Tag Archives: Productivity

How To Increase Revenue Per Lawyer At Your Firm

Is your firm struggling to increase revenue per lawyer?

Revenue per lawyer can be an indicator of a firm’s overall financial well-being. By developing an internal culture of business development, your firm can begin to generate more revenue. Nevertheless, not all employees find it easy to build client loyalty, manage expectations, and generate client referrals.

Client satisfaction alone does not translate into future business.

Lawyers must be proactive in at least two areas: (1) explaining legal services of the firm; and (2) providing value where other legal services have failed.

First, clients, in order to make referrals, need to know the breadth of services available at a law firm.

For example, a firm may have provided a client with labor and employment legal services to a technology start-up. This start-up may have a business partner in need of intellectual property legal aid, but not realize the same firm also offers this service.

Prep your lawyers on how to identify and maximize cross-selling opportunities. This may require a script prepared in advance for your lawyers to read to clients about the range of your legal aid. It should also include background research into the business needs of your clients and their industry.

Second, clients, in order to remain loyal, need to know the breadth of customization of services available at a law firm. So, for example, your firm may be willing to offer alternative fee arrangements, such as a fee deferral system.

Fee deferral systems or contingency arrangements are especially important today amid the growth of technology start-ups.

“Think about it. You’re basically saying you’re going to stand behind your client and you’re going to hope that they can succeed and if they don’t succeed, you’re not going to get paid,” explained lawyer Debbie Weinstein of her client-focused business strategy at LaBarge Weinstein LLP to Law Times.

“That builds a lot of trust, a lot of integrity, and it also builds a common bond. The client says, ‘You know what, these professionals actually think I can make it and they’re not looking to get paid before anyone else.’ That builds long-standing, great relationships, and we have multiple entrepreneurs who come back to us every time they start a new business.”

Not all firms are willing to take such risks. But, if your firm is among the few, it may carve out a niche of competitive advantage that is desperately needed to get ahead in the legal services industry.

Finally, don’t let your clients out-tech your firm. Learn how to utilize technology to support and accelerate key client development activities.

For some specific ideas and resources, listen to C4CM’s audio guide “Increasing Revenue Per Lawyer: Creating a Healthy Culture of Business Development.”

Time to target better business practices, in addition to better legal ones. Innovation is the first step in increasing revenue per lawyer.

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Why Your Employees Plan To Quit in 2014 (& How To Stop Them!)

Roughly 21 percent of full-time employees plan to change jobs this year, reports Yahoo News about new research from CareerBuilder. Can your firm afford a one-quarter employee turnover?

Citing over dissatisfaction with their job, chances to be promoted, and work-life balance, this is the largest expected turnover since the recession, post 2008. Last year, just 17 percent of full-time employees planed to change jobs.

According to the CareerBuilder, among those who were unhappy with their job, 58 percent plan to leave in 2014, citing concerns over salary and feeling unvalued.

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” writes Chad Brooks, a BusinessNewsDaily contributor.

In fact, of the 79 percent of employees who do not plan to leave their jobs in 2014, many cite work-life balance satisfaction—also a contributor to job unhappiness—as the source.

So if positive work-life balance leads employees to stay with their firm, and negative work-life balance motivates employees to leave it, isn’t it time your law firm reevaluate its policies and perks?

Many companies, including law firms, have accepted the advantages (and disadvantages) of offering Flex scheduling.

This may mean working one day per week, or every two weeks, remotely.

“I work a four-day week which is incredibly valuable, and I’ve been really encouraged to see that some of my male colleagues have switched to working flexibly so that they can meet the demands of a young family,” says Lauma Skruzmane about her city law job to The Telegraph.

“For me, this also underlines the fact that balancing work and family is not to be branded a ‘women’s’ issue, but it is a challenge that all parents, or other careers, face.”

But parents aren’t the only demographic looking for flexible hours.

