Productivity On Planes? Ideas For Law Firm Professionals To Pass The Travel Time

Traveling these days has become a nightmare. But, it could always get worse. At least, that’s what two lawyers would have a federal judge believe when they appealed for an upgrade of their horrifying—dare I say it—coach seat.

Two defense lawyers for alleged terrorists requested an upgrade to business class from economy for their trip to an undisclosed country in Africa to attend a deposition, according to legal papers as reported by John Marzulli in the New York Daily News.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors also making the trip, say traveling in economy is just fine. In fact, prosecutors aren’t buying at all what the defense lawyers are selling. The feds think just one defense attorney—and in coach class at that—should suffice.

Why all the flight fuss?

Accused militants Ali Yasin Ahmed, Madhi Hashi and Mohammed Yusuf are charged with providing material support to the Somalia-based terror organization al-Shabaab, which merged with Al Qaeda in 2012 and has carried out numerous attacks in Africa against the United Nations and U.S. interests in the region, reports Marzulli.

To depose them, the feds are picking up the bill.

Yet, “Yusuf’s lawyer David Stern asked Federal Judge Sandra Townes to rule in favor of his upgrade request on the grounds that the depositions ‘are of critical importance… and the attorneys should be alert and rested to conduct them,'” reports Marzulli.

“Travel by coach will make it impossible for the attorneys to work and or sleep effectively upon our arrival.”

It remains unclear why the deposition couldn’t be conducted remotely (or why the attorneys plan to prepare a mere 17 hours in advance of the questioning).

What is clear, however, is that frequent travel for work—especially in law—has myriad downsides.

So, here are a few tips on how you can make better use of those hours for your client and your practice.

1. Don’t use the plane for work

This is pretty self-explanatory, and something the aforementioned defense attorneys should realize. Don’t use flying time for work. Travel is already stressful, and the last thing you want is to feel pressure in that pressurized cabin. Jet engine noise can throw off your concentration and make you make mistakes.

For long flights, if you must work, limit it to reading or listening. Download a few documents on your Kindle or e-reader, or a few audio books. Create a manageable list of work-related activities. If the flight is rocky or you get drowsy, you don’t want to count on completing that doc-review before landing.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water. The dry air of airplanes can cause dehydration and thus tiredness and lightheadedness.

The best plan is to sit back and relax (just like they tell you to) because it’ll help you hit the ground running once you touch down. In the end, your client won’t benefit from the inconsistent work you bill on-the-go.

2. Write a to-do list

Save your to-do list for the plane. If you’re attending a meeting, make a list of the documents you must bring. Organize your day’s itinerary. Write down the gifts you don’t want to forget to bring home for your family.

The to-do list will help you feel organized and excited for what’s in store.

3. Read a novel

Even as you’re preparing for a work meeting, it’s important to be refreshed with a clear mind. The best way to take an active rest is to read for pleasure.

Get out that John Grisham classic and you’ll find the flight flies by and your productivity post-deplaning soars.

4. Keep up on correspondence

Remember that holiday letter you wanted to write? Well, it’s too late for New Years, but consider drafting a Valentine’s Day letter for your nearest and dearest. Write your clients thank-you notes or just personalized correspondence. It’s a value-add to your practice, as well as your personal life.

5. Meditate

Meditation has been shown to improve focus and memory. Meditation is also a stress reliever. Meditation is very simple. Just concentrate on your breathing. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and focus on breathing in and out. If you lose concentration, bring your attention back to the sound of inhaling and exhaling. Keeping your mind cool in flight will help keep your head calm and collected in court after you land.

6. Pay to upgrade

Finally, pay to upgrade your layover to a business lounge.

So even when that federal judge denies your request for an upgraded seat (as they should on federal dollars), you still have the luxury of a lounge for on-the-ground productivity.

For the savvy legal professional, travel doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Plan ahead and don’t work on the plane.

Instead, prioritize working during a stopover. It will lead to more efficient and error-free product for your client, and better business practice for your firm.

