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

Official: Robots Lawyers Are A Thing (& How Your Firm Can Catch Up)

Robots, attack!

Machines have finally infiltrated man’s workplace. Last Spring, law firm Baker & Hostetler announced that they were employing IBM’s artificial-intelligence (AI) system, Ross, to handle their bankruptcy practice, reports Futurism.

Apparently, according to CEO Andrew Arruda, other firms have also signed licenses with Ross, which is “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney.”

Built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, Ross was designed to read and understand language, pose hypotheses based on human-generated questions, conduct research, and then generate responses (with references and citations, of course) to back up his conclusions.

Struggling with the pronoun “he”? You shouldn’t be. Just like man, this machine can learns from experience, faster and faster as you interact with him (if only your colleagues did the same!).

“You ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and ROSS then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly,” says the website.

“In addition, ROSS monitors the law around the clock to notify you of new court decisions that can affect your case.”

Baker & Hostetler is certainly not the first firm to rollout robots among its human counterparts.

Deloitte adopted Kira Systems’ contract analysis software in 2014 for its audit and consulting businesses, reports Legal Technology Insider

Machine-learning, along with Deloitte’s in-house consultants, can create models that quickly read through thousands of complex documents. With AI tools, it’s suddenly much easier and quicker to extract and structure textual information for analysis.

Ross, Watson, Kira… no matter what you call them, robots are improving productivity, profitability and processes at more and more law firms.

In fact, firms like Baker & Hostetler, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Dentons, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and von Briesen & Roper SC have all dipped their technology toes into the artificial intelligence market.

And why not? What smart firm wouldn’t want to use leading-edge technology to help lawyers do their work faster, better, and cheaper?

Learn more by taking The Center for Competitive Management’s live webinar, “Robot Lawyers: Putting Artificial intelligence (AI) to Work at Your Firm” on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern (EDT).

This information-packed webinar led by a powerhouse panel of experts offers a practical discussion on the rise of artificial intelligence, robot helpers, and the impact of this technology on lawyers and firms.

During this comprehensive program, you will learn:

  • What is classified as artificial intelligence
  • Top AI software options, and key technology features to look for firm success, and fit
  • Who is best suited to conduct the AI software search at your firm
  • Specific ways that firms are using AI/robots to optimize time and profits
  • Types of cases/transactions that are the best fit for an AI alternative
  • When lawyer experience trumps AI robots, and when it does not
  • A look at Legal AI tools that are in the works
  • Specific steps for firms to get started with AI

It’s time for law firms to catch up. Don’t be afraid to get a little help from your friends (made of steel and carbon fiber).

 

-WB

For more tutorials and webinars, check out C4CM.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How NOT To Sound Like Donald Trump: When In-Person, Phone or Email Responses Are Appropriate For Professionals

Clinton is in trouble over private e-mail, Trump over past person-to-person conversation. Nobody is safe in today’s modern world where technology records every detail.

This year’s U.S. Presidential elections are highlighting the importance of tactfully crafted communication—even when you think such communication is confidential.

For any employee, knowing which type of communication tool to use (and under which circumstances) can be difficult. Law firm professionals know more than anybody that the way you choose to converse—and the type of language used—can one day be used against you.

Here’s a quick guide for legal conversation that hopefully clears up any conversational etiquette problems for the modern professional.

  1. In-person conversations

Nobody wants to bother the boss. But, sometimes it’s important to put in face time. For important conversations—urgent casework issues, problems with coworkers, quitting, or promotion requests—an in-person conversation is a must.

It can also be helpful to pop-in a supervisor’s office if you haven’t seen them in awhile. Although there are some benefits to remaining invisible at work, it’s also a sure-fire way to stay invisible during year-end bonus allocations or promotion opportunities.

However, don’t be an annoying brown-nose. Also, don’t pester superiors with minor issues (like you need a new office chair). A quick “I got your email, the answer is yes,” merits an in-person interaction; a long-winded (and likewise costly) conversation detailing your every move for the week does not.

  1. Phone call

First, to be clear, unless you are friends outside work (i.e,. you have nicknames for each other like “buddy” or “Big Tex”) or operate in a small company, always introduce yourself with your full name. This clears up any confusion and also establishes boundaries for the phone conversation: work related, professional, and brief.

Second, even in today’s electronic world, many people prefer in-person visits—they’re more personal. Still others choose the efficiency of email. Phone calls lie in the gray area in-between.

So, conduct phone calls wisely. Phone calls can be useful between colleagues in offices in different geographical locations. Phone calls are a friendly way to contact clients.

Within the same office, phone calls are useful to schedule a time for in-person meetings (to avoid back-and-forth email chains). Be aware of the norms and routines of your particular office. For some, calling a colleague in the next room is considered time-conscious and productive. For others, it’s just plain lazy.

  1. Email correspondence

 Finally, email is the primary method of communication these days. It’s quick, immediate, and sensitive to other people’s time and work priorities.

However, be sure you follow proper email etiquette: don’t put the body of your email in the subject line; practice high-tech politeness; stop calling every email and task “urgent”; and don’t be so efficient with your words (and abbreviations) so that all meaning is lost.

These days, you usually can’t go wrong with e-mail.

At the same time, don’t forget the power of handwritten letters. Special occasions, thank-you notes, and anything important is worth the wait.

-WB

What’s the most difficult conversation to have with employees? Communicating Compensation. So, use C4CM’s essential guide to facilitate the conversation. Communicating Compensation to Employees will provide your firm with a powerful resource that gives you clear communication guidelines to manage difficult conversations and improve existing systems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hurricane Forces Outside Your Door? Why Managers Should Embrace A Closed-Door Policy

Authorities in Florida and South Carolina are requiring the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people today as Hurricane Matthew marches toward the U.S.

Yesterday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm. A state of emergency allows Haley to gather 1,800 members of the National Guard to help clear traffic lanes and direct highway traffic during the evacuation—not an overreaction considering just one year ago, heavy storms in South Carolina killed 17 people.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded,” reports Reuters of the National Hurricane Center.

“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation.”

Tropical storm conditions are expected to reach parts of the Florida coast by early Thursday after intensifying to hurricane conditions, warns the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Matthew had already sustained winds of 120 mph, which comprises a Category 3 hurricane, and is likely to strengthen soon.

“People have less than 24 hours to prepare,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned, reports USA Today. “Having a plan could be the difference between life and death.”

And although it’s hardly a life or death situation, law firm associates often feel flooded with deadlines and requests.

Sometimes—to avoid a storm of distractions at work—it is best to close up shop, board up your windows, and simply buckle down in your office.

For years, strategists and innovators touted the success of an open-door policy, claiming it makes management more accessible or employees more collaborative.

It has become routine for inner-office designs to be laid out in an open-plan scheme.

And while a culture of openness and accessibility—especially in the field of law, where its rigid hierarchical structure can breed favoritism—might improve productivity. There are other instances where a closed-door policy is the best one.

Take, for instance, Jordan Cohen’s story about a business trip to London, as described in the Harvard Business Review blog:

“Last Monday I took the red-eye to London. My week had been tightly scheduled months in advance, to ensure the most efficient use of my time on the ground once I landed. Arriving at Heathrow I whizzed through to the BA arrivals lounge to eat, shower and change in preparation for my morning’s meetings.

After my shower I opened my suitcase to get dressed. One problem: no suit pants. In fact: no lower-body covering of any kind, other than the rumpled jeans I’d just slept in.

The next 90 minutes were spent rescheduling that morning’s engagements, juggling the effect on meetings later in the week, and navigating the complex maze of gentleman’s clothing stores in Central London before emerging with a suitable pair of trousers.

This unexpected diversion to Jermyn Street really bugged me. I’m a frequent traveler — how could I have gotten on a transatlantic flight with no pants? What caused this unexpected absent-mindedness?

I reviewed Sunday afternoon’s chain of events. As I had been packing, I remembered that I was interrupted by a request from my daughter to help her with her homework. Twenty minutes of geometry later, I finished packing and zipped up my suitcase. My pants never made it in. While I traversed London, they hung on the back of my door where I’d left them, waiting to be packed.”

Mr. Cohen goes on to explain that interruptions—especially welcome distractions, like the one from his daughter—derail a person’s productivity.

It’s true that our daily lives are constantly battling the many throws of disruptive technology, cell phones, emails, Facebook status updates, RSS feed alerts, instant messaging, in-person visits, to name a few.

When you add them up, the time away from work is substantial. Not only that, returning to work after such distractions becomes more difficult. And, prone to error.

Mr. Cohen has come up with a few ways to minimize distractions, stay proactive at managing time, and increase his individual productivity. His suggestions can be found here, along with the rest of his article.

However, it’s possible to add one more idea to his distraction-minimizing list: Create a closed-door policy at work.

These days, most people frown upon a closed office door. In fact, disruptions have become such acceptable practice a closed door does not always deter visitors.

Nevertheless, it’s possible to recondition your coworkers to respect the closed-door. Start with a traditional “do not disturb” sign, or simply let it be known you expect one hour of uninterrupted work.

Don’t get swept away by office gossip and idle chit-chat. Even one hour a day—distraction free—will make a huge difference in your productivity.

So, ignore e-mail, put your phone on silent, and concentrate on a single task. In law, which deals with costly, time-sensitive, billable, high-stakes cases, there are definitely times when a closed-door policy—to avoid the hurricane forces outside—is the best one.

Need help coming up with other productivity policies in your law firm? Visit The Center for Competitive Management’s website for CLEs and webinars devoted to saving your firm time, money, and management headache.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized