Tag Archives: Productivity

Beware Of The E-mail Hydra: How To Increase Productivity By Decreasing Responsiveness

Some people know how to ruin a good thing.

It was the first person to use a cell phone in the movie theatre or get too drunk at a work function. Now we have to watch advertisements about how “silence is golden” and drink from cash bars at office parties.

Not to mention, America used to be entertained by Donald Trump’s tweets; now the novelty is over and opening Twitter feels more and more like opening Pandora’s Box.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” Warren Buffett once said. In business, one failure, one event, or one person is all it takes to ruin a good thing.

Unfortunately, the same applies to the Internet (and politics—but we won’t go there today).

Once considered the best thing to happen to business, the World Wide Web is opening a world wide can of worms. From Facebook browsing during office hours to computer viruses, the Internet has put workplace efficiency in jeopardy.

With marketers trolling for bits, cookies, and IP addresses, say goodbye to your privacy. With sites like Wikipedia, forget finding reliable information online. With the immediacy of email, proper etiquette has been replaced by emoticons.

“As our inboxes have become more demanding, we have all become less responsive — because we get so many messages it’s hard to keep up. But the harder it is to keep up, the more messages (‘I just thought I’d send another email asking if you got my first two emails’) we send,” writes Sarah Green for the Harvard business Review Blog.

“The problem with ‘responsiveness’ is that email then becomes like a hydra—cut off one head (answer one email) and you spawn nine more,” continues Ms. Green. “The more responsive you are, the more email you receive, and the more responsive you need to be.”

Sometimes, increasing your productivity means being less responsive to e-mail. Put an end this inefficient desire to be “responsive” by following some simple steps here.

Or, you can tap into new technology. Take, for example, Yesware.

Yesware is an oldie but goodie ad-on to Google Mail that transforms what many have ruined in electronic communication—informal or inappropriate greetings, responsiveness, and excessive urgency—into a good thing once again.

Geared toward salesmen, Yesware is an ideal email productivity app for lawyers. With Yesware, law firm professionals can:

  • Get alerts each time someone opens an email or clicks on a link
  • Know exactly when to follow up with your clients and prospects
  • Know where in the world your message is being viewed
  • View the device that prospects are using to open your email

In addition, the Yesware app is customizable. Restore formal language in business communication with Yesware’s email templates:

  • Choose your best templates by seeing which ones your customers reply to most
  • Incorporate links and rich text to send great looking messages at the click of a button—every time
  • Use [brackets] to indicate custom fields to make your templates even faster and easier to use

Finally, seize business opportunities with Yesware’s analytics functions:

  • Know exactly who is best to follow up with by using our personal tracking reports and gauge your email opens for the last 30 days
  • See where in the world people open your emails from inside your inbox
  • Find out if your message is reaching top decision makers
  • Prioritize your email prospecting with subject filters and email activity sorting

Forbes says about the app, “If You Want To Be Awesome At Emails, Add Yesware To Your Gmail Today.”

But, whether it’s yesware or other productivity solutions, be carefuly what you say. And, more importantly, how fast you say it.

Taking more time to write messages (or tweets) may save your productivity and, in the end, your credibility.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Law Firm Resolutions: New Year & New Productivity Plans For Equity Partners

The year 2016 was the year of things ending.

Hoverboards, the Galaxy Note 7, Yahoo, and Vine. Whether it was business acquisition or spontaneous explosion, last year was not a good one for new technology or old ventures.

And, according to a 2016 Altman Weil Flash Survey, law firms are not faring much better.

Firms are having trouble maintaining billable hours, with half of surveyed firms reporting that their equity partners are not sufficiently busy. Worse yet, 62 percent of surveyed firms report that of non-equity partners are also not sufficiently busy, particularly firms with 250 or more lawyers.

With so little going on in 2016, growth looks unlikely for 2017. Only 53 percent of surveyed firms believe that growth in lawyer headcount was required for firm success, and a vast majority believes that fewer equity partners will be a permanent trend.

In fact, the disappearance of the traditional partnership track is another casualty of an overall (fiscally) depressing year.

Nevertheless, death of the traditional partnership track might mean the birth to a new, more efficient system.

In 2017, consider implementing a few of the following ways to make your partners more productive at your firm:

  1. Track more than just billable hours and new business. Consider leadership or management responsibilities, as well as mentorship as requirements among your partners.
  2. Make partnership duties transparent so that struggling partners can become inspired by the work of other more successful ones. And, more successful partners can see which of his or her peers need some extra help. Espouse an environment of mutual assistance, not competition to increase productivity.
  3. After promoting a new partner, require special partnership training. Don’t send your partners into battle without the proper legal weapons.
  4. For partners in large law firms whose specific practice may permanently fail, consider their cross-sectional expertise and what other departments may profit from their experience. Encourage partners to have multiple, cross-sectional knowledge and flexible skill sets.
  5. Retrain, don’t rehire. It may be tempting to make cuts to maintain profits. But, where possible, see where you can retrain current partners to become more productive. It often costs more in the long run to fire employees only to rehire one in the future. Before you layoff partners, find out if they’re willing to work part-time, contingency cases, or under a new title (Of Counsel, for example, with a smaller salary).

This year, consider better communication among, rather than excommunication of equity partners. If productivity is the problem, think about putting partners on sabbatical or asking them to attend training on becoming managers or more efficient workers.

Certainly partnership standards and cutbacks to boost profits at law firms have increased. According to the aforementioned survey, 73 percent of firms reported removing “underperforming” partners and nearly half were already in the process of de-equitizing full partners. In fact, over half of the firms surveyed utilize part-time or contract lawyers.

Instead of downsizing your firm, increasing your firm’s creative management techniques and its communication about new partnership requirements to keep top executives may be just as valuable.

Adapt or downsize? Which New Year’s resolution will your firm follow this year?

Not yet resolute? The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM) is here to help you decide. Attend the live webinar, “How Many Lawyers is Too Many Lawyers? Managing Firm Headcount, Capacity & People Power for Increased Profits,” on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, from 2pm to 3:15pm EDT.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Official: Robots Lawyers Are A Thing (& How Your Firm Can Catch Up)

Robots, attack!

Machines have finally infiltrated man’s workplace. Last Spring, law firm Baker & Hostetler announced that they were employing IBM’s artificial-intelligence (AI) system, Ross, to handle their bankruptcy practice, reports Futurism.

Apparently, according to CEO Andrew Arruda, other firms have also signed licenses with Ross, which is “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney.”

Built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, Ross was designed to read and understand language, pose hypotheses based on human-generated questions, conduct research, and then generate responses (with references and citations, of course) to back up his conclusions.

Struggling with the pronoun “he”? You shouldn’t be. Just like man, this machine can learns from experience, faster and faster as you interact with him (if only your colleagues did the same!).

“You ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and ROSS then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly,” says the website.

“In addition, ROSS monitors the law around the clock to notify you of new court decisions that can affect your case.”

Baker & Hostetler is certainly not the first firm to rollout robots among its human counterparts.

Deloitte adopted Kira Systems’ contract analysis software in 2014 for its audit and consulting businesses, reports Legal Technology Insider

Machine-learning, along with Deloitte’s in-house consultants, can create models that quickly read through thousands of complex documents. With AI tools, it’s suddenly much easier and quicker to extract and structure textual information for analysis.

Ross, Watson, Kira… no matter what you call them, robots are improving productivity, profitability and processes at more and more law firms.

In fact, firms like Baker & Hostetler, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Dentons, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and von Briesen & Roper SC have all dipped their technology toes into the artificial intelligence market.

And why not? What smart firm wouldn’t want to use leading-edge technology to help lawyers do their work faster, better, and cheaper?

Learn more by taking The Center for Competitive Management’s live webinar, “Robot Lawyers: Putting Artificial intelligence (AI) to Work at Your Firm” on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 2:00pm – 3:15pm Eastern (EDT).

This information-packed webinar led by a powerhouse panel of experts offers a practical discussion on the rise of artificial intelligence, robot helpers, and the impact of this technology on lawyers and firms.

During this comprehensive program, you will learn:

  • What is classified as artificial intelligence
  • Top AI software options, and key technology features to look for firm success, and fit
  • Who is best suited to conduct the AI software search at your firm
  • Specific ways that firms are using AI/robots to optimize time and profits
  • Types of cases/transactions that are the best fit for an AI alternative
  • When lawyer experience trumps AI robots, and when it does not
  • A look at Legal AI tools that are in the works
  • Specific steps for firms to get started with AI

It’s time for law firms to catch up. Don’t be afraid to get a little help from your friends (made of steel and carbon fiber).

