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How To Achieve Walmart-sized Success: Boost Your Firm’s Benefits Package

On April 15, the day Americans dread, a number of news sources focused on taxpayers’ dollars in public assistance. Specifically, they highlighted the fact that Walmart workers cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance aid.

Although this number may sound enormous, it’s nothing compared to the entire public assistance bill that Americans foot each year, approximately 131.9 billion, according to welfare statistics.

It’s not surprising, then, that employees of this supergiant Walmart make up 4.7 percent of this welfare-seeking population, seeing as Walmart aims to hire low-wage workers and targets the unemployed for its job positions.

In fact, President Obama recently told Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, “What we have done is to gather together 300 companies, just to start with, including, some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Walmart, and Apple, Ford and others, to say let’s establish best practices,” which includes not screening out people from the hiring process just because they’ve been unemployed for a long time.

Although Walmart denies this figure, calling it “inaccurate and misleading,” its spokeperson Randy Hargrove does stick by Walmart’s policies, stating, “The bottom line is Walmart provides associates with more opportunities for career growth and greater economic security for their families than other companies in America.”

“Our full and part-time workers get bonuses for store performance, access to a 401K-retirement plan, education and health benefits.”

For many Americans, the retirement, education, performance-based, or health benefits of a job are as or more important than the wage. So, for law firm professionals, boasting your benefits plan can be invaluable in hiring employees or retaining high-performing ones currently on payroll.

To find out exactly where the value-add of your benefits program lays, send out an anonymous survey among your employees. Ask them if there’s a health benefit, i.e., low premiums or mental health coverage, that they value over others. Ask employees what benefit is not covered that would make a difference in their day-to-day job satisfaction.

These benefits may include health benefits, discounts to gyms or spa services, professional fees and expenses, moving expenses, income security and retirement, flexibility and alternative working arrangements, parking or transportation, counseling and employee assistance programs, tuition reimbursement, or extended associate training and mentorship.

Finally, investigate your internal HR compliance requirements, from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to Workers’ Compensation. That way, you are aware of what your firm is required by law to provide, and which among your benefits make your firm go above and beyond.

It’s only what your firm can offer employees that others are unwilling to that, in the end, will transform your small legal storefront into a giant success story, like Walmart.

If you need advice, attend C4CM’s online event, geared specifically toward HR needs of law firms, “Leave Law Intersection: Avoid Dangerous Detours on the Road to FMLA, ADA and Workers’ Compensation Compliance,” on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15pm EST. The event will be held by Tracy M. Billows, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Ms. Billows is a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP concentrating her practice on representing and counseling employers throughout the country in the entire range of employment law matters. Her work has included the representation of Fortune 500 companies, as well as medium and small sized employers. Ms. Billows represents employers in single plaintiff, multi-plaintiff, and class action litigation matters related to employment discrimination claims under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and similar state discrimination laws.

Prior to her legal career, Ms. Billows was a human resources executive in the corporate community. With first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by her clients, Ms. Billows is able to advise them in all areas of labor and employment law including employment policies and employee handbooks, training programs, and the application of federal, state and local employment laws, and various other compliance issues.

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Effective Time Management In The Digital Age: Guides, Strategies, Phone Apps & More!

Do you ever look at the clock and think, “where did the time go?”

You know you’ve been working, but on what? For how long? Some days you can’t help but get caught up in the minutiae, whether it’s paperwork, responding to emails, or writing to-do lists for tasks you still—at 5pm—have yet to do.

This is why you’re still billing hours at the end of the day. This is why you’re unable to go home until midnight. This is why you hate coming to work on Monday mornings.

But, those wasted work days—the ones where you lose track of time—can come to an end. At least, Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email In The Morning, would have you believe.

“There are several reasons why our days have swelled,” says Morgenstern to Forbes.

“Companies continuously are trying to hire as few people as possible. Our roles are continuously changing, the world is changing, we’re in a time of rapid change—nothing is ‘business as usual’…”

And, when it comes to law firm professionals, Morgenstern is absolutely right. There’s no such thing as the “normal” associate. There’s no more “standard” for partnership track positions. In fact, law firms are changing the way they do “business as usual” through outsourcing the document review in the discovery stages, utilizing more electronic legal assistants than in-person ones, and even adding online services.

So how do law firm professionals adapt their time management styles to accommodate today’s digital world?

Try writing a time management diary.

Morgenstern suggests employees write down how much time they’re spending on a project, including when and why their workflow was interrupted, everyday. Soon, you’ll find out exactly what’s squandering your and what’s saving you time.

Management consultants are hired to help your firm operate more efficiently. But, you can start auditing your own your own activities is through a smartphone or tablet app.

Consider one of the following apps:

1. Eternity Time Log Lite – Personal Timesheet (Free)

This time management app lets you focus on the work that matters and avoid distractions through project lists and timers. The app creates reports about your time. Just review, and adjust your work habits, accordingly.

2. Klock ($19.99)

Do you know how much time you spend in meetings? On the phone? Promoting yourself? Making sales calls? Keep track of anything with Klock’s work timer and visual display of how your days “fill up”. Klock can be synched across multiple employees. That way you can track time management across team members.

3. Frecke ($19+/month)

Says one satisfied user:

“The Pulse is my favorite feature and what sold me on Freckle. With the Pulse, I can easily see and keep track of how many hours I’ve done and for which client. This makes it really easy for me to see what I need to do for the rest of the week, and also plan for the time I can use for other projects. I can quickly see that I have already put in a certain amount of hours for one client and not yet another, so I know to dedicate some time to the other client. The Pulse really helps me manage my time better and keep track of how I’m actually using my time. It even lets me see when I’m not using my time efficiently.”

And eight more apps here!

You can also sign-up for C4CM’s information-packed guide “Effective Time Management: Take Control, Tackle Work Flow Chaos and Overcome Productivity Challenges.”

This 73-page, comprehensive guide provides many strategies for tackling time management issues at your firm, from handling crises to multitasking to burnout.

You work at a law firm. Chances are you cannot leave at 5pm with everything done like Morgenstern would have you believe. However, you can make sure that each hour you bill is an efficient one, and that each hour you don’t remains productive.

The first step in managing your time? Finding out where you’re wasting it!

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Background Checks: What’s Legal, What’s Not

In a recent discussion of Luddite lawyers, law firm professionals have already become aware of the importance technology plays in legal ethics. The phrase added by the ABA House of Delegates to Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 on Competence reads (in bold italics):

“To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”

Technology is not just guiding the conduct of lawyers, but it is guiding the conduct lawyers’ top clients, as well.

For example, does your firm know if your clients is making use of social media background checks? Is your firm even aware what a social media background check is?

Last year, Tumblr had a recorded 100 million blogs. So, chances are high that your next employee, or the employee of one of your latest clients, has a Tumblr blog. And, if not Tumblr, than WordPress, Blogger, Twitter, Weebly… the list goes on.

Online services provide a social media background check that examines all of these websites, social media platforms and Internet history, to screen for a variety of behaviors—drug use, racism, or any other conduct that might reek legal havoc for a future employer. Because in May 2011, the FTC gave a company called Social Intelligence the “ok” to run background checks of Internet and social media history, firms have a new technological human resources tool at their disposal. Do you—and should you—use it?

The website Gizmodo decided to test this social media background service on its employees. It turns out, the service Social Intelligence does a fair job at screening job applicants without (totally) violating their privacy. In its report, Social Intelligence blacks out information regarding gender or race, basically categories where employers are not allowed to discriminate.

However, the Gizmodo article’s author Mat Honan (who, incidentally enough, failed the online screening) insightfully considers the following scenario:

“Let’s say you’re a California-based employer and you do a basic background check on a job candidate. In scouring the Web, you discover a brand new Tumblr update that says ‘I’m pregnant!’ Holy impending mandatory paid time off! But you’re good a corporate citizen. That doesn’t matter to you. Yet for unrelated reasons, you hire a different candidate. Meanwhile, the rejected candidate sees your company’s IP address in her analytics program. She assumes you didn’t hire her because she’s pregnant. She sues. Now what?”

Does your application or hiring process include criminal background checks? Social media background checks? Are your policies and procedures in compliance with the EEOC’s new guidance?

You may think so, but so did Pepsi and its team of lawyers. Instead, the EEOC sued the company for using background checks in a discriminatory way and Pepsi paid $3.2 million to settle the suit. Pepsi also agreed to rewrite their background checking policy and procedures. When was the last time your firm did the same?

Luckily, there are resources readily available to your firm to make heads and tails of this tricky, two-sided background-check coin. The Center For Competitive Management offers “Background Checks: What’s Legal, What’s Not,” is a starter.

So, even if you think your firm and its clients are up-to-date, think again. The ABA’s new ethics requirements, in addition to Pepsi’s costly precedent, are a reminder of what’s at stake for your firm if you don’t.

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A To F: Alphabetical List Of Outdated Legal Technology

We’ve already complained about Luddite lawyers.

Technology is not only a pragmatic requirement of the practice of law; it is now an ethical one, too.

If your IT Department isn’t already the most integral and important part of your firm, it’s like you’re falling behind. Furthermore, if you use any of the following items on a day-to-day basis, it’s like your operations are as outdated, as well.

Eliminate some of these machines and office mores to get back on track.

“A” for Associates.

Associates are on the decline, and law firm employees on the rise.

Associate compensation models are changing as the legal marketplace becomes overpopulated with a generation of lawyers with very different workplace attitudes and expectations.

Firms are recognizing the growing obsolescence of the traditional lockstep model and are taking steps to rework it or replace it. Firms now have an opportunity to be much more creative in how their attorneys are paid and to use compensation as a way to drive long-term value. To create long-term value and retain good attorneys, a firm first needs to design a strong, coherent, and attractive strategy.

Rather than firing secretaries or de-equitizing partners, Greenberg Traurig law firm has created a new strategy for hiring associates in the form of a “residency program.” Firm managers view this program as a way to attract talented associates without having to endure the costly and risky hiring process. Also, it allows junior lawyers to sign on who may not have made the cut in the first place, reports Law21.

In addition, junior lawyers work case matters without billing their work at the high rates clients have come to expect. Sitting on conference calls and gaining on-the-job training, these “resident” attorneys gain the job experience needed to succeed in the future and sustain life in an over-saturated market today.

Greenberg is simultaneously creating a new non-shareholder-track position called the practice group attorney, similar to the positions at law firms Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. 

The age of the Associate is over.

“B” for Binders

Why are you till making copies, printing out transcripts, and creating binders? Sure, every once in awhile, there’s a need for a hard-copy backup binder. But, it’s time to go digital.

Papers can be scanned, digitally stored, text-recognized, and then made searchable to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your law firm.

Binders are out, and electronic case material software—MyCase, Amicus Attorney, AdvantageLaw, LegalFiles, and OneNote—is in.

“C” for Conference calls

How many people really benefit from conference calls? Already, it’s impossible for more than one person to speak, and—often—people accidentally speak over one another.

Is a conference call more efficient than a memo? Do five people really need to bill the client for the same call?

Conference calls can easily be replaced with a quick person-to-person conversation, memorandums circulated over email, lists distributing work product, or—for the advanced law firm—discussions over a wiki (Learn how to create one here).

Ditch the conference call and develop your social capital at in-person conferences instead.

“D” for Dictaphones

Della may have used a Dictaphone for Perry Mason, but outside the world of black and white television is the real world of iPhones and Macbooks.

Your smartphone, tablet, and computer is capable of recording and even transcribing audio. So why are you still using cassette tape recorders? The Dictaphone should die in a fiery death, the app Dragon Dictation, however, is worth its weight in Silicon.

“E” for E-mail

Experts agree, e-mail is outdated. A meeting-less morning, a conference-call free afternoon, or e-mail-less day goes a long way in productivity for the firm and project deliverables for your clients.

Reading and answering e-mail takes up approximately 28 percent of the average workweek for employees, reports a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company. Communicating and collaborating internally takes up 14 percent of the workweek, and searching and gathering information just 19 percent.

Have you ever e-mailed a colleague who shares a wall with you? If so, it’s time to reconsider your e-mail etiquette and e-mail frequency.

Electronic communication certainly has its advantages. But, its overuse has made e-mail under-perform in comparison to old-fashioned office visits.

“F” for Faxes

Ok, keep your fax machine. But only if it’s paid for or used as a paperweight, museum item, or reminder to what legal assistants had to go through to file motions in the past. Otherwise, stick to e-filings or eFaxing.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with times, just consult The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s list of courses and audio conferences on technology integration for law firms.

Also, keep reading this blog, http://lawfirmsuccess.wordpress.com/, for more tips of the legal trade.

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Lawyers Finally Forced To Embrace Technology (& Snubb Ned Ludd)

In 1985, Robert Calvert wrote and recorded a song “Ned Ludd,” which says:

They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy
That all he could do was wreck and destroy, and
He turned to his workmates and said: Death to Machines
They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams.

The year of 1985 was the year of the Polaroid, original Macintosh computer, and the digital Casio Keyboard. In 1985, Nintendo was shipped from Japan to the USA and revolutionized gaming. We also got a glimpse of Windows 1.0.

So, with so many amazing technological advancements, why were people singing homages to Ned Ludd?

Ned Ludd, for those who don’t know, is the person who gave Luddites their name.

In 1779, Ludd supposedly broke two stocking frames in a fit of rage. Thereafter, any and all violence by 19th century English textile artisans who protested against new, labour-saving machinery—the Luddites—was blamed on Ludd (read more on Wikipedia here).

Luddites hated technology. They fought against the Industrial Revolution. In the 1980s, the computer boom, like Calvert’s song, was experience a minor backlash of critism. Today, we are witnessing the same.

But, are lawyers Luddites?

That has been a frequent topic of conversation of late, particularly since the recent amendment by the ABA House of Delegates to Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 on Competence. The phrase (in bold italics) below was added to Comment 8:

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

The Lawyerist featured an article in December 2013 titled, “Luddite Lawyers Are Ethical Violations Waiting to Happen.

The article’s author, Megan Zavieh, comments, “During my first year of law school, we were not allowed to do computerized research. Instead, we were taught to use the leather-bound reporters, Shepherds, and treatises. It was only during our second year that we were deemed worthy to use Westlaw and Lexis to ‘confirm’ our book findings. (Of course, I doubt any of us ventured into the stacks again.)”

“This approach reflected the general attitude of the legal profession in the mid-to-late 1990s.”

Of course, the 1980s and 1990s for law and technology look nothing like the legal practices of the 21st century. “In 2013, email is ubiquitous, and just about every lawyer has some form of electronic research available on his laptop, tablet, or phone. And everyone—lawyers included—uses Google to find everything else,” writes Zavieh.

“In law practice, that includes research on witnesses, opponents, judges, and anything else not found in a Fastcase, Westlaw, or Lexis database. Technology is an unavoidable part of practicing law.”

The Lawyerist article is powerful, citing case precedent where technology—including “reasonable efforts” to conduct online searches during jury selection or considering the inclusion of social networking sites in due diligence as part of a “matter of professional competence”—has entrenched itself in courtrooms and cases.

Being ethical now requires lawyers to be technological. So, what does that mean for your firm?

First, “old-school” partners can no longer shun firm training sessions on legal services software. “The age of the law firm partner who can’t remember what Facebook is called, or who asks his secretary to print out his emails, or who goofs up a video conference during trial, is past,” Zavieh reminds us.

Second, new associates should be tested on their technological knowledge before being hired. Always.

Third, your firm might reconsider how it conducts its due diligence, and disseminate technology-friendly policies.

Fourth, your e-discovery software should be state-of-the-art.

Fifth, your IT department should circulate monthly memos on the top tech trends and how to incorporate them at your firm.

Sixth, your younger associates should keep track of technology-related legal precedent and what it means for important case matters.

Finally, if you’ve rejected any of these simple steps toward streamlining technology into the day-to-day operations of your firm, it’s likely you’re a Luddite. And, these days, Luddite lawyers are about as outdated, un-recruited, and under-performing as 19th century looms.

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Power In Networks, Not Numbers: The Importance of Social Capital To Law Firms

“It’s not what you know but who you know,” is a common axiom in the marketplace.

Social capital can increase your firm revenue, efficiency, and loyalty of your employees and clients. But, you cannot own social capital, or buy it.

Social capital requires an investment of time and effort to instill trust, expectations, norms, and opportunity at your firm. Social capital has existed as long as small communities formed and people interacted with the expectation of reciprocation and trust.

According to James Coleman’s seminal 1988 work, Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital, social capital is “not a single entity but a variety of different entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social structures, and they facilitate certain actions of actors—whether persons or corporate actors—within the structure.”

Less tangible than human capital, social capital consists of (1) obligations and expectations; (2) information channels; and (3) social norms. In law firms, these three items form between peers as a result of social capital networks and relationships.

