Tag Archives: management

Trump For President? Why Cognitive Biases Make For Really Bad Decision-making

He’s done it again, won a few more U.S. States and completely flummoxed his own party—as well as the American public. And, right now, the Republican Party is questioning whether a Trump endorsement is a good or bad decision.

Conservative intellectuals are the most confused. Pundits, after listening to a typical Trump stream-of-consciousness speech, columnist Charles Krauthammer kidded, “I don’t think I’ve heard such a stream of disconnected ideas since I quit psychiatry 30 years ago,” reports RealClearPolitics.

“It’s March madness,” added John Kasich (via RCP).

“How does the Republican Party solve a problem like Donald Trump?” asks Boris Heersink in the Washington Post.

“Donald Trump’s surprising and ongoing role as the de facto frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination has raised considerable concern among Republican leaders,” concededs Heersink.

“At this point, they may not yet be worried that Trump will actually become their nominee. After all, the history of presidential nominations is full of one-time frontrunners who failed to make it all the way. But the effect Trump has while he remains in the race is problematic for the Republican Party in two ways. In the short term, Trump’s antics drag attention away from other Republican candidates. In the long term, Trump may damage the Republican Party brand regardless of who ends up becoming the nominee.”

And while Trump can afford to flip-flop back and forth on his opinions—after all, his entire campaign is based on shock and awe—there’s not always time for organizations to learn from beta testing or trial and error.

Organizations, like the Republican Party, should realize that a variety of “cognitive biases” often cause us to make speedy and illogical decisions. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, is an authority on behavioral finance, and he sagely reminds us that novelty, fear, and other emotions can drive us to make decisions that are not—in the end—in our best interest.

U.S. News explains Kahneman’s biases, including:

  • A preference for not thinking about the future, causing us to make short-term decisions that are often not in our best interest
  • A tendency, known as “confirmation bias,” to screen for information consistent with our preconceived thinking
  • Overweighting the impact of potential losses, known as “loss aversion,” which causes us to hold on to stocks that have earned unrealized losses, rather than selling them and recognizing the loss

If any of these biases seem to ring true for you, you may need to reconsider some of your decisions (as a voter or a manager).

As a law firm manager, every day you’re faced with difficult problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and tough decisions to make. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s what can make or break a leader. It’s what can make or break you as a future partner.

And , whether or not you realize it, problem solving is a skill—one that you can hone and practice.

In fact, countless studies have shown that daily exercises for your mind, as well as the mere act of studying, improve your cognitive abilities.

Need help? Take C4CM’s webinar, a “Smart Manager’s Guide to Strategic Problem Solving and Decision Making” on Friday, April 1, 2016, from 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM Eastern time.

The webinar focuses on developing core skills to be a more effective problem solver. You’ll discover new ways to reach better decisions … methods to develop effective solutions … and key strategies to overcome the pitfalls of problem solving.

In this power-packed session you will gain the tools to develop more ideas, make fewer mistakes and reach better decisions. Plus, you will learn:

  • Why decision making is so tough – and key strategies to make it easier
  • How good decision making skills solve problems
  • Benefits of strategic problem solving
  • Typical barriers to decision making and how to overcome them
  • Habits of strategic thinkers
  • Tips for evaluating your thinking and problem solving style
  • Five step process for strategically thinking about business decisions
  • Realizing a decision must be made
  • Clearly defining the problem
  • Deciding on desired outcome
  • Defining stakeholders
  • Communicating the issue and solution

Because the reality is, the upcoming general election may include Republican-nominee Donald Trump—and all of his cognitive biases about America and the way the world works. So, when it comes to the vote for President, what decision will you make?

-WB

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Can You Name The Smartest Person In The Room? The Surprisingly Different Way Men & Women Answer & Law Firm Gender Bias

Time and time again, women are underestimated. Whether in the classroom or a professional office space, the same, sad statistic remains intact. Women aren’t considered equal peers and colleagues.

