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)

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

 

 

LMA17 has kicked off with Zoe B. Chance (@zoebchance ‏) speaking on how the brain is wired to be influenced. As my buddy Jon Holden said,

Go read the Twitter feed at #LMA17. In short, we need to make it easy to say yes, make it easier to take action, at the moment of “truth.”

Which flowed PERFECTLY in to the kick off of the AI track. I am just in love with this topic, and YES, my 2017-2018 Marketing Plan for the Marketing Department at my firm is to CLEAN UP MY DATA!

My favorite slide is the one that brings it all together:

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Bringing all of our data together to tell the story is the future, and the future is here. AI should be on the minds of all legal professionals. The impacts will drive client relationships, engagement, and the delivery of legal services. It will drive how law firms (and cases) are managed.

For those with their heads in the sand, you have to realize: YOUR CLIENTS ARE DOING THIS. They are automating, and they are in control of the demand. WE are the business professionals. We need to be fluent in this conversation.

BRAVO to the SEXIEST panel at #LMA17. Follow them:

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As 1200 legal marketers start to gather in Las Vegas for the annual LMA Annual Conference, I am reminded WHY I am a member of this community: We have a deep passion for what we do.

But can we care too much?

And when I say “we,” I include all of us on the business side of the law firm from the managing partner, through the C-Suite, and all of the pathways that lead to office services, reception, and hospitality.

Come June, I will celebrate 19 years as a legal marketer. And when I say celebrate, I mean it. I am proud of my career, and love what I do. But I cannot care more than the attorneys I work with, either as individuals or as a collective.

Being a legal professional has its challenges, but the rewards are far greater. Watching a law firm grow and evolve. Seeing the lights go on when an attorney gets it. Having your ideas embraced and implemented.

Yet the turnover in legal marketing continues. Not just turnover from firm to firm, but from firm to firm to out of the industry.

It takes a certain personality to work in-house. I have several close friends and colleagues who could never be successful in-house, yet as consultants they are in the perfect position to balance what it is that we do.

Yes, in many ways we still pay $5000 $10,000 to have a consultant tell the lawyers something we could have told them for free, but as long as we are not personally attached to that $5,000 $10,000, we’re fine.

From my morning meditation earlier this week:
care too much

Simply stated, we need to detach from the results. Over the course of the next few days, we legal marketers will be sponges. We will walk away with new ideas and initiatives we know we have to implement. We will have a new-found energy and sense of ourselves. And then we’ll return to the office where some of these ideas will be well-received, but few implemented. NOW.

That’s the key word: NOW.

Keep talking about what you learn. Keep sharing the new ideas and concepts. Start to implement what you can. Continue to reinforce good business concepts.

Changing culture can take 5-10 years. And that’s without lawyers in the mix.

When I think back on the 19 years of my legal marketing career, I cannot believe how far we’ve come. But it’s been a very, very slow and steady trudge.

Don’t give up. Use the next few days to fill up and energize. Know that you are with your “people,” that we’ve all been there, and have done that.

And never stop caring, just detach from the results.

It used to be that the worst things that could happen to a premium practice was for it to become commoditized. During the course of my nearly 20 years in legal marketing, I have seen in time and again.

Now the worst thing that can happen is disruptive technology. And when it happens, it happens overnight with the drop of a press release.

First came LegalZoom, now comes COIN.

Financial services attorneys (oh, hell, all attorneys) need to be shaking in their boots from this headline: Continue Reading Another premium legal practice bites the dust

It’s been a horrible weekend at airports across the United States as legal residents with Green Cards, valid visas, and immigrant refugees have been shut out at the point of entry to our county. While I believe we need a better vetting process and stronger border control, pure insanity and violation of our laws should not be part of that process.

Through the insanity, I do see the beauty.

I see lawyers sitting on floors, typing out writs:

slate.com | Kathleen Cullinan

I see average Americans showing up to not just protest, but show that they have learned from history:

First they came for the muslims

And I see liberals agreeing with Dick Cheney:

Perhaps this is the place where liberals and conservatives can meet: in the laws and the constitution of the United States.

As someone who leans center-right and votes third party, I don’t want to see this degrade into finger pointing between the DNC and the GOP. Considering 40% of eligible voters didn’t show up at the polls in November, I’m thinking a good percentage of Americans agree. There’s a reason why we are where we are, and we will have to look at that closely. But not today.

NOW is the time for our lawmakers to find common ground in our constitution. If we truly are a nation of laws, then our two other branches of government need to insert their authority. In case you’ve forgotten how it all works:

For my fellow legal marketers and the lawyers reading this blog, we are amongst the people who are in a position to prove that we are good people, and we will not let evil triumph. We have the ability to go to our management committees and propose how our firms and our attorneys can get into the story of today. We legal marketers have the ability to brainstorm and can help map out what this can look like for our individual firms. The lawyers have the ability to act as pro bono counsel, or support those who are. Or we can do nothing.