In a public school district in the United States, for example, school authorities noticed that numerous Asian immigrant families purchased two copies of each single required textbook for students.

After pursuing the matter, school authorities found that these families were purchasing one textbook for the child and one textbook for the mother, who was charged by the family with helping her child succeed in class.

So, where the human capital of the parent may have been low, the mother’s lack of familiarity with the course material or inherent intellect, the social capital of the child, a willing mother to assimilate the same course material to help her child study, was shown to be quite high.

High social capital leads to success, especially in cases where people or companies are looking to make up for a lacking human capital. For associates, recent research from the University of Iowa reveal the significance of professional social capital networks in obtaining a higher salaries for attorneys in private firms, as well as in bolstering mentor-protégé relationships.

For firms, these same research results show that social capital plays a role in acquiring new clients in small private firms.

To attract new clients, researchers conclude that attorneys in small firms should focus on increasing the size and status range of their overall social networks including, professional, non-professional, family, and volunteer organizations. By expanding the size of their social networks, firms will increase their attorneys’ ability to obtain clients, particularly attorneys with less experience.

However, attorneys in large firms, according to this research, should focus predominantly on the status range of their professional social capital networks—attracting higher-status employees and clients in terms of experience, reputation, or pedigree—in order to gain access to the “important” partners.

So how can your firm increase its social capital?

First, your firm can promote formal networks of trust. Your firm can create value statements that include trust and mutual promotion. Organize a mentor-mentee program. Offer free lunches in the office to encourage social interaction among departments and ranks. Don’t reward the blame game when you lose cases and praise teams for case matter success.

Formal social capital networks include friends from professional organizations or legal associates, former classmates, neighbors, or friends. Make sure your employees have adequate time to cultivate these relationships.

Second, your firm can promote informal networks of trust. Organic and natural formation of networks of trust—for example, inter-office friendships—are stronger than ones that are forced. So, encourage those after-office happy hours. Give your employees time off to attend weddings and family events. These are all occasions where your employee expand and solidify their social capital.

Social capital relies highly on information channels, or communication.

To more effectively master communication methods in the workplace, attend C4CM’s audio conference (or purchase their informational CD) Delivering Highly Effective Feedback: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practice Strategies to Communicate More Effectively on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 from 2:00 Pm to 3:15 Pm Eastern time.

You’ll explore the key skills of delivering and receiving effective feedback:

  • Specific methods to communicate in a more personal and interactive manner
  • Crucial communication steps to take before and after every employee interaction
  • How to make sure an employee understands the feedback you have delivered
  • Rules for feedback frequency, specificity and follow up
  • Listening skills to help you receive as much feedback as you give

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The Smart Woman’s Guide To Winning Office Politics

“It’s seen as sneaky, but it doesn’t have to be. And whether you like it or not, politics are important in any office culture,” said Kari Reston, founder and CEO of Boredom to Boardroom, a company that helps young professionals with their careers, to Ruchika Tulshyan at Forbes.

It’s time women become comfortable with office politics.

Office politics is a game. When people discuss office politics, they’re usually talking about underhanded dealings, backdoor deals, and favoritism. But, office politics is also—put more simply—socially networking within a company.

At your law firm—as well as law firms around the world—there are groups of cliques, people who prefer to interact with one another exclusively in and out of the office. These relationships may form between colleagues, clients, or vendors.

To play the game, you need to know the players. So, admit that social networking and office politics are important. Then, make sure you know who are the lynchpin players in managing and manipulating professional relationships.

When you know the players, it will easier to play and—most importantly—win.

Promotion is a politics game. So, now you know who is responsible for professional promotions or bonuses. The question is, how well do you know them? Do you get along? How often do you interact?

Cultivating a relationship to win a promotion, at first glance, seems sneaky. However, cultivating relationships with superiors or people in important positions just helps you bring to their attention your hard work and accomplishments.

“One of the very best ways to connect with people is to offer to assist them in some way. Especially in these challenging economic times, there is no shortage of people who feel overwhelmed and could use some assistance,” said Nina Simosko from Nike, Inc., to Jo Miller for Women’s Leadership Coaching.

“If you are able to authentically connect with and assist folks with things of importance to them, then they will want to repay the favor and will be available to you when needed.”

