Vacation 2017 is in the bag. Nuevo Vallarta was a blast. Everyone got along. While I did not fully “let go,” I did relax and find the relief I was seeking. I had alone time. Time with the Sports Dude. Time with each kid alone, and together. Time as a family.

Bliss.

And then, with 48-hours to go, the dread came back. Work on Monday. Board meeting with the HOA that night. Where was my joy? My enthusiasm? It was gone … a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day.

Daily Calm BalanceAnd then today, the last day, my morning meditation was on balance.

Ahhhh. That’s it. My balance has been off most of the year. It’s been work, work, work, crazy, crazy, crazy, stress, stress, stress, both in the office, with my family, and as president of my HOA (thank goodness we’re done with Girl Scouts).

I have been thwarted and frustrated, and just not “me.” It showed, and I had no one to blame but myself.

What I came to realize (or remember) is that finding the balance in my life is a 365-day exercise; I can’t wait for my 7-night, 8-day vacation.

I have not been living a balanced life these past couple years, and I felt it. Yes, I’ve been getting to the gym regularly and eating right, but my meditation has been off. I have been feasting and fasting my way through each day.

While on vacation this week, I devoted time each morning for meditation while watching the sun rise over the nature preserve from my balcony, followed by yoga. Perhaps the greatest souvenir from our time in Mexico is the reminder to live that way daily, and to take time for myself between the hours 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday as well.

Working with lawyers is challenging, as is raising two teenagers, and managing an HOA. I’m sure your life is as busy and full as mine. Don’t forget to take the time to breath, create space, and find your personal bliss.

And thank you to all my Facebook friends. I have enjoyed your vacations, your moments. Here are a few of my favorite moments:

 

Under performing law firms are nothing new. Some under perform themselves into a merger, and others under perform themselves out of business. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the path or the way.

Altman Weil recently released their Law Firms in Transition report for 2017. Yesterday I posted the `first in this series, tackling the ABA Journal’s Law firm leaders report lawyer oversupply and ‘chronically under performing lawyers’ and the survey highlights.

In it’s ninth year, the survey, for the first time, is looking at change efforts in law firms. Having spent 19+ years working inside law firms, my interest is peaked: Continue Reading Under performing law firm? I hope you are disturbed. (Pt. 2)

I’m going to blog my thoughts while reading the 2017 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition (PDF) (Report). Here are their highlights from the survey (Highlights). I might end up writing a separate article at the end, with these just being my raw notes and first thoughts. We’ll see how this goes.

I can’t even begin to express how riled up I am just from reading the ABA Journal’s article, Law firm leaders report lawyer oversupply and ‘chronically underperforming lawyers’ (ABA Journal) and the executive summary from the Report. Here’s a quick warning, the PDF is locked and encrypted (which is frustrating the hell out of me right now. I’m going to have to retype everything I want to quote. Although people are sending me solutions to this … so fingers crossed).

From the ABA Journal:

  • The continuing erosion of demand for legal services continues to be a threat to traditional law firms, according to a survey of law firm leaders in which 61 percent said overcapacity is diluting profitability.
  • Fifty-two percent of law firm leaders say equity partners are not sufficiently busy. Sixty-two percent said nonequity partners are not busy enough, and 25 percent said associates don’t have enough work.

heads-in-sandAnd from the Report (See, AW, I typed out what I wanted to quote, and gave you attribution. I’m TRYING to help you here):

  • “Law firms are slowly changing—more slowly than we think is wise, but changing nonetheless. Clearly not all change efforts are resulting in overnight success. Some efforts require long-term investments that can be a tough sell with partners. Other initiatives may work quickly, but are one-time fixes that can’t be replicated for year-on-year gains. We see firms making only cursory investments where they should be aiming for broader, deeper transformation. And still many partners resist change in all its forms.”

And from the Highlights:

  • The problem of partner resistance: 65% of law firm leaders say their partners resist most change efforts, and 56% say most partners are unaware of what they might do differently.  This reluctance to change is an intractable problem in many law firms.

But there’s good news.

What those of us in the C-Suite have been pounding our leaders about for YEARS is working:

  • “… pricing, staffing, and efficiency tactics specifically undertaken to improve law firm performance—are actually producing results.” (Report)

And a bit of a road map to get started:

  • “Lawyers are very good at interpreting data that’s set before them, but they also need to ask: What don’t we know that might matter?” said Altman Weil principal and survey co-author Tom Clay. “Adequately educating partners about current market realities is a critical first step in achieving necessary strategic change.” (Highlights)

Above the Law and their recent guest poster in Marketing and the Law (enjoy the comments on the Facebook feed) need to take a deeper look at what legal business executives have been doing (or trying to do) for years. In one sense they get it right, many lawyers do struggle with this “fundamental part of the business.” I would just argue that they are most likely part of those 52% or 62% of under-performing equity and non-equity partners. And that the solutions (LEADERSHIP) are there.

Off to read the Bloomberg Law article now. Then I have to do a Costco run. More later today as I really dig into the Report itself.

Many of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or through the Sports Dude know my love of music and concerts (was at Billy Joel last weekend, and have U2 coming up on Saturday).

I’m unashamedly an ’80s New-Wave/punker, and Eric was a club DJ throughout the ’80s and ’90s (ashamedly for the Red Onion), but we love all things music and I have a special affinity for the ’90s Seattle music scene (no NKOTB for me).

This morning I woke to the news that Chris Cornell, frontman for Soundgarden, collaborator with Eddie Vedder in Temple of the Dog, as well as Audioslave, had died.

I posted my favorite song from Temple of the Dog:

Followed by these two gems that I had never heard before, but found through others sharing on Twitter: Continue Reading Chris Cornell, Suicide, and Legal Marketing

I wrote in part one of The truth behind lawyer jokes: The “business of law” is tough about the challenges facing the business of law. Namely, the people involved.

In this post, I want to turn to the solutions. Or some ideas for solutions as each firm and its challenges are different and unique to them, but not unique as a whole.

For every problem there are many solutions. Continue Reading The truth behind lawyer jokes (Part 2): The glass is leaking

There’s something to be said for self-deprecating humor; those jokes meant to clear the air, or add levity to a stressful situation. We legal professionals have been known to enjoy a good lawyer joke, or game, or two.

http://www.cubiclefugitive.com/

I tell my kids, all the time, you can’t say something mean and throw a “just joking” at the end to make what you said okay.

There’s always truth behind those “jokes” my kids make, and there is truth behind attorney jokes. But this is business, big business, and other businesses and lives are at stake. And that’s no joking matter.

Here’s the truth: the “business of law” is tough.

Working with lawyers can be challenging for legal professionals, the client, and the lawyer.

Lawyers didn’t go to law school to run a business, but that’s what they do whether they are a solo practitioner, or a partner in a firm of any size. With no business training, many lawyers find themselves at the helm of a business generating tens of millions, and in some cases, billions of dollars each year. Their training and innate personalities often times is in conflict with running a business, or counseling a client who is running a business.

Every day corporate clients look to lawyers for business solutions. Specifically, general counsel are charged with how to get their company’s products (or services) to market; to make deals happen; to make litigation go away.

While the GC is looking for certainty, they too often get back from their lawyers anything but that. Lawyers can’t help it. It’s what they learned in law school and is deeply ingrained in who they are.

I was brainstorming with a friend recently about his business and some of the challenges he’s facing in the market place. At one point in his life he was a practicing attorney, and it began to show. Long story short, his inner lawyer kept coming out to challenge my ideas: “We tried that before.” “It won’t work.” “Our competitors …”

Throughout the meeting he kept me on my toes, sharpening my ideas as I circumvented his objections. It was a bit exhausting, yet he reminded me that while working with lawyers is challenging, it is also very rewarding, and makes me a better thinker/idea generator.

I work with very smart people, every day, who don’t realize that by challenging me and trying to poke holes in EVERY idea I have, just makes me better at what I do.
Continue Reading The truth behind lawyer jokes: The “business of law” is tough (Part 1)

elvis pic3
Alex Schenk, Elvis, Brenda Christmas Marlowe (L-R)

After almost six years in legal marketing, I attended the LMA Annual Conference in Las Vegas as one of two recipients of the Midwest Region’s Presidential Scholarship.

What an experience! So many new legal marketing connections. So many good sessions. So much to think about.

Here are a few reflections as a first-timer and a small-firm marketer:

Networking is key

  • I decided to take advantage of as much as I could at the conference, so I went a day early to attend a few mixers and a pre-conference session. I also participated in a lunch networking session with the Small Firm/Solo Marketers SIG. Through the networking events, I met many people IRL who I previous only knew virtually through LME (Legal Marketers Extraordinaire on Facebook), my lifeline. These include Hall of Fame members, former board members of LMA, and conference presenters. They are approachable and willing to help other legal marketers at any time. Throughout the conference, I ran into them repeatedly and they always chatted with me to see how things were going (and they give hugs).
  • If you’re part of team who are at the conference, connect with people outside of your firm. It’s what we tell our attorneys, right?
  • Look people in the eye. Say hello. Invite others into your “groups” at mixers – don’t just leave it up to others to approach you or ask to join your group.

Continue Reading Thoughts from a First-Time LMA Attendee | Guest Post

In my morning meditation, this line popped up:

“… in our group discussions we should never settle for the “good,” but always strive to attain the “best.”

How perfectly that sums up my LMA conference experience this week in both the sessions, and especially in the hallways, as well as in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire (LME) Facebook Group.

Mentors | Colleagues | Friends

Continue Reading Final LMA thoughts: Strive to attain the best

Richard Caruso, VP, ALM LLC – MODERATOR

Jeff Franke – Yahoo! Inc

Connie Brenton, Senior Director of Legal Opps, NetApp, Inc.

Steve Harmon, VP and Deputy GC, Cisco

George Milionis – GC, Petersen-Dean, Inc.

[My comments in brackets]


Steve: The legal department is there to make sure that they can build and sell their products. Here’s their model of what stays in and what goes out. They are not price sensitive to mission critical activities, but there’s not a lot of “bet the farm” litigation. And high competition for it.

Cisco

Connie: A lot of the work is coming back in-house, but not mission critical, but mission critical to the operations of the company. Firms need to be creative for the repetitive work.

Jeff: Yahoo! has huge legal opps teams. There is an evolution within legal opps. The model is changing. No longer selling to the person you have the relationship with, as in the “old” days,” but as they get more sophisticated in how they buy legal services. [talking legal procurement, people. LISTEN up]

Talking the lock-step rate increase. Long story short, you are forcing the work in house as the legal budgets are NOT increasing. They are looking to partner on new pricing models [are you LISTENING??].

George: They had a big litigation issue in CA, so they looked at creating a law firm within the company. And, well, yeah, they did. Not just low impact, PI cases, but high-stakes litigation. Brought 90% of the litigation in house. Brought in technology, use contract lawyers, and they cut legal spend by seven figures.

Connie: They are at the tipping point. We will see drastic changes into the function of the GC office within companies.

Jeff: Within the next few years you will see corporations bring pricing people onto their teams. Price is important and critical. For the critical matters where lawyers bring great value, $1000 or more/hour is not a problem. It’s the fat in the system [expensive offices) that is driving up rates. They are not looking for law firms to not make a profit, but, come on already.

Steve: They pay for the outcomes. They don’t want to pay for the input. It doesn’t fit their business models, and doesn’t make sense to them. The firms that win their business have a sense of what they want to achieve, and can define the options available to them [HELLO, this is the JOURNEY MAPPING we worked on in the CMO Summit]. Successful firms have a project management mindset. All of their outside lawyers go through project management training [shout out to Legal Lean Sigma … do it!!]

Connie: Once they understand how much something should cost, they will move to fix fee.

Steve: One of the key things that he and his department are measured on is predictability of the budgets they address.

FIXED FEES. FIXED FEES. FIXED FEES.

Jeff: Disagrees to an extent on the input. He does care. [and he and Steve will have a chat after the panel]

Steve: As they outsource their work on deals, they understand that they sub-contract. They expect their firms to do the same.

Connie: Collaboration is going to move the market. The change management in their roles is extreme, and you will see it accelerate.

Richard: Looking at how technology is affecting their organizations.

Jeff: It’s going to depend on the company. Electronic billing is critical. They are still trying to get their arms around the numbers and the data. Yahoo! is looking at business process automation (getting back to efficiency and cost processes). If they have a process that is broken they look to automate it.

Connie: Dashboards are new to in house. They need to run their departments as a business. #2 tech is “how can they run their departments more efficiently.” IF YOU KNOW ARE BUSINESS YOU ARE FAR MORE VALUABLE (yes, I am shouting). #3 Electronic signature.

Steve: Talking AI, because that’s the buzz. The principle opportunity for AI is to access information without the judgment. They want to make it much easier to get to the information they need. They need to get their hands around the data. #2 – they need to compare the value of a known value v. an unknown value.

Connie

Jeff: Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) is a new organization where they are collaborating. [Think LMA for in-house lawyers].

Heather: What about the rate increase letters: the language is dictatorial, no phone call, arrogant, after the time they have set their budgets. To quote Connie, “This will stop.”

George: If it’s an increase for an increase, they will bring the work in house.

Steve: Show him how you are 6% better, have 6% value. If just because someone is moving up in a firm’s hierarchy, not his problem. The minute they can jettison you, they will.

Connie: Doesn’t think the law firms understand the administrative nightmare rate increases brings to them in house.

Matt Fawcett, SVP & GC of NetApp, is pissed off and he made sure we all heard about it. My question is, “could your client have written this letter?” and “Are you listening?”

Matt has a voice and his voice is being heard by other GCs. They are talking about this, and they are collectively done.

I am at the LMA annual conference, and the GC panel is about to begin. I’ll blog about that in a separate post.

When’s the last time you sat before a panel of general counsel and listened? May I suggest you do so quickly. I also suggest you read for understanding Matt’s letter. Did you send a rate increase letter out this year? Could your client have had the same visceral response as Matt?

Lots of questions and food for thought.

March Madness Law Edition V2