Working from home can be a relief for anyone. Perhaps your law office is experiencing temporary negativity in its corporate culture. Maybe the office has become of hub for gossip or distraction.

Whatever the reason, traditional workspaces may not be the most productive environment for all your associates. Allow them to take advantage of new media and technology, which often means anybody can be digitally anywhere at any time.

A healthy work-life balance also means adequate exercise.

Sign your firm up with a local gym. Give your employees incentive to work out at lunch or after dinner. Exercise will help improve efficiency and productivity among your staff by relaxing the brain and increase endorphins in the body.

Finally, lead by example. Take coffee breaks. Make time for face-to-face visits with your employees. And, don’t miss your child’s first student bake-sale because you felt obligated to stay an extra hour at the office.

Let you employees take five every once in awhile or risk taking their two-weeks notice.

While for many companies’ increases remain conservative for the coming year, employers still need to keep their organizations competitive. The strategy going forward is to wring every last drop of positivity out of the raises for their people, and turn to alternate methods, like enhanced reward programs, to increase engagement, boost productivity, and improve overall work-life balance.

If you’re an HR or compensation professional, the salary information in this comprehensive webinar will provide you with the tools you need to prepare your budgets for 2014 and keep pay competitive.

Our compensation experts will also provide you with an in-depth look at 2013 compensation spending and anticipated 2014 compensation trends, projections, challenges, and alternatives, including:

  • Trends and statistics: Base pay data for a variety of industries, regions and employee groups
  • Competitive intelligence: Insight into how other companies make pay decisions and best practices
  • Future state: Outline of what companies are planning for 2014 and beyond

Take the course here today!

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Is E-mail Outdated? A Law Firm’s 2014 Guide To Best E-Mail (& Productivity) Practices

Remember study hall in school? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one hour every day in the workweek to devote to “homework”—that is, to complete all those deliverables and other documents you couldn’t quite finish between case status meetings and conference calls.

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.

That means, the time that’s left for role-specific tasks—the tasks your employees were actually hired to perform, for which your employees were trained—take up only about a third (39 percent) of the average workweek.

So why does coordinating effort between employees and communication take up so much time and dry up so much productivity?

In many ways, e-mail has transformed menial labor into a performance-eating monster.

E-mail, once a more efficient way of communicating from your law firm in New York to its client in Shanghai, has now become the most abused way of communicating from your law office on Floor 1 to its counterparts on Floor 2.

What’s the solution for this time-sucking glut of a technology? Some experts are calling for a total elimination of the culprit.

Is e-mail over?

Recently in an article with Wired Magazine’s Marcus Wohlsen, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz admitted he had trouble keeping up with the 180 employees he oversaw.

“I would spend weeks collecting information about the state of the world,” explained Moskovitz.

“And by the end, it would be a couple weeks out of date.”

The world has come a long way in terms of digital communication—Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, Instagram photo posts. Moskovitz left Facebook to establish a single application to combine project management with a communications system. He co-founded such a technology with Justin Rosenstein in their San Francisco start-up company Asana.

Although both Asana founders still use e-mail, “Rosenstein says that, with Asana, he needs just 15 minutes a day to get through the email that needs his attention. The rest of his time, he says, he can devote to real work,” writes Wohlsen in his article for Wired.

“All the email and meetings, all that work about work, all this soul-sucking effort, is not real work. It’s a distraction,” Rosenstein says.

“If we can get rid of that distraction so we can actually get some work done, that just totally opens the doors.”

It may be a couple of years before Asana’s product reaches law firm doors. And, who knows if a new communications platform will ever—in our lifetime—replace the golden standard of e-mail.

Nevertheless, it’s time to stop wasting billable hours on inefficient e-mail habits. Come up with a friendly and effective e-mail guidance policy. One with rules such as:

  • E-mail across U.S. states or national borders, not walls
  • Never use “reply-all”
  • Face time with firm partners goes farther than Facebooking
  • Monday mornings are a firm-wide e-mail blackout. Whatever needs to be said should be conducted in-person or on the phone

Perhaps it’s time law firms and businesses reinstate the school study hall. Choose an hour, an afternoon, or a day to black-out technology and write-in work. 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.