Were you the senior associate on that high-profile case win? Waiting for somebody to hand you your promotion? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. People in a position of power are not always apprised of the inter-workings of a case matter.

An equity partner may recognize your name without realizing your critical role on his legal team. When you cultivate relationships with the people in power, they will know, first-hand, how many nights you spent at the office, how little sleep you obtained due to work, or how important your contribution was in winning the suit, settlement, or client.

Leadership is a politics game. Be vocal. Ask for assignments, promotions, or leadership roles. Take credit for your wins. You’ll only be viewed as a leader at your firm if you are already acting like one.

“You might be cheery, friendly, fun and likable at work, which is great. But is that the brand that’s going to get you to senior management? Maybe credibility, great analytic skills and strong communication abilities are what you actually want to be known for,” explains Reston.

Women tend to be afraid to “talk themselves up” for fear of looking like brown-nosers. But, their male counterparts are doing exactly that.

As a result, women tend to stay in firms where they’re likely underappreciated and underpromoted. “In my experience, women tend to stay longer than they should in a culture that is not a match, or in positions where a manager is putting a lid on their career development,” concludes Simosko.

“Building relationships and getting to know people better can do a lot to build appreciation of diverse of values and perspectives, so give that a genuine effort for at least a few months.”

For more information, attend C4CM’s online audio conference, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Winning at Office Politics on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 11:00 Am To 12:15 Pm Eastern time, featuring Kari Reston.

This power-packed session will explore the political challenges women face in the workplace, and will identify the attitudes and skills needed to address them successfully, including:

  • How to change your perception of office politics (it’s not a bad thing)
  • Tips to identify the types of power at play in your workplace
  • Communication techniques to help you gain allies, influence others, and build relationships (even with the most difficult people) ·
  • Important lessons on how to actively take the credit you deserve, and create an impactful personal brand · How and why to build a strong network

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Negotiation Tactics: #1 Don’t Get Caught By Surprise

From salary negotiations to severance to sick days, don’t get caught by surprise when negotiating benefits. When law firm manager or law firm employee, there’s much to be gained by constant preparation. Here’s how you do it.

For employees:

1. Know your true value

First, it’s important to know your true value. That means the market value for your current position in your current industry. Whether it’s via websites like glassdoor.com or information from your recruiter, find out whether your current salary is above or below your true value.

2. Know your relative value

Next, take into account your previous experience or unique skills. Are you bilingual? Do you have a second degree outside a JD, say a MBA or CPA? Did you previously work at the USPTO so that your patent experience exceeds that of much more tenured lawyers?

Make a list of these skills and experiences. This is your value added to the job in general.

Then, make another list of on-the-job training or tasks successfully accomplished at your current firm. This is your value added to the specific position you currently hold. These accomplishments are tangible benefits you’ve provided your employer.

“It’s all about demonstrating that you are the best person to help the employer address any challenges that may exist,” Roy Cohen, veteran career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, said to Forbes, “that you are going to change the course of history at the organization.”

3. Keep a hardcopy of this list accessible

In today’s day and age, you never know when you might be laid off. Or, when your boss wants you to move from say, the New York office, to the Sacramento one.

If you keep this list up-to-date and accessible, then next time a manager calls you into his office, you’re prepared for anything—negotiating a new, higher salary or, in the worst case, a better severance package.

If you don’t have this list ready, or you need more time to prepare for negotiating, keep some delay-tactic phrases handy, like “I need some time to see if there’s an opportunity to advance in that office [or division].” Or, “My kids go to private school, so I’ll have to review the options and prices for similar schools in said-location.”

Don’t get caught by surprise. Stay calm. And, be well-informed when you negotiate.

For employers:

1. Know who is undervalued or overvalued at the firm

Just like your employees, managers should keep track of the range of salaries offered at the firm. It will help at the end of the year for raises and bonuses, but it will also keep you from being surprised by requests for salary increases.

Keep a ranking of your same-level associates. This ranking can remain unofficial, but it will help you answer key questions, such as: Do I play favorites? How can I assemble a balanced team of professionals for this case? Who deserves the biggest bonus? Who can this firm not afford to lose?

2. Reward ability, not ego

If a potential employee comes into your office with hardball demands and an over-inflated sense of self, this may not be the best employee or team member.

At the same, realize that employees with confidence in their abilities or value-add will be prepared to negotiate. Be clear and upfront with them about what you are personally allowed, or not allowed, to offer at this time.

Don’t lie to employees about compensation or advancement. In the end, employees will quickly figure out that bonuses are not as large as you let on, or advancement opportunities are not as they seemed. Not to mention, lying or exaggerating often transforms into a legal headache for firms.

3. Be brief

Whether you are caught by surprise by an employee or well prepared for difficult compensation discussions be brief. Negotiation, from the employer’s side, is best accomplished when the employee has to wait—anxiously anticipate—the outcome.

For your turn, in this economy, there are likely plenty of fish in the pond. The best match for any position after both sides negotiate is a win-win, where the person who gets what he or she wants in terms of compensation and benefits, and—in return—adds fair and longstanding value to your clients and firm.

Learn more in The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Mastering Difficult Conversations: Tips and Tools from an FBI Hostage Negotiation Trainer.

The course explores:

  • Best practices for handling tough conversations about behavior and performance
  • What techniques work best when dealing with emotional employees – and how to keep yours in check
  • Methods for dealing with sticky issues like discrimination, gossip or pay
  • Which laws and regulations you must comply with in order to reduce legal risk
  • How to decrease your fear of confrontations How to tame a tense conversation before it gets out of hand
  • Ways to respond to employee pushback
  • And more!

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Law Firms & Tech Start-ups: How To Get High Returns On This High-Tech Mix

Tech start-ups, they’re everywhere.

Anybody with a keyboard is now a nontrepreneur—an entrepreneur who needs nearly nothing, non-ness, to make an invisible product or intermediary service with questionable social welfare output.

Nontrepreneurs are intermediaries, connecting people, companies, or services that have already existed in markets deeply ingrained in our society for decades.

“In essence, software (which is at the heart of these startups) is eating away at the structures established in the analogue age. LinkedIn, a social network, for instance, has fundamentally changed the recruitment business. Airbnb, a website on which private owners offer rooms and flats for short-term rent, is disrupting the hotel industry. And Uber, a service that connects would-be passengers with drivers, is doing the same for the taxi business,” writes Ludwig Siegele for the print-edition of the Economist magazine’s article, A Cambrian moment.

Recruiters still exist, but with LinkedIn as a complementary asset. Gites and family-style B&Bs still thrive, but with a forum to post availability and through which customers can compare their quaintness.

What exactly is coming out of this tech-start-up boom? Is this another Silicon Valley boom, bubble, and bust?

Experts don’t think so, high-tech is here to stay. Although, they do blame the blase millennials, a lazy generation who do it themselves in order to delay what grandparents called paying-your-dues.

“A lot of millennials are not particularly keen on getting a ‘real’ job anyway. According to a recent survey of 12,000 people aged between 18 and 30 in 27 countries, more than two-thirds see opportunities in becoming an entrepreneur,” writes Siegele.

“That signals a cultural shift.”

Opportunities in nontrepreneurship have increased. Buzz words like “innovation” or “invention” abound.

So how will tomorrow’s economy accommodate so much creativity?

“The prevailing model will be platforms with small, innovative firms operating on top of them. This pattern is already emerging in such sectors as banking, telecommunications, electricity and even government,” continues Siegele.

Basically, people need a change. They want something new—a new lifestyle, a new product, a new way of working.

This cultural shift is a threat to the legal industry who prides itself on being old, established. Law firms project the image of being solid, like the granite walls of a courthouse or the mahogany legs of an office desk.

To survive in such a brave new world of tech start-ups, law firms must embrace the new in one of two ways:

  1. adopt innovative legal tools—software and alternative billing arrangements; or
  2. cater their old-style services to new-fangled sectors, like M&A, venture capital services, and entrepreneurial advising.

For instance, in London, JAG Shaw Baker is a leader of the pact in European law firms dedicated to venture capital and advising start-ups and investors in high growth industries.

“The fact it’s in London signals the fact that the ecosystem there is growing at a clip, and is rapidly acting as a hub for international startups,” writes Mike Butcher in 2013 for the TechCrunch article, A Rare Launch In Europe—Big New Law Firm Dedicated To Tech Startups.

