Birth Of A Salesman: Why Building Good Client Relationships Will Boost Your Law Firm’s Bottom Line

Try telling a lawyer that—at the core of their work—they’re simply a salesman. Like the shoe shop down the corner or the bookstore around the bed, law firms are in the services industry whether its professionals like it or not.

So when it comes to working with clients, attorneys should take the lead from some of the world’s best salesmen.

Take, for example, John H. Patterson, originator of modern sales training and Founder-CEO of the National Cash Register Company. He fathered the four-step sales process involving (1) initial approach; (2) the proposition; (3) the product demonstration; and (4) closing the deal. Today, lawyers could take a page from his training manual.

Then there is David Ogilvy, advertising executive and sales guru. He once said:

“The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted.”

This is why he is responsible for some of the most successful and iconic ad campaigns for major businesses, like Dove, Schweppes, and Ross-Royce. Attorneys should realize bedside manner and trust are as important as building a case when it comes to attracting and retaining clients.

America’s quintessential car salesman, Joe Girard, has one or two things to prove about hard work and persistence in the post-war era. Detroit native and dedicated dealership salesman, Girard once sold 18 cars in a single workday and sold over 13,000 Chevrolets in a 15-year period since 1963.

Finally, look at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The latest data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals remains the reigning and undisputed champion of both Internet retailing and across the entire department in overall customer satisfaction, reports Kevin Baldacci in “7 Customer Service Lessons from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos” for the Salesforce Blog.

“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient,” according to Bezos.

To bolster this philosophy at Amazon, Bezos used to bring an empty chair into meetings and tell his top executives that the chair represented the customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Even in law, it’s the client who matters most, which is an easy thing to forget in our digital world replete with e-discovery e-filings.

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

Bezos’ success in sales has a lot to do with a very generic business principle that recognizes bad dealings in a virtual marketplace has real-world consequences. In the same vein, at a law office, every e-mail, phone call, or correspondence with a client can have disastrous costs if not handled appropriately.

Like Amazon’s customers, law firm clients can be needy, unrealistic, emotional, verbally abusive, and just as confrontational as the standard call center complainer.

So, before you send out a rash response or react negatively, remember that empty chair in the room. In the end, the client matters most. As upsetting as it may be to hear “I want it tomorrow!” “your bill is too high!” or “what do you mean, I can’t do that?” your client creates and destroys your business.

Take care of them and they’ll take care of you, as evinced by the stories in Inc.’s list of the 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time (here).

So, listen to The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course, “Dealing with Difficult Clients: Proven Strategies to Limit Problems, Avert Disagreements, and Ethically Handle Problem Clients” on Thursday, December 18, 2014, from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern time, and learn how to handle these situations.

When Bezos caught wind that Amazon customers were stealing digital copies of the books 1984 and Animal Farm, he rashly removed the copies remotely. The backlash from this “Big Brother” act by users was enormous.

Although legally and ethically in the right, Bezos confessed to being in the wrong. He published the statement: “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”

Because sometimes apologizing, when sincere, is better for building relationships and business empires than stubbornly defending your practice, legal or otherwise.

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Bad Food Combinations & Whetting Your Appetite With Law Firm Data

Advantageous Uses Of Info You Already Collect

Some combinations go together but can’t act like substitutes: like orange juice instead of milk in your cereal, or egg yolk instead of syrup on your pancakes.

When you do force matters to go together, they’re often hard to handle. Take, for example, the hybrid Zebroid, which looks like a horse with zebraesque stripes, but is a particularly difficult animal.

Humans, too, experience advantages and disadvantages to hybridization. At first, certain combinations of seemingly unrelated skills can create the ideal career option.

Take, for instance, the lawyer-CPA.

“I think an accounting background gives somebody the opportunity to take a more global approach to the representation of a business,” says Stephen Kantor, who is both a CPA and a partner at the law firm Samuels Yoelin Kantor Seymour & Spinrad LLP.

He explains, “I stick to the law, although a lot of what I do involves accounting.” From the perspective of an attorney, Kantor is confident that a CPA designation provides additional insight into the industry of law.

And, with new tax legislation up for debate in Congress, it’s time lawyers brush up on their tax code.

Others, however, work better as compliments than hybrids or substitutes, for example, the allusive data scientist-lawyer. Like a mythical unicorn, never has nature seen a naturally occurring IT Expert comma Esquire.

Yet, in today’s high-tech society, failing to use data appropriately is one of the worst mistakes a law firm can make.

Law firms don’t just collect clients or cases, they collect data. Data that can be the key to unlocking how your business works—and more importantly, succeeds. Whether it is “hours worked, hours billed, top clients, revenue and profit attributable to different representations, [law firms] often fail to use this data to help improve their business operations,” writes David Lat for the Above The Law blog.