Let’s take a recent study conducted by anthropologist Dan Grunspan. While teaching undergraduate students, Grunspan noticed a shocking and persistent trend. His male undergraduate students assumed the other men in the class knew more about the course material than their female counterparts. What’s more, this remained true even when the female students were earning better grades.

“The pattern just screamed at me,” said Grunspan to Danielle Paquette for the Washington Post article, “The remarkably different answers men and women give when asked who’s the smartest in the class.

Determined to apply quantitative methods to his qualitative assessment, Grunspan and his colleagues at the University of Washington set up a study to measure the degree of this gender bias in the classroom.

The researchers conducted surveys of roughly 1,700 students attending three biology courses. In defense of Grunspan’s observations, the results of the study concluded that men in these courses did, in fact, consistently award each other more credit than their equally-knowledgable female classmates.

This bias amounted to three-quarters of a GPA point, according to the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE. This means, while two students—one male, one female—earned the same “A” grade, male students would consider the male student an “A” student, but the female student a “B” performer. Female students, however, did not possess the same bias.

“Something under the conscious is going on,” Grunspan said to the Washington Post.

“For 18 years, these [young men] have been socialized to have this bias.”

It stands to reason that if this bias is continuous and persistent among undergraduates, it didn’t just disappear in law school or at the law firm. While this conclusion relies on certain assumptions—that men don’t mature later in life or that they don’t award more credit to their female colleagues with experience, for example—it does provide fodder to think about how you might treat female colleagues in the workplace.

Stephanie Haladner, a former Clifford Chance said to the UK Telegraph, “There is an unconscious bias that is stopping women from getting promoted in law firms. We have to look at a culture change. The majority of law firms are acknowledging that they have an issue and would like to take steps to make a change.”

“When it comes to unconscious bias, it means [law firms] recruit and advance people in their own image.”

When name partners are all male—this means promoting other men. When senior associates are male, this means assigning other men to work on the most important cases.

When you need a second opinion, to whom do you go to? When considering two like-level associates, one male and one female, does your firm unconsciously reward one over the other?

“One other issue for women that constantly comes up is that women tend not to be as good at promoting themselves within an organization,” continues Haladner.

While this may be a valid explanation for why women cab be overlooked professionally, it’s no excuse for your firm to perpetuate a well-documented bias.

Go back to the numbers. Like Professor Grunspan, take a look at the pattern within your own firm. If there are fewer women at the top, it may be time to consider whether or not this is due to over-crediting men by male management.

 

-WB

For more law firm management and concrete HR tips, take one of The Center for Competitive Management’s webinars here.

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Popping Pills: America’s Worst Epidemic & Legally Addressing The Misuse Of Prescription Drugs At Work

Although the United States makes up about 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes more than 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs, according to the 2011 UN World Drug Report. This statistic may bring up a few names from your childhood: Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Judy Garland; or, more recently, Michael Jackson, Health Ledger, Chris Farley.

But, famous actors and singers are not the only victims of prescription drug abuse. It’s the 16-year old student who got addicted to pain pills after a surgery, the suburban father mixing a dangerous cocktail of painkillers and tranquilizers, or a Michigan mother hooked on her daughter’s Adderall prescription.

A new documentary takes a sobering look at what some call America’s worst epidemic. Prescription drug addiction affects men, women and children of all walks of life. Called “’Prescription Thugs”, this movie is director Chris Bell’s follow-up to his last documentary, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster,” which showed the harrowing role of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

“The subject kind of picked me,” explains Bell to FoxNews.com’s Dr. Manny Alvarez.

“My older brother died from a prescription drug, basically, an overdose—his body gave out from all the prescription drugs he was doing. I wanted to find some answers why that happened to him.”

At risk of revealing spoilers, at one point Bell reveals his own silent struggle with prescription painkiller addiction.

“I was never an addict, I was never addicted to anything. I was always somebody who was into sports. I was a power lifter… I was excited to go to the gym every day,” Bell said.

“But once I was hurt, and on these painkillers, everything started going slowly in reverse.”

But seeking help is not easy. At one point, Bell was taking up to 20 to 30 pain pills per day before he considered reaching out.

“It’s something that you have to come to terms with yourself, it’s something that you have to want to quit and want to get off of,” Bell said.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and is now classified as an epidemic by the CDC. As many as 52 million Americans, over the age of 12, have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. Even more shocking, 1 million people have used them non-medically in the past month.

The use and abuse of medications in the workplace is a serious issue. Yet unlike illicit drugs, for which most U.S. employers can test easily and legally, prescription medications present a number of challenges to organizations.

For one, the mere presence of these substances in a drug test does not necessarily constitute an offense, unlike with illegal drugs. And many employees using these medications are protected by the ADA, which limits an organization’s ability to question its employees’ use of such drugs.

This is a thorny area, where federal (ADA and FMLA) and state laws collide. Unfortunately, most employers do not have the fortitude and risk tolerance to enter the storm, even when they know it’s a major liability.

Like Bell and his own addiction, awareness is often the first step. Protect your employees—and your firm’s liability—by taking The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar, “Popping Pills: Legally Addressing Employee Use & Misuse of Prescription Medications in the Workplace,” on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

This online course explores best practice strategies for handling this challenging situation both tactfully and legally. You’ll also get the answers to such need-to-know questions as:

  • How should employers address the use of prescription medications by employees in their drug and alcohol policies (if at all)?
  • What should an employer do if an employee cannot perform the job safely while using prescription medications?
  • Can employers conduct drug testing for prescription medications and what are the pitfalls of doing so?
  • What are an employer’s obligations when employees become addicted to prescription medications?
  • Can employees be drug tested periodically after completing drug rehabilitation?
  • Should medical marijuana be treated like other prescription medications?
  • Must employers tolerate the use of medical or recreational marijuana in the states where it is legal?

“It’s tough, it’s a disease where it’s a behavior problem… it’s a brain chemistry problem… and the only way to fix it is to work on those behaviors and sort of modify those behaviors,” explains Bell.

Like people, a law firm firm must acknowledge what’s at stake before it can seek help. Make that happen for your employees today.

 

-WB

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Law Firm Pricing Strategy, Customer Satisfaction & Happy Meals

McDonald’s is making the blog twice this week. Why? Because law firm associates have a lot more to learn from Happy Meals than just a mood change.

McDonald’s is experiencing its first revenue and stock market bump in years. Why? It gives its customers the power to create.

The true (burger) king of the market has been very successful with the “Happy Meal.” McDonald’s was the first to massively market collectable prizes in kids meals and other meal deal options. The restaurant’s colorful menu offers a variety of food combinations that can be changed and created to match customer preference. Now, the restaurant chain is even allowing customers to mix and match meals—breakfast for dinner? Burger for breakfast? It’s all up to you.

Feeling hungry? Let’s take a bite out of our next business plan at Apple. The iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad product suite and computer systems are all about customization in terms of specs, features, and even color. You create your own Macbook down to the exact amount of RAM, and can even engrave an epithet on your 64G iPod.

Finally, forget food; let’s go back to law firms. You try and you try and you try to appease your associates and clients. But there’s still frustration on both sides. In a mere one hundred and twenty words, Ben Young, author of The Best Ideas Are Free, can give you some satisfaction. Young claims better business management, ironically, means eliminating just that. Stop managing, and start creating.

Today in the business world, Young says, “We’re not creating physical things, new products, ideas, development. We’re maintaining, reporting… not making actual change.” To garner the super-sized success seen in the world’s most profitable companies, we must make the switch from managing to creating.

“Constantly creating, curating & connecting ideas is what you want to do, create your systems so they generate.”

3 Geeks And A Law Blog applied Young’s idea to Knowledge Management. Knowledge Management at a law firm generally indicates Document Management systems, such as the full-text search of documents, descriptive fields, classifications, and filter options.

The blog asks, “What are they actually doing? Are they simply siloing information in a way to retrieve bits and pieces? Or, are they creating interfaces that allows the customer (whether it is Attorneys, Marketing, Business Development, or Client Relations) to really create the information they want?”

Case management systems are also too sterile. For example, West Case Notebook and Timeline—typical of case analysis software—does not allow any changes to the number or name of sorting fields. If your client, witness, or expert has more than one address, email, or other piece of information attached to his name, attorneys have no recourse.

Additionally, of the software suite, only West Timeline synchs with MS Excel. Even then, information from West Timeline cannot be reverse imported into West Case Notebook. The point is: Knowledge Management and Document Management systems are still stagnant and limited. Within these systems, an attorney can rarely create. Only assemble.

There’s another hidden message in Young’s idea that begs the question, why can’t the client create, too? We discuss alternative fee arrangements a lot these days. However, these conversations focus on what the law firm can offer its clients. Instead, law firms should implement systems that allow the client, himself, to choose his fee arrangement. As when a customer logs into the Jeep website and chooses the chassis, color, and drive system of his vehicle, a client looking for a law firm should be able to shop around and create his ideal type of representation.

By selecting from a list of options—a certain fee arrangement, retainer agreement, or the number and billable hour of attorneys on the case—clients will become less frustrated with sizeable attorney fees. There will be no surprises. After all, the client created the contract.

Young concludes, “I triple double guarantee that anytime you start to get sick of something, it’s because you’ve stopped creating.”

Leave the stomach aches for fast food, and let your associates and your clients have creative control. You may be surprised at the increased satisfaction and retention levels of both.

How much detail should your firm share? Is sharing a profitable marketing practice, or will it cut into your firm’s bottom line? All your specific questions can be answered by a panel of experts at The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course:

Learn more at, “How to Use Pricing Metrics to Win and Keep Legal Clients,” on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 2:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Pricing is one of the most important factors in a client’s decision-making process when choosing a law firm. Failure to understand the clients’ often unspoken requirements perpetuates pricing shortcomings and lowers profitability.

  • During this information-packed webinar, you will learn:
  • Why pricing must be a part of your marketing strategy,
  • How to use the metrics you already have, and
  • Steps to align pricing strategy with your firm’s broader strategic objectives. 

-WB

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All-Day Breakfast At McDonald’s Feeds Profits & Law Firm Management Strategies

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And with a sudden turnaround in the fourth quarter, McDonald’s can’t help but agree.

In October, McDonald’s announced it would finally be selling all-day breakfast, feeding both people and its profits.

“Finally” because consumers have been demanding breakfast after 10:30 a.m. pretty much since the inception of the McMuffin.

“This is the consumers’ idea. This is what they want us to do,” McDonald’s president Michael Andres told the Wall Street Journal (via Slate).

“That’s why I think this could be the catalyst for our turnaround.”

Call Andres a prophet for profit because it certainly was a turnaround. McDonald’s had been suffering losses since 2013. In fact, it suffered a huge decline in 2014 when its stock took a loss of 3.3 percent, reports CNN Money.

Today, a survey by market researchers NDP found that the move to offer all-day breakfast was “luring in new and lapsed customers,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to these new and old customers, sales have soared at McD’s, rising 5.7 percent by the end of 2015.

Why did McDonald’s hesitate so long? It’s possible that the restaurant chain feared breakfast menu would cannibalize sales from its more expensive lunch and dinner items. Burgers, on average, are pricier than breakfast menu items.

However, what McDonald’s did not achieve—up until now—was completely satisfying their customers. Listening to customer demand almost certainly brought back loyal patrons, but also attracted a new type of client—the all-day breakfast diner-type.

It’s a reminder to law firms not only to listen to their clients, but to consider the idea of encouraging a boost of smaller sales in the grand scheme of the bottom line.

Although low-yield clients may not seem like the most efficient way to earn profits, they can get you through the tough times. Think about taking on additional, smaller clients while business is slow instead of waiting for that shark-sized bite of a case. Like a line out the door at McD’s, keeping busy sends a positive signal to both associates and clients alike that your attorneys are practiced, experienced, and in-demand. This then raises your appeal to higher-paying customers.

An increased average revenue may be due to volume, not quality of case matter, but—in the end—does that matter? You may find that an uptick in small cases keeps your legal assistants busier, not your high-billing attorneys.

Support staff are often able to handle discovery, transform case management, and play a critical role in assisting attorneys. Moving forward may mean carving a new future for legal secretaries, technology, and management—to the advantage of all.

Take a tip from McDonald’s menu to increase your bottom line (and probably your belt).

Looking for more ideas to grow profits?

Take The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course online, “The Productive, Profitable Law Firm: How Agile & Lean Practices Can Reduce Costs, Increase Quality and Grow Profits,” on Thursday, February 11, 2016 from 2:00 p.m. Eastern to 3:15 p.m. Eastern.

Savvy firms are implementing Lean/Agile methodologies to reduce costs, improve quality and speed turnaround time for legal matters. In order for your law firm to start building a profitable, scalable business, you need to understand and get a handle on its systems and processes.

During this power-packed webinar, you’ll get step-by-step instructions for improving legal processes through systematic identification of workflow inefficiencies; prioritization of process improvements, and elimination of process inefficiencies.

In addition to real life examples of how firms have used Lean/Agile methodologies to improve efficiency, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify and analyze your firm’s processes, and make incremental process improvements that can improve your bottom line
  • Develop methods to complete routine tasks quickly
  • Identify the bottlenecks that cause delays
  • Use ‘Increments’ and ‘iterations’ for improved legal productivity
  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that your firm should be examining (beyond billable hours)

Bon Appétit!

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Discount On Aisle Affidavit? How to Use Pricing Metrics to Win and Keep Legal Clients

This month at CVS, ExtraCare savings include $0.50 off Dove Chocolate Dipped Fruit, $0.25 off 1-gallon of milk, and $2.00 off Alkaline Batteries—discounts that keep going and going.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same percent off attorneys’ fees, or coupons for half-price on your next court case

According to a recent ethics opinion, apparently you can.

The American Bar Association (ABA) declared that ethics these discount deals may be structured in two ways:

  • First, in coupon deals, a lawyer can sell a $25 coupon, for example, at a 50 percent discount on up to five hours of legal services. 
  • Second, in prepaid deals, a lawyer can charge $500 for up to five hours of legal service, a value of $1,000.

If the money is collected up front by the marketing organization—along with some information—than there’s no problem.

Nevertheless, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility warns about these coupon deals, stating in Formal Opinion 465:

“The committee has identified numerous difficult issues associated with prepaid deals, especially how to properly manage payment of advance legal fees, and is less certain that prepaid deals can be structured to comply with all ethical and professional obligations under the Model Rules.”

It’s not just the ABA that’s concerned.

Lawyers are also concerned that price equals value—that clients will believe the quality of services rendered were as low as the bill for them. Lawyers suspect clients will become accustomed discounting and will eventually refuse to pay full-price for attorney’s fees or choose alternative representation in the event these fees rise.

However, discounting can be an important strategy for attracting new clients or retaining old ones in a competitive market. With an overabundance of attorneys today, this type of corporate strategy of price differentiation is key.

Luckily for lawyers, however, times are looking up and fees are going up with them.

According to a Law Watch Managing Partner Confidence Index survey, confidence in the broader economic, and particularly in business conditions for the legal profession, has increased.

“A lot of the discounting pressure that we’ve seen over the course of a number of years now, post-recession, has been driven by the fact that there’s not enough legal work to go around,” explains Citi senior client adviser Gretta Rusanow to The AmLaw Daily.

“So, where firms have excess capacity, they are more inclined to discount their fees in an effort to keep their lawyers busy.”

Increased confidence in the market is a good sign for lawyers.

In the end, whether you firm decides to discount or not, managers should emphasize the following to clients:

1. Evidence of the value

Have a new client one-page summary sheet that lists your firm’s case wins, satisfied client testimonials, and the profiles of your qualified employees. Provide a short cost-benefit analysis that shows your fees are appropriate, as well as important to stave off the possibility of higher costs in the future.

2. Consistency in work product

Consistency equates to quality. Provide regular case matter updates, personal and electronic communication, and billing. Clients are less upset by invoices that they are already expecting.

3. Confidence in the future

Increased confidence about the market or the future of the field of law is good news on the whole. But, retaining confidence in the high quality of your practice will also help your firm retain its clients.

The economy is uncertain. But, with comprehensive and confident work on a client’s case, your performance doesn’t have to be. Even if your clients are coupon-cutting, a law firm’s value is created by a rock-solid reputation, time-proven results, and high human capital—not simply the price tag.

The advent of pricing managers at law firms has created a bevy of metrics on cost and profitability, and savvy clients want to see it!

How much detail should your firm share? Is sharing a profitable marketing practice, or will it cut into your firm’s bottom line? Our panel of experts will address these questions, and more during this practical pricing event.

Pricing is one of the most important factors in a client’s decision-making process when choosing a law firm. Failure to understand the clients’ often unspoken requirements perpetuates pricing shortcomings and lowers profitability.

Take C4CM’s course, “How to Use Pricing Metrics to Win and Keep Legal Clients,” on Thursday, January 28, 2016, at 2:00 PM Eastern.

  • During this information-packed webinar, you will learn: 
  • Why pricing must be a part of your marketing strategy,
  • How to use the metrics you already have, and
  • Steps to align pricing strategy with your firm’s broader strategic objectives.

The course includes:

  • How to set cost and profit objectives, and determine what value customers perceive in your product and how willing are they to pay for it?
  • Ways to include competitors and similar products in the pricing mix, and structure accordingly
  • How top firms are tracking and sharing data in a manner that satisfies client needs
  • Explanation of how clients use price as an indicator of quality
  • Methods your firm can use to make sure data drives the right kinds of discussions
  • Why more firms are engaging in rate negotiations for pricing of individual pitches and proposals

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Stormtrooper Arrested For Costume Choice & Ways Your Firm Can Weather The Storm Of Writing & Enforcing Legal and Effective Dress Code Policies

The new Star Wars movie may haven broken records, but that doesn’t mean fans of the film can break the law in celebration. This week, Lynn, MA, police officers arrested a man dressed in a stormtrooper costume for loitering within 1,000 feet of an elementary school and causing a disturbance.

His crime? Over-enthusiasm for the film, apparently, as George Cross, 40, claims to have recently bought the outfit and was simply eager to share it with the little ones.

The force wasn’t strong enough with Cross, however, as police were quickly notified that “someone was dressed up in that outfit with a gun—a fake gun,” explained Lynn Police Lieutenant Rick Donnelly, reports the Boston Globe.

“Parents could not go into the school, and the principal delayed everything because she was concerned with the party outside,” Donnelly said to the Boston Globe.

“He had no reason to be there, didn’t know anyone at the school, and he was hanging out front. In today’s day and age, some of the kids were scared and a lot of parents were concerned. He caused quite a disturbance.”

A poor decision based on good intentions, most would say. But should the law really get involved in such trivial matters of dress?

Even in the office place, policy plays an important role. One of the fastest-growing areas of litigation today pertains to poorly written or vague dress code.

In fact, plaintiffs are using traditional discrimination concepts to push the envelope in making claims of lifestyle discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender-identity, physical appearance, and other borderline privacy or personal issues.

Who draws the line between personal expression and inappropriate dress?

  • Can you require an employee to hide their tattoos?
  • Can you ban headwear if it’s part of someone’s personal expression?
  • Can you legally require an employee to take out their tongue ring during work hours?
  • Does a dress code mandating facial hair and other grooming policies invite a race discrimination claim?
  • What about dress codes related to safety rules?

Does your law firm know the answer to these simple questions? Does your law firm?

If not, you and your clients may be opening yourselves up to costly litigation.

Take C4CM’s audio course “Tutus, Turbans and Tattoos: Writing and Enforcing a Legal and Effective Dress Code Policy,” on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, from 2:00PM To 3:15PM EST.

This information-packed webinar explores the tools, techniques and knowledge you need to confidently handle dress code problems, and fashion a dress code policy that’s effective and defensible.

And, if you just don’t want to bother giving it a second thought like that stormtrooper in Lynn? Well, may the force be with you.

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