Tag Archives: management

New Reports Show Compensation Is Key To Happiness For Cubs & In-House Counsel

Lawyers and bear lovers, come on down!

The latter, at least, is a phrase most people will remember from the iconic television game show The Price Is Right. Former host, Bob Barker, has fully embraced his second calling as an animal rights advocate.

Barker is providing $50,000 to a Manitoba couple to build the Canadian province’s first black bear cub rehabilitation center on their property, according to CBC News.

The couple, Judy and Roger Stearns, plan to take in orphaned cubs and care for the creatures until they reach a size and weight appropriate for re-release into the wild.

“My husband and I were going to be building the facility with our own funds,” said Judy Stearns on Wednesday (via CBC News).

“Now it can be that much larger and more complex, and we can help the bears even more. It’s fabulous.”

The center will be able to hold about 10 cubs in total. By caring for the cubs at the center, Judy and Roger Stearns, along with Barker’s financial assistance, will help spare them from being sent to a zoo or, worse yet, killed in an animal shelter.

“A life in captivity for bears is a life filled with suffering, so giving orphaned bear cubs a second chance at a life in the wild is a campaign worth supporting,” said Barker.

A life in captivity—not just for animals, but also attorneys—is what many in-house counsel fear these days, according to a recent survey.

Another Bob Barker—this one, a partner at the legal recruiting firm BarkerGilmrore—is looking to improve the lives of others. Instead of bears, he looks at barristers, conducting surveys that ask in-house counsel to compare themselves to firm lawyers by asking them to rate their pay relative to their “peers.”

According to Barker—the lawyer, not the animal-lover—respondents were free to interpret that word “peer” however they saw fit.

And, with that in mind, although salaries for in-house attorneys are on the rise, increasing by 4.2 percent across all industries, a surprising 44 percent of respondents considered their compensation, including cash bonuses and equity awards, “below or significantly below that of their peers,” reports Bloomberg Law.

In fact, roughly 40 percent said they were likely to consider a new position next year because of compensation issues, despite the fact that their career boasts a wage rate rising well above the 2015 national inflation rate of 0.1 percent.

Alas, corporate counsel can be such a bear. But, it doesn’t have to be.

The successful law firm manager knows how to:

  • Engage Employees
  • Promote Their Strengths
  • Motivate Them to Work Together
  • Maximizing Your Resources in Your Team
  • Handle Conflict in Your Team

This means, finding what inspires workers to be more productive, whether it’s a pro-bono pet project or flexible vacation policy.

A successful manager knows the personality traits of each employee and therefore how to promote their strengths. Spend more time investigating a person’s past to identify the specific skills—technical writing, diligent research, bi-lingual—that they can use in the future.

Finally, a productive law firm is one that promotes teamwork. Proper organization of case matters, standardization of documentation, an understanding of technology and other legal resources, and delegating tasks to the appropriate staff member are easier said than done. But, with proper strategies and training, your law associates don’t have to belong to that 40 percent seeking other employment.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar, “The Successful Manager’s Guide to Managing A Team.

Jam-packed with key strategies, practical tips, and techniques used by today’s top managers, this must-read guide explores:

  • Identifying Team Objectives
  • Teams Are Made of People
  • Managing Individuals
    • Engagement Strategies
    • Understanding Individual Needs
    • Different Personality Types
  • Managing the Team
  • Get To Know the Team
  • Maximizing Your Resources in Your Team
  • Improving Competencies within the Team
  • Identifying Growth Opportunities and Capacity Constraints in the Team
  • Handling Conflict in Your Team
  • Managing Difficult Employees

One of your most important roles as a manager is to make sure that your people have the support, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs. This essential guide outlines those six steps needed to equip your team for success.

Just one more thing… Bob Barker reminding you: Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.

-WB

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How Robot Lawyers Are Defeating Traffic Tickets: Translating Millennial Beliefs & Bots Into Firm Profitability

An Internet bot, also known as web robot, or simply a bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks, called scripts, over the Internet, which are otherwise simple or structurally repetitive (enter paper shuffling sounds).

Sounds like something you’d want in a law office, doesn’t it?

It turns out, somebody else thought so, too. Joshua Browder, a Stanford student born in the United Kingdom, created a “bot attorney” to help hundreds of people dispute parking tickets in London and New York City.

In fact, Browder told Venture Beat that he had successfully challenged 160,000 of 250,000 British parking tickets as of June with his bot DoNotPay. The same parking-lot hero bot helped 9,000 New Yorkers.

Here’s how it works. You log on to donotpay.co.uk and chat with a bot (don’t forget, he’s just an automated robot) that asks questions like, “Was it hard to understand the signs?” or “Do you think the parking lot was too small.” If a parking lot is legally too small, it is unreasonable to ticket drivers.

“I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society,” said Browder.

“These people aren’t looking to break the law. I think they’re being exploited as a revenue source by the local government.”

And that’s how bots help busy drivers.

But that’s not the only area where the Victor Frankenstein of legal help hopes to affect change.

“I feel like there’s a gold mine of opportunities because so many services and information could be automated using AI [artificial intelligence], and bots are a perfect way to do that, and it’s disappointing at the moment that it’s mainly used for commerce transactions by ordering flowers and pizzas,” Bowder said to Venture Beat.

As a result, Browder is working on a bot to help people with HIV understand their legal rights, a bot to help collect compensation for people whose flights were delayed beyond four hours, and a bot that helps refugees apply for asylum (part of the Highland Capital summer startup accelerator program). For the latter, Bowder will use IBM’s Watson to translate from Arabic to English.

Bowder and his bots are a bone fide legal aids at this point; In August, Bowder unveiled a bot to help people apply for emergency housing. His pro bono actions will help combat homelessness in a way thousands of law school grads could not.

By consulting some real-life lawyers and analyzing FOIA-obtained documents, Bowder hopes to “figure out trends in why public housing applications are approved or denied,” according to Slate.

Although this latter venture may require less automation and more human attorneys to take full effect, it’s an amazing start to ending a real-world epidemic.

Outsourcing repetitive work to robot lawyers can no longer be seen as a trend to look out for; it’s a reality (law) practice faces today.

Did you first hear about “bots” from your Millennial colleagues? Millennials, the group of tech-toting, flip-flop wearing adults born after 1980, have been the subject of eye-rolling. They’ve been stereotyped as expecting rewards just for participating and believing that spending long hours at the office is overrated.

Yet, legal professionals say that depiction as applied to their younger colleagues is wrong. In fact, they may work differently, taking full advantage of technology, like bots, making them smart and productive.

Properly incentivizing and compensating this new generation of lawyers is essential for your firm’s profitability, retention and key to attracting like-minded clients.

Take C4CM’s webinar, “Compensating Millennial Associates: Customizing Compensation and Rewards for Increased Productivity and Firm Profitability,” and explore real-life methods for embracing the goals, expectations and ambitions of today’s millennial associates, and how to ‘meet in the middle’ when it comes to compensating this new generation.

During this power-packed session, our expert faculty will examine the most current factors affecting millennial associate compensation, including:

  • Specific non-monetary rewards that are certain to improve job satisfaction
  • Why tiered compensation works for millennials, and how to structure it properly
  • Details on the types of alternative compensation models firms are using and how these alternatives compensate millennial associates
  • Beyond compensation increases, what matters most to millennial associates
  • Types of goals and initiatives to set forth for millennial lawyers, and three crucial ways to reward achievements

Plus, in just 75 minutes, you will learn: 

  • Surprising attitudes millennial lawyers have about total compensation
  • Who millennial lawyers are, and how they differ from other generations in terms of pay
  • Common misconceptions and truths about millennials lawyers
  • Mentoring, evaluations, and feedback tips that emphasize professionalism and increase associate self sufficiency

The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) provides you, today’s business professional, with the information you need to stay on top of your career. C4CM is dedicated to bringing you the information you need to succeed. Our many products include audio conferences, Training Resources, conferences, research papers and more.

-WB

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The Future of Technology In Law: Should Your Law Firm Build A Balcony For Drone Landings?

Is it time for luxury apartments to start offering balconies for drone landings? Some people think so.

Charles Bombardier, mechanical engineer, wrote an article for Wired Magazine touting just that. He opens his persuasive article with the question: “Make no mistake: Drones are coming, and they’re going to change a lot of things about how we shape our lives. So why shouldn’t we change how we shape our buildings to get ready for them?”

Drone Tower—that’s what we’d call it. As Americans mentally prepare for Amazon packages or their next grocery order delivered via drone to their doorstep, engineers are technically ready and already making plans to incorporate this technology in consumer life.

At one point, it seemed far-fetched that information could travel from a computer to portable music player or mobile phone through a USB port, let alone charge the device completely, but now USB ports are built into every new electric socket of your house.

So the idea of drone landing strip in your home may seem a bit futuristic now, but it’s hardly far out.

In fact, 65 percent of Americans already believe that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work currently done by humans, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center.

With so many technology advances in the law industry of late, it’s easy to see why the majority of Americans consider lawyers replaceable.

Over the past decade, for example, court reporters and deposition stenographers have been replaced by real-time, digitally-recorded transcripts. And, first-year associates—once bogged down with mounds of paper Discovery—are, instead, being substituted for computer software.

Automated indexing and keyword searches in eDiscovery software make it possible to conduct hours of billable work in a matter of minutes. In a 2011 article in The New York Times titled, “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software,” author John Markoff reported that Blackstone Discovery, out of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.

“From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” said Bill Herr to Markoff in The New York Times.

Herr, as a lawyer at a major chemical company, used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. Now?

“People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.”

Another Silicon Valley e-discovery company, Clearwell developed software that analyzes documents and identifies concepts, as opposed to simple keywords. In 2010, law firm DLA Piper used Clearwell software to search through a half-million documents under a court-imposed deadline of one week in just two days. Talk about streamlined (and mechanized) operations.

Are androids, not attorneys, powering the legal industry?

“The legal profession needs to do a better job as a whole of embracing and leveraging technology,” asserts Brian Powers, attorney and founder of legal tech startup PactSafe, to the Indiana Lawyer.

“The firms and lawyers who do both of those over then next 25 years are the ones that will be thriving. The rest will be extinct.” 

The future is here for legal technology. Although your law firm may not need a drone-landing balcony quite yet, it’s safe to say, we’re not that far off.

WB

Need help getting started incorporating legal tech in your practice? Take a look at The Center For Competitive Management’s offerings here.

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Silver-Linings Playbook? Olympic Upsets, Rio Controversy & Managing Politically-Charged Activities In The Workplace

They say, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. But for a few Olympic athletes knocked out in the first rounds of Rio competition, that’s easier said than done.

In tennis, tears were shed on both sides of the court—for Juan Martin del Potro, they were tears of joy at his surprising defeat of frontrunner Novak Djokovic, and for Djokovic, tears of disappointment after his dreams were dashed.

“No doubt it’s one of the toughest losses of my life, in my career,” Djokovic said after the match (via Rolling Stone). 

“It’s not the first or the last time I’m losing a tennis match but Olympic Games, yeah, it’s completely different.”

Djokovic can still snag an Olympic medal in men’s doubles with his partner Nenad Zimonjic, which remains the silver lining after such a clear upset for the gold medalist.

It is rare that the clear favorite goes out in the first round of competition, but the same thing happened in women’s tennis this year. Venus and Serena Williams lost in the first-round at Rio against Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, who defeated the infamous sisters 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday (via Bleacher Report).

The three-time doubles gold medalists will go home without a victory for the first time in their Olympic careers. The good news? Now Venus can prepare for the U.S. Open, where she will enter at her highest ranking since 2011, without further distraction in politically-charged Rio.

In fact, the Rio Olympics has stirred nothing but controversy since it started. The first American gold metal in the games came from shooter Ginny Thrasher, who set an Olympic record of 208.0 in the 10-meter air rifle event, snagging victory in scandalous upset. Instead of cheers, Thrasher got jeers from gun control activists overshadowing the win with discussions about gun rights and associated political debates.

“I just tried to focus on the competition,” said Thrasher about the political distraction (via USA Today).

Nevertheless, the attention her sport gained via the controversy is clear. Air rifle events have never gained so many headlines. 

Outside Olympic rifle ranges and inside law firm boardrooms, what happens when political talk interrupts workflow or escalates to bad behavior?

As an employer trying to retain productivity, keep the peace, and avoid legal landmines can be more challenging than you may think. There are rules for what employers can and can’t do to manage political activity in the workplace, including:

  • How to manage political discussions and fundraising
  • How to address political discussions in the workplace under federal and state laws
  • How the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies
  • How the new SCOTUS ruling Heffernan vs. City of Paterson impacts employers
  • When an employee’s political discussion is protected by the First Amendment 

To learn how to avoid being the target of bad policies and possible lawsuits, take C4CM’s webinar, “Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work,” on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM EasternBy the end of the information-packed session, you will know more about:

  • When discipline for political-related behavior is appropriate and legal
  • What defines political harassment in the workplace
  • What constitutes business harm from employee’s political speech
  • How to handle controversial or political social media posts by an employee
  • How to handle office sponsored political functions supported by management
  • Dress code do’s and don’ts as they apply to political speech

For now, no need to be upset by Olympic upsets—for each competitor, losing gold may lead to even better silver linings.

-WB

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Mid-Year Law Firm Management Update: Tackling Scandal, Suspicious Activities & Compliance Issues In 2016

The U.S. Presidential election has been drowning out once-were headlines: Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in March, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s divorce depositions, and the Panama Papers, to name a few. As for the latter, the matter has made a news-cycle comeback. This week, federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into whether or not employees of Mossack Fonseca & Co., the law firm named in the scandal, knowingly helped its clients launder money or evade taxes, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Panama Papers, for those who have forgotten, revealed a myriad of shell companies and offshore accounts for some wealthy and prominent people, including at least dozens of Americans.

Although federal prosecutors have reportedly already investigated suspects connected to dealings at Mossack Fonseca—and the firm, itself, denies all wrongdoing—prosecutors would have to prove lawyers at the firm actually knew (or turned a knowing blind eye to) the illegal activities conducted by clients.

Unlike banks, however, law firms are not required to perform stringent money-laundering detection services to better understand and identify the source of a client’s money. In fact, since shell companies in the Caribbean, for example, are sources of legal tax reduction, it will be difficult to separate the tax-code savvy from tax-code shifty.

In an April interview with The Wall Street Journal, when the Panama Papers were released, Jürgen Mossack, a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, said the firm uses intermediaries to help set up shell companies, and stated outright that the firm does not typically know what the companies are used for.

“If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities,” the firm’s website reads, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them.” 

The extent of Mossack Fonseca’s liability is uncertain. But while 2016 is coming to end, not so for the number of scandals the year will offer.

In fact, in just the latter half of 2016, there has been a lot of activity—FLSA changes, NLRB lawsuits, states legalizing marijuana, LGBT focus, and paid sick leave and domestic violence leave laws passing around the country.

When’s the last time your employee handbook was updated?  Was it within the last six months? No? Then your handbook is a liability.

If your handbook contains the wrong language, if it’s filled with outdated content, or if you don’t enforce it consistently, you could find yourself facing a myriad of employment-related lawsuits.

Your policies are the front-line of your defense against legal action from your workforce. The language you use, and the provisions you include, can make or break a lawsuit — and may even stop disputes before they arise.

Take C4CM’s webinar, “Employee Handbook Mid-Year Updates: 2016 Compliance Alerts, Rules & Regulations, Policies & Procedures,” on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

With the recent onslaught of new rules and regulations, you need to make sure your handbooks don’t land you in hot water. This information-packed webinar focuses on the top areas to update now, including:

  • EEO rules and recent NLRB rulings
  • Social media policies
  • ACA and benefits
  • Workplace violence
  • Legalization of marijuana
  • LGBT employees
  • Paid sick leave laws
  • BYOD (bring your own device) policies

Plus, seasoned employment law attorney, David C. Whitlock, will share best practices on updating your employee handbook to minimize your liability and protect your organization and your employees.

  • Crucial elements and policies that your handbook must include, and guidance for other components to consider
  • Get the latest in federal laws and regulations that require employee handbook updates
  • Beyond fashion: Dress code policy updates your handbook should have
  • Learn best practices for social media privacy and usage policies given NLRB’s stance on the issue
  • Language matters: Discover the best way to state policy and other issues in your handbook, and when – and how – to use flexible language
  • Get up to date on most current advice on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies to maximize cybersecurity and minimize data breaches and IP theft
  • Ensure you’re in compliance with all regulations regarding personnel records
  • Learn techniques for communicating handbook updates so employees are aware of the changes

-WB

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Amazon Struggles With Fine Print On Prime Day: Why Your Law Firm Should Educate Its Clients On Contracting

If businesses don’t struggle with the ethics of “consent” to fine print, they should.

The debate has long ended; it is now universally understood that people do not read deeply buried disclosures of “terms and conditions,” and while boilerplates remain industry standard, so is the subsequent outrage by consumers about the morality of this choice.

From subprime mortgage lending to hurricane insurance, fine print once made a fine debate. Today, however, researchers and laymen alike acknowledge that these clandestine clauses remain unread, unrealistic, and therefore unwelcome.

Only a well-trained attorney could possibly decipher these legalese-laden contracts, which begs the question (well-put in the Iowa Law Review), “how seriously should contract law take consent in a world in which consumers must consent lightly to most of their contractual obligations?”

Yesterday, Amazon struck an unlucky deal with Visa on Prime Day. In addition to extra Prime discounts, holders of the Amazon Visa card also received 30% off all-day orders. Except, those coupon-cutting customers who didn’t read the fine print stating “while supplies last” were out of luck at check-out. Apparently, supplies didn’t last past 1pm and Amazon’s customer service lines fielded complaints.

What could Amazon have learned from the exchange?

  1. Don’t deliberately confuse clients with legalese

Sometimes it’s impossible to edit out all the legalese. After all, contracts must be succinct, legally binding documents requiring many years of experience and thousands of dollars to draft them.

Nevertheless, boilerplate verbiage and ultra fine print are things of the past. “Most disclosures arise in an already crowded field of boilerplate. As such, most people have no choice but to perform a kind of triage on their reading priorities due to the overwhelming volume of information that disclosees face in a given day,” explains Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, in “A Psychological Account of Consent to Fine Print,” in Faculty Scholarship.

“Distorted risk perceptions, salience biases, and framing effects make it very unlikely that consumers will read the terms of form contracts—and even if they do read the terms, it is unlikely that they will integrate the information into their decision-making process in a sensible way.”

Instead of frustrating your clients with ex-post explanations like, “it was in the fine print,” or “you read the contact before you signed it,” avoid complaints and liability later by writing clear-cut contracting language today. Include “while supplies last” in large print with the title, or–for law firm contracting–keep contracts at 12pt font and limit the number of pages.

  1. Clients are overconfident about their own understanding of contracting

So now you have a contract and you’re ready for clients to sign it. They consent—or do they?

People overestimate their abilities in general and, specifically, overestimate their natural talent for reading and understanding contracts.

For example, 88% of the American population rates their own driving as safer than the median driver. And, 85% of a random sample of residents of New Jersey thought that they had “below-average” risk of getting food poisoning [via Faculty Scholarship].

Most likely your clients will never admit they’re confused about terms and conditions your lawyers have laid out. So, take a minute to explain it again verbally. It may not be legally-binding like a signature, but it protects your practice ethically.

  1. Think more about what you should do as opposed to what you’re legally bound to do

Yes, fine print exists. Yes, consumers and clients are aware of it. Yes, unread terms of agreement are legally binding. No, it doesn’t absolve your firm from blame.

As lawyers or law firm managers, don’t get bogged down by requisite behaviors, such as including a boilerplate. Take a moment to think about what you should do as opposed to what you’re minimally required to do.

In the least, if you’re Amazon, you’ll save time, cost, and effort justifying your actions and, instead, lock-in loyal customers or clients—while supplies last.

 

-WB

For audio and training courses (including CLEs) on law firm management, including drafting contracts, maximizing legal networks, and building a productive, profitable law firm, go to C4CM’s website here.

References:

  1. Wilkinson-Ryan, Tess, “A Psychological Account of Consent to Fine Print” (2014). Faculty Scholarship. Paper 1301. http://bit.ly/29PRsaV

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Excel Tips For Lawyers & How (Not) To Take A Holiday: Citi Execs Undeterred By Brexit Referendum Despite Market Volatility

Perhaps we should all take a page from Citigroup’s top tier’s Top Gear playbook and relax over those Brexit fears.

Last week, several senior executives specializing in foreign exchange trading at Citigroup’s London office opted out of billable hours and opted into a Ferrari funfest. According to the Financial Times, five of the bank’s top financiers took a “Ferrari safari” around France rather than help prepare for an event that could potentially pound down the country’s currency.

Lower ranks were forced to work long hours on prep for the June 23 referendum—a decision that will determine whether or not the UK exits the European Union—and described the bank directors’ ill-timed holiday as “insulting”.

Now, however, we’re forced to ask, were these caravan critiques made in vain?

Global equities rallied and the pound strengthened today, the most since 2008, with news hinting that the UK has no intention of leaving the EU after all. Instead, the S&P 500 Index shot up, the most in a month, and the Stoxx Europe 600 Index had its largest gain since August as a poll showed Britons favored remaining in the EU.

As star Citi executives sipped on champagne, the Sterling jumped 2 percent, Spanish bonds rocketed, and credit risk fell the most since March, reports Bloomberg. So, don’t vilify those VIPs just yet for rallying, the market seems to be doing much of the same.

If you’re not ready to hop into your Ferrari just yet, try taking another page from this Sterling story. You can bet that the rank-and-file members of Citigroup were making good use of Excel spreadsheets in their GB pound preparation.

Excel is not a tool exclusive to finance executives, law firm managers can make use of it, too. Excel provides many functions that lawyers can use to achieve productivity gains and perfect time-saving techniques that increase overall profitability.

Organizing timesheets in Excel can help trend your most significant cases over time. A legal administrator can organize attorney time by case matter, month, billable hours, or the billing attorney to discover which cases are the most active and which may need more attention, which attorney billed the most this month and which the least.

The best part of using Excel to short cut your expense cutting is that this complex calculator comes free with MS Office.

Your first tip? Press Ctrl + Shift + L too apply filters to your data. Filters create an easy-to-use drop down menu that automatically categories fields in your row or column.

For other tips and tricks, take The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course, “How to Use Excel for Law Firm Billing,” on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern. Other Excel audio courses can be found here and here.

The same day you learn how to balance your budget, you can see exactly how much of your investments remain after the UK referendum is sure to rock financial markets.

-WB

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