What’s The Most Confusing U.S. Code? How Law Firms Can Make Simple Rules For Complex Legal Work

Nobody would dare to call our laws simple. But exactly how complicated are they?

In a working paper titled “Measuring the Complexity of the Law: The United States Code”, Daniel Katz and Michael Bommarito of Michigan State University attempt to measure exactly that, reports Wired magazine.

It may seem impossible—in the least, it’s daunting—the idea of quantitatively measuring the complexity of the United States Code, especially coming up with a metric for exactly how hard it is to understand the law.

As lawyers know, the U.S. Code is essentially the collection of all federal laws, and consists of 51 Titles, or sections, that each deal with different topics, some of the most well-known including, Title 11 for bankruptcy, Title 26 for the tax code, and Title 39 deals for the postal service.

The authors used two metrics, rule search and rule assimilation to measure the complexity of law. Respectively, the terms answer: “How complex is the task of determining the rule or set of rules applicable to the conduct in question?” and “How complex is the process of assimilating the information content of a body of legal rules?”

What were their findings? After ranking the codes according to rule search and rule assimilation, as well as other metrics, the study found Title 42 (Public Health and Welfare) to be the most complex and interconnected of the U.S. Codes. Unsurprisingly, this Code tied with Title 26, or the Internal Revenue Code, which is especially frustrating to Americans this month.

It comes down to some simple rules to define a complex world. The same could be said of your law office management.

Although building a mission statement and outlining your ideal corporate culture is important, a short set of simple rules may help your firm implement its more complex business strategy.

A new book titled Simple Rules by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt lays out an old concept. A concept that Sull and Eisenhardt presented in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) back in 2001. “Successful companies shape their high-level strategies by relying not on complicated frameworks but on simple rules of thumb,” wrote the authors in HBR in 2012.

“Managers in these organizations translate corporate objectives into a few straightforward guidelines that help employees make on-the-spot decisions and adapt to constantly shifting environments, while keeping the big picture in mind.”

A strategy must be remembered and understood to be adopted by associates.

So to create, capture, and sustain economic value, law firms should consider distilling their strategy into a few, simple rules.

The book uses the example of a Brazilian freight train, America Latina Logistica, company that was rapidly losing money. It implemented the following simple rules:

  • remove obstacles to growing revenues,
  • minimize up-front expenditure,
  • provide benefits immediately (rather than paying off in the long term), and
  • reuse existing resources.

And the company communicated these simple rules to its employees.

Upon hearing these simple rules and—consequently—understanding them, an employee spoke up to management and proposed a very simple idea that cost the company nothing—upgrade the size of its fuel tanks so the refueling process would take less time.

When your employees understand the prioritizes of the firm, they are better able to contribute to its growth.

In law, it’s easy for associates to get bogged down in the details, the complexity of it all. Make it simple. Distill your message into short, specific, and memorable rules like (1) Always conduct client meetings in-person; (2) ensure one senior partner is present in all client meetings; (3) cross-sell services; and (4) ask for referrals at the end of meetings so the client remembers to do so as he or she walks out of the room.

This very crude version of a strategy prioritizes certain behavior, is easy to remember, and applicable to a very specific situation—client meetings.

Read more in Simple Rules, which comes out April 21.

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Drug Testing In The Workplace? The Tradeoff Between Employee Productivity, Firm Cost & Future Lawsuits

It’s been a quarter of a century since the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act was passed, which created requirements for federal government workers and contractors. Today, more than a third of private employers have drug-testing policies, reports NPR. However, with marijuana now legal in two states and approved for medical use in nearly half, what is the future for U.S. drug policies?

Lara Makinen, legislative affairs director in Colorado for the Society for Human Resource Management, says employers are getting a very mixed message.

“We’re being told, ‘Keep your policy as it is, but proceed with caution, because if people are fired…” said Makinen to NPR.

“We probably will see lawsuits.'”

But lawsuits aren’t new to the drug-testing industry.