Law firms can no longer rest on laurels and ignore the business side of their firm.

“Law firms are project managers now,” Craig Budner of K&L Gates said to Lat.

“Data has been underutilized in terms of predictive pricing. We can use data to figure out how to price our services.”

The problem usually lies in familiarity with how data can be properly collected and analyzed. Either you get an expert in tech or an expert in the law, never both.

Enter, the data scientist.

Data scientists are proficient in all things numbers and patterns. Not only can they tell you the average time to trial for you cases, they can also tell you which judges grant your firm the most motions, or when the best time of year is to woo new clients.

With the right tools and craftsman behind them, law firms can create alternative fee arrangements based on historical data about the real value of a case to a firm and accurate projections of how much time it would take to litigate it.

In addition, data can tell your firm tell what time of day your employees are most efficient and help your firm identify which employee incentives work best to boost profitability and productivity.

Pricing, fee arrangements, employee satisfaction, and policy efficacy, and many more, can be measured—and the data is at your fingertips! It’s time you find the right person to unlock it. The wrong combination can, unfortunately, waste even more time and money.

Consider The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM) for the job. Using their comprehensive audio conference, “Law Firm Data: Using Legal Project Management to Increase Profitability and Attract Clients,” your firm can more effectively:

  • Manage transactions,
  • Improve communication,
  • Manage costs, and
  • Meet client’s growing expectations

In just 75 minutes, expert faculty will delve into the essential ingredients of a well-implemented LPM program, including:

  • Best practices for aligning the interests of the firm with those of the client through LPM
  • How LPM works for cases billed hourly or as alternative fee arrangements
  • Best practices for goal setting, and resource allocation
  • Why LPM works, even in a legal landscape ripe with surprises
  • Real life examples of LPM success
  • The challenges of incorporating LPM and how to overcome them
  • Coding best practices and how to implement them

Don’t do everything in-house. Before you pour coffee into your cereal bowl, consider a more appropriate pairing: business consultant expertise on data management alongside your legal services.

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Stop Monkeying Around! Court Says Chimps Not Human (& Why Your Employees May Need A Vacation)

Feeling trapped at work? You’re not the only one. Just talk to Tommy, the chimpanzee living in a cage in upstate Fulton County, New York.

The former entertainment chimp has been going stir-crazy for upwards of a decade, about when he was given to his current owner, according to the BBC. Unfortunately for him, this Thursday, a New York court ruled that Tommy did not have the same legal protections as a human and must remain in captivity.

And you thought you had it bad.

The decision was handed down on Thursday, after the animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project sued Tommy’s owner last year claiming that chimps had similar characteristics to the humans and thus deserved basic rights. One of those rights includes freedom.

Chimps “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings,” Nonhuman Rights Project president Steven Wise told Reuters last year, according to the International Business Times.

“There’s no reason why they should not be protected when they’re found in chimpanzees.”

Caged chimps around the nation (or, at least, the State of New York) are saddened today by Judge Karen Peters ruling:

“So far as legal theory is concerned, a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties… Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

So, at roughly 40 years old, Tommy is trapped.

But you don’t have to be.

Law offices can feel sterile or stifling, which is why you need to get out once in awhile. Surveys find 40 percent of Americans leave three to seven days of vacation per year unused, according to the New York Times.

It’s time to break out of your cage. In fact, those Americans who do unchain themselves from their desks and decide to take regular vacations end up happier, say surveys.

A new Nielsen poll commissioned by Diamond Resorts International finds that 71 percent of American workers who regularly take vacations are satisfied with their jobs, according to the New York Times. Of those that do not take regular vacations, less than 50 percent report being satisfied with their jobs.

As a law firm manager, you should ensure that your employees and associates take their much-needed holiday hours. Rested, relaxed, and satisfied employees stay at firms longer and are more productive. Employees who take regular vacations have also have better overall job performance, writes OpenView (via Huffington Post).

Law firms are increasingly tightening their belts when it comes to salary and attorney partner-track promotion, so now is the time to provide compensation in other ways. If your firm can’t afford bonuses this year, try giving extra vacation days.

You’ll find that employees will return to work with better attitudes and even work longer hours as a result. Plus, a boost in office morale has no price tag.

However, every monkey needs a banana. You may find employees are reluctant to take time off. Employees sometimes feel that their employer does not really want them to leave the office, or that—in their absence—they will be replaced or made redundant.

