Tag Archives: value

Commemorating Steve Jobs: Learning How To Live Fully, Work Passionately, And Hire Diversely From Apple

Even in this legal blog, Steve Jobs and his business strategies for Apple have made a profound impact (read here, here, and here). It is not surprising to find that after his death, the nation, the world, are both shocked and deeply saddened.

Thousands of commemorative articles have been written about his passing. On the White House blog, President Obama wrote,

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

A particular speech by Jobs—the 2005 Stanford commencement address—has been circulating the Internet. In it, Jobs references his own death and mortality. Especially poignant considering recent events.   However, his comments on life and living from the same speech deserve equal attention.

For example, one of the stories Jobs tells is about dropping out of college. After officially unenrolling from school, Jobs began auditing only those classes that interested him. One such class—on typography and calligraphy—seemed irrelevant at the time, albeit fascinating, to all of his professional goals. Still, he pursued it.

It turns out, quite the contrary was true. Jobs mentions how this understanding of typography greatly influenced the aesthetics of Apple products when founding the company. Today, one of Apple’s undeniable legacies is the prolific use and popularity of sans-serif fonts.

In the commencement speech, telling these stories, Jobs hoped to inspire graduating students to develop those secondary and tertiary passions.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Jobs.

Other than a heart-felt reminder of the lessons Steve Jobs has offered young minds over the years, his speech has practical applications to legal minds today.

Creativity is directly linked to successful leadership and productivity. And, even though law may be your field of professional practice, it does not mean your individual knowledge of hard sciences, history, or sports will not come in handy one day.

In fact, during the hiring process, those qualified applicants who spent four years eating, drinking, and breathing law, and law only, may not be the best choices for your firm.

Here’s why. When you take on an important patent-dispute case, you’ll need the expertise of that first-year who graduated with a degree in Engineering before becoming a member of the bar.

When your next client is involved in an invasive tax audit, you’ll rely on the knowledge of the ex-Art History major when reviewing the auditors notes on family-heirloom paintings.

Finally, when there’s a second oil spill near Alaska or in the Gulf, it’ll be the paralegal who spent a summer as a Derrickhand that will become an indispensable source of information for the case.

Steve Jobs—whose company is (ironically) iconically known for its clean, white palette—was making an important point about people with colorful backgrounds. Professionally, diversified interests are valuable assets. Personally, multiple passions help a person know and love life fully.

As an attorney, strive to achieve both. As a law firm administrator or hiring partner, seek more colorful lawyers.

And, the greatest tribute that can be paid to Steve Jobs today is exactly the above: learning from his extensive knowledge and expertise.

-WB

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Three Cost-Free Ways To Support Working Mothers At Your Firm

Women make up 47 percent of law school graduates, but still only compose 31 percent of the industry’s lawyers, according to The American Bar Association (via WSJ Law Blog). One of the major factors in leaving the practice of law? The stresses of motherhood.

“I’m like so many other lawyers who are mothers, trying to fit into a culture . . . that collides directly with our needs and schedules,” said Laura Mattiacci to the WSJ. Mattiacci founded the Philadelphia chapter of Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, or “MAMA,” which is a nationwide organization that aims to:

  • enhance the recognition of mother attorneys in the community;
  • promote the advancement of mother attorneys within the profession;
  • facilitate the achievement of work-life balance;
  • provide a forum for informing members and the legal profession about issues of particular concern to mother attorneys; and
  • support mother attorneys contemplating alternative work schedules or extended leaves of absence; and, increase the interaction between mother attorneys of diverse backgrounds and practices.

When looking at the above list, it’s not difficult to see that these goals could easily overlap with those at your firm.

Promoting more women in law makes sense ethically, in terms of gender equality, but it also makes sense professionally. Both female equity and non-equity partners are compensated less on average than male partners, despite operating at equal productivity levels, according to a Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper. This means for less money, your firm has the same work output.

Also, statistically, women perform higher than men in team exercises, including tasks, such as brainstorming, moral reasoning, puzzle-solving, typing and negotiating.

But, like all lawyers, female attorneys are not exempt from work while at home. So, those with children need extra support to manage this heavy caseload.

“There are unexpected urgencies – client emergencies, new cases that come in the door, the need to seek a restraining order from the court,” Mattiacci explains about managing her time as a lawyer and mother.

If motherhood and the time and emotional constraints it places on women is the sole greatest inhibitor to more women in law, there are ways your firm can help. Even if you are unable to provide tangible benefits, such as free childcare, try implementing these three cost-free ways to help retain working mothers at your firm:

  1. Listen. As administrator or managing partner, you may or may not be aware that school started this week. But if you stop to listen to some of the personal stories and anecdotes of young mothers around the office, you’d be more than informed. Then, when a female attorney arrives late this Monday morning, you don’t overreact. This will limit her emotional stress, which is likely already high.
  2. Be Flexible. Many firms are already instituting FLEX scheduling for their employees. Show your support for working mothers by allowing them to work from home one or two days per month. More than likely, she’ll already be forced to take a day off when it’s time to bring her child to the doctor’s office or run other (necessary) motherly errands. Plus, lawyers who work from home are shown to still add value to the firm.
  3. Do Your Research. There are ample other services, like MAMA, that offer support to working mothers. Do your research, and find pertinent events in your area. Advertise them through company resources, and allow your female attorneys the time to attend. In addition, before choosing your employee’s benefits packages and healthcare options, investigate which healthcare companies are best suited for working mothers (and for that matter, working fathers) and their children. Choose accordingly.

Across the board, juggling work and family is difficult. Showing support for your struggling associates is not.

-WB

Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profit as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.

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The Value of Legal Services – Rethinking “Pricing”

Have you ever thought about how much internal effort is expended on your clients’ behalf, as opposed to how much external value is actually generated or billed?  According to the VeraSage Institute’s founder, Ron Baker, not “everyone” is in charge of putting forth value in your firm.  (VeraSage is a professional association whose members put forth independent thinking models of economic pricing.)

Baker believes that all value exists outside of business or firm.  There’s no “everyone owns everything” motto—or there shouldn’t be—because then, he believes no-one really owns anything.  Taken one step further, he says: “All results are external, there is no such thing as a “profit center”.  He believes that ” there are only cost, activity and effort centers [and that]  [t]he only profit center in your firm is a customer’s check that doesn’t bounce.”

In Baker’s world, lawyers must put themselves in their clients’ shoes and ask: what does he or she value?    Lawyers Weekly encapsulated Baker’s comments, calling attention to Baker’s insistence that companies/firms all need one person at which to point an accusatory or congratulatory finger, as the case may be.  He has given this official the title of Chief Value Officer.    Firms must price “on purpose”, he says. (There should be no hourly billing.)  According to Baker’s Institute, “Profitability = Intellectual Capital x Price x Effectiveness”.

Baker’s also broken down the components inherent in this appraisal.  His formula is as follows:

For firms to price on purpose, they must understand the Five Cs of Value.

1.       Comprehend value to clients;

2.       Create value for clients;

3.       Communicate the value you create;

4.       Convince clients they must pay for value; and

5.       Capture value with strategic pricing based on value, not costs and efforts.

Pricing on purpose will always be one of the chief components when assessing value. In a recent Above The Law post, Jay Shepherd wrote that firms have to stay committed to pricing.  “Most firms I talk to that have tried pricing have doomed themselves to failure because they haven’t committed to it…[c]olor me committed,” he notes.

Shepherd recommends that firms avoid menu pricing and form a pricing committee. It’s tough to price for your clients, especially if, as he also suggests, you no longer rely on time sheets. You have to “weed out” the most extravagant prices. That’s why you need colleagues to weigh in. (“Even non-lawyers can contribute on a pricing committee,” he says.)

To learn more about an audio conference that takes a practical approach to the topic of value by aiming to optimize client satisfaction and maximize service value, go here – (CD’s also for sale):

http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/practical-methods-to-master-value-pricing-for-legal-services.htm

-EM

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What Is It About Your Firm’s Services That Clients Value?

Attorneys often have a hard time marketing their services, as they deal in services which values are subjective at best, and depend largely on the firm they’re with, and on the reputation that they and their firm have built.

So how do you make what one marketing pro has termed “your strategic differentiation” real?

Drago Adam of AdamAdGroup.com, a guest post (and above-mentioned marketing pro) on The Thoughtful Blogger, has laid out his premise on just this topic.  He believes that what matters is to do something totally different from your competition–and to make sure it’s something customers (i.e., clients) consider important.

According to David J. Bilinsky of Thoughtful Legal Management (aka The Thoughtful Blogger), Adam’s idea has particular meaning for lawyers as “they try to distinguish their services from the law firm down the street  – or over the Internet.”

“But if we provide great client service,” you might be thinking “isn’t that enough?”  Not necessarily. Adam claims that great customer service has nothing to do with why clients will flock to your business (or, in this case, firm).

If you think back to all the sides of trucks or advertising premiums you’ve spotted bearing a company’s logo, you’ll realize how many had variations on the same theme:  “We put customers first!”    Adam explains that this sort of message should be relegated to the been-there-done-that…and-it’s-not-working archive.  In fact, he says, it’s “designed to be ignored”.

All businesses or firms claim to serve customers well, yet few [firms] actually do.   When you promise great client service, not only do you have an undifferentiated form of differentiation, but “nobody believes you”.

Everybody defines excellent customer service according to their whims and preferences.  It’s the served, and not the server, who should claim great service.  Adam offers a superb analogy: it’s like when a 15-year-old boy tries to slap a nickname on himself that he thinks is cool…when no one else has done him the favor.  The moment you claim it for yourself, you sound desperate or boring.

So what should you stand on, if not a promise of servicing your customer or client?  How about this…go for something unique and that the customers care for.  That’s it in a nutshell.


For instance, there’s a rent-a-car company that doesn’t claim great customer service–which we agree there is no universal standard for.  They do, however, offer to come and pick you up.  That’s the differentiation, and that’s what makes it stand head and shoulders over its big name competition.

Try something “small and unique”, the marketing specialist advises. Something concrete and tangible that you do pretty well. Now market it. That’ll give you a strategy of differentiation…and that’s something your customers (or, in your case, your clients) will remember, and flock to you for.

To read more, go here: http://thoughtfullaw.com/2011/05/12/customer-service-is-not-a-marketing-strategy/#more-1514  

Interested in learning how to master the value and  pricing  of your services? Check out this audio conference:  http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/practical-methods-to-master-value-pricing-for-legal-services.htm

Graphic courtesy of Thoughtful Legal Management.

-EM

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Branding Your Law Firm by Creating Value

Did you know you can brand your law firm with conscious capitalism?   As published in the National Law Journal earlier this year, a marketing professor at Bentley University in Massachusetts uncovered a definite correlation between corporations who “do good” and those who are able to retain a customer base. 

According to lawyer Adrian Dayton, author of the NLJ piece, as well as of the book “Social Media for Lawyers,” law firms can benefit from these principles, too.   The professor at this leading business school, Raj Sisodia (pictured here), based his premise on the amount of marketing spend that each company put forth. After looking at the monies these corporations invested in getting the word out about their products or services, he examined the customer loyalty that ensued.   And what he found was surprising. 

Those who had massive marketing budgets retained very little customer loyalty. But a few companies were retaining a high level of customer trust and loyalty.  Which companies were these?  The ones who were seen as doing something worthwhile.   “They had a conscious leader who was motivated by purpose and not by power and personal enrichment,” says the piece. What has come to be termed conscious capitalism succeeded here, where extreme marketing spend did not. 

And as an added bonus, these very same companies were very profitable.  

By contrast, many believe that conscious capitalism could never work within the constraints of a law firm set-up. This could not be further from the truth, argues, Dayton.  A law firm, despite its combative nature, can always go back to its roots.

The author interviewed Sisodia, who said: “The role of lawyers used to be more of a counselor, of a trusted advisor.  The role now is more of a technician—and is heavily money-driven. Where are the concepts of justice and jurisprudence? We are missing the big picture.”   Dayton then breaks down how a law firm can engage in conscious capitalism.   

“Ask, would our firm be missed if it disappeared? …We need to be value creators, not value destroyers.  How do we create value? We should only, in fact, generate income for ourselves if we are creating value.  Are you creating value for your client at the expense of others? That doesn’t work, either.  How can you help your client, how can you create more value, as opposed to just getting a larger piece of the pie?”  

Professor Raj Sisodia also talks about justly-earned compensation.  “Some Chinese doctors only get paid for months when you are healthy….Think about how good they feel about getting paid….We need more of that mentality….Incentives don’t have to be all financial—they can also be emotional. Heart attacks are highest on Monday mornings.  It doesn’t have to be that way.”   To read more, go to: http://adriandayton.com/2011/04/take-the-high-road-to-success/

-EM

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