E-mail is not dead yet, but innovative time-management ideas for your employees might be the next best thing.

Still got a lot on your plate? Read C4CM’s guide: Effective Time Management: Take Control, Tackle Work Flow Chaos and Overcome Productivity Challenges.

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Five Ways To Be Your Firm’s Next Rising Star

A hot new article on Forbes today is “Five Ways To Be Amazing At Work,” by Steve Siebold, a corporate consultant and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.

It’s hard to resist a title like that!

First, we’re told to be obsessed with productivity. Well, on a Friday, it’s easy to be obsessed with productivity. Every wasted minute at work is one less for leisure during the weekend.

But, what can we do specifically at law firms to improve productivity? Set the mood. Shut the door. Play calming music. Set a timer and work in 15-minute increments to keep totally focused.

Productivity is often about time management. Allocate a certain amount of time to a task and then disconnect. Unplug the phone and put “do not disturb” on your office door. The fewer interruptions the better the creative flow.

The second step to being amazing at work is to solve problems says Siehold.

This is an easy one. At work, keep a running tally of problems at the firm and within case matters. Create a two-column page with one side “problems” and the other “solutions.” It’s amazing how such a short exercise can go a long way in solving problems with law firm management practices or with cases in particular.

Third, take risks. For law firms, this isn’t necessarily the best advice. Of course, risk taking can pay off. But, it can also backfire. Luckily, there’s a simple adjective that can solve this problem. Take calculated risks.

And, take calculated risks on people. Give young associates a chance to shine.

“The great ones never play it safe when it comes to leading their teams through change, knowing their job is to serve as a guide and coach,” writes Siehold.

Fourth, have a strong work ethic.

For lawyers, it’s important to have a strong ethic in general. Don’t forget the right and wrong of cases you’re trying to win. Dedication to your work and believing in its ethic will go a long way to increasing your passion and productivity.

Finally, find a coach. For law firms, a coach should be a mentor, whether it’s a senior associate or law firm partner. Mentorship is an important part of the law.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

In any business, it pays to let people make mistakes. And, if you establish a mentorship program, it’s likely your firm will gradually see less and less of them.

With proper training, your employees can learn to communicate and cope–with confidence–during moments of both success and failure. Not to mention that, in the future, your firm will gain good leaders and good lawyers.

For more ideas about how to increase productivity at your firm, read C4CM’s 69-page guide Creating a Flexible Workplace,” a powerful how-to resource on developing a workforce flexibility initiative that not only helps your employees manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively, but also boosts productivity and your company’s performance.

Some of its guidance includes how to:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improve staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximize employee productivity and performance
  • Improve quality and effectiveness of employee work and personal lives
  • Decrease health care utilization costs
  • Reduce organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhance reputation as an employer of choice

-WB

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Lawyers Who Love Food & Drink: Successful Entreprelawyers & Motivating Employees

This video (click here) about non-profiteer turned entrepreneur turned lawyer turned foodie is heartwarming. At first, it seems like an unusual look into a lawyer’s unusual life. But, at second glance, law firm professionals can glean much, much more.

Way beyond carrots or sticks, creative incentive systems have been proven to motivate employees.

Take, for example, a recent experiment that offered participants the choice between two rewards for a task measuring productivity: a water bottle gift item or seven dollars cash.

Unsurprisingly, 80 percent of participants chose the cash. However, when different groups weren’t given the choice, the results in productivity were less intuitive.

“The cash bonus didn’t have any effect on the speed or accuracy with which the students did their jobs,” reports the Harvard Business Review blog.

