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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Win The Debate: Hillary’s (Or The Smart Woman’s) Guide To Office Politics & Achieving Your Career Goals

“PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics,” as defined by Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary.

This week, following the U.S. presidential candidate debates, all eyes are on the prized pig. Few people (except Winston Churchill) would deny that politics is a game. And that’s just what authors Avinash Dixit and David McAdams try to explain in their most recent Harvard Business Review article, “Applying Game Theory to the Supreme Court Confirmation Fight.”

The article attempts to explain why—almost a year later—we still have no Supreme Court nominee to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat.

“First, a quick reminder of how we got here. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February set off a political stalemate that has served as a sidebar to the presidential election campaign. Under the U.S. Constitution, the president nominates justices ‘by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.’”

“Yet within hours of Scalia’s passing, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed not to consider any nominee while President Obama remains in office,” reports the authors in the HBR.

So, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a judge considered moderate compared to others on the nation’s highest court, nothing happened. Garland has been in nominee limbo ever since.

Part of the reason—Dixit and McAdams go on to say—is that both sides, Democrat and Republican, are playing a political game of “who will win the Senate seats.”

However, if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, and the Democrats control the Senate, there is a chance the nominee will be a judge even more liberal than Garland. This—to the Republicans—is the worst outcome.

Nevertheless, Republicans are reticent to go back on their stance; they will not approve Garland. Part out of overconfidence in winning the Senate and part out of the “sunk” costs of disagreeing for so long, Republicans are standing by their stubborn position.

“If Clinton wins the presidency and Republicans keep Senate control, she might prefer that Obama leave Garland as his nominee during Congress’s ‘lame duck’ session—that way she can avoid a nasty Supreme Court fight at the start of her first term,” the authors conclude.

“Unfortunately, if recent history is any guide, Republicans may actually relish the thought of dragging out the Supreme Court confirmation process into Clinton’s first term. If so, Republicans would prefer to continue blocking Garland’s nomination even after a Clinton win.”

There you have it. Politics as game where nobody gets the greased pig and nobody wins.

But, your firm doesn’t have to simulate these tactics in the office.

When competent people vie for a professional promotion, usually the one with political savvy wins. And when conflicts arise, the politically astute reconcile those differences. Why? Because they know how to get things done, and they know what to say, when to say it, and to whom.

Take, for example, the subtle art of self-promotion. Self-promotion involves telling managers, not colleagues, about value you bring to the company. Bragging is exaggerating this value with the sole purpose of appearing superior.

Trump’s tweet, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault,” is shameless bragging.

But, one of the more memorable lines from Clinton during the debate with Trump was, ‘“You criticize me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said.

“And, yes, I did. Do you know what else I prepared for? I also prepared to be president.”

Passionate and prepared self-promotion, done properly, is important.

Studies show men tend to be more involved in office politics and regard them as a natural and normal part of organizational life. Women, on the other hand, often think of office politics as manipulative plotting or blatant bragging.

So, if women want to be successful they must demonstrate political intelligence. In fact, by learning to practice positive politics you can avoid potential pitfalls, increase your personal influence, and develop a career-enhancing game plan.

Take C4CM’s “Smart Woman’s Guide to Office Politics: How to Increase Your Influence & Achieve Your Career Goals,” on Friday, October 14th, 2016 from 11:00am to 12:15pm Eastern.

You will learn:

  • How to survive and thrive in a power hierarchy
  • Handle five different management personalities
  • Know if you’re committing political suicide
  • Special strategies for successfully working with executives

Leave the debates and games to Hillary and Trump. Vote in the election. Win in your career.

-WB

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Wage Gap Woes: The Smart Woman’s Guide To Confident, Assertive Leadership In Law Firms

Americans are told that for every dollar a man earns, a woman in the same job earns just 77 cents. But, a new bill signed in Massachusetts this year is paving the way for better female wages.

In August, Republican Governor Charlie Baker promoted equal pay for men and women doing substantially similar work by signing a law that prevents employers from requiring applicants to disclose salary history “as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment,” according to The Atlantic.

Imagine that—in the past—an employer asked you to disclose how much your earned at your previous job. If that salary was significantly below what the new employer was willing to pay, the employer might reconsider and offer a lower wage.

For women stuck in the wage gap, this type of strategic scenario would maintain income inequality between the sexes.

“Women can be tethered to past salaries in a way that cements lower wages in place,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at think-tank, the Center for American Progress, to The Atlantic.

“This bill tries to eliminate that problem and get employers to think about what an equitable salary is for the job based on the value of the job, not what someone made in the past.”

Although this is a giant step forward in equality efforts for women, the nation as a whole, unfortunately, remains unconcerned.

The Senate continues to eschew the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why? Republicans argued that discrimination based on gender is already illegal, and feel their hands are tied to do anything more.

Nevertheless, cases of discrimination or sexual harassment are not declining.

Bloomberg Businessweek admitted that an unpaid intern that is not legally considered an employee, and thus cannot sue for sexual harassment in the workplace:

“This discrepancy’s not new: Unpaid interns aren’t covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and while local laws can protect them, New York’s state and city laws do not.” In many states, it seems the law does not favor female subordinate employees. But, life’s even harder on female bosses.

Only 4.6 percent of public companies have female CEOs.

“The United States, once a world leader in gender equality, now lags behind other similarly wealthy nations in women’s economic participation. In the two decades from 1990 to 2010, our country fell from having the sixth-highest rate of female labor-force participation among 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, countries to 17th on the list,” writes Michelle Patterson, Founder and President of The California Women’s Conference and President and CEO of Women Network.

An astounding 46 percent of Russia’s leadership roles are held by women, 24 percent in Europe, and 31 percent in Turkey. These numbers are significantly higher than North America’s mere 18 percent, according to Career Bright’s article on the marginalization of professional women.

On a list of 200 companies with a workforce of over 1,000 employees, a survey by Glassdoor found only 2 companies with female bosses ranked high on employee approval of CEOs. Forbes, who reported on the survey, asks pertinently: “Do We Hate Female Bosses?”

Well, do we?

Some blame confidence. Men are just more confident in leadership roles.

If that’s true, it’s not at all surprising why—given all the legal cards stacked against a women: Don’t look too attractive, don’t look too ugly. Look like a woman, act like a man… How could any woman balance such a heavy double standard?

But, if there’s one thing a woman in the workplace can do to be taken seriously, it’s speak up—more often and more assertively. Like this blog post. Like today at work.

Are you too nice, too modest or way too quiet when it comes to saying and getting what you want in the workplace? Do you assume the blame when things go wrong? And what about when things go right? Do you credit other people, good luck or circumstances for your success?

You’re not alone. In fact, a recent survey found that half of women managers admitted to feelings of self-doubt about their performance and career, but only 31 percent of men reported the same.

Condescending colleagues, gender bias, and stereotypes can make it hard for women to take credit when it’s due, or steer the company ship with confidence. But a woman’s actions, assertiveness and communication skills—or lack thereof—could also be sabotaging her career.

So, take The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar, “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Confident, Assertive Leadership.”

While it will likely take more time to convince lawmakers that effort and work ethic, not aesthetics and salary history, should take priority in the workplace, it doesn’t take much for a woman to ask for promotions, initiate salary negotiations, speak up at meetings, manage subordinates productively and successful manager, and master guiltless self-promotion with gusto.

-WB

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