In 2011, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against the enforcement of a divisive Florida law that requires “suspicionless drug testing” for all welfare applicants before distributing benefits.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed on behalf of a single father in Orlando a lawsuit that alleges Florida’s law violates Fourth Amendment rights for safeguard against unreasonable search and seizure.

Enacted in May 2011, the new law applies to any adult applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Those who qualify for assistance are reimbursed for the test in their welfare benefits.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was one of the law’s biggest advocates, claiming the law would evoke “personal accountability.” Scott also said it would be “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” quotes John Couwels in an article for CNN.

Governments are not alone in believing individuals should be held personally accountable for abusing illicit drugs, which is why polls show over half of employers in America (57%) still conduct drug tests. Some agencies report this number is on the rise.

Obviously, law firms, like all businesses, aspire for a drug-free workplace. But they also aspire for a productive one. And, it turns out, whether because they represent a level of distrust on the part of the firm or because employees dislike the violation of their privacy, drug testing decreases productivity in the workplace.

A recent study investigated 63 “hightech” firms in the computer equipment and data processing and found that drug testing had “reduced rather than enhanced productivity,” reports the ACLU. Firms with pre-employment testing, versus those with no drug testing at all, scored 16 percent lower on productivity measures. Firms with both pre-employment and random testing were 29 percent less productive than those companies without drug tests.

In addition, drug testing is expensive.

In 1990, the federal government spent $11.7 million to test selected workers in 38 federal agencies. However, of the roughly 29,000 tests taken, only 153 (.5%) were positive for illicit substances. The cost of finding a single drug user—and in this case, over half were moderate, occasional users of marijuana—amounted to $77,000, according to the ACLU. Not to mention, among these employees, there’s always a risk of a false positive.

These reasons might explain why the percentage of employers with testing programs has dropped steadily over time, from 81 percent in 1996 to 62 percent in 2004, according to the American Management Association, cited by TIME. The trend is expected to continue.

Drug testing is no guarantee that you’ll actually catch a drug user.

In Colorado, for example, which has legalized pot, the standard urine test most commonly used in employer drug testing measures the presence of THC—a psychoactive compound in marijuana. But this compound stays in the body for days, weeks, and sometimes longer. So a positive marijuana test may not, necessarily, mean the person taking the test is high on the job. It may not even mean the user has taken the drug recently. Read more about this type of situation on NPR’s story, “Colorado Case Puts Workplace Drug Policies To The Test.”

In the end, if your firm has concerns, there are myriad other more effective and less invasive means to encourage a drug-free workplace:

Substance Abuse Programs And Counseling. Make sure substance abuse, mental health, and counseling programs programs are covered by employer-paid medical insurance. When an employee requests a mental health holiday, accept it.

Preventative and remedial measures to permanently eliminate addiction is far better for the firm and its associate than just identifying such a person, and putting them out on the street.

Comprehensive Reference Checks. In-depth reference checks of potential future employees are equally effective as drug testing. It’s more than likely that a previous employer has noticed patterns of abuse, or has an opinion regarding that employee’s professional conduct. Ask to speak with the employee’s former supervisor, as opposed to the Human Resources representative. Don’t be afraid to ask blunt (but not discriminatory) questions.

Workplace Training and Employee Investment. Enroll your law firm partners and administrators in programs geared toward the identification of drug users in the workplace. These programs also teach remedial actions to confront and appropriately advise these users.

In addition, instead of corporate retreats or costly drug tests, spend money on employee wellness programs—including fitness programs, healthy meals, or in-house massages.

Reducing stress in the office will keep your employees from self-medicating during those long work hours and client meetings. Plus, it sends the opposite message, from mistrust, as with drug tests, to one of support and advocacy.

Learn how to transform your tired, disengaged workforce into a motivated team of top-notch employees — in any economic climate. By participating in C4CM’s in-depth audio conference “10 Critical Methods to Increase Employee Engagement and Improve Job Satisfaction.”

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For The Love Of Basketball & Benefits: How March Madness Can Boost Productivity At Your Law Firm

What links the years: 2001, 2006, and 2012? Maybe a lot of things. But, one of them is a massive underdog upset during March Madness.

Basketball brackets are underway as Thursday starts the early round of the college NCAA Tournament, fondly referred to as March Madness. And, it wasn’t that long ago that spectators were shocked and awed when a Number 15 seed knocked out a Number 2 seed team. Norfolk State beat Missouri 86-84 in 2012, which meant only two of 6.45 million participants in ESPN.com’s bracket challenge had perfect records, according to ABC News.

Now that’s upsetting.

If that score of 86-84 sounds familiar, it’s because in 2006, the same score lit up the basketball billboard for an Elite Eight match-up between George Mason and UConn. George Mason won and leapt unexpectedly into the Final Four.

Nobody saw that coming.

Finally, way before the 2012 upset, there was something similarly motivating about being a Number 15 seed versus a Number 2 seed. In 2001, the Pirates showed impressive defense as they guarrrrrded against Iowa State in a 58-57 nail-biter.

It’s too early to say whether 2015 has anything in common with these three years. But, for law firm professionals, look no further than Above The Law (ATL) for your own annual March Madness bracket.

Instead of basketball, this bracket measures up 8 perks provided by law firms from around the country. On the opposite side of the bracket, there are the top perks offered in corporate America.

“If you’re working in-house, maybe you enjoy a few of these,” writes Joe Patrice for ATL.

“But most lawyers only gaze longingly at the bounty available to corporate drones.”

And here they are:

1. Frozen Eggs — We gave O’Melveny some props for its forward-thinking fertility coverage. But corporate America takes it a bit further. Apple and Facebook pay to freeze eggs. On the one hand, this would be a tremendous fringe benefit for female associates hoping to raise a family at their convenience. On the other hand, wouldn’t this just broadcast that associates aren’t going to enjoy any free time until they’re living with the rest of the Golden Girls?

2. Private Concierge Service — S.C. Johnson has a wing of folks devoted to the personal chores of its employees. This may not sound like much, but imagine the implications for an associate. Pick up dry cleaning? Check. Make dinner reservations? Check. Hide the body? Check.

3. Sit Anywhere You Want — In addition to making some top-notch cereal that you don’t have time to eat before heading to work, General Mills allows employees (in many departments) to sit wherever they want in the office. That’s antithetical to everything law firms stand for, but there’s no good reason you have to be saddled with the officemate of the firm’s choosing. Maybe instead of gutting that beautiful library for more office space, we can let more folks work in a nice space.

4. Adoption — If you didn’t freeze your eggs, maybe you can adopt. Mattel helps out with your adoption costs.

5. Dog-Sitting — Continuing on the theme, if you failed to freeze your eggs and didn’t adopt, maybe you can dress a dog up in sweaters and desperately wish it was a little person that could give your pitiful existence meaning. Cleaning up another being’s feces is the same no matter what, right? Genentech respects its employees who are doomed to living a lie.

6. Acupuncture — Facebook offers on-site acupuncture. What better way to forget that you’re figuratively being killed by a thousand pin pricks every day than to literally receive a thousand pin pricks.

7. $50,000 Car Voucher — This was the offer of Hilcorp Energy. There was a catch: the company needed to make its ambitious annual goal before employees could get their dream cars, but imagine if a firm handed something like this out if, say, a firm achieved a substantial PPP bump? Instead of firing a bunch of people… like some firms.

8. House Cleaning — Forget concierge services, Evernote will clean your house. This may be the ultimate service for the man or woman working 100 hours a week.

Vote for your favorite here.

In the meantime, consider creating your own “in-house perk” bracket by polling your lawyers and staff. Find out what matters most to them and think about funding this year’s winner.

For perk Number 7, the Car Voucher, this was incentivized by the firm, which required a certain amount of productivity in terms of new clients and profits. Take a page from their brief by offering perks to your employees contingent on performance.

The reason economists study incentives so much is that they work. As long as you pin-point the true desires of your associates through a poll or voting scheme, there’s no reason these benefits have to be dolled out for free.

March Madness is a time for play, preparation, and hard work. As a law firm, you work all year toward winning cases for your clients or increasing billables for the firm partners.

At the same time, March Madness is about the underdog. With the right incentives and perks to competition, your employees could surprise you with an unexpectedly high bottom line.

Pump, pump, pump it up! Excel that is. Microsoft Excel can re-energize your firm’s capabilities. Take C4CM’s course and in just 75 minutes, they’ll show you how this Business Intelligence (BI) tool delivers unmatched computational power directly within the application that you already know and love–Excel.

PowerPivot to Pump-Up the Power of Microsoft Excel,” is on Thursday, April 2, 2015, from 2Pm to 3:15PM.

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Boston Beats Snow Record & Cold Hard Facts About I-9 Compliance For Law Firms

Congratulations (or maybe condolences) are in order. Boston broke the seasonal snowfall record last night with an all-time high of 108.6 inches. It marked the snowiest winter season since the start of record keeping for the city in 1872.

Nearly a decade earlier, Boston saw a similarly snowy season with 107.6 inches in 1995-1996, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts [via Yahoo!News]. However, it seems this year’s Boston wasn’t ready to give up a chance at the title yet. And, with a wintry mix blanketing the streets around 7PM last night, it was finally time to celebrate a very cold clutch hit from the clouds.

There was, in fact, a parade in Boston. But, it wasn’t for the weather. It was for St. Patrick’s Day, which—coincidentally—fell on the same eve as the infamous record snowfall.

Speaking of records, just three years ago, fewer students sat for the February 2012 LSAT than for any LSAT administration in over 10 years, reported the LSAT Blog and The Law School Admission Council. Not only that, it was the biggest percentage decrease of all time, dropping by 16 percent.

Most thought that this was the answer to a declining legal market for jobs and over-supply of lawyers.

Today, however, that tide may be turning. After four years of a steady decline, there is now an increase in the number of LSAT test-takers, up by 4.4 percent to 20,358 total aspiring lawyers.

Why the change?

Some speculate that the well-advertised decline of law school applicants is now encouraging people to pursue a career in law—which may now give them a better chance at admittance to a top school. Since recent grads are still complaining about the job market, law school seems as attractive as any other choice in graduation education.

Others, however, are concerned that this is the start of a new bubble [ATL]. Where an already suffering industry is bound to over-charge itself into the ground.

Law firms face difficult hiring decisions. When it comes to human resources, it’s hard to put a price on your legal help. With so much supply in the form of recent graduates and experienced lawyers who were laid-off, sometimes nitty-gritty paperwork falls through the cracks.

Unfortunately, The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) is going all-out in its “bold new audit initiative” to crack down on employers who violate immigration laws; and administrative I-9 audits are ICE’s tool of choice.

If your firm were audited, how would it fair?

Non-compliance exposes employers to a wide variety of potential penalties, including:

Hiring or Continuing to Employ an Unauthorized Worker:

  • First-time violators can be fined between $275 and $2,200 for each unauthorized worker
  • Second-time offenders can be fined between $2,200 and $5,500
  • For every offense thereafter, offenders can be fined between $3,300 to $11,000 per employee or worker

Paperwork Violators:

  • Failure to complete, retain or present documents can result in fines of $110 to $1,100 per employee
  • The second violation can cost $220 to $2,200
  • Pattern and Practice Violations
  • $3,000 per alien and six months in jail

Total fines handed out by ICE are now 13 times higher than in 2009. Plus, ICE has made a big effort to publicly emphasize its investigations of employers that hire undocumented workers. In just one year, ICE arrested 238 corporate executives, managers and even HR professionals.

Luckily for law firms, C4CM has a tutorial in “I-9 Compliance Procedures: New Rules and Best Practices of Employee Verification” on March 24, 2015, from 2PM to 3:15PM EST here.

It will help ensure your firm is in compliance, including:

  • Step-by-step overview of the Form I-9
  • Record retention: Pre and Post audit notification
  • Steps to perform an internal I-9 review process to examine your company’s processes
  • Awareness training for personnel who handle I-9s
  • Policies and procedures for acceptable documentation
  • The latest on the use of electronic forms and proper record keeping/storage
  • Penalties for non-compliance
  • I-9s and independent contractors: who’s responsible?
  • Strategies for when you do not have I-9s for all current employees and no supporting document copies
  • If you hire employees from outside the US for overseas contracts, do you need to complete an I-9?
  • Anti-discrimination provision: Are you in violation?
  • When you must reverify, and when reverification is not needed
  • Your liability when contracting out work

There’s still time for Bostonians, too. Luckily for those who insist on putting “win” in winter, the season snowfall record is measured from July 1 to June 30. So, with a mid-week high of 30 degrees, here’s to hoping.

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B-to-G? The Vital New Tech Lingo That Law Firm Professionals Need To Know

Do you know what B-to-G means? Maybe not what you think. These days it means business-to-geek. And that’s exactly what’s trending for law firm professionals.

Law is one of the world’s oldest and most established industries. It’s made a name for itself by not being trendy, rather, traditional. So why pay attention to trends now?

Well, for one, technology is pervasive in today’s society, and understanding it will not only bring your firm more clients, but it will prepare your firm to better defend them. If you haven’t already formed a dedicated legal team for “technology and emerging companies,” your firm is missing out on a not-so-niche sector.

Entrepreneurs, public and private emerging growth companies, and venture capital and private equity firms are among law firms’ biggest and (potentially) wealthiest clients. If lawyers don’t understand the mainstream and trendy tech trends, it will be difficult to represent the interests, including litigation, advisory, and contractual work, of defense technology, e-commerce, Internet and social media, medical devices, semiconductors, or wireless communications companies.

But B-to-G (don’t forget, business-to-geek) is really describing the future of homes and offices. Nest—a success story for one of this decade’s biggest breakthrough tech companies—embodies everything the modern consumer is looking for in their household and their local neighborhood business.

“I think in the next five years there will be hundreds of millions of smart new home networks,” Mike Maples, Venture Capitalist, said to Forbes, about smarter wifi networks, an area ripe for disruption.

“Right now, I think Linksys and Netgear basically just call China up and say, ‘Can you make the box in my color so I can sell it?’”

But business-to-geek also means developing new business strategies, such as mobile on-demand services. Just like food service or taxis, venture capitalist James Slavet said to Forbes, “The core concept is that with smartphones, we’re all transacting with compressed planning cycles and addictive ease.”

“If you get sick at 2 a.m., rather than going down to urgent care, you’ll be able to pull up your phone and have a consult with a doctor on demand.”

Ping Li, another VC, said to Forbes in agreement: “The marketplace effects are really powerful. These things are not taking years to happen. They’re taking months.”

Law firms confront different kinds of policy and insurance issues than the average services industry. Nevertheless, legal services online and on-demand are on the horizon. Avvo Inc., already launched in 2014 an on-demand service that provides legal advice at a fixed rate via your iPhone, Android phone, or smart tablet.

No, business-to-geek may not have been why you signed up for the legal profession, but it is here to stay. Technology has, in many ways, made the law both harder and easier to practice. The same tools that facilitate doc review may also convolute it.

The same tools that streamline operations and increase profits weigh firms down in extensive training and infrastructure costs.

Still, it’s important for law firm managers to be as up-to-date on technology trends as legal ones. Don’t worry, if you’re struggling, there are now ample online courses here to help. The hardest part will be identifying the best way to transition your team from businessmen to geeks.

Here’s a good start: http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/recordings.htm

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Bring On The Lawsuits, Says FCC Chairman & Other Net Neutrality News (Plus Mobile Apps)

Net neutrality. It’s finally here.

The FCC, led by a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, exceeded expectations by voting 3-2 to approve Title II-based net neutrality rules after an unprecedented public-driven tech advocacy campaign, reports Above The Law (ATL) Blog.

It’s rare that grassroots campaigns have any sort of effect on major, lobby-driven government issues. But, protecting the freedom of the Internet has been tried, tested, and found—well—important.

The debate over both side, of course, including the precise wording of the neutrality, will continue for months.

“It also probably goes without saying that opponents of net neutrality and those who like it when AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are allowed to write protectionist telecom law aren’t taking the day’s events very well,” writes TechDirt on ATL.

“Thousands … are celebrating a rare instance where Internet activism was able to overcome lobbying cash and push a government mountain toward doing the right thing.”

In honor of the event, here are three must-haves for the tech-savvy lawyer in order of price:

TrialPad (iPad, $89.99)

TrialPadfor the iPad may, at first glance, seem like a fortune. But, most users claim to be fortunate enough to own it. Reviews include:

“The short review. Wow.”
“TrialPad offers the best parts of a full blown laptop/desktop trial presentation system in a simple-to-use package at a fraction of the cost.”
“For anybody doing any amount of trial work…TrialPad is a must have application.”

TrialPad is a document presentation tool that helps lawyers create convincing courtroom arguments without being tied to a whiteboard or TV screen. Pre-trial, lawyers can import photo, video, or text evidence into individual case files. During trial, lawyers can use call-outs, annotation, and highlighting to emphasize key information for jurors. TrialPad also allows you to add exhibit stickers to documents and search document text.

TrialPad has been honored with numerous awards, such as “The Best Trial Presentation App” with an A+ TechnoScore by LitigationWorld.

JuryTracker (iPad, $4.99)

“Your jury is seated. You are presenting your case. You are busy arguing the law with the judge, arguing the facts with the witnesses and just plain arguing with opposing counsel. So who is watching the jury to make sure they understand your case?”

That’s the advertisement from JuryTracker, which works to help attorneys improve jury selection, identify key jurors, simplify and enhance notetaking, and share reports with the trial team.

Using the iPad app, you can record the jurors’ gender, race, age, religion, education level, and more. The app also lets you to take note of a variety of juror emotions and behaviors during trial, such as smiling at the witness, fidgeting, and taking notes. Lawyers can enter custom questions to ask potential jurors, or flag jurors for preemptory challenge or dismissal.

Fastcase (iPad and iPhone, free)

Fastcase provides lawyers thousands of cases, legal statutes, and bar publications through the iPad and iPhone. Lawyers can search for relevant information by jurisdiction and date, and save their searches for future reference. Fast case provides keyword (Boolean), natural language, and citation searches and sorts results by the most relevant. Fastcase for the iPhone won the American Association of Law Libraries New Product of the Year Award, and both the iPhone and iPad versions are free of charge.

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Employees–Just Rats In A Maze? What Really Motivates Your Law Firm Professionals

When evaluating patterns of human behavior, scientists often turn to rats that—it turns out—behave quite rationally.

However, even if the daily grind might make you feel like a hamster on a wheel, it turns out that people, while predictable, don’t respond quite as rationally as scientists expect.

“When we think about how people work, the naïve intuition we have is that people are like rats in a maze,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a talk at TEDxRiodelaPlata, reports Jessica Gross for the TED Blog.

“We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work and what the labor market looks like.”

Humans don’t obey all the same rational, cognitive cues of rats. Instead, they are motivated by less obvious but equally measurable activities. As a manager, tap into any one of these things and you’ll find employees work harder, longer, and more passionately than before.

Here are a few experiments presented by Ariely that explain what motivates law firm professionals to become more productive:

1. Seeing the final product of hard work may make employees more productive

Set-up: This study, conducted by Airely at Harvard University, asked participants to build characters from Lego’s Bionicles series. Participants were divided in two groups, and each group was paid decreasing amounts for each subsequent Bionicles: $3 for the first character, $2.70 for the next, and so on. The first group’s figures were stored under the table and disassembled at the end of the experiment. The second group’s Bionicles, however, were disassembled as soon as they’d been built. “This was an endless cycle of them building and we destroying in front of their eyes,” explained Ariely.

Outcome: The first group made 11 Bionicles on average. The second group averaged only seven before they decided to quit the game.

Take-away: At law firms, associates often spend time on research or due diligence that doesn’t end up in the case. Employees may even know that their work will eventually be destroyed. However, as the study shows, watching your work be belittled or trashed before your eyes is de-motivating. Seeing the “fruits of your labor”—even momentarily—increases productivity. So, save those trial prep binders a few weeks longer. Ask your employees to take out and save documents that could be useful or reused in future cases.

2. The less appreciated employees feel their work is, the more money they may want to do it

Set-up: In another experiment by Ariely, this time at MIT, student participants were asked to take a piece of paper filled with random letters and find pairs of identical letters. After each round, participants were offered less money than the previous round. Participants in the first group wrote their names on their sheets of paper and handed them to the experimenter, who looked it over and said “Uh huh” before placing it in a pile. Participants in the second group didn’t write down their names on the paper, and the experimenter placed their sheets in a pile without looking at it. Participants in the third group watched their work shredded immediately upon completion.

Outcome: Participants whose work was shredded needed twice as much money to be motivated to complete the task than those whose work was acknowledged. Participants in the second group, whose work was saved but ignored, needed almost as much money as participants whose work was shredded immediately.

Take-away: “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely explained. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.” Lawyers are often in the “tough love” camp of mentorship. But, there is value to acknowledging hard work. It can be measured by the subsequent motivation of those employees you have rewarded.

3. Employees may derive more pride from projects that were difficult to compete

Set-up: In yet another experiment, Ariely gave participants (with no prior origami experience) origami paper and instructions about how to build a (pretty ugly) product. At the end, those who did the origami project, as well as bystanders, were asked how much they’d pay for the final origami piece. In a second round, Ariely hid the instructions from some participants, resulting in a more difficult process, as well as an uglier product.

Outcome: In the first experiment, the builders of origami paid five times as much as those who simply evaluated the origami product. In the second experiment, the lack of instructions amplified this difference: builders or origami valued the “ugly-but-difficult” products more highly than the easier, prettier ones, while observers valued them much less.

Take-away: Employees value their work based on the effort and work it required. In addition, employees (erroneously) think that others will attribute the same value to it. As a law firm manager, don’t forget to ask your employees about how much effort tasks took. It may help you understand what type of feedback to give them. For example, employees may be exceptionally proud of a project that required a lot of time and effort. As a result, they may expect a reward or acknowledgement by their superiors, who—for their part—may not have, previously, valued the work so highly.

4. Positive reinforcement about employee skills or ability may increase their real performance

Set-up: At Harvard University, undergraduate students gave speeches and participated in mock interviews with experimenters who either (1) nodded and smiled; or (2) shook their heads, furrowed their eyebrows, and crossed their arms.

Outcome: After their speech and mock interview, participants answered a series of numerical questions. Those who were positively encouraged with nods and smiles answered the questions more accurately than those in the second group, who were met with negative body language.

Take-away: Stressful situations are manageable—they depend on how employees are made to feel. As a law firm manager, if you provide positive reinforcement to associates, confidence in their abilities will lead to future success in performance. When you provide too much negative feedback, employees become discouraged and may fail at subsequent tasks.

Rats and mice may follow the cheese. But men and women respond to feelings of satisfaction, positive reinforcement for their efforts, and other non-monetary motivations.

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