How Law Firm’s Make Use Of Introverted Employees & Social Media In 2017

The social media age. Upside, your law firm takes advantage of the windfall of electronic recommendations and attracting new clients via LinkedIn, its website, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Downside, somebody has to keep updating your tweets.

Social media has empowered businesses and consumers alike. Individuals have never held so much influence in changing the world with just one click of a button. And, at the same time, businesses are empowered to advertise their products and services to a market much larger than before.

At first, law firms were a bit slow to take advantage of digital days. Not anymore. Now it’s necessary to task young associates with managing your Facebook page, Twitter account, and—hopefully—blog posts, or risk your bottom line by falling behind.

Here’s how your firm gets noticed:

  1. Publish your posts on media aggregators. 

Upside: Websites like Reddit, Shoutwire, and Digg allow individuals to submit links to websites, blog posts, or any Internet-based page. The community of readers then votes up (or down) the link based on a review of its content. Create flashy titles and you’ll likely see in a flash the rise of your readership.

Downside: Comments by readers can be harsh. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to wriste down criticisms (NSFW) that may end up permanently cached on the World Wide Web.

  1. Add website sharing buttons.

Upside: Your firm’s website should have links to all of your social media accounts, as well as ways to share your posts. Programs like “Click to Tweet” make this easy.

Downside: Your firm may need a small amount of Internet savvy to create buttons on your website and restore broken links.

  1. Create interesting content.

Upside: Remember to write thoughtful arguments accompanied with eye-catching photos. There’s so much competition already when it comes to online content, your firm’s additions must stand out.

Downside: Yes, this requires a little more time and thought to write captivating posts and tweets. Consumers would rather see the “Yeti Seen Prowling the Streets Near Boston” than your tips about hiring Of Counsel at your company.

  1. Do your research.

Upside: If you know what time your readers are logging on then you’ll know the best time to publish your posts. Maybe you’re getting a lot of hits first thing in the morning. People are remiss to start work at 8am and decide to read legal news or browse the web. With this knowledge, you can now set your social media to publish at certain times to target your audience.

Downside: Due diligence on your casework is no longer enough. Time to do due diligence on your business development, too.

  1. Crossover multiple social media platforms.

Upside: Happy you finally mastered the art of blogging for your firm? Time to summarize that blog post on your LinkedIn and Facebook page and compile a 140-character hook for your Twitter account. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same ideas on different mediums.

Downside: Now you’ll have to memorize more usernames and passwords. More social media means more potential backlash.

Speaking of backlash, protect your firm from recent changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) governing e-discovery, which covers the legal use of social media e-discovery in cases.

Throughout 2016, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) amended the scope of discovery, timing of discovery requests and availability of sanctions for data preservation mishaps, and motivated judges to issue notable e-discovery opinions and interpreted new FRCP provisions.

Now, in 2017, in addition to keeping your social media prowess up-to-date, your firm must swift through e-discovery using up-to-date procedures.

There’s a lot to keep track of in the social media and electronic information world, and this will only get more difficult when it comes to training and managing employees—not to mention the fact that with the press of a button, the same information you created at your fingertips is lost at them, as well.

What does this mean for you? There’s still time to push social media at your law firm within the 2017 FRCP compliance.

For example, Michele C.S. Lange for Above The Law blog advises, look for intent when dealing with deleted documents.

“With an average litigation matter often involving thousands (or even millions) of documents, it is no secret that data preservation is one of the thorniest issues in ediscovery. How does an organization and its counsel ensure that all relevant documents are protected? Changes to Rule 37(e) were designed to reset the preservation duty by allowing courts to use good faith, intent and reasonableness when determining if a party should be sanctioned for destroying digital evidence. However, ‘proper preservation’ is still a blurry line, often dependent upon a myriad of case-specific facts, and in 2016 many judges delved into whether a party’s conduct was sufficient under Rule 37(e) to levy sanctions. There will be a steady stream of cases in 2017 addressing reasonable steps to preserve, intent to deprive another party of relevant data and the inherent power of the court to administer sanctions when data is lost.”

The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) offers myriad webinars and services to help you navigate social media and technology at your law firm.