“However, those receiving the free bottle reciprocated by upping their data entry rate by 25%, a productivity increase that more than offset the cost of the bottle itself.”

Employees like to feel appreciated, so a mug given “in thanks” can often farther, when personalized, than cash. And, it reaps in-kind profits. So, find out what motivates your employees most—what products they like, what kind of non-cash incentives are desired—and then redefine your bonus structure.

One of the most effective creative incentives is employee engagement.

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals,” writes Kevin Kruse, entrepreneur and NY Times bestselling author and his latest book is Employee Engagement 2.0, for Forbes.

Many factors increase employee satisfaction and happiness: free meals, higher salary, or larger offices. However, only certain factors increase productivity and profits for your firm. One of these is pro-bono work or participation in charitable foundations.

Employees are more productive when they feel more attached to the work at hand—when they feel like they’re working for a higher purpose. What happens when lawyers love their jobs? They perform them better, faster.

So back to the video, Peter Kim, lawyer turned, discussed his life after graduation. In no small way, Kim demonstrates how passion can drive career choices. After graduating from Brown, he started by distributing food stamps in the U.S. Then, Kim joined the Peace Corps where he started his own non-profit organization. In the end, he went to law school, eventually joining an elite law firm in New York City.

Kim is like many lawyers. As a young person, or young associate, he wants to develop his skills in law, but in a meaningful way. The decision to become a lawyer was largely motivated, for Kim, by an aspiration to do good, improve legal systems, and generally develop public health and education across all nations—both in the U.S. and abroad.

Young associates, like Kim, are often motivated by the deeper societal, philosophical, and normative questions involved in practicing law.

As a law firm manager, find a way to tap into these lofty goals of young employees and conduct round-table debates or lunch-roulette surrounding philosophical themes. Or, ask young associates to tackle your pro-bono cases.

In addition to showing you how advocating creative incentives, like non-profit or pro-bono work, can work to engage your employees, this video also shows law firm managers what happens when you don’t properly motivate them: Kim now works as executive director of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD). Go figure.

-WB

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How To Sneak Out Of Work Early On Friday (Buy Why Not To)

So you want to leave the office early on Friday. With just a few hours until the weekend, you have created an airtight strategy for leaving early… and unnoticed.

Step 1. Schedule all meetings before 4:00pm. You have to check-in with other associates about the case. And, just to be sure it doesn’t interfere with your date with the exit door at 5:00-sharp, you rearrange meetings for Friday morning.

Step 2. Leave your suit jacket at the office. You entered with a suit jacket, but you’ll exit without one. It’s always nice to have a back-up suit jacket in the office (plus, people will think you’re planning to return when you slip out around 4:59pm).

Step 3. Answer all e-mails that implies you will get back to them in full detail on Monday. In a law firm, urgency is often a misused term. It’s easy to look at every action item as “urgent.” But, you know better. You’ve strategically responded to e-mails with the line, “I am investigating your query and will return with a response on Monday.” That’ll teach those over-urgent e-mailers a lesson.

Step 4. You worked late on Thursday. Everybody saw that you worked late on Thursday. And, just to be sure, you complained on Friday morning about how late you worked Thursday evening. Obviously the hours will cancel out.

Step 5. You have a family, friends, and a life—no excuses needed! There’s no need to glance up and down the hallway to ensure a clean getaway. No need to scale the fire escape just to avoid the stare of your secretary. Throw away that pencil-drawn map of the office. Clandestine exits are a thing of the past. Today, professionals are expected to maintain a work-life balance. So, you can forget the stigma involved and just announce your early departure, right?

So, you managed to successfully sneak out of the office early on Friday. But, while you were frantically distracting the lobby attendant and thinking about your golf swing, you forgot about the many reasons why you should have stayed.

First, law firm partners are also thinking about their weekend plans. And, in doing so, they’ve thought up dozens of tasks that still need completing. When they found your office empty, they asked your colleague. When raises and bonuses are being discussed, you’ll find the partners no longer find your work indispensible.

Second, everybody wants to leave early on Friday. You’re not the only one with plans. But, people grunt out the day as required. So, when you leave early (and it will likely not go unnoticed) you’ll be at the center of angsty boardroom gossip. It’s hard to press “undo” on the resentment felt by your colleagues after they had to work over the weekend to type up that brief you so elegantly avoided doing yourself.

Third, the economy is still tight. There are hundreds of unemployed lawyers looking to replace you. Unfortunately law is the profession of over-supply and under-demand.

Finally, if you’re looking to escape the office every Friday, perhaps you should reevaluate the firm at which you work or the cases that you’ve taken. In the ideal world, a career should be intellectually and personally fulfilling. If you’re increasingly dissatisfied at work, it’s probably time to reevaluate your life ambitions. Instead of planning for the short-term (a sneaky weekend getaway) talk to a career counselor about your long-term goals.

If you’re bored, unchallenged, or personally unfulfilled by the cases your firm handles, ask your law firm manager to take on a more interesting pro-bono case. Propose a budget and business plan for a non-profit that can boost the profile of your law firm.

Once in awhile, leaving the office early on a Friday is necessary for your mental health. However, if it becomes a chronic issue or desire, the solution for this problem is most likely found inside yourself (and not outside the office).

-WB

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5 Things That Make You Less Productive (& Popular) At The Office

Are you finding that your days are less productive than you’d like? Are you developing an unpopular repuation at the office, but don’t know why? Perhaps you’re doing one of the following five things guaranteed to slow down progress and aggravate your peers.

1. Being Late To Meetings

Maybe you’re the boss. Or, maybe you’re assigned the firm’s biggest case. It’s possible you had a really important phone call that ran long.

But, whatever the reason, there is no excuse for being late to a meeting. First, meetings are usually on the books well ahead of time, which means you should not have scheduled that phone call with a client a mere 30 minutes before.

And yes, you may be the boss so you’re time is most valuable. But, when you force 10 employees to wait 10 minutes for you to grace them with your presence, that’s a lot of misspent billable hours. It may actually exceed the value of your own.

Furthermore, if you interrupt a meeting that has already started, you may not be able to catch up on the subject-matter, which—in turn—makes you less essential to your team and less prepared for the work at hand.

Finally, even if there is a mildly-acceptable excuse for your tardiness, employees (and certainly managers) tend to dislike those colleagues who are habitually late to meetings. It shows a lack of respect to your peers and lack of time-management skills to your bosses.

It’s time to be on time.

If you’re having trouble finding the time, delegate. Take The Center For Competitive Management’s (C4CM) audio course Effective Delegation, and discover strategies to improve your law firm’s productivity and performance.

2. Take a phone call or check an e-mail while talking with a colleague

Law firm professionals have all done this at one point or another. It’s hard to ignore your Blackberry, especially when it’s pinging over and over. It’s instinct to look down, check your phone, and claim to be still listening.

The problem is, you’re not listening. And, most likely, the other person has stopped talking. Why? It’s impossible to take somebody seriously (or be taken seriously) when you’re faced with the top of a person’s head.

The quickest way to lose productivity in a conversation (and the respect of your peer) is to prioritize incoming mail to their in-person dialogue.

Don’t look down at your phone. Don’t even faux-pologetically say, “excuse me,” because, again, there’s no excuse for this type of behavior.

Double booked? Cope with multi-tasking, too many projects, and all those pesky incoming phone calls by taking C4CM’s course Effective Time Management.

3. Live on e-mail or the phone

Although there are many reasons to be grateful for today’s digital universe, don’t live virtually. You’re not an avatar. You’re a real person. So, think about whether or not it’s easier to get up from your desk, and have certain conversations in person.

On occasion, show your face around the office. There’s nothing more aggravating and counter-productive as receiving a phone call or e-mail from your colleague in the cubicle or office next door.