 

-WB

For more tutorials and webinars, check out C4CM.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Study: Exercise Lowers Cancer Risk & How Your Law Firm Can Encourage Fitness!

According to a new study—which confirms pretty much every other study—exercise is the best thing for your body, even reducing your chance of developing cancer. In fact, you may reduce your chances of developing cancer by seven percent overall, and much more when taking into account specific types of cancer.

The study, which involved over 1.4 million people, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, was recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine (via Voice of America).

In it, researchers found that the risk of developing specific types of cancers plummeted: esophageal cancer by 42 percent, liver cancer by 27 percent, lung cancer by 26 percent, specific type of leukemia by 20 percent, and breast cancer by 10 percent.

Exercise “can help people reduce their risk of heart disease. It can reduce the risk of diabetes. It extends life expectancy,” added Steven Moore of the National Cancer Institute, who led the aforementioned study, in an interview with NBC News.

Among the possible workout routines were walking, running, and swimming. Researchers also took into account the amount of each exercise in minutes per week and controlled for other risks of cancer like smoking and obesity.

Moore explained that potential mechanisms resulting in these outcomes were potentially lower hormone levels, like estrogen, which has been known to lower the risk of breast and endometrial cancers. Also, exercise helps maintain insulin, explained Moore, which may lower overall inflammation in the body.

Of course, diet helps drive these results, but researchers are overwhelmingly convinced that exercise is the key to low stress and higher levels of health.

Most people are aware of the importance of exercise, but lack the motivation to begin working out.

Any workplace (especially in stressful ones like at a law firm) should take two steps toward improving employee productivity and job satisfaction.

The first step is preventative. Encourage your employees to exercise by incentivizing them with interoffice “most steps” competitions. Give out Fitbit devices for your year-end or other milestone bonuses and conduct a contest. The most steps in the week or month, for example, wins something—like being taken out to lunch, Starbucks gift card, or a small prize. The idea is simple, yet the results can be life-changing for an individual.

For the firm, exercise leads to lower stress and lower illness, which will lead an employee to work in an efficient and timely manner.

If a contest won’t work for your firm, strike up a deal with a neighboring gym to provide employees with free or heavily discounted memberships.

This will help a firm prevent the next step: post-illness planning and policies.

What happens when an employee is diagnosed with cancer?

With 1.7 million new cancer cases expected in 2016, your firm will most definitely be impacted by this disease.

Thankfully, with advances in the treatment in cancer, a diagnosis does not have to be as grim a prognosis as it once was.

In fact, many employees with cancer are willing and able to work during the treatment and recovery process—but cancer in the workplace raises a myriad of complexities for employers, including:

  • ADA and reasonable accommodation issues
  • FMLA leave—particularly intermittent leave
  • GINA compliance, particularly with family medical history concerning cancer
  • Managing questions, rumors, and gossip in an effective yet legally compliant way
  • Confidentiality concerning the employee’s diagnosis—and prognosis
  • Medical certifications
  • EAP referrals
  • Allegations of bias on the basis of actual or perceived disability
  • Balancing compassion with productivity concerns

So, it’s important for your firm to learn more about best policies and practices when faced with this challenge, including:

  • The employer’s role in providing accurate information about employees’ rights and obligations to take advantage of the benefits your organization may offer, such as short- and long-term disability
  • What the employee expects, and your legal obligations to meet their requests
  • Tips on how to handle employees’ emotional reactions and attitudes in dealing with cancer diagnoses, from both a human compassion level and the impact on performance
  • Practical ways in which the ADA and the FMLA may intersect concerning cancer diagnoses
  • Types of ADA accommodations that may be required for employees dealing with the impact of cancer or the side-effects of treatment that may take many months 

Take C4CM’s webinar today, “Managing Cancer in the Workplace: Legal and Practical Solutions for Accommodating Employees with Cancer,” on Thursday, June 2, 2016, from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern time.

After the webinar you will have the proper training, but with proper encouragement and dose of daily exercise, hopefully you and your firm won’t have to use it.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Mobile App Helps Lawyers Organize Client & Vendor Information Via Email

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), 89 percent of lawyers use mobile to check email, which far exceeds that of the average population.

This statistic, and more, comes from the ABA and the Legal Technology Resource Center, which surveys practicing attorneys about their technology choices.

Some of the key insights included (via LexisNexis):

  • 34% of lawyers use tablets in the courtroom
  • 26.9% of law firms have legal blogs and 10% of individual lawyers have blogs
  • 78% believe training a firm on technology is important
  • 50% one year increase in cloud services users
  • 17% of lawyers using litigation support software
  • 39.1% of blogs resulted in clients or referrals
  • 22.6% of law firm have no social media presence
  • 81% of attorneys say they use social media; but not necessarily for professional use
  • 58% use Dropbox (here are the terms of service)
  • 94% say vendor name and reputation is important to decisions

So, it’s easy to agree that training on technology is important, but sometimes attorneys are slow in implementation and practice. For example, all that e-mail lawyers are checking on their phones, surely there’s a better way to keep track of client and vendor correspondence?

And there is.

Check out CloudMagic, an email application that has grown to 4 million users, which helps people who receive a lot of email (especially cold calls from potential clients or vendors people don’t know personally) with its feature, Sender Profile. This mobile app is similar LinkedIn’s service, Rapportive, or the more recent desktop app, Connect from Clearbit.

Sender Profile on CloudMagic lets you quickly view a summary of information about the person who emailed you, such as their job title, workplace, location, homepage, and social profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Unlike its competition, instead of trying to present all the sender’s details in the same screen as the original message, when you receive an email from someone not in your contacts list, CloudMagic places a small summary below the email message. In addition, once you click the “Know More” link, a pop-up card appears with even more information.

If the sender’s workplace is important, CloudMagic has you covered. After you’ve looked at the sender’s information on the pop-up card, you can then click on another button linking you to the sender’s company’s information, as well.

That corporate side of the card will display a company description, employee headcount, website link, and links to the company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AngelList, if applicable.

Now that’s uncontestably important technology—no training required.

Learn more about this mobile app and more on TechCrunch or here, on this blog.

 

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How Lawyers Can Use Excel: The PowerPivot Add-On & More!

Excel is a tool for Wall Street, right?

Wrong.

Excel is a multi-dimensional tool that is useful in a variety of industries, from accounting to finance to law. Yes, that’s right, there are a plethora of reasons lawyers should use Excel in their practice.

Below are a few suggestions of everyday legal activity that could be made easier and accomplished more efficiently with Excel.

Case Analysis

One of the more important tools in Excel is the PivotTable. Now, there’s a brand new feature—the PowerPivot—that brings PivotTables to a whole new level. First, let’s discuss the features of the regular PivotTable.

PivotTables help organize and analyze data. For example, let’s say you want to organize hot docs by key words in discovery. Or maybe you want to identify key concepts or key witnesses and sort them by priority or some other measure. Perhaps you have a long chain of correspondence for the case and you want to code it by sender, receiver, message subject, etc. PivotTables allow you to take each of these categories and sum, filter, or count their contents. You can take any complex dataset and reorganize it with your own ddesignated columns or rows.

How does this compare to PowerPivot? PowerPivot adds the following capabilities (read more at the Journal of Accountancy here):

  • Multiple data sources (pull data from two or more sources into a single report)
  • Many types of sources (pull data from just about anywhere into a PivotTable)
  • Sets (advanced filtering)
  • Large data sources (analyze data that exceeds Excel’s row limit)
  • Expressions (advanced functions and time intelligence)

Basically PowerPivot is the new and vastly improved PivotTable. The extra filtering capabilities are exceptionally useful.

Does all this information sound like a foreign language? Take The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar, “Using PowerPivot to Pump-Up the Power of Microsoft Excel,” on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern time. 

Case Status Updates

Law firms circulate internally, and to the client, a case status update.

Excel makes this easy by providing a manipulatable database sorted or filtered by client name, county, type of case, date filed, place filed, date settled, opposing attorney, case settlement amount, and attorney fees to date.

At the end of the year, the compilation of all case status spreadsheets will give managing partners the perfect overview of upcoming casework and trials, in addition to closed and settled matters (not to mention, incoming income!).

Casework assignments 

In a similar vein, Excel can expedite the process of assigning cases to attorneys. Excel can be used as a method to effectively organize case assignments and avoid duplication of work effort.

