult for most.

The really successful firms, only a few in number, find a way to do this. (more…)

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