Are you hiding behind a domain name? Some conversations are difficult to have. But, that’s no excuse to resort to impersonal e-mail. Learn how to say in-person: “You’ve been accused of sexual harassment”…“Your performance is unacceptable”…“Your colleagues have complained about an offensive odor coming from your cubicle.” Take C4CM’s course Handling Difficult Conversations.

4. Don’t learn from your mistakes

Oops. You tapped reply-all instead of reply. It happens.

But, it shouldn’t happen twice.

The quickest way to lose favor and office-place efficiency is by repeating your mistakes. If you have problems with reply-all, then disable that feature on your e-mail service.

If you have a bad habit of misspelling the same word, then delete it from your MS Word dictionary. That way, each time the word appears, you must manually check it for errors.

Be proactive about learning from your mistakes and you’ll become much more productive around the office.

When it comes to learning from mistakes… document, document, document! Many organizations either fail to document or do not document correctly. Poor documentation can be just as hazardous to your company as no documentation at all. Learn about Best Practices for Developing and Maintaining Effective Documentation Practices with C4CM’s Guide.

5. Participate in workplace gossip

Workplace gossip can wreak havoc on an organization. It’s a morale killer.  It breeds resentment and becomes a roadblock to effective communication and collaboration.

Nevertheless, it’s human nature to complain, everybody gossips. You can choose, however, to ignore it. Become a one-man black hole. Gossip goes in, but never returns.

If you find yourself in desperate need to gossip, call a friend outside the office. Tell them the same story, but with the comfort of knowing that it won’t return full-circle to your colleagues in question. If you’re having a rough day with the boss, don’t walk next door to complain. Walk around the block.

Your office—and managers—know which employees participate in toxic talk. And, rest assured, gossiping is not part of the positive points on your performance review.

Managers can learn to minimize the effects of toxic talk with proper training. Consider C4CM’s course, Effective Management of Workplace Gossip.

Curb a few, if not all, of these unpopular and unproductive behaviors and you will find, finally, just reward for your work.

-WB

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Independence Day Lessons: France vs. America vs. The Boardroom

After the French lost the Seven Years’ War against Great Britain in 1763, they didn’t consider the transcontinental battle to be over. When British colonies in North America gradually began to revolt, the French were quick to lend a helping hand to the opposition.

In fact, France continued to supply American revolutionaries with troops and materials in support of the war until Congress declared the colonies independent on July 4, 1776. Then, France and the newly founded United States formed an official alliance, vowing to fight side by side until the United States received its hard fought freedom.

Just six years after the Americans and British completed their peace negotiations in Paris, a French revolution broke out. In July 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a fortress known to house political prisoners on royal indictments that could not be appealed.

Although it would still be a long and bloody road before France had complete independence, Bastille Day marks the French people’s strongest step in the fight against absolutism.

Today, the French celebrate their independence on July 14th in recognition of their evolution to a democratic nation. Although in time France and the United States have not always seen eye-to-eye, the two countries have, at least, a shared history of independence.

This July, it’s important to remember the importance we all place on freedom.

In fact, the appreciation for freedom and independence is not just at the macro economic level. Nations are not alone.

Individuals in their workplace also look for independence, which accounts for the many developments in FLEX scheduling and creative management techniques of law firms and businesses. A recent study by Catalyst confirms in a survey of 726 MBA graduates around the world that flexible working arrangements are no longer the exception, but they are the norm.

Of the 726 high-potential employees in full-time for-profit and non-profit firms, 81 percent reported that they had flexible work arrangement policies, whether that be flexible arrival or departure times, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, or job sharing schemes. And, surprisingly, women and men took part, equally, of these flexible options (although women prefer telecommuting, in particular, to men)

According to Catalyst (via Harvard Business Review Blog), “The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time-Busting the Myths Behind Flexible Work Arrangements,” the research results imply that eliminating flexible work arrangement benefits significantly affects the number of high potential women at your workplace aspiring to senior positions. However, in light of the fact that men and women participate in these programs equally, your firm may be missing out on high-potential employees of both genders.

Sure, studies are mixed about the impact of flexible scheduling on productivity. But, if your firm is able to attract the best talent by offering these benefits, surely high-value employees are consistently productive in the first place.

It’s time to make your employees happy or a revolution will be on your hands.

This July, red, white, and blue means freedom for both the French and Americans. Let the same colors remind your firm to continue this tradition everyday in its workplace.

To learn how, read C4CM’s 69-page guide Creating a Flexible Workplace,” a powerful how-to resource on developing a workforce flexibility initiative that not only helps your employees manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively, but also boosts productivity and your company’s performance.

Some of its guidance includes how to:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improve staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximize employee productivity and performance
  • Improve quality and effectiveness of employee work and personal lives
  • Decrease health care utilization costs
  • Reduce organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhance reputation as an employer of choice

-WB

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The School Of Life (For Lawyers)

If you’re in need of inspiration, simply browse the courses offered by The School of Life. Exactly as it sounds, the school of life provides lessons and seminars to improve your experience as a human being in this world.

But, how about improving your experience as a law firm professional?

If you’re in search to derive meaning from your work, you need only go as far as the calendar for August 2013. It turns out, the School of Life could easily be renamed a School of Life for Lawyers.

The first class offered is How To Be Confident. As a law firm professional, there are three reasons you should be confident.

First, for the employee, you’ll earn more respect in the workplace with confidence in your work product. For associates looking for promotion, it’s far better to stand by your deliverables than to deliver blame when something goes array.

Take ownership of your work and you may one day own the workplace as law firm partner.

Second, confidence translates well into the courtroom. Being prepared is often translated into confidence. Judge and jury will be more apt to believe your story when they think you are confident in what you’re speaking about. This means no hesitation in your speech, consistency in your presentation, knowing your audience, and recovering nimbly in the event of an accidental blunder.

Third, as a law firm manager, confidence brings calm. Whether it’s the anxious client or the terrified first-year attorney, a boss with confidence is one who is heeded. When you’re in a time crunch, appearing frantic and hesitant will relay to your subordinates. If you need your subordinates at work or a client on the stand to be confident, they’ll only learn how by mimicking your own behavior.

The next class offered is How To Find A Job You Love. Ideally, you already love your job. But, if you don’t, learn to make the best of it by seeking out new responsibilities around the office or participating in pro-bono work.

Law firm managers should be especially attentive the level of morale at their firm. Studies show happiness translates into efficiency in any profession.

The third class offered is How To Be Cool.

Cool lawyers spend their lunch hour creatively. That means playing the Lunch Game. Play lunch roulette where once a week law firm professionals are randomly assigned a lunch group. That way, your firm begins to bond at all levels. You’ll be surprised how much your employees will learn about the firm by lunching with a different department.

If that’s not for you, try eating out once a month together. A change in scenery might lead to a change in thinking necessary to crack a case.

Whether it’s dining room DJ booths or levitating workstations, “cool” law firms are also more productive ones. Nothing improves innovation rates like a change of pace and tradition.

Finally, one of the last courses is How To Have Better Conversations.

Learning to talk is not just for toddlers. In fact, having productive conversations is key for law firm professionals. Great leaders are also great conversationalists.

In an interview with Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind, authors of Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations, the ideacast develops the view that Leadership Is a Conversation.

“If you think about what organization is all about, it’s just basically a bunch of conversations that are happening at the same time,” answers Mr. Groysberg.

“What leaders do is facilitate the conversations that actually produce value, that actually engage employees; its what distinguishes some of the best corporations.”

Think about the key elements of what makes interpersonal and productive conversation among friends. These conversations include four elements; they are interactive, intimate, inclusive, and intentional.

“When you place this conversation in an organization, many of these attributes disappear,” laments Mr. Groysberg.

By restoring these four elements of conversation into your everyday workplace dialogue, you will empower yourself as a manager or en envalue yourself as an employee.

In the end, law firm success may not depend on the courses offered at the School of Life. But, reading the titles for such courses provides enough fodder for thought for a lifetime. If your firm lacks confidence, passion, coolness, or productive conversation, it may be time for your profesionals to be re-schooled.

-WB

*Note, this website is in no way affiliated with The School of Life, nor is it promoting any of the SoL’s course offerings.

C4CM does, however, offer its own selection of valuable courses for life and lawyers, including:

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“Stop Holding Meetings” Say Successful CEOs

Many parts of daily life are prone to spread. Rashes, gossip, fire. But, for law firm professionals, there’s one type of contagious behavior that should sound the alarms: meetings.

Somehow, meetings procreate. First it’s a monthly meeting. Then, it’s a weekly one. Finally, associates are urgently meeting with superiors in mass conference room meetings every time the coffee pot is empty.

“Meetings are a waste of time unless you are closing a deal,” thinks Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and CEO of HDNet (via Inc).

“There are so many ways to communicate in real time or asynchronously that any meeting you actually sit for should have a duration and set outcome before you agree to go.”

Therein lies the problem. Meetings rarely stick to their agendas. And, when they do, they’ve vastly exceeded the time allocated to them. More often then not, one high-profile, but low-importance issue will arise and dominate the conversation.

From the manager’s perspective, a one-hour meeting is often justifiable. After all, it’s necessary to coordinate work product and hold case status meetings with employees assigned to a client project. Plus, what’s one hour, right?

Collectively, however, a meeting of ten people costs the firm ten hours of productivity. Not to mention the harm done by pulling employees off a particular project just to attend, and then expecting them to continue seamlessly where they left off an hour later.

“Follow Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza rule,” advises Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and a new start-up called Hunch.

“Project teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas. At Hunch, we don’t have meetings unless absolutely necessary. When I used to have meetings, though, this is how I would do it: There would be an agenda distributed before the meeting. Everybody would stand. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone would drink 16 ounces of water. We would discuss everything on the agenda, make all the decisions that needed to be made, and the meeting would be over when the first person had to go to the bathroom.”

For more traditional law firms, this may be a bit alternative. Nevertheless, the fact remains that most professionals mismanage meetings.

Productivity involves thoughtfulness as much as organization. This means, organize an agenda for the meeting and stick to it in an efficient manner. It also means creating a post-meeting agenda.

“The productiveness of any meeting depends on the advance thought given the agenda, and you should never leave a meeting without writing a follow-up list with each item assigned to one person,” sagely explains Barbara Corcoran, who built one of New York’s largest real estate companies.

“And go outside. All the big ideas are on the outside. You’ll never have a creative idea at your desk.”

Successful CEOs have made it clear: Be organized. Be brief. Be creative. Or be gone—don’t hold meetings at all.

Law firms should investigate ways to increase productivity at a group and individual level. Empower and train your employees so that you have confidence in their work without constant correspondence.

Practice being brief (and send back briefs that are not!).

As a manager, set the tone for the entire office by:

  • Make the most of the time you have and free up time for mission critical tasks
  • Set realistic goals and ‘time to complete’ estimates
  • Rid your schedule of time-wasters for a better balanced schedule
  • Recognize the difference between important and urgent priorities and tasks
  • Keep track of and meet short and long term projects and deadlines
  • Better cope with game changing shifts in priorities
  • Manage social media time stealers
  • Hold meetings only when it’s absolutely necessary

-WB


Need some help? Take C4CM’s information-packed 75-minute audio conference on CD “Planning and Prioritizing”. It will help you to:

  • identify goals,
  • break them into tasks,
  • prioritize to save time, and
  • increase productivity.

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