That way, when a senior attorney wants to know who is creating the timeline (in Excel, of course) for his case matter, the information, including the name of the assigned associate and the status of his or her work, is quickly and clearly accessible.

 

Timelines 

For internal reference and trial presentations, timelines are an essential weapon in a litigants quiver. Lawyers involved in complex litigation must have a clear understanding of the chronology of the case.

However, these timelines are also vital to a firm when the case goes to trial—jury members must understand case chronology, as well.

This means a timeline must be both functional and visually stimulating. Enter, Excel.

Excel has the ability to sort timelines by event and date in a meaningful and demonstrative way. Microsoft in Education even provides a tutorial to explain exactly how to achieve this in its article, “Create A Timeline In Microsoft Excel.”

Timesheets

Today, an increasing number of lawyers are using Mac computers and Apple software at the office. Just read the titles of new legal blogs on the web, including Mac Lawyer, Law Office Software For The Macintosh, and Criminal Defense With An Apple.

Even those lawyers, however, are keen on Microsoft products. Take, for example, Esquire Mac’s discussion of billable hour software versus Excel:

“Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly simple but flexible spreadsheet for tracking my billable time. For our firm, this represents the ideal solution at present. I have taken a liking to a few different Mac billing apps out there (like Billings, Involer, Invoice, GrandTotal, and iRatchet) but each of them falls short in one way or another for our purposes.”

No need to purchase expensive billing software when Microsoft Office is already uploaded to your office computers.

In addition, though some firms may have staff or consultants dedicated to case management analysis, for smaller firms, organizing timesheets in Excel can help trend your most significant cases over time.

For example, 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.

Access to this type of information will make a firm more attentive to any clients who might be falling through the cracks, and also increase its overall profitability, after it knows where to devote more billable hours.

In the end, Excel has applications in many industries. If Excel is not frequently used in law, it’s because lawyers tend to fear it.

But, help forums and tutorials for Excel are copious online. These days, attorneys have no valid claims to MS-Office ignorance.

So, start small and get familiar with Excel’s massive potential for your firm. After all, the best part about Excel is that you already own it.

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Be Your Firm’s Rising Star (& Firm Productivity Tips)

If opportunity knocks—let it in! But for the rest of your work days, which seem to drag on, there are only the opportunities you make for yourself.

We’re told to be obsessed with productivity. On Wednesday, the height of the week, it’s easy to be obsessed with productivity. But Fridays, well, that’s another story.

But, what can we do specifically at law firms to improve productivity? Set the mood. Shut the door. Play calming music. Set a timer and work in 15-minute increments to keep totally focused.

At least, those are among the suggestions in an article by Forbes, “Five Ways To Be Amazing At Work,” by Steve Siebold, a corporate consultant and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.

Productivity is often about time management. Allocate a certain amount of time to a task and then disconnect. Unplug the phone and put “do not disturb” on your office door. The fewer interruptions the better the creative flow.

The second step to being amazing at work is to solve problems says Siehold.

This is an easy one. At work, keep a running tally of problems at the firm and within case matters. Create a two-column page with one side “problems” and the other “solutions.” It’s amazing how such a short exercise can go a long way in solving problems with law firm management practices or with cases in particular.

Third, take risks. For law firms, this isn’t necessarily the best advice. Of course, risk taking can pay off. But, it can also backfire. Luckily, there’s a simple adjective that can solve this problem. Take calculated risks.

And, take calculated risks on people. Give young associates a chance to shine.

“The great ones never play it safe when it comes to leading their teams through change, knowing their job is to serve as a guide and coach,” writes Siehold. 

Fourth, have a strong work ethic.

For lawyers, it’s important to have a strong ethic in general. Don’t forget the right and wrong of cases you’re trying to win. Dedication to your work and believing in its ethic will go a long way to increasing your passion and productivity.

Finally, find a coach. For law firms, a coach should be a mentor, whether it’s a senior associate or law firm partner. Mentorship is an important part of the law.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

In any business, it pays to let people make mistakes. And, if you establish a mentorship program, it’s likely your firm will gradually see less and less of them.

With proper training, your employees can learn to communicate and cope–with confidence–during moments of both success and failure. Not to mention that, in the future, your firm will gain good leaders and good lawyers.

For more ideas about how to increase productivity at your firm, take C4CM’s audio course, “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 PM Eastern to 3:15 Eastern.

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)

-WB

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized