Tag Archives: leadership

Why The French Can’t Attract Entrepreneurs & What Law Firms Should Know About Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy. Who knows more about that than the French?

Much like a woman’s rouge makeup, the French invented red tape.

Not one step in France is taken without first seeking approval from the appropriate committee, paying a few fees, and standing in a long line of très chic but also très surly Frenchmen.

Before even a new word can be formally admitted into the French language, the French language Academy (L’Academie Francaise) must convene and deliberate. Years after its innovation and cultural integration, hashtag has thus become le mot-dièse, although few French youths would recognize any other word than le hashtag (#truestory).

On a grander scale, the French are committed to their bureaucratic ways not just because the word comes from old French, but also because it is ingrained in their national vision.

“There is a difference between the French vision of liberté (as in their revolutionary égalité and fraternité) and our freedom,” explains A. A. Gill in his scathing op-ed in Vanity Fair.

“It’s the liberty to be, and the freedom to do. Freedom you are born with—it comes from the bottom up—but you are given your liberty. It is handed from the top down. So the French system, with its huge state—its committees, academies, and conventions of wise men—is prescriptive for your own good, to protect all the things it deems most important.”

Gill for Vanity Fair doesn’t see much of a solution in the way of changing French attitudes.

“Culture doesn’t arise out of nothing,” Gill writes.

“It is the symptom, the consequence, of all national life. The French political system—and the fatly satisfied ruling class—has stifled and penalized every sort of innovation. Employing anyone is an agony, unemploying them a trauma. The state taxes and flings out streamers of red tape, and a political orthodoxy has driven the wealth and opportunity creators abroad.”

The moral of this story? French entrepreneurs are not in France. They’re in London, New York, or Berlin. Again, the word entrepreneur may originate from France, but its future activities lay abroad. French government has lamented this fact but remains obstinately opposed to changing its business policies to attract start-ups. When it comes to great new talent, culture plays a large role in attracting it.

Culture. It’s crucial to nations and to companies.

It’s something that is created by an environment and people that motivates them to be productive and professionally satisfied. And there are detrimental effects when a culture turns negative.

Leadership. It’s a lifeline. France’s President Hollande knows better than anybody what happens when trust in your leader is lost (after news broke he was having a extra-marital affair, his approval ratings hit rock bottom). A bad reputation overshadows any other important domestic changes you might be trying to make.

Bureaucracy. It’s a double-edged sword. Of course productivity relies on a strict set of systems: hierarchy that inspires professional promotion, incentives, and proper training and oversight create an efficient workplace.

But, when that bureaucracy is what is holding you back, preventing innovation, and stalling growth, it’s time to reevaluate your systems.

Law firms have strong cultures, partnerships, tradition, and bureaucracies. Tradition and history is a source of pride for firms not unlike France’s proud society. Yet, there is something to be said for calling into question the old boy’s club, for giving opportunities to young associates, abandoning outdated internal policies, and adopting new ways of thinking about hiring employees or fees for clients.

As management partners, don’t destroy your firm’s panache. Look into ways your can modernize your business development today, #beforeitstoolate.

Want to find out how to gain that savoir-faire? Take The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course, “Increasing Revenue Per Lawyer: Creating a Healthy Culture of Business Development.

This webinar will present best practices used by today’s most profitable firms for creating a vibrant culture of business development, including:

  • Steps to build client loyalty, manage expectations and generate client referrals
  • Identifying and maximize cross-selling opportunities
  • How to match your marketing strategy to seniority level
  • Making business development a sustainable, ongoing part of your culture


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Study Shows Lawyers Seen As Competent But Not Trustworthy: How Your Firm Can Get Out Of The Gutter!

Why do so many people hate lawyers?

No, this isn’t another set-up for a lawyer joke. As a legitimate question, Victoria Pynchon for Forbes explains:

“People hate lawyers because they represent the interests of people and corporations without really caring who they are, what they did, what harm they caused, or, how culpable they are.”

The practice of law, rather, legal representation, is a right of American citizens. As such, it seen as a public service. So when powerful men in power suits undermine the “little guy,” people get bitter.

Isn’t the law supposed to be helping the public, not hurting them?

“It’s OK to hate lawyers because the top of the profession—which wields true economic and political power—continues to run its operations as a old boy’s club, making it less diverse than the GOP.”

Well, that explains it then. Or does it?

“As I’ve written before,” continues Pynchon, “cronyism runs law firms. And because cronyism—you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours—duplicates itself in gender and color, the power in BigLaw is concentrated in the hands of a few white men… And that’s a problem for the rest of us.”

In the end, the bearish reputation of BigLaw dominates the news. So local stories of law firms doing good or pro-bono work for communities take the back burner.

It’s no wonder lawyers remain one of the most reviled professions.

Luckily, attorneys—like misery—have company.

In a recent review, published by the Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lawyers are viewed as “competent but not trustworthy,” alongside CEOs, Accountants, Researchers, Scientists, and Engineers.

Of course, in this small continuum, attorneys are at the bottom of the scale (see the diagram here—literally at the bottom).

Apparently Americans are wary of a few experts-in-their-fields. The public distinguishes between professional respect and warmth. So, you can be wonderful at your job, but not necessarily a wonderful person (and the reverse, as is the case for child care workers, who are seen as mediocre in competency but high in warmth).

“Scientists have earned the respect of Americans but not necessarily their trust,” explains lead author Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and professor of public affairs, according to PhysOrg.

However, there’s hope to improve.

“But this gap can be filled by showing concern for humanity and the environment. Rather than persuading, scientists may better serve citizens by discussing, teaching and sharing information to convey trustworthy intentions.”

The same applies to attorneys. Your social skills may be holding you back, but there are myriad ways to increase that coveted bedside manner.

Here are a few simple things to remember:

  • Don’t do all the talking—work on your listening skills. Clients want to feel heard.
  • Use phrases that convey compassion, like “yes, that must be really hard for you,” or “I understand this is difficult to hear, let me know if you need a minute.”
  • Communicate over the phone or in person—clients value being valued, which means stop dropping cavalier e-mails.
  • Provide solutions—don’t just point out the problems with a person’s case, provide solutions. There’s always a work-around, “Plan B”, or even long-shot to be tried—so try it!

In the end, clients want to see you’re as hopeful of a positive outcome as they are—and not just because of the billable hours.

Need to brush up on some leadership skills? Listen to C4CM’s audio course, “Attentive Listening: Essential Tips and Techniques to Effective Leadership and Overall Success.

Leadership applies not only to your own team, but the team you build with both colleagues and clients.

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Settling Law Firm Disputes Like Scotland’s Referendum? Maybe Not…. But Here Are Other Ideas

Maybe it’s the referendum in Scotland, or maybe it’s the Season 6 return of legal sitcom The Good Wife, but partnership dissolution is on everybody’s mind.

Since we’re against television spoilers, let’s talk politics. On Thursday, voters said “no” to a plan to tend the 307-year union with England in 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent margin of victory. So, this week, at least, there is a single United Kingdom.

A lot of Europeans are left wondering, “What happens now?”

The queen, who reigns over the people, not politics, called for “mutual respect and support” and believes the “enduring love of Scotland” will help propel the kingdom forward, reports CBS news.

For his turn, Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown took a no-nonsense approach to the question of what’s next. Hail the conqueror, Brown is considered largely responsible for the Scottish referendum defeat. He said:

“There is a time to fight, but there is a time to unite, and this is the time for Scotland to unite and see if it can find common purpose and move from the battleground to the common ground, and let us seek to find high ground in trying to find a way forward for the future.”

The problem with a call to change is often only extreme solutions prevail. Then, at the end of the day, when more moderate voices overcome, there’s leftover resentment.

Why? Because nothing has changed.

Defeated SNP leader Alex Salmond is alleging Scotland can still separate, despite the referendum (via DailyMail Online).

Plus, headlines read “Scotland’s young, feisty yes generation has nowhere to go,” “With one battle over in Scotland, Another begins,” and “Scotland’s vote settle’s nothing.

This kind of toxic talk doesn’t just rattle national borders, it rattles law firm bureaus.

Disputes within law firms occur as often as between parliaments—whether it’s over associate compensation, partnership agreements, or even office space. Left unchecked, resulting negative chatter, gossip, and backstabbing stalls productivity and increases turnover.

Even if an internal “referendum”-style vote is taken for certain workplace decisions, law firm professionals or partners may not feel appeased.

Cue, leadership. Leaders must set reasonable standards, gain employee trust and cooperation, and constantly assess employee problems to determine appropriate action.

Set reasonable standards for change. Make sure you encourage suggestions for new practices within your firm, but these suggestions should be framed by what your firm is able and willing to do or can afford. The rhetoric you use should be firm and steadfast, but sensitive.

Next, spend time to gain the trust of your employees. This means responding to communication in a timely manner. This means being attentive to even “trivial” matters. And, it means following through on any verbal or written promises (or not making them in the first place.).

Finally, as a law firm manager, you need to spend quality face-time with your associates. This means talking to them individually, finding out their job satisfaction levels, and listening to their personal suggestions for workplace improvement. Only then will you know what kind of reasonable action can be taken—without resorting to resentment-breading referendums or radical change.

In the workplace, like politics, the storm is rarely quickly resolved. But, with proper preparation and leadership, your firm can ride out it out until the calm just around the proverbial corner.

For more advice, take The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course on Friday, October 3, 2014, at 11AM to 12:15PM EST. Sign up here.

Toxic Behavior at Work: Strategies to Reduce Dysfunction, Defuse Venom, and Improve Workplace Morale” is a comprehensive, content-rich session provides realistic solutions to reduce negativity and toxic behavior at work and provides concrete solutions to:

  • Assess the current toxicity level in your group or company,
  • Set a clear, healthier standard;
  • Detoxify the workplace environment; and
  • Get everyone on the same page about positive communication.

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Famous Movie Quotes To Make You A Better Boss

When you’re having a rough day, it’s fun to imagine how you’d quit your job. In fact, you may even fantasize about using a famous movie quote on your boss after you storm out of the office during one such disgruntled occasion:

  • “If I’m not back in five minutes, just wait longer” –Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
  • “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” –Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Dirty Harry (1971)
  • “Do you like apples? Well, how do you like them apples?” –Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting (1997)
  • “Hasta la vista, baby.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator in The Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

An alarming fact for managers is that despite high rates of unemployment, people are still quitting their jobs in droves. More than 2 million Americans are voluntarily leaving their jobs every month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, which refers to them as “Quits.”

It seems there are a few things employees just won’t tolerate—with or without an economic recession. A recent study by Accenture (via Forbes) reports the following reasons people leave their job, and it may surprise you:

  • Dislike boss (31%)
  • Lack of empowerment (31%)
  • Internal politics (35%)
  • Lack of recognition (43%)

So what can law firm managers learn from this survey? First, leadership is not just commanding, sometimes it’s also camaraderie. Second, employees need to feel empowered. Third, leave gossiping and favoritism at the door. And finally, reward your employees for a job well done when deserved.

Here are four ways to retain your law firm professionals and the movie quotes that will help you remember them:

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” –Strother Martin as The Captain in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

One of the most cited reasons that employees leave their jobs is because they dislike their boss. In a profession like legal services, where positions are extremely hierarchical, it can be easy to fall into ranks. First years get all the dirty work, partners get all the recognition from clients. In order to keep your associates from quitting in a fit of rage (and maybe even starting their own competing firm) be a boss that listens.

Keep tabs on all your associates. Do they seem stressed? Overworked? Do they complain a lot? Make sure your subordinates feel comfortable voicing their concerns or asking questions.

If you feel out of touch, take one or two younger associates to lunch. Ask them about their work satisfaction. Really take note of their responses with two-way communication.

Make an open-door policy. If you need expert advice on handling difficult conversations with your employees, read C4CM’s guide here. If you don’t know how to write formal or informal policies on boss-subordinate communication, or want to know how to create an open-door policy, find guidance for managers here.

If your employees don’t like you as a boss, it likely means you’re failing as one.

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” –Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing (1987)

Another reason employees quit their job is a lack of feeling empowered. Employees will work harder and longer if you give them ownership over their work.

People don’t want to be micromanaged. Associates like coming up with case strategy—even if you don’t take it, make sure all ideas are welcome.

You can also empower employees by giving them trust. Allow flexible schedules. Alan Hall for Forbes comments, “In essence, corporate leadership can still achieve productivity and happily engaged employees by offering them more latitude in how employees accomplish company and personal goals.”

“For example, must every employee’s workday start at 8 and end at 5? Could a working parent start their workday later or accomplish a portion of their workday or workweek from home?”

Also, don’t assume that an associate isn’t working just because they’re not at their desk. Give associates a task, a deadline, and trust them to complete it. If you’re stopping by a subordinate’s office too often, you’re stopping them from doing their job efficiently and from achieving their full potential.

For more advice on how to transform your firm into a flexible workplace, take C4CM’s online course here.

“This isn’t personal, Kay. This is business.” –Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

Office politics (like regular politics!) are the worst. Nobody likes to tip-toe around an issue because a certain team member can’t be criticized. Nobody wants to join a team where certain people are favored over others. Office politics are disheartening and counterproductive. Lead by example. Don’t gossip in the workplace and do encourage people to voice their opinion, even if it’s dissenting.

Having a hard time tempering toxic talk? Learn about minimizing office politics and gossip with C4CM’s course here. Also, take the smart woman’s guide to office polics here.

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody.” –Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)

Finally, employees quit because of a lack of recognition for their hard work. No, not every job well done needs a pat on the back or year-end bonus. But, it can be easy for managers to focus on mistakes rather than to reward achievements.

Law firms work as a team, from the receptionist who greets the client to the paralegal conducting docket research to the associate on doc-review. Some of these employees may not have been a part of the flashiest and most recognizable parts of the case—they may even have been absent from the courtroom or off the official record—but their commitment and work is real. It deserves recognition.

Write letters of thanks to your employees after a big project. A simple, handwritten letter goes a long way in recognizing somebody’s effort in a very personal way. Law firm managers and leaders, in general, hold a lot of responsibility. Wield it wisely, widely, and graciously.

Still uncertain about what your employees need? Become a better listener and better leader by attending C4CM’s audio course on improving employee engagement and enhancing your influence here.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much these days for an employee to reach his or her breaking point. Boosting morale may be a manager’s most important task of the day. Otherwise your best talent may be Gone With The Wind, mimicking Clark Gable as Rhett Butler when they say to you at their wit’s end: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

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Is The Law At Odds With Women In The Workplace? How Women Can Become Better Bosses

Some days it’s hard to be a woman and appreciate the law.

Let’s take a recent incident in Iowa, for example.

For an entire decade a man enjoyed the hard work of his female subordinate. Ten years the two worked side-by-side in a dental office without incident. But, following a midlife crisis, failure in his own marriage, or some other unprovoked change of heart, the boss suddenly finds his assistant too attractive to be around. He promptly fires her.

“Dr. Knight said I couldn’t work in the office, because he was becoming attracted to me, and not able to focus on his family, and his family life… I instantly broke down in tears. All I remember is just sitting there, and not able to get up, telling him that I love my job,” explains Melissa Nelson in an interview with “20/20” correspondent Paula Faris, reports ABC News.

A lawsuit was filed on the grounds of wrongful termination due to gender.

Dr. James Knight, the dentist in question, doesn’t agree with Nelson’s claims. Although he doesn’t deny the sexual advances through text message or other incidents, his attorney told ABC News: “… she was not terminated because of her gender, but to preserve the best interest of his marriage.”

Sadly, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Knight. The most sympathy they could utter was that Nelson’s one month’s severance pay was “ungenerous” but his actions, legal.

This outcome is less surprising when we consider the justices, David, Daryl, Brent, Bruce, Edward, Thomas, and Chief Justice Mark. More than their verdict, there’s another commonality among these lawmakers—they’re all men.

See, it’s hard to keep track of the whims of men these days.

For every dollar men earn, women still earn just 77 cents. Nonetheless, the majority of Congress is unconcerned.

The Senate was six votes shy of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act this year. Why? Republicans argued that discrimination based on gender is already illegal, and feel their hands are tied to do anything more. If those laws worked for women like Nelson, then that would be true.

What’s sad is that these unjust cases of discrimination or sexual harassment are not new.

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, don’t be “bossy” or “bitchy” yet still command your subordinates with authority…

How could any woman balance such a heavy double standard?

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 audio course Friday, July 11, 2014 from 11AM to 12:15pm EST: 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 the sexual desires and whims of men, 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.

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President Ends U.S. Gov Shutdown: Congress (& Law Firm Managers) Learn Valuable Lesson On Time Value of Money

So, the Congressional standoff is finally over. Well, partially over.

President Obama signed a bill today to end the government shut down and raise the U.S. debt ceiling to avoid financial default, reports CNN. Federal workers are back in the office and—for the many national parks services employees—outside.

Although the U.S. avoided default, it wasn’t without cost.

The mere wait for decision-makers to negotiate and the fortnight of near foreclosure cost taxpayers plenty. And, for government workers, the shutdown meant a total shutout of salary payments, subsidies, etc.

The problem is, when debating how to spend money, the government spends money. Often making a decision—any decision—is better than delay.

A new study, for example, confirms this idea when it found that canceling government travel arrangements for budgetary reasons ironically leads to more spending, less efficiency. According to a new study conducted by Rockport Analytics for the U.S. Travel Association, “cancelling government participation in key events carries significant costs and undermines important functions of government.”

“Public agencies at all levels of U.S. government have made deep cuts to travel and meetings budgets in recent years,” said Jon Gray, vice president of research & insight, Rockport Analytics, LLC, who conducted the study.

“Our research found that these across-the-board cancellations offer short-term savings at a much greater long-term cost.”

For example, the 2013 cancellation of the Military Health System Conference, an annual training event for several thousand military medical personnel, cost the government more than $800,000. That’s $800,000 to not attend an event.

In the same vein, the decision made by NASA to withdraw its participation in the April 2013 National Space Symposium, the world’s most prominent international space exploration and policy event, carried planetary-sized monetary and non-monetary consequences.

“Some 30 nations are represented at our symposium,” explained Elliot Pulham, CEO of the National Space Foundation, a private organization that runs the annual conference.

“Important international partnerships are jeopardized, important international programs are placed at risk, and the U.S. government places serious strain on relationships with countries around the world when it does not attend.”

So while the U.S. stood still trying to balance the budget, its allies became unbalanced, unhinged, and highly concerned with how America runs business. This degraded perception of U.S. financial security has a cost.

This macro-level analysis applies to the micro-business environment, as well.

Take law firm meetings. Below are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t cancel your meetings with clients or subordinates… as demonstrated by the U.S. government shut down.

1. Cost

When your assistant organized a meeting to discuss a case matter, five law firm professionals cleared their schedules. They canceled phone calls with clients. They interrupted work flow to attend. Suddenly, you decide to postpone this groupthink. Now, all this time and—most importantly—billable hours have been wasted. It’s likely that this glut cost you more than if you simply carried through with the thirty-minute meeting.

Don’t forget the costs of postponing might outweigh the costs of a bad decision. Sometimes any decision is better than none at all.

2. Perception

When you postpone a meeting, you’re tacitly telling your employees that your time is worth more than theirs. If you cancel a meeting altogether, you’re telling employees directly that can’t manage your time. The perception of your leadership is as important as your real, tangible ability.

3. Productivity

If a decision must be made, postponing it won’t necessarily increase the information or resources available. At a certain point, reevaluating your options is like beating a dead horse. Present all the options, discuss them as a team, and then choose one with more pros than cons.

4. Long-term consequences

If you get into a pattern of canceling or postponing meetings, your employees may stop preparing for them. They may come to expect your bad habit of delaying. So, in the end, the one time you actually mean business, there may not be any business ready on the table to discuss.

5. Morale

Although most employees hate meetings, they are still a good way to boost the morale and cooperation among your team members. Meetings, over coffee or a brown-bag lunch, are scheduled to discuss a case or client. But, they also provide a forum for a general debate among colleagues.

So, even if you decide there’s nothing to discuss, don’t incur the costs of canceling. Go the distance, spend the money on travel, and sit in a boardroom. The long-term gain of increased camaraderie or communication among your employees will outweigh the costs of meeting sans agenda.

Scheduling meetings for the sake of meeting won’t increase employee productivity. But, indiscriminately canceling or postponing them once the decision is made might actually decrease it.


Discover how to overcome your fear and become a more confident speaker and effective manager in C4CM’s powerful audio conference, “Superior Speaking Skills: Becoming a Confident, Fearless Speaker.

During this information-packed session our expert faculty will give you crucial tips to help you in your next meeting to:

  1. improve your speaking style and keep yourself focused,
  2. engage your audience and speak with clarity and confidence, and appear calm, knowledgeable and professional—even if your palms are sweating!

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Steady Growth or Innovation? What Your Law Firm Can Learn From Microsoft’s Crossroads

Last week, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced his retirement. And, some sources are saying this is a good opportunity to reboot the company’s disenchanted corporate culture.

Is Microsoft in such dire straits?

Consider 2010, the advent of Apple’s iPad announcement. Microsoft had already created a buzz in the tech community for its mockups of a tablet computer. Dreamed up by the inventor of the Xbox videogame, the tablet folded like a book and its users could sketch directly on the screen.

But, Microsoft waited. And, while the Apple iPad transformed into a worldwide phenomenon, for its turn, Microsoft scrapped the entire tablet computer idea.

According to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft needed to refocus its efforts on the Windows operating system for which the company first earned its reputation.

“So ingrained is Microsoft’s culture of protecting entrenched interests that swinging for the fences is sometimes punished, and so people stopped trying, say current and former employees and outsiders,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“They say that an outsider CEO may be the best choice to welcome back technologists who think outside the box.”

In any venture, it’s important to decide on a vision. There are two extreme choices in business: (1) invest in innovation or (2) invest in the sure-thing.

For centuries, entrepreneurs have known there exists a trade-off between risk and reward. Too much risk in finding the next, new, cutting-edge technology and your company may be left in the red. However, too conservative and your company may be left in the dust.

It seems as though Microsoft isn’t sure where it should land on this thin, insensitive line of risk and reward. To those law firm managers surviving the recession, do you?

Of course, a tradeoff does not imply one without the other. For law firms, there is middle ground between innovative legal resources and services and traditional practices.

“Whether to manage a company for growth or for efficiency is a classic business conundrum, and the choice isn’t simple,” Shira Ovide reminds us in the Wall Street Journal.

Before you throw out nautical décor and ask I.M. Pei to design your new law offices, consider the following:

  1. Is there a large innovation gap between your firm and others in your same practice area?
  2. When was the last time you updated your legal technology?
  3. What is the average age of your associates?
  4. What is the spread of ages for employees at your law firm?
  5. What is the type of profile for associates you hope to attract in the future?
  6. What is your mission statement?
  7. How large do you want your firm to grow in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Often innovative companies attract bright young talent. However, if your youngest associate is in his late thirties, how well will a 20-something tweeting law grad assimilate in your firm?

On the other hand, if your firm is top-heavy, it’s likely your firm is lagging behind in the best latest technology and methods for managing your firm.

If you haven’t yet, it’s important to create a 5 to 10 year plan for:

  • Risk Management
  • Global operations
  • Incorporating technology
  • Growth targets
  • Leadership training
  • Social media/mobile devices

In the case of Microsoft, Mr. Ballmer may scoff making radical ideas come true, but he knows how to make the company green—with money, that is. Since becoming CEO in 2000, Microsoft has become one of the world’s most profitable companies by quadrupling its annual revenue, making about 75 cents in gross profit for every dollar in sales.

Google takes in half that amount.

So, yes, maybe Microsoft’s digital music player was too little, too late (do you even remember the Zune?). And, perhaps Apple’s brand is little a bit more “cool”. But, if slow and stead wins the race, Microsoft is right on track.

Does your law firm strategy match your corporate culture? Learn how to grow your business with C4CM’s audio course: Increasing Revenue Per Lawyer: Creating a Healthy Culture of Business Development.

This information-packed webinar will present best practices used by today’s most profitable firms for creating a vibrant culture of business development, including (but not limited to):

Steps to build client loyalty, manage expectations and generate client referrals

  • Identifying and maximize cross-selling opportunities
  • How to match your marketing strategy to seniority level
  • Making business development a sustainable, ongoing part of your culture


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