C4CM will also help you with law firm management. It’s difficult to give assignments to associates who are proven introverts. Learn more about how to structure meetings and trainings to encourage participation by introvers with C4CM’s live webinar. Sign up before January 25, 2017, and attend, “Introverts in the Workplace: Harnessing the Untapped Power of the Introvert,” for free on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017, from 2pm to 3pm EDT.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Law Firm Resolutions: New Year & New Productivity Plans For Equity Partners

The year 2016 was the year of things ending.

Hoverboards, the Galaxy Note 7, Yahoo, and Vine. Whether it was business acquisition or spontaneous explosion, last year was not a good one for new technology or old ventures.

And, according to a 2016 Altman Weil Flash Survey, law firms are not faring much better.

Firms are having trouble maintaining billable hours, with half of surveyed firms reporting that their equity partners are not sufficiently busy. Worse yet, 62 percent of surveyed firms report that of non-equity partners are also not sufficiently busy, particularly firms with 250 or more lawyers.

With so little going on in 2016, growth looks unlikely for 2017. Only 53 percent of surveyed firms believe that growth in lawyer headcount was required for firm success, and a vast majority believes that fewer equity partners will be a permanent trend.

In fact, the disappearance of the traditional partnership track is another casualty of an overall (fiscally) depressing year.

Nevertheless, death of the traditional partnership track might mean the birth to a new, more efficient system.

In 2017, consider implementing a few of the following ways to make your partners more productive at your firm:

  1. Track more than just billable hours and new business. Consider leadership or management responsibilities, as well as mentorship as requirements among your partners.
  2. Make partnership duties transparent so that struggling partners can become inspired by the work of other more successful ones. And, more successful partners can see which of his or her peers need some extra help. Espouse an environment of mutual assistance, not competition to increase productivity.
  3. After promoting a new partner, require special partnership training. Don’t send your partners into battle without the proper legal weapons.
  4. For partners in large law firms whose specific practice may permanently fail, consider their cross-sectional expertise and what other departments may profit from their experience. Encourage partners to have multiple, cross-sectional knowledge and flexible skill sets.
  5. Retrain, don’t rehire. It may be tempting to make cuts to maintain profits. But, where possible, see where you can retrain current partners to become more productive. It often costs more in the long run to fire employees only to rehire one in the future. Before you layoff partners, find out if they’re willing to work part-time, contingency cases, or under a new title (Of Counsel, for example, with a smaller salary).

This year, consider better communication among, rather than excommunication of equity partners. If productivity is the problem, think about putting partners on sabbatical or asking them to attend training on becoming managers or more efficient workers.

Certainly partnership standards and cutbacks to boost profits at law firms have increased. According to the aforementioned survey, 73 percent of firms reported removing “underperforming” partners and nearly half were already in the process of de-equitizing full partners. In fact, over half of the firms surveyed utilize part-time or contract lawyers.

Instead of downsizing your firm, increasing your firm’s creative management techniques and its communication about new partnership requirements to keep top executives may be just as valuable.

Adapt or downsize? Which New Year’s resolution will your firm follow this year?

Not yet resolute? The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) is here to help you decide. Attend the live webinar, “How Many Lawyers is Too Many Lawyers? Managing Firm Headcount, Capacity & People Power for Increased Profits,” on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, from 2pm to 3:15pm EDT.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Counting The “Pros” To Pro Bono Work: Law Firm Gift Giving & Tax Write-Offs

It’s the season for giving. But, instead of wrapping something under the tree, consider giving the gift of time.

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

Or maybe they do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, the opposite result has been proven time and time again, as far back as the 1960s with Stanley Milgram, whose psychology experiments are some of the best known and widely discussed.

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

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

So did they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, in the end, Pro Bono work is at tax write-off for law firms.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) writes about tax deductions for pro bono legal services:

“Although you cannot deduct the value of your time or services, you can deduct the expenses you incur while donating your services to a qualified organization.” 

Lahle Wolfe, About.com Guide, answers all your questions about similar tax deductions She writes:

“Before listing the types of expenses you may be able to deduct, they need to meet two IRS qualifications:

  1. The expense be incurred as a requirement in order to perform the service for the organization; and
  2. The services must primarily benefit the charity and not the taxpayer (but both can benefit.)

