Tag Archive: Thoughts

Language is everything

From Michael Bryant of CTS Consulting in Baltimore comes these gems of phrases to ditch now:

  1. It isn’t fair.

Translated: I didn’t get my way.

  1. I’m too busy.

You’re not “too” busy; you’re as busy as you are. “Too busy” means I over planned, or over promised.

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“First, we kill all the lawyers … “

This famous quote from Shakespeare is used by politicians seeking to divert attention from any issue of controversy. Of course, what they fail to quote is the balance of that sentence, “… if we want to control the society.

Ronald Reagan, while governor of California, used this tactic quite effectively. And, of course, he failed to finish the comment with the fact that many of the lawsuits brought against him in his capacity as governor of the state were successful. Lawyers, both for fee and for free (pro bono), were seeking to redress social wrongs.

Fast forward to 2010. Politicians, mortgage holders and bankers are once again lambasting lawyers. This time, the targets are those lawyers who have the temerity to question foreclosure procedures. In particular, lawyers are finding that mortgage/bank representatives are signing declarations (under penalty of perjury) that they have reviewed the file and know the contents of the loan default to be true. This unexpected discovery of “robo-signers” by an attorney in Florida has thrown the entire foreclosure business (23 states require such signing) into turmoil.

The net result for the plaintiffs is that they get additional time to remain in their homes and, in some cases, the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their loan or to remove the foreclosure from a credit report in order to refinance the house and start over.

One lawyer, representing the mortgage lending industry, said that people don’t have the right to a “fee house.” This is true. But what is the difference between this and a business filing an answer and using other dilatory tactics in order to delay ultimate payment of a legitimate debt? Using the legal system for personal advantage is common. And, in the case of the housing industry, where bankruptcy proceedings have no authority to discharge the debt, let alone even modify the payment schedule to permit the debtor to retain the house while making “affordable” payments, there may be no other alternative.

Again, the legal profession has come to the aid of those in need. And, what is also common is for monied-interests to seek to limit the effectiveness of the legal profession to help the disadvantaged amongst us.

As a follow up to the success of the Florida lawyer who devised this new tactic for his clients, some states attorneys general are seeking new laws to void “technical problems” as a defense where the foreclosure is “substantially appropriate.”  In California, for example, both a new penal code and rule of professional conduct, prevent a lawyer from taking a retainer in a mortgage refinance case. In other words, a lawyer cannot take a retainer from a client if the gravamen of the service will be to negotiate with a lender for the refinance of the house mortgage. Even when the retainer will be placed into the client’s trust account and not removed until the service is delivered. How will a lawyer be able to represent such a person?

A person with admitted financial problems, whose problems will not go away merely by refinancing. This lawyer will then be working pro bono in most cases. California, in effect, has prevented lawyers from helping an endangered class of troubled Americans … the home owner suffering from the current  woes of our economy. The claim was that there were some lawyers who “stole” from this unsophisticated group of people and took advantage of their fears. However, theft is already a crime and moral turpitude violates the rules of professional conduct and subjects a lawyer to disbarment. This new law/rule, adopted “to protect the public,” actually hurts the very people it’s intended to protect by denying them access to counsel.

The battle goes on … between those lawyers seeking to help needy clients and those monied-interests seeking to control the society.

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Where are all the women going?

A recent article in WSJ suggests that "Women in Finance Shrink." It’s clear that women up for reelection may not all win their elections, thus reducing the number of women in Congress. And law firms have difficulty retaining women as they become more senior…and, proportionately, women are not advancing in the ranks of management as high or as quickly.

Are we losing gains made in earlier years? Were those gains only superficial? Or have we arrived at the point where gender is irrelevant?

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Law School Education

Join us on LawBiz Forum in the discussion about legal education and the current reexamination of its efficacy for teaching management skills for success.  Will the law school tumble into the morass of being a trade school (heaven forbib!) by including such skills in its curriculum? Let us know what you think …

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Law practice and golf

If you’re a golf fan, you’ve just witnessed an outstanding competition. Whether you support Tiger Woods or are turned off by his personal challenges, you have to admit that he causes the sport of golf to be viewed by many more people than when he’s not playing.


I just read an article about a study that suggests that other golfers do not play to their potential when Tiger plays because they think he will win the tournament. Rather than the competition bringing out the best of everyone, others seem to do worse, giving up before they begin.


And, the same is true in law firms … when associates "give up," believing the "star associate" will get the prime assignment. This is counter-intuitive to me. What has been your experience?


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The End of Lawyers?

Richard Susskind has written a book suggesting that lawyers may become obsolete unless we make some dramatic changes.


I see nothing unusual about his conclusion … that legal work will be unbundled and that the work that is more mundane and routine will be systematized and perhaps even automated. Technology advances provide us with opportunities that didn’t exist before. We can, today, create better product for less money. Technology is only one aspect. Globalization is another. And this isn’t just for the large law firms. A client of mine, in Texas, opened an office in India for the specific purpose of document review and document production – it’s done for less money more quickly … And he can get a faster turnaround because of the time difference.


Law is slow coming to this process. My background is in manufacturing. I’ve owned and operated several companies. In order to retain prices, not to increase prices, we would do everything we could to automate. When automation, reducing the amount of labor costs, would go no further, we reduced the size of the container. For example, we would go from 32 oz to a 22 oz jar or a 10 gal. container to a 5 gal. container.


When we have time of challenge as we do now or changes in our economy and culture, we have the opportunity to innovate for improvements in products and services. We have the opportunity to create new demand. I see this beginning to happen in our parts of our economy. It will have to happen in the legal profession, nay the legal business (The Business of Law®), if we are to continue to serve our public as we know.



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Even Big Solo can fail

Failure can be experienced by small firms as well as large firms.  In the case of Dreier, the real shame is not that Dreier failed – he committed fraud and there is nothing new about fraudulent conduct causing failure … and even jail. The sad part of this tale is what happens to other lawyers working in the Dreier firm.


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Panic attack

The economic crises has finally hit home. People I know are talking about October and November as being months when the world stopped!  … and they couldn’t get off.  No one seems to know what is going to happen next.

I met yesterday with managing partners of several major law firms in my Managing Partners Roundtable.


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The Power of Nice

Linda Kaplan was another leader who appeared at the National Speakers Association. She is a legendary marketing guru and founder of The Kaplan Thaler Group, a billion dollar advertising agency. Her book, The Power of Nice, is a best seller.

Unlike Leo Durocher’s famous statement that "nice guys finish last," she believes that "nice girls finish first." After all, she asserts, people like to buy from people they like … And we generally don’t like people who are not nice to us.  Kaplan says it’s easier to be mean and gruff. It takes a special effort to be nice. Paraphrasing a saying my mother used so often, "You get more with honey than with vinegar."

This seems so obvious to me, but obviously is something that our profession finds so difficult to understand. Many Bars have adopted "Lawyer Civility Codes."  Why should this even be needed? Quoting an infamous source, "Why can’t we all just get along?" Why is it that we need be rude and obnoxious to our adversaries? Do we truly believe that such conduct will win us points or cause our client’s position to be moved forward? On the contrary, such behavior often merely entrenches the opposition further. Being nice, courteous and kind requires neither that we be a doormat nor that we cave in to our adversary’s position … we can stand forthright to advocate our client’s interest and position, yet still be civil and nice.

Again paraphrasing, "Try it, you might like it."  Certainly, there will be reduced stress all around.

P.S.  This works with colleagues and staff as well.

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