Tag Archive: firm

Law Firm Strategist Ed Poll Launches Nationwide Roadshow

Venice, CA – June 6, 2011. Award-winning law business management coach and consultant Ed Poll is bringing his nationally recognized practices, tips and advice to bar associations, law schools and other top venues across America this summer.

The tour will include 15-20 stops throughout the US from June through September 2011, starting on the West Coast and heading East. Tentative tour stops include Portland, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Columbus, Cleveland, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. For more information about the tour, please go to www.lawbiz.com/roadshow

The tour, which is sponsored by Fujitsu ScanSnap and others, will include presentations for CLE credit on law practice management issues, on topics such as Managing Client Expectations, Collecting Fees and Getting Paid, Metrics of Financial Performance, Tips for Increased Revenue, and The Exit Strategy: Succession & Retirement.

Presentations will include time for Q&A and will be followed by a special Coach’s Corner coaching session. In this unique format, Ed will offer coaching help to one or two attendees about their specific law business management issues, within the group context. This allows the entire audience to watch the interaction and consider how they may apply the discussion to their own specific situation.

“For the first time in American history, thousands of lawyers have been laid-off,” said Ed Poll. “Lawyers need to know more about The Business of Law® in order to survive, let alone thrive, by effectively meeting the needs and expectations of clients. This tour will help address many of the challenges facing the sole practitioners and small firms today.”

About Ed Poll

Recently quoted in the New York Times and the ABA Journal, Ed Poll, founder of LawBiz Management, is a nationally recognized expert in law practice management. He helps attorneys and law firms increase their profitability by consulting with them on issues of internal operations, business development, and financial matters. Poll brings his clients a solid background in both law and business. He has 25 years experience as a practicing attorney and has also served as CEO and COO for several manufacturing businesses. In 2010, he received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Bar Association’s Law Practice Management and Technology Section.

Poll is the author of numerous publications that have become the definitive works in the field, including 18 books, CDs and DVD collections. His newest offerings are Growing Your Law Practice in Tough Times (West Publishing, 2010) and 8 Steps to Greater Profitability: The Lawyer’s Guide to Prosperity (LawBiz Management, 2011). He has also authored books on business planning for attorneys, improving collections, buying and selling law practices, disaster preparedness and recovery, and exit strategies for legal practitioners. His offerings are available at LawBizStore.com.

Poll hosts the LawBiz Forum, an interactive community for the legal profession, as well as the LegalPadTM video series. He is a columnist for several publications geared to the legal community, including the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Legal Management, and hosts regular webinars for West Legal Management. Poll earned BS and JD degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California.

About LawBiz Management

LawBiz Management is the nation’s leading firm dedicated to managing the Business of Law® . The company focuses on helping lawyers reach their goals and law firms improve their practices by increasing revenues, improving profits, and reducing the stress of the practice experienced by lawyers. Among the services offered are coaching, consulting, speaking and managing firm retreats. LawBiz Management also consults on the buying and selling of law practices.

For more information on tour sponsorship or booking a presentation on the tour, please go to www.lawbiz.com/roadshow or www.facebook.com/lawbiztour, or contact Ed Poll, edpoll@lawbiz.com.

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Customer Service – A True Story

Last week, I had an accident. A preoccupied driver who admitted she didn’t see me failed to yield the right of way and turned left before I could see her. My bicycle hit her right front fender. You can see a picture of the damage to the car.  Sometimes, it’s better to hit than be hit. Because I hit her car, rather than she hitting me, I am alive and still walking, albeit with some difficulty. The fireman and paramedics said they’d never seen such damage to a car from a bike. “… Either the car was made of plastic or you are a man of steel!…”

If I were made of steel, I would not be so sore and bruised as I am still today. My thighs and quads have turned colors I never knew existed; like burnt toast. The bike down tube is cracked and very good, beautiful and cherished Orbea Orca carbon fiber bike is history. I’m lucky, frankly, to be alive … The alternative is not appealing.

Once things settled down, several days later, and a mechanic suggested that some manufacturers offer deep discounts for bike frame replacements needed because of a crash, my wife found the e-mail address for Orbea and sent them this note: “…My husband was involved in a traffic accident with his 2008 Orbea-Orca …. He is apparently okay with major bruising but his beloved Orbea has a damaged frame on the post between the seat and the pedals. Is there an incentive Orbea offers to encourage customers to replace a damaged bike with Orbea? … Thank you.

The company response follows: “Good morning, Thank you for contacting with Orbea! In case of accident, Orbea’s Warranty is null and void. Sincerely, …”

We never entered a warranty claim; that was never in my mind. My wife was merely checking out the status of their crash program. Some companies retain the loyalty of their customers by allowing them deep discounts to replace a damaged bike (product) and then studying the returned item for future research and improved manufacturing processes. My wife’s response was classic understatement: “We were not expecting to file a Warranty claim. We understand that some bike manufacturers give a discount on purchasing a new bike when a bike has been in an accident. You might consider doing the same.  We are in the market now for a new bike. Thank you for your concern.”

Lessons here are legion.

First, listen to your customer’s comments and requests. This reminds me of the classic instruction from a lawyer to his client: Listen to the question. Answer only the question. Then shut up! Wait for the next question. Don’t answer what you think should have been the question.

Second lesson: Everyone in your firm represents the organization. If a receptionist is rude, if a secretary fails to give you a message; if an associate is ill-prepared for a conference or court appearance, this reflects poorly on you as the senior lawyer and the firm as a whole. Education and training is not limited to the lawyers in the firm. Everyone needs to take continuing education programs to maintain and elevate skills and service levels.

Third lesson, don’t “piss off” the economic buyer (in this case, my wife) in your organization or you will never retain the business, and accompanying revenue.

Fourth lesson, live your life for now. There may not be a tomorrow. Yes, we have to keep an eye on the future, saving, planning and preparing. But, don’t do so without having some joy and value (your subjective opinion here) each day that passes. For me, the pleasure and reward is a vigorous bike ride, especially as a reward for something I did during that day. Whatever it is for you, “just do it.”

I’m sure you can provide other valuable lessons from this experience. Contact me or write your comment below. Let’s see how many lessons we can create from this one true-life experience.


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Open Letter to the State Bar President

(Note: The California State Bar President asked  California lawyers to contribute to the State Bar’s efforts to provide legal services to those in need. Following is an open letter to the President; his letter is set forth below.


Dear Mr. President:

 I agree with you completely. There is a tremendous "justice gap." I’m glad the State Bar is seeking to do something about this. I wonder, however, why the State Bar doesn’t expend the same energy on helping its own members, lawyers. One study reported by the State Bar several years ago indicated that 50% of lawyers in this state earn less than $100,000. Just think, if the State Bar would actually help its members be more effective with their clients, be more efficient in the delivery of their services and, yes, be more profitable, members of the Bar would then i) be less tempted to invade client trust accounts (a public service issue) and ii) have money to contribute to narrow the "justice gap."

Instead, however,  the Bar does things that are perceived by our members to be antithetical to the interests of lawyers … The list is rather long and I won’t bore you here with issues on which I’ve spoken before. But, until you (the organized, mandatory Bar) works with its members … until you (the organized, mandatory Bar) has as at least one of its primary goals the interests of its members, you have a great deal of courage (some might say gall) to ask struggling lawyers to contribute more than they already do.

If our Bar were a voluntary Bar, I suspect less than 50% would join … Then we would not have governance issues imposed on us by the legislature. Of course, we would also be far more interested in the thoughts and concerns of our members than is currently the case.

Clearly, these are my own thoughts, not those of any Section or other body of the State Bar … but these thoughts were clearly expressed to me just this morning by another attorney. I thought you should know, considering you’re asking us for money.

And let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family the best of the holiday season.  You’ve taken on a very tough job, some would say a thankless job, and I wish you great courage and strength. 


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Merger off, lawyers fired, and lawyers hired – Rational?

A major player in the IP field announced that its merger plans with another IP firm have been called off. The assertion is that there were conflicts issues with one major client that could not be resolved and the client would not waive the conflict. While I may be dubious about the veracity of this assertion, sitting on the outside, it does happen.

But, then the firm announces that "… the downturn in patent litigation persists, with fewer cases being filed and more settling earlier…. (C)ases coming in are smaller with tighter budgets and leaner staffing expectations…."  And this results in firings/terminations/layoffs (say it anyway you want, the people are gone) of lawyers and staff.  In other words, the troubled economy is still having its impact on law firms.

So far, so good. But, then the firm also announces that it sees an increase in patent prosecution, counseling and reexamination work, particularly in the electronics and software practice and the firm will hire first-year associates. Again, from the outside, it looks like the firm is firing experienced lawyers who get paid 3X and will hire first year associates who will get paid 1X. You fill in the numbers. When industry does this, it’s called "age discrimination." It may also be called "stupid" because it negatively impacts the morale of the organization … and you don’t build a loyal, cohesive and capable workforce by seeking the least expensive team members. Why couldn’t the firm offer the presumably lower paying jobs to the experienced folks? In this economy, they might not like it, but they’d rather stay employed and working with colleagues they know and like and trust. And, the organization will look like a caring place to work, making needed economic changes but also sensitive to the needs of its current work force.

Just seems to me to be a better way to do things.  And, at the very least, the PR ineptness of these announcements coming on the heels of one another is just astounding.

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Bullying or Cooperation – Which is more profitable?

Bullies cost you money! Addressing this topic is not a "soft skill" but one that goes right to the "bottom line." Tolerate bullying in the workplace and you will experience lost time, lost ncentive and lost resources when skilled staff take time off from work, lose motivation or suffer stress burnout and leave the job for another. The cost to business is in the billions of dollars annually.

The converse is true. Creating a culture of collegiality, cooperation and teamwork creates enhanced performance, greater successes and even higher profits.

Bullying, by definition, is unwelcome behavior including unwarranted or invalid criticism, exclusion and isolation, being singled out and treated differently, and being humiliated in front of others. One study shows that younger women suffer bullying at the hands of older women … but this phenomenon is not limited to women … and sexual harrassment is only one aspect …

Male clients find often find that how they respond to the bullying tactics of their male superiors is a critical feature of whether they succeed in the law firm and whether they make partner or are asked to leave.  Irrespective of how they deal with bullying tactics such as imposition of unreal time deadlines and nitpicking of their draft documents, the psychological toll on the lawyer is humongous … including stress in their home life.

In one such experience, I helped a client negotiate his way with the supervising partner through a particularly stressful project. On its conclusion, I suggested that he stop on the way home to buy flowers for his wife. I explained that his wife had been a "passenger" through his recent difficulties … and that since he had come out the other side successfully, he needed to share some of the good times with her … She had supported him without knowing the details and deserved recognition for her efforts. He later reported that his consideration was a huge success!

Had the firm’s culture not tolerated this bully, their productivity and profitability and bonding would have been significantly higher.

Yes, bullying is exaggerated in times of recession and credit crunch, if allowed … But, it need not be.

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Recruiting is taking a big hit

What are you doing about recruiting? Most of the larger firms have either delayed entry of those to whom they extended offers … by a few months, at least.  And some have outplaced these folks to public interest activities for a year with only a stipend.

More law schools are experiencing reduced recruiting efforts … And the real hurt will be felt by 1L students because of the blockage in 3L and 2L’s.

What do you see for the future recruiting efforts for your firm and for the industry?

And how does this phenomenon impact the recruiting of lateral associates/partners to smaller law firms?

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