So if your firm hasn’t already, it’s high time to develop a strategy for capturing high-tech industry market share. Whether it’s a new HR regime, new website for attracting clients, purchasing legal software, or providing new services to nontrepreneurs, law firms should embrace this tech boom or risk going bust.

Start your firm’s high-tech upgrade today by offering your high-tech clients alternative billing arrangements. Read about the trends with C4CM’s report here.

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Ways Your Law Firm Is Wasting Money & How To Stop It!

It’s true. The crystal vase in every senior partner’s office is a waste of money. And, nobody ate the catered food provided for today’s client meeting.

But, forget about the little extravagancies. Think, instead, about the everyday behavior and continual misspending at your firm.

You might be surprised to discover your law firm is wasting money in the most unsuspecting of ways. Find out why the following five money gluts are bound to catch up to your bottom-line.

1. Overstaffing projects

When firms are concerned with revenue, they look to increase billable hours. So, managers assign multiple associates to a single project, which not only boosts billables, it also seemingly increases the benefits to clients.

But, more hands on deck may not lead to more dollars in the bank.

Overstaffing a project leads to inefficiencies. Instead of making progress on a case, attorneys are duplicating work and then spending more time to filter out the redundancies.

And, instead of seeking out new clients or business streams, law firm partners are wasting valuable hours figuring out who did what and when for their cases.

Overstaffing projects can actually reduce your firm’s efficiency and profitability. Clients may become dissatisfied with results, employees disgruntled over long hours, and the opportunity to explore other revenue streams will certainly be missed.

There’s no added value to redundancy.

Overstaffing projects with costly attorneys? Maybe you need to attend C4CM’s course: Utilizing Paralegals for Increased Profitability, Productivity and Efficiency.

2. Using paper

Ok, enough with the photocopies.

Law firm professionals are inundated with documentation, from internal memos to official filings. But, there’s no longer a need to print out every single document—and definitely no need to create binders of discovery.

If discovery was collected and sent to your firm electronically, discourage employees from printing it out.Not only does your firm run an added security risk should these binders of confidential information get lost or leaked, but going paperless makes more sense financially and environmentally.

Between laptop computers, smartphones, easy-to-view tablets, and cloud storage, there’s no excuse for turning digital age of legal documentation into the dark age.

3. Providing no training to employees

When employees are first hired by a firm, they need to be trained on a firm’s resources. Assistants, paralegals, and attorneys alike need training. There is no exception.

Showing employees where the MS Office templates are located, how to properly fill out a timesheet, and where to find the conference room is simple. Knowing that every employee is confortable with your legal software or specific computer packages, however, is not.

Don’t skip out on training. Your firm will pay for it later with lost productivity and poor time management. The last thing you need is a filing deadline missed by an attorney who has never seen an e-filing before.

Want your first training idea? Take C4CM’s course on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, at 2PM EST: Excel Pivot Tables: Shortcuts, Tricks, and Time-Saving Tips to Crunch Data More Efficiently.

4. Keeping the morale killer

You know that one person in the office who is always spreading gossip? Or that individual who always has a complaint on hand but never a positive thing to say?

Office morale declines when managers let it. Law firm managers are responsible for setting the right attitudes and incentives to keep employees motivated and productive. When there’s a person poisoning the atmosphere, it’s time to make a change.

Talk to that person. Come to a resolution. If necessary, create a morale-boosting event for your team. Whatever the problem, find a solution sooner rather than later. If you’re keeping the morale killer—unknowingly—you’re killing the productivity of others, too.

Get rid of incivility now with C4CM’s course Friday, January 31, 2014, at 2PM EST: Preventing Incivility at Work: Specific Strategies for Creating a Cooperative and Collaborative Workplace.

5. Catering to your weakest link

Law firm partners of a certain generation tend to be resistant to change. But, are you letting your weakest link dictate your firm’s direction?

Sometimes the weakest link in a work force is also the most outspoken one. As a result, policy for all tends to conform to the wishes of one.Let everybody in your firm have a voice.

Whether it’s to refine firm strategy or create new policies, make sure you’re not holding back your firm’s best interests (and revenue) to appease one obstinate partner.

Need CLE hours and interested in avoiding mistakes that cost companies millions? Attend C4CM’s course Friday, February 14, 2014, at 2PM EST: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): Methods to Actively Reduce Risk and Avoid the Mistakes that Cost Companies Millions.

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