Worried about your employees’ productivity? Learn time management tips and tricks with C4CM’s audio course, “Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.”

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Throw-back Thursday: Sumerian Syria & Serious Uses For Excel (For Lawyers)

How about another throw-back Thursday history lesson (and then some law). It’s about Syria—but long before the country was known for ISIS, it was valued for ideas.

Today, two days after news came out that ISIS had burned a captive Jordanian pilot to death, the small Middle Eastern nation hit back big. Jordanian fighter jets flew over the home of the slain 27-year-old pilot, Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, in the village of Ay in Karak governorate after participating in air strikes over ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told CNNThursday that Jordan’s response to the killing “will be strong and will be decisive.”

“We will not let this crime of killing our pilots with the horrific way it was done pass without punishment,” al-Momani said to CNN. “These people will be punished.”

As of today, the government certainly lived up to that promise.

If we go back in time, however, we can look to a small city—Mari—located on the border of Iraq and Syria, not far from Jordan, where civilizations used to come together, rather than clash.

Mari (modern-day Tell Hariri, Syria) was an ancient Semitic city located on the Euphrates river western bank. Thousands of years ago it flourished as a trade center and hegemonic state from 2900 BC until 1759 BC. The city was built expressly for the purpose of trade, based on its relative position in the middle of the Euphrates trade routes—a position that made it an intermediary between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west.

Sumer is a civilization that existed slightly before that of Ancient Egypt and located in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). By the late fourth millennium B.C., Sumer (or Ki-en-gir, ‘Land of the Sumerian tongue’) was divided into approximately a dozen city-states which were independent of one another and which used local canals and boundary stones to mark their borders, according to historians (read more about Sumer here).

Far before Iraq was coveted for its oil, it was celebrated for its inventions. There are at least four different translations (although they sometimes conflict) on the names of Sumerian rulers and their illustrious lengths of rule. It’s on one such document that an early Sumerian invention is described: the wheel, dating to circa 3500 BC.

You could perhaps claim that Iraq was forever—since as far as Sumer—destined to be a place highly influential in the creation of the car.

Besides the wheel, however, law firm professionals—people, in general—should be thankful for Sumer’s many crucial contributions to modern technology and language. For example, the civilization reminds us even today why there is no point, thousands of years later, in reinventing the wheel (although many people throughout history have tried).

Now, going back to the practice of law, think about how many new computer programs, tablet and mobile apps that organize case matter material, new-fangled software to organize all the details of your case.

Do we need it all?

When it comes to timesheets, timelines, case status updates, “to do” lists, and other casework assignments, Microsoft Excel has become a tried and true tool for lawyers and law firm managers.

And, its many features are available on the iPad, a favorite among attorneys.

Recently, when Microsoft Excel rolled out a bunch of new features for Excel for iPad, we were paying attention. This is a run-down of Excel for iPad’s new design additions (thanks to AccountingWeb):

  • Pivot table functionality. In the first incarnation, pivot tables were literally trapped under glass, meaning you could only scroll the data around on the screen. Now, although the workbook must already contain a pivot table before opening it using the app, you have the capability to expand, collapse, filter, and even refresh pivot tables, as shown in Figure 1.The caveat on refreshing is that the source data must be within the same workbook as the pivot table.
  • Email documents as PDF. Previously, Excel spreadsheets could only be emailed in their native format, but you can now email spreadsheets in PDF form. Figure 2 walks you through the steps.External keyboard support. Using an external keyboard allows you to use the same navigation and data entry techniques that you do in the desktop-based versions of Excel..
  • Flick to select. You’ll quickly wish for this innovative feature in the desktop versions of Excel. Flick a cell’s selection handle in any direction to automatically select all data in that row or column for a contiguous area of the spreadsheet. It’s a huge advance in using Excel on a touch-enabled device.
  • Third-party fonts. You can now access third-party fonts installed on your iPad in the Excel app.
  • Picture tools. Excel for iPad now supports in-app picture editing so your firm can, for example, update its very attractive blog site.

Not yet convinced of Excel’s application to your law practice? Here‘s a detailed account of how lawyers can use Excel.

Lawyers can use Excel to track (1) timesheets; (2) timelines; (3) case status updates; (4) casework assignments; and (5) financial reporting. These uses, and more, can be easily configured to sync with e-mail in Outlook and all your mobile devices (like the iPad, see above). More than that, Excel is a tried-and-true program that has been used for centuries decades throughout history to save time and money.

Instead of the ghastly air strikes, remember the history of Syria for Sumer. And, don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to (also, don’t add unnecessary conflict in your professional life over it, either).

Learn more about how your law firm can use Excel with The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s guides and webinars:

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Funny Job Titles & How To Not Laugh Your Way Into A Labor Lawsuit

file.jpgWould you guess that an advertisement for an “information advisor,” is really a search for a university librarian?

What about internal communications coordinator, family protection consultant, or Process operative? These titles are for a fax-machine operator, insurance salesman, and chicken factory employee, respectively.

When job titles like “lifeguard” start to be replaced with “wet leisure assistant” (seriously, Ceredigion County Council hired for that post), companies need to start reconsidering their human resources strategies.

The problem with confusing job titles and descriptions is that they attract the wrong candidates. And, once employed, workers won’t know what’s expected from them if their actual duties differ from what they were hired, on paper, to do.

Typically, job descriptions include a precise job title, short summary of the responsibilities involved, the specific set of skills or experience required, and a salary range.

Things to avoid? Jargon, legalese, ambiguous list of duties.

If you don’t know where to begin, start writing down the description of your ideal candidate.

Among your employees of similar rank, what kinds of words do you associate with your most valued? Use those same adjectives to seek your future employees.

Most importantly, be precise. Use descriptive action verbs (advise, compile, report, etc.) instead of vague action verbs (be, do, work, assist, etc.). To be precise, you must write in complete sentences that leave no room for misinterpretation.

Prioritize the most important responsibilities of the job. If you are writing “occasionally” next to an assignment, consider leaving it off. Explain these more peripheral functions in the in-person interview.

In addition to explain what and where these job tasks will be completed, consider offering reasons why you need them done and how often. If you want to attract the right candidate for a job, they must be aware of your motivations behind hiring them in for this particular position.

Where does this position rank next to others in the same firm, and why is it so important? Your reasons for hiring a new associate or law firm professional should compliment their reasons for applying to the job.

Finally, every time you hire for a new position, you should take the opportunity to reevaluate the job descriptions for positions already in place. It’s important to ensure there is no duplication of responsibility within your firm. And, it will make hierarchies and reporting systems clear for both new and old employees.

Are your job descriptions accurate and up-to-date? Do they comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Family and Medical Leave Act? If not, your organization may be next-in-line for an investigation by a governmental agency or even a devastating lawsuit.

In fact, just one poorly written job description could leave your company exposed. Job descriptions are typically the first document looked at in legal disputes or during a regulatory agency’s inquiry.

And with the rise of disputes stemming from the employer-employee relationship, particularly claims arising under the FLSA, FMLA, and ADA, you need to take keen look at your job descriptions to ensure they’re legally compliant.

Attend The Center for Competitive Management’s “how-to” event, “Writing Accurate & Defensible Job Descriptions that Comply with the FLSA, ADA, and FMLA,” on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

You will learn easy steps to create job descriptions that are:

  • Accurate, clear, and defensible under the FLSA, ADA, and FMLA;
  • Written in a manner that clearly defines the responsibilities of employee positions; and
  • Consistent with best practices under other federal employment laws.

Before you start advertising for a “waste management and disposal technician” to empty your trash, think about whether or not it’s really your job titles and descriptions that should be thrown out.

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Reach, Engagement & Shareability: Metrics That Matter For Law Firm Social Media & Attracting New Clients

The Internet age. Upside, you get to work from home when you don’t feel like going to the office. Downside, you have to work at home when there’s a blizzard.

Alleviate your workload through social media, if not through a snow day (due to Juno’s underwhelming presence).

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. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

In the end, it’s possible to get your firm’s name and reputation out there. In fact, the Social Law Firm Index, developed by the Above The Law Blog has a formula that measures social-media metrics. It looks at:

Reach. Represents the total number of unique people who had an opportunity to see the firm’s content. Reach would include number of followers on Twitter and/or LinkedIn, company page likes on Facebook, and followers or subscribers on other social media channels (for example: YouTube channel subscribers or Slideshare followers).

Engagement. Measures the actual interaction with the firm’s content via social media. This would include comments or likes (for status updates) on Facebook, RTs or mentions on Twitter, and likes on LinkedIn.

Owned Media. An assessment of the firm’s own site (including microsites) based on, among other things, the proportion of non-promotional content, frequency of updates, and shareability of content.

So, what conclusions were drawn from this study?

First, size matters. If you’re a small law firm, it’s likely that your reach will never meet that of a Top-20 firm. See, for example, the Top 10 ranking in this Social Law Firm Index here.

But, there’s still hope for small firms. There was a much lower correlation between firm size and engagement. That means small firms can still have high interaction by potential clients in terms of likes (for status updates) on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as retweets on Twitter.

It’s quality—not quantity—that matters.

The next finding is that from 2013 to 2014, the largest U.S. firms improved both the reach and audience engagement levels by more than 60 percent, on average. That means firms are getting more savvy about their social media and—more importantly—people are listening.

For law firms looking for reasons why they should spend time and money on social media, this finding is especially pertinent. Consumers of legal services are reaching out via social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, and Twitter are helping reach new clients at an increasing rate.

Finally, the last important finding worth mentioning is that many firms that were lagging behind in 2013 moved to catch up with market leaders. And this was achieved at rates much more significant than the improvement among already active firms.

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

Your firm won’t regret that embarrassing Tweet sent out to its thousands of followers; it will only regret not tweeting at all.

How can you maximize the potential of social media while ensuring the appropriate use of intellectual property and customer information? What can counsel do to proactively protect brands from infringement by social networking website users?

As more and more businesses incorporate social media into the promotion of their products and services, they’re also finding that unauthorized use of their trademarks, service marks and trade names are emerging through these same channels.

In fact, a global infringement that once took weeks, months or years to occur, can now take shape as fast as someone can hit “enter” on their keyboard. And, once the infringement is out there in cyberspace, there’s no way of knowing if the offending material is ever truly deleted.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s audio course, “Copyright and Trademark Enforcement in Social Media: Policing and Protecting Against Brand Infringement,” to learn more.

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Luddite Lawyers: What Vital Skills Your Firm Can Learn From Its Younger Associates

Lawyers aren’t luddites. At least, the upcoming generation of lawyers won’t be.

Thanks to technology-savvy law school professors like Bonnie Kipp, law school graduates will forevermore understand the importance of technology in the courtroom and in cases.

Nicole Black for Above The Law (ATL) blog describes, “Today’s Tech: How An Adjunct Professor Teaches Law Students Trial Technology.” In this article, Black introduces Bonnie Kipp, an adjunct professor at Michigan State University and judicial assistant for Judge McKeague in the United States Court of Appeals. Professor Kipp teaches “Technology Enhanced Trial Advocacy” and similar courses since 2005 after becoming a certified trainer on electronic evidence presentation software.

“I began teaching law students how to use trial technology after watching attorneys struggle with the technology. Our courtroom was one of the first to be wired for technology presentation and when the judge began to require lawyers to use it, I realized how difficult it was for many of them. I wanted to simplify the learning curve, so I started teaching law students how to use these tools,” said Professor Kipp to ATL.

A struggle to which your firm—particularly among its more “experienced” lawyers—can certainly relate.

“I teach students how to use Trial Director which is electronic evidence presentation software operated from a laptop, and which also includes a free corresponding iPad app. Recently I began to teach the students how to use other iPad apps, some of which are created specifically for trial presentation, while others have more general applications. Apps taught include Keynote, Timeline 3D, TrialPad, JuryTracker, iJuror, Dragon Dictation, Evernote, and WestlawNext. I also teach TD Notebook, which is a cloud-based app for case preparation which permits lawyers to work in a collaborative environment to prepare case for trial.”

Don’t recognize any of those app names? Well, you should. Using the iPad for trial presentations is not new. And, neither is software that helps attorneys with case preparation.

Steep learning curve? Maybe not. While experienced attorneys at your may advise younger associates about trial practice, younger associates—fresh out of courses like Kipp’s—have a value-add in their own right. They can help explain the uses for each of the above apps.

Don’t be too proud to accept help from your more technically proficient pair. Mentoring is a two-way street. So, ask a first-year associate how they use some of these digital tools for case management. In turn, you’ll have plenty to impart from your end.

“[Technical] skills absolutely give students an edge over students without this experience. For example, the resumes of many recent law graduates often look alike. But a student who’s been in a trial advocacy program, who has had hands on learning with trial practice, and has learned electronic evidence presentation will definitely stand out,” explains Professor Kipp to ATL.

“In fact, we’ve had students tell us they’ve taken their laptop with them to job interviews to showcase their electronic evidence presentation skills and they’ve felt that it’s helped them get jobs.”

If your firm is hiring, transform the interview into a mock trial presentation. Don’t simply ask a graduate law student about their expertise, let them demonstrate it to you. This same associate may also be able to lead the charge when it comes to in-house training for your other law firm professionals.

The best part about modern technology is the options it provides. There is likely an app best suited to the specific practices and culture of your firm. If not, there are ample app programmers willing to create one for your firm.

Technology can be tailored to your needs, so you just need to lay out an implementation plan. Consult experts if you don’t know where to begin. Make sure there is at least one lawyer-liaison who speaks regularly with your IT Department. In fact, consider assigning one of the younger associates to this position.

Younger associates are anxious for leadership roles. Technology is an arena where young lawyers can thrive, boost your firm’s bottom line, and help improve overall productivity.

Even at an age where they may not be bringing in new business to the firm, younger associates can feel a sense of loyalty and attachment to their firm by taking on a greater role of responsibility.

In the end, technology is not a miracle solution to all law firm inefficiency.

“Certainly whenever you’re working with technology, nothing is set in stone and things don’t always go as planned. But the possibility that technology can fail doesn’t outweigh the benefit of using it. The key is to practice, practice, practice. That way it becomes second nature and doesn’t add to the stress of an already stressful trial,” explains Professor Kipp to ATL.

“And always have a plan B in case technology issues arise. You need a hard copy of exhibits to send back to the jury anyway so if the worst-case scenario happens and the technology goes down you have the hard copies available. So, no matter what, it’s always important to have a plan B.”

The upside to integrating technology in your firm is that your staff—currently proficient in paper—already has a plan B in place.

Don’t know where you firm stands in terms of technical skills? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Suffolk/Flaherty Technology Audit: Is Your Firm Ready?” to help your firm assess individual lawyers skills and training needs at your firm.

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How “Perfect” Is Toyota’s New Hydrogen Fuel-cell Car? Why Law Firms Should Pay Attention

The perfect car. An Aston Martin Vanquish? Bentley Continental GTC? How about the Rolls-Royce Wraith?

Nope. Not even close—at least, that’s what theoretical physicist and best-selling author Dr. Michio Kaku thinks.

According to Kaku, Toyota has just developed the perfect car, but it’s not quite what you’d expect. It won’t break the bank or bring home any super models. However, it might just save the world.

At the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Toyota talked about its new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that combines oxygen and hydrogen to create electricity, called the Toyota Mirai.

Priced at a mere $57,000 and available commercially later this year in California, the Mirai is unique in that it emits water, not exhaust or fumes, and still sports impressive power. The car runs for roughly 300 miles and has the ability to blow your mind and your hair back by going from 0-to-60 MPH in nine seconds.

Unlike hybrids or cars with electric batteries, hydrogen tanks can be refilled in three-to-five minutes. About the same time it takes to comb your wind-blown hair in the rear view mirror.

According to GeekWire, Kaku believes four requirements create the “perfect car.” Not only do all four characteristics describe the Mirai, but each of these attributes also describes perfect law firm management:

1. Mass Market

The perfect car uses a fuel source based on an element that’s the most plentiful in the universe: hydrogen.

“Contrast that to oil,” Kaku said, writes GeekWire. “Nations will kill to secure supplies of oil.”

Like transportation, law firms also provide life-altering services to society. Law firms today must be more mass market—that is to say, offer a variety of expertise with flexible service options.

In fact, the average client has 4 major practice needs and 5 minor, but measurable, needs. Yet, on average a primary provider delivers only 1.8 practices to a single client—meaning most law firms deliver one, and a handful service 2 practice areas.

So, what are law firms to do when so many cross-selling initiatives fail, or fall on deaf ears? Two words…origination credit.

Stop saying, “There are no opportunities with this client outside of my practice area,” or “We don’t handle that type of law.”

More than hydrogen, some might argue that lawyers are the most plentiful profession on earth. Which is why your firm must position themselves appropriately in this highly competitive marketplace. That means cross-selling services and adding practice areas.

Take C4CM’s audio course, “Law Firm Origination and Cross-Selling Credits: A Guide to Your Firm’s Future Success, looks at the key to successful cross-selling initiatives—how to turn selling into a team sport, and manage the origination that ensues,” to learn more about this innovative business practice.

2. Streamlined Operations

The perfect car has as few moving parts as possible.

“In a hydrogen fuel cell car, the engine has no moving parts, whatsoever,” Kaku said, according to GeekWire.

The same can be said for the perfect law firm. A stiff hierarchical system might be slowing you down. Assign casework to the most qualified team of lawyers, but don’t overstaff cases just to overbill clients.

The recent growth in in-house counsel means your firm must stand out and meet market demand—that demand calls for the end of traditional hierarchical billing models and more personalized attention at the partner-level—stop delegating work to inexperienced associates, knowing that top ranks will only give a brisk review.

The best way to ensure streamlined operations is implementing training programs for support staff and associates. You’ll have fewer moving parts and higher-quality delivery of services after strict and structured training schemes.

Because, in the end, sometimes the most effective teams are the smallest ones.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Legal Support Staff: Revamp & Reassign Support Services for Max Profitability & Productivity.”

3. Idealist

The perfect car emits nothing but water.

“The word ‘smog’ is going to disappear from the dictionary because we are going to be entering a new age,” Kaku said, writes GeekWire.

Young associates are idealistic. This can be a positive quality. It’s important to mentor younger associates so they understand the practical implications of practicing law.

At the same time, embrace this idealism. Take some “unwinnable” cases because they take the “right” position. This will boost morale and serve as a reminder to the higher purpose of the legal profession.

Get some ideas for training programs with C4CM’s audio course, “Integrating Legal Mentoring With Law Practice Management.

4. Affordable

Finally, the perfect car is one that is friendly to the consumer, writes GeekWire.

“Usually hydrogen cars are priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars, way beyond the pocketbook of the average person,” Kaku said. “But this car, we’re talking about the neighborhood of $50,000. As mass production, competition, and economies of scale begin to kick in—and as governments begin to subsidize the creation of refueling stations — you’re going to see that cost drop even further.”

The perfect law firm also provides affordable prices. Affordable doesn’t mean redrawing the bottom line at your firm from black to red. It means flexibility.

The rise of alternative fee arrangements is not necessarily a “win” just for the consumer. It can be a “win” for your firm, as well. With proper structuring, you can increase your client base, client loyalty, and caseload while providing accessible prices.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course, “Structuring Sustainable and Profitable Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs).”

With these four requirements, Kaku is satisfied. But for firms, there’s one more bonus characteristic.

Toyota also announced, reports GeekWire, that it would make all of its 5,680 patents related to fuel cell technology royalty-free to anyone in an effort to drive more innovation. This means fuel cell technology can now be available to anybody who wants to build on it.

Every firm should practice a bit of probono work.

The combination of innovation and affordable services? Now that’s a model for cars (and firms) worth driving forward.

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BigData: Friend or Foe? Why Law Firms Should Join the Discussion on Data Protection & Digital Privacy

BigLaw used to instill fear and awe in members of the legal profession. Today, the same can be said for Big Data.

In an Internet age, people should be both impressed and frightened of big data power.

In fact, so many modern business models surround the collection and distribution of data as the sole source of their importance. It’s a way to outsmart your rivals and more closely target your customers.

Data is being collected everywhere you look, from the Internet provider you use to log onto the World Wide Web to the mobile app that located the nearest Starbucks, you are being monitored personally and professionally.

In fact, the face behind the monitor is getting many companies, like Uber, in trouble. How far should private firms be allowed to go in violating the privacy of their customers?

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack—as well as other concerns over Internet control—the justice and interior ministers of 12 European countries released a joint statement calling for government intervention over digital communications, reports TechCrunch.

The statement reiterates concern at, “the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end, while safeguarding that it remains, in scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law.”
“With this in mind, the partnership of the major Internet providers is essential to create the conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible.”At first, it’s easy to rally around such an idea. Shouldn’t we all feel more protected against the threats of terror, especially those made more accessible via lax Internet security?

However, upon further reflection, this joint statement should make us wary.

The world is still recovering from the brazen attack on French freedom of speech and press. Charlie Hebdo represents exactly that, and the satirical magazine was targeted specifically by Islamic extremists to send the message that more liberal societies should afraid of what they say and to whom.

Isn’t this joint statement by governments bordering on the same oppression? That we are not at liberty to express ourselves, our opinions, online?

In the world of vigilantes, hackers have taken this matter in their own hands. A group who use the Twitter handle @OpCharlieHebdo claimed responsibility for shutting down a known French jihadist site. Now the site redirects to Duck Duck Go, a search engine.

The group Anonymous also listed the names of dozens of Twitter account handles that the hackers group claim belong to jihadists. They posted them on Pastebin, a website that lets people post information anonymously online, reports CNN Money.

These acts were in conjunction with a Friday announcement by members of Anonymous of their operation #OpCharlieHebdo, which is a declaration of digital war on Islamic extremists.

Legal professionals in the United States are on the verge of addressing the most important issue of this generation: Where do we draw legal lines for freedom of speech, press, and (digital) assembly in the Internet age?

One step law firm professionals can take immediately is to embrace the good that comes from big data. Big data doesn’t have to be used for piracy or spying. On the contrary, big data can be used to make your employees happier, to leave your clients more satisfied, and to win your hail-Mary cases.

Collecting profitability data at your firm can help your administrators with better budgeting, like targeting profit margins for timekeepers or allocating resources where they’re needed most.

This same data can help you craft and manage alternative fee arrangements that assess risk versus reward, and help your firm in retaining cash-strapped clients looking for fee flexibility.

Finally, back-end data collected from your firm can help facilitate future hiring and salary decisions.

Your firm is already collecting data through its current systems, whether you know it or not. So, it’s time your harnessed this power for good, not evil.

Create a better work environment for your employees and win more cases for your clients. Increase your firm’s bottom line and payout for partners. All this and more is possible with the proper technical guidance.

If your IT department needs a refresher, consider the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar “Law Firm Profitability: Using Profitability Data to Improve Processes, Make Better Business Decisions, and Increase Net Income Per Partner,” which is live Thursday, January 15, 2015, from 2:00PM to 3:15PM EST.

Big data is a big discussion. Don’t be afraid to be a part of it.

-WB

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