This is why some companies have created oddly innovative incentives to push employees to take vacation, according to OpenView (via Huffington Post):

  • FullContact, a Denver Software company, pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation, disconnect entirely and not work at all.
  • Evernote gives employees a $1,000 to take off days in at least 1 week increments.
  • Netflix offers an unlimited vacation policy as long as employees get their work done.

If your firm can’t offer more days off, then consider implementing a telecommute policy. Sometimes just working from home can feel like a stay-cation.

In the end, companies need to find a policy that fits its unique corporate culture. Poll your associates to find out why, exactly, they’re not taking all of their vacation days off.

Sometimes the only bars that imprison us are the ones we put up ourselves.

Check out more creative ideas for employee compensation with C4CM’s audio course, “Associate Compensation: Leveraging Hybrid Methods that Combine Lockstep with Merit-Based Tiers.”

In just 75 minutes, our expert faculty will examine the key factors in associate compensation that contribute to firms staying competitive and profitable in this rapidly shifting environment, including:

  • Why change? How client demands are fueling the rapid fire changes to associate tracks
  • Details on the types of alternatives to pure lock-step compensation models and how these alternatives compensate associates
  • Ways to develop and manage meaningful criteria for promotions outside of lock-step
  • Crucial performance review criteria to include in your merit-based compensation system
  • Beyond compensation increases, what matters most to associates, mid-levels and partners
  • Where firms have failed when it comes to associate compensation overhauls and how to avoid their compensation mistakes

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Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini won a lot of games at Nebraska. His record? An honorable 67-27. But, even a win this Friday against Iowa wasn’t enough to save his job.

It’s not easy being supervisor. There’s a big difference between knowing how to play the game and knowing how to coach it.

Bo Pelini knew how to play football. He was free safety for the Buckeyes at Ohio State under College Football Hall of Fame head coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper from 1987 to 1990. Not only did Pelini start in his last two years, he also served as a team co-captain in his senior year, along with some of football’s finest, Vinnie Clark, Jeff Graham and Greg Frey.

Although hardwork, hustle, and know-how do not necessarily translate to expert coaching, Pelini did have an equally successful career as a National Football League (NFL) scout and coach.

In 1994, Pelini earned his first position in the NFL as a scouting assistant for the San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert. Once there, he was quickly promoted to assistant secondary coach, and by the spring of 1994 he was promoted to defensive backs coach (source). In 1995, he helped coach in his first Super Bowl where the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49–26 in Super Bowl XXIX.

But just as sun and snow are polar opposites, the success of Pelini’s program in warm San Diego looked nothing like his experience in wintry Nebraska.

So, now Nebraska is on the market for a new defensive coordinator. Luckily, they are at no loss for choices.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldmanpredicts a few candidates: One, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, a former Nebraska QB. According to Feldman:

“Frost would fire up a fan base, as he is one of their own (he was even born in Lincoln), while also representing a return to not only the Tom Osborne era of a dominant rushing attack, but it’d be one souped-up thanks to all his time working with Chip Kelly, who is right now the hottest coaching brand in all of football—not just for his offense but for his entire innovative approach to all facets of the game.”

In fact, a few of Feldman’s choices, like Minnesota’s Jerry Kill and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl, come from a climate and style similar to that of Nebraska.

Because when it comes to tricky supervisory transitions, culture and climate play a large role.

Law firm management is just as touchy as coaching football. There are high stakes, you have to manage the players’ egos, and clients can be fair-weather fans.

Bo Pelini serves as a great example for law firm managers of what challenges lay in the wake of a promotion. A newly hired or promoted supervisor must:

  • Make the transition from team player to take-charge leader
  • Improve performance in people who aren’t used to you being the boss
  • Avoid common mistakes and problems that sabotage new supervisors (like being too strict or too lax)
  • Handle even the most difficult employee conversations and situations, even firings

One thing is for sure. Whoever takes Pelini’s place will have a plan preparing for this transition. Whether it’s a meet-and-greet session, strict diet and training regimen, or tough-love approach starting from the first huddle.

Law firm managers should do the same. Decide what kind of attitude is most effective. Be prepared for tough conversations, including talking notes for how to approach them. Set goals for employees and decide how to communicate them.

Finally, it’s important to know how to motivate your team—and it won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Seen from the outside, Pelini’s record is respectable. But, when the going got tough, Pelini’s program didn’t get going. His record is only 9-16 against Top-25 opponents, and—worse still—only 2-8 in his last 10 games against ranked teams.

It’s when pressure was building and the stakes were at their highest that Nebraska folded. And, yes, the boss gets the blame.

It’s tough to be supervisor. So, make a game plan.

Need help? Here’s a start. The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course “New Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach.”

During this power-packed event, you will explore the most important aspects of your multi-faceted supervisor role, and learn key techniques and practices to help you better delegate, motivate, plan, and coach employees for success.

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3 Black Friday Purchases That Will Put Your Law Firm Books Back In The Black

Black Friday gets its name from the fact that most business’ bottom lines will go from in the red to in the black on this post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza.

Your law firm is no exception. There are at least three Black Friday purchases that your firm can make today to ensure a profitable tomorrow.


Nest Labs is a home automation company based out of Palo Alto, California, that designs and manufactures sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning, programmable thermostats and smoke detectors. According to Nest, you and your firm can save up to 20 percent on its electric bills.

Most people leave the house at one temperature and forget to change it. But, it’s no different for offices. Businesses can leave signs on the door saying, “last one out, switch off the lights,” but when was the last time your employees listened?

With Nest, you can control your thermostat remotely via mobile app. The thermostat will also learn your habits and adjust accordingly. This way, as your thermostat realizes that the last employee leaves the office around midnight, Nest will modify its program to turn itself off at this time.

Now you save on energy spent from six to eight hours overnight. Don’t underestimate the savings of controlling your heat in the winter and air in the summer.

Tablets/ iPad

Buy your employees iPads. Yes, that will save your firm money.

Whether it’s an iPad or Kindle or equivalent e-Reader, make sure your office goes paperless. Lawyers waste so much paper when they print out documents for DocReview or other administrative tasks.

There already exists a myriad of apps designed for legal case management for the smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s not the technology that has fallen behind, it’s your corporate culture.

Gift tablets to your employees. Make it clear that this is a replacement for paper copies. Keep employees accountable by gifting the iPad only to lawyers who show a marked reduction in their paper usage.

You’ll be surprised at how a small investment in technology can change the entire working strategies of your employees toward using more efficient, more innovative tools for delivering legal services.

Create a training program that introduces such technology to slow-adopters in the office. With a small upfront fee, you can lower long-term spending on paper by lawyers, in addition to creating a more productive workplace.

Other tips on going paperless can be found here. Tips on using iPads in the law firm office can be found here.

The Holiday Party

Many firms cut back on hosting a holiday party when times are tough. But, it is exactly that times are tough that your firm should throw one.

Holiday parties improve morale, which—in turn—increases employee retention. The younger generation of associates, especially, is looking for more than just a job. They’re looking for a place to belong, a community.

In addition, holiday parties allow different departments and different generations of employees to network and mingle. Consider inviting neighboring businesses to participate.

Don’t skimp on a few bottles of champagne when the confidence of your employees, and their attachment to your firm and its clients, is at stake.

Instead of New Year resolutions, this year, on Black Friday, make a commercial commitment to profitable new business practices.

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An Unusual Recipe For Your Law Firm’s Thanksgiving Dinner

I bet you never thought of these unusual Thanksgiving combinations:

  • Irradiated Turkey 
  • Thermostabilized candied yams
  • Freeze-dried mash potatoes
  • Thermostabilized cherry cobbler
  • Powdered (as in, literal powder) tea with sugar and lemon

But, each of these is on today’s menu for NASA astronauts in honor of this American holiday.

While you may be stuffing your face with Turkey stuffing, warm cornbread, and pumpkin pie, residents of the International Space Station must make do without refrigerators or heavyweight foods.

It allegedly took 18 months, according to the UK’s The Independent to develop this questionably mouth-watering feast for America’s finest. But even if this menu doesn’t wet your appetite, the unusual combination of science and creativity should.

Whether it’s hybrid animals like the Liger (male lion and a female tiger), the mix of bacon chocolate chip cookies (some say it’s gross, others glorious), or counter-intuitive combination of color and noise (yes, noise can have the colors white, pink, purple, or blue); this century is marked by atypical associations.

And while you may be grateful for your oven-roasted honey ham—a classic Thanksgiving blend—law firm professionals should look forward to another crazy combo: Technology and Law.

You may not foresee a future where hackers and lawyers come together, but it’s already happening between computer programmers and journalists with Hacks/Hackers, which encourages journalists to work with software developers on projects. It’s time to open up the legal space to hackerspaces.

One organization has taken the lead in this area: Legal Hackers, a group encouraging a tech-focused approach to tackling tough issues in the legislative and legal space.

“After scores of internet users opposed the passage of SOPA and [its Senate counterpart] PIPA through vocal and technological protest, Congress decided to table the bills for later consideration,” Legal Hackers states on its website, according to AssociationsNow Technology News.

“But the fact that the bills got so close to becoming law troubled a few Brooklyn Law School students. How could Congress come up with a law so devoid of stakeholder input and so divorced from a meaningful resolution to this common legal problem?”

Legal Hackers decided it needed to find a solution. It is working to build tools that help move lawyers from desktop-based inefficiencies (like, emailing Word documents instead uploads to the cloud or apps) toward a more mobile-friendly approach.

For now, Legal Hackers is a self-proclaimed low- or non-profit organization. In August, it presented at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting a session called, “Cracking the Code: Everything You Wanted to Know About Coding, Open Data & More But Were Afraid to Ask.”

But even if you see no place in your firm for work with Legal Hackers, the idea still stands that technology and law are two sides of the same service coin. They belong together, like turkey and stuffing or pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

If you don’t know how to upgrade your software or, more importantly, upgrade your corporate culture to a technology-friendly and mobile-first one, then seek support.

Hire consultants that know how to integrate technology and tailor these tools to your firm’s needs (C4CM has a variety of online courses to help you, here).

Today, thanks to mobile technology, you can watch football at home without fear of missing important work calls or deadlines. And sitting down to share Thanksgiving dinner with family this year is something to truly be thankful for.

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Electric Shock Study Shows We’d Rather Hurt Ourselves Than Others (& How To Apply This Attitude To Pro Bono Work)

Pro Bono. Three words that—in this economy—no lawyer wants to hear.

Or maybe they do?

Pro bono is essentially providing legal services to poor, marginalized, or at-risk individuals, groups, and communities without pay; usually it’s done in order to serve a higher purpose—the provision of justice.

Some say pro bono work is altruistic and therefore difficult to incentivize among attorneys. Economists at Princeton University, however, may disagree with this statement after a recent study.

“Molly Crockett, a psychologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, combined the classic psychological and economics tools for probing altruism: pain and money,” writes John Bohannan for Science magazine

The scientist’s task? To find out who many electric shocks would be dolled out—and to whom—when money was at stake.

The pain given via electrode was deemed “mildly painful, but not intolerable.” And the price tags of each shock varied, from $0.15 to $15.

The randomly chosen “decider” in the trial was given a choice of number of shocks for money, and the shocks were either to the decided, themselves, or to another participant—although the decider always got the money.

Although society would like to believe that people would be willing to give up some sort of gain, financial or intrinsic, to avoid the distress of hurting somebody else, this idea has yet to be supported by previous scientific research, points out Bohannon.

In fact, the opposite result–that people are not altruistic–has been proven time and time again, as far back as the 1960s with Stanley Milgram, whose psychology experiments are some of the best known and widely discussed.

In 1961, Milgram sought to test our obedience to authority figures. He was motivated, in part, by the behavior of Nazi war criminals, many of whom were facing trial at that time, such as the infamous Adolf Eichmann.

Subjects in Milgram’s experiment were instructed to give a series of escalating electric shocks to an unidentified person in another room. The shocks ranged from 15 volts to 450 volts. Although the subjects were separated, they could communicate between the walls. Participants dolling the shocks could hear the (faked) reactions of their counterparts, which included screaming, banging on the wall, and complaints of heart conditions. After a while, the participant would hear nothing on the other side of the wall. Throughout the experiment, the subjects were not threatened or yelled at, rather, they were given stern and consistent instructions not to stop administering the volts.

So did they?

A (no pun intended) shocking 65 percent of the subjects followed orders and administered the final—and seemingly fatal—450-volt electric shock to the person in the next room.

But today, it finally seems possible that altruism—or at least incentivizing it within people—can exist.

In the more recent study, the results show that while participants did not like the pain of receiving a shock (they were willing to make about $0.30 less money per shock on average to receive fewer of them) people were willing to lose twice that amount, $0.60 per shock, to hurt an anonymous other less. The full results can be found online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fifty years later, society can finally sigh in relief knowing that people are more caring and altruistic than they first seemed in Milgram’s portrayal.

For lawyers, however, pro bono work is not actually altruistic. On the contrary, it can provide law firms with many profitable opportunities, among them:

  • Networking opportunities for lawyers
  • Boosting a lawyer’s or firm’s reputation
  • Enhancing team-building among lawyers
  • Boosting staff morale
  • Creating a positive and altruistic corporate culture
  • Fundraising opportunity for a firm working with charities or other endownments
  • Enhancing skills and experience of younger lawyers
  • Providing leadership opportunities for younger lawyers
  • Attracting paying clients through high-profile pro-bono work
  • Attracting young talent to the firm who value an idealistic corporate culture

So, sign up for pro bono work today. Do it for the philanthropy–as the electric shock study shows, we’d rather help others than ourselves. And, of course, do it for the profit-seeking aspects, too. It can’t hurt.

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