Examples of expenses you may be able to deduct, or partially deduct, include: cost of supplies needed to provide or perform the service that directly benefited the charity; travel expenses; and other direct expenses.”

Therefore, by serving those in need—including your own self-interests—your firm can get the deductions it needs. With ample online guidance about tax write-offs for pro bono work, there’s no excuse for not offering these services to your community.

It’s the season for giving, so sign-up to give pro bono work this holiday. Do it for both the philanthropy and the profit-seeking it inspires.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

More Than The Holiday Blues: How Your Firm Can Combat Employee Anxiety & Depression

Thanksgiving sparks the beginning of family get-togethers, year-end deadlines, and, as a result, mental health concerns.

Considering this contentious, recent election coincides with the arrival of holidays already associated with anxiety, stress, and drinking way too much, it’s important to discuss how your law firm or business will handle behavioral health problems of its employees this season.

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently partnered with Hazelden and reported findings from its study on the rates of substance use and other mental health concerns among lawyers in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. While they may not surprise you, the results can help law firm managers better prepare for a potentially dicey December.

One of the more interesting takeaways was that younger lawyers are at higher risk for abusing alcohol. Apparently attorneys in the first 10 years of their practice experience the highest rates of problematic use (28.9%), followed by attorneys practicing for 11 to 20 years (20.6), reports Above The Law blog.

It goes without saying that anxiety and stress are highly correlated with alcohol abuse. And, the study somberly states, “ubiquity of alcohol in the legal professional culture certainly demonstrates both its ready availability and social acceptability, should one choose to cope with their mental health problems in that manner,” (via ATL).

It’s easy to think that symptoms of these behavioral problems would be evident. If younger associates are starting to smell of alcohol or miss deadlines, certainly that’s cause for concern.

However, extreme reactions to stress and anxiety can happen under the radar. Take, for instance, a sad story about a law graduate who recently committed suicide after failing the California Bar Exam.

The graduate’s parents issued a statement. In addition to expression surprise, they implored other students to reach out for support.

“Our son Brian Christopher Grauman unexpectedly took his own life on Friday evening 18 Nov 2016, after learning he did not pass the California Bar Exam. We are still trying to understand such an extreme reaction by Brian. We know he loved studying and debating law, and he was intently focused on fulfilling his dream of practicing law in the courtroom….”

“It appears the idea of repeating the last 7 months of his life to again prepare for the Bar Exam and then once more nervously await months for the results was too much for him. We deeply regret that he did not take the time to talk to anyone after learning his exam results.”

In the ideal world, a law firm manager can sense his or her associate’s breaking point. But, in reality, the human emotional state can be fragile and unpredictable.

That’s why it’s really important to bring these issues out into the open and provide a forum for your employees to express their anxieties, desires, and concerns.

Here’s how you can do it.

First, survey your associates to find out how prevalent these issues are within your firm. Ensure its anonymity. Second, confirm with your healthcare provider that your firm’s employees have affordable access to counseling and other mental health services. Circulate these options in a firm-wide memo.

Finally, make it clear to your office that you take mental health seriously by offering preventative activities, such as gym memberships, gift certificates to local spas, bring in a masseur this month for 15-minutes massages, or invite a yoga teacher to offer classes before work for a week to introduce associates to the sport.

Consider making wellness a priority and outlet your employees’ happiness, not happy hour. You won’t just survive this holiday season—you’ll thrive.

 

-WB

For more ideas about how to generate a productive, thriving law firm, learn more from The Center for Competitive Management’s webinars here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Trump & Trademarks: Managing Leadership Transition at Law Firms & What Not To Do

Speaking of the recent election, Jess Collen of Forbes, wrote, “If the candidates in an election between a former IP lawyer and a king of brand names don’t talk about trademarks in a campaign, no one ever will.”

Apparently, no one ever will. But that doesn’t mean that Mr. Trump won’t pull an ace from his sleeve during his presidency.

Trump, or at least his company, owns many trademarks. In addition, Trump has a reputation for being litigious.

Forbes alleges that there are likely more than one hundred existing federal registrations to Donald Trump and/or his companies. It might make businesses wonder if Trump is in favor of reorganizing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or if he is happy with his current cache.

We will have a President who is hyper-sensitive to the value of brand names. Efforts by the courts, legislature or government agencies to lessen those protections will not find a receptive audience in the White House,” concludes Collen for Forbes.

“The incoming President may even argue that his success is built entirely on the fame of his marks. Will that matter?” 

Trademark law is not the only reason businesses are cautiously reacting to a Trump victory.

The pharmaceutical industry, where patent law is highly influential, has been especially tight-lipped in their reaction. Sucampo Pharmaceuticals (SCMP.O), which increased by roughly 31 percent after it raised its full-year sales forecast, was sure not to rock the boat of its shareholders this week, reports Reuters.

“Obviously Hillary Clinton’s agenda was much more well-articulated,” said Chief Executive Officer Peter Greenleaf about Clinton’s promise to regulate prices in the pharmaceutical industry.

“I will be interested to see what we learn as Mr. Trump takes office and we learn more about what his agenda is going to be for the industry.” 

Whether it is as a Presidential leader or law firm one, it is important to articulate a plan of succession. America’s biggest loss at a Trump win is the fact that the President-elect’s policies have not been specifically laid out. In fact, nobody knows what to expect.

In fact, a Trump win fueled a “violent reaction” in the bond market—spooked by Trump’s vague rhetoric calling for massive infrastructure spending and tax cuts, reports CNN Money.

Investors are worried—and confused.

Clients are often concerned for the future when a law firm partner steps down. In most firms, a minimum of 20 to 30 percent of a firm’s total revenue is controlled by partners over the age of 60; naturally, when those partners retire, it puts the business—and its clients—at risk.

Client relationships are your most valuable assets. But far too many firms neglect to plan for the inevitable retirement of senior partners.

Not only should law firms plan for the eventual retirement of senior partners, it should provide to clients detailed answers for the following questions:

  • Who determines whether clients need to be transitioned?
  • Who determines when clients need to be transitioned?
  • Who determines how clients should be transitioned?
  • When to tell the members of the firm (and clients) that a significant rainmaker will be reducing his or her active involvement in the firm?
  • How to select the most appropriate successors?

If you are a law firm manager and your firm has no such plan in place, take The Center For Competitive Management’s live webinar, “Transitioning Partners and Client Transfers: Guide to Retaining Key Clients When Partners Retire,” on Thursday, December 1st, 2016, from 2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern (EDT).

This essential webinar will explain (1) how to make client transfer decisions for individual partners as they transition to retirement; and (2) how smart firms can prepare for issues associated with senior-level partners’ departure, before a client crisis occurs.

The stock market may not have fully recovered from a Trump victory, but your firm can protect its assets and clients from experiencing a similarly volatile leadership transition.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Law Firm Pricing (& Voting Day) Predictability: Using Alternative Fee Arrangements

The result of today’s vote is anybody’s guess. But, does the United States Electoral College have the power to change history?

The faithless elector—words that sound ominous. A faithless elector is s a member of the U.S. Electoral College who does not vote for the presidential or vice-presidential candidate for whom they had pledged to vote.

See, the U.S. Electoral College is a strange beast. As we all know, citizens of the U.S. do not actually elect the president or the vice president directly; instead, “electors” are chosen to pledge a vote for a particular candidate on behalf of their respective U.S. State residents every four years.

Electors in all states, with the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska, have been chosen to pledge votes on a “winner-take-all” basis since the 1880s. Under this method, all of a state’s electors vote for the candidate who wins the most votes in that state.

However, Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, which means each congressional district gets an elector to vote on its behalf and then two separate electors vote according to the statewide popular vote.

In the end, however, electors are often free to vote as they see fit without any consequence.

Georgia and Texas are two of 21 states without faithless elector laws. That means, there’s no penalty for voting against your statewide consensus. In addition, while the other 29 states (and D.C.) have such laws, no faithless elector has ever been prosecuted, according to the Archives and The Washington Post.

There have been several occasions where electors have broken their pledge to vote for a particular candidate. Although faithless electors have a small place in history, considering they are few and far between, they do have the power to change the outcome of an election.

Despite polling efforts, you might say this election is impossible—literally—to predict.

You can predict, however, firm fees for your clients. In fact, more and more clients, both large and small, are proactively asking for cost predictability, certainty, and transparency.

Law firms, for their part, can work toward creating a pricing strategy that goes beyond one-size-fits-all, and attracts more business through alternative fee arrangements.

Transparency is essential—whether in politics or business—where the devil is in the pricing details. Craft new policies that require your firm to share data with its clients about how your work is being allocated and billed.

These days, data analytics is an easy way to support pricing decisions (and delight clients with your tech-savvy sophistication). This will improve your firm efficiency, as well as client satisfaction.

To learn more, take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar, “Utilizing Alternative Fee Arrangements for Greater Predictability & Client Satisfaction.

Like every (electoral) vote, every dollar counts for your client.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Law Firm Leadership Tips From Poker, Politics & Presidential Elections

Time to lay your cards on the table and vote; this year, everybody’s eyes are on the U.S. Presidential election game.

Yesterday, popular news outlets declared the U.S. Presidential elections as a “tight race.” Today, Democrats are declaring it “bad polling.” Tomorrow? Republicans will surely follow suit, slamming their opponents. The only thing that’s clear in this election is that news media has a talent for promoting its own agenda; but their bluff is about to be called.

It’s not the first time that the U.S. has witnessed a wild card election. It’s also neither the first nor the last election that newspapers have failed to predict.

Sixty-eight years to the day, on November 3, 1948 “Dewey Defeats Truman” was the incorrect banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune—just one day after incumbent U.S. President Harry S. Truman won an upset victory over his Republican challengers.

The newspaper, along with its prominent headline, was famously held up by Truman at a well-photographed appearance following his successful election. Abandoning his poker face, Truman can’t help but smile at the error.

At that time, the Tribune, which once referred to Truman as a “nincompoop”, was well-known Republican-leaning paper. And although ex-post we know a swing of less than one percent of the popular vote in Ohio, Illinois, and California would have produced a Dewey victory, the newspaper overplayed its hand. Forced to print copies before the close of the polls (because of a new printing press) the Tribune made a call: the wrong one!

Similarly, Republican news sources may have oversold recent poll numbers. It doesn’t look like Manhattan billionaire turned up trumps after all. An ABC/Washington Post survey released Tuesday showed him with a one-percentage point edge over Clinton. However, today, Democrats are citing a POLITICO/Morning Consult numbers, where Clinton has a not-so-narrow lead.

With Trump acting so erratically, it’s not hard to believe his campaign is a few cards short of a deck.

Even if we can’t know what the final tally will be, Americans can be sure the system is above board. Voting stations are being watched carefully this election. So, play your cards close to your chest if you prefer, but get out there and vote.

Meanwhile, in other news, during the early hours this morning, Vietnamese-American Qui Nguyen won the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, according to Poker News. The 39-year-old Nguyen defeated Cliff Josephy and Gordon Vayo to capture the coveted WSOP bracelet and a not-so-negligible amount of cash worth over $8,000,000.

It may not be Trump or Clinton, but at least one person is holding all the aces today.

As the leader of a business or manager at a law firm, you can too. Nguyen made mistakes in his poker game—even trying to bluff off the 2nd and 3rd place winners respectively. His bluff was unsuccessful, but that doesn’t mean the deck was stacked against him.

Confidence and patience were two key components to Nguyen’s victory.

You may think it’s for higher pay (likely a bit less than $8,000,000), but in reality, the number one reason employees leave is the way they’re supervised.

As the old adage says, “People join companies, but leave managers.”

Confident, effective leadership is something you can practice with a little guidance. Read C4CM’s guide, which gives you all the details and support materials you need to develop essential skills that inspire, influence and achieve results. These include:

  • Transitioning from Doer to Leader
  • Delegating to Boost Productivity and Build Others
  • Building Trust
  • Motivating Employees for High Performance
  • Empowering Employees – Beyond Lip Service
  • Compelling Followers Through Effective Communication
  • Honing Your Internal and External Radar
  • Being Politically Savvy

Yes, being politically savvy can save your productivity (a lesson U.S. Presidents know well). Learn how you can lead your firm to a better bottom line, here.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized