Tag Archives: Productivity

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.


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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.



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

Excel is a tool for Wall Street, right?


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.



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.”


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.


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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)


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When Winter Storms Wreak Havoc On Employee Commute, Why Law Firms Don’t Have To Suffer

This weekend into Monday, the New England area underwent a bombogenesis… now there’s a term you don’t see everyday.

The term generally refers to a storm whose minimum pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, according to meteorologists; in layman’s words? The storm was really strong and rapidly intensifying!

Snow and strong winds were proof of the bombogenesis that bombarded most of New England yesterday. Winter Storm Mars created blizzard conditions in a large part of Massachusetts, covering the city of Orleans with 10 inches of snowfall. However, Mars did not spare other States of its tempest, hitting Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine.

New York’s JFK Airport cancelled 50 flights; LaGuardia airport cancelled more than 300 flights; and airports and Boston and New Jersey faced extensive delays and cancellations, according to FlightAware.com.

Hundreds of public schools were cancelled on Friday and Connecticut alone witnessed 258 car crashes. If your daily commute was already slow, let’s face it, Friday and Monday were the worst.

All these reasons and more are why your firm should pay for your employees’ commute. When it’s cold or stormy outside, the last thing employees want to do is head to the office. In fact, the winter months most employees would pay to stay in bed.

But, with the right incentives, your firm can attract happy, productive associates to your benefit.

Retain the employees you value most.

Between heavy snowfall and gas prices, employees find it difficult to justify a long commute to work. What was once an easy freeway drive for 45 minutes can now cost employees as much as $20 extra per day.

The ability to live in safe, cheap suburb, coupled by the additional time necessary to drive to work is enough to drive away your best talent.

In order to retain the employees you value most, offer to pay their commute to work. It serves as real-money savings as well as good-will gesture.

Move your office to cheaper real estate.

If your firm is headed into the black, it may be time to move house. But finding more affordable real estate may lead to a loss in willing workers.

With the right location, the difference in rent should more than cover an offer to pay employee commuter costs.

Changing offices could be just what the doctor ordered to revive your ailing accounting. Travel stipends will limit the internal grumbling.

Incentivize your employees to work weekends.

Snowday Friday? Schools cancelled? No problem. Close up shop and move meetings to Saturday. Have the firm pick up the tab for food and transport. Friday can be spent with the kids who are home from school and Saturday will make up for lost time on the company dime. That’s something employees can stomach.

Allow the occasional telecommuting.

Bringing home proprietary or confidential client information is a real concern. It’s why a lot of firms force employees to be at the office for all casework. In these instances, use transport stipends to substitute for telecommuting options.

Provide monetary compensation—and get creative—for traveling to and from the office with extra dispensation for rush hour, after-hours, or weekends.

At the same time, understand that some weather-related (or child-related) emergencies just can’t be helped. Don’t throw a fuss when employees call out for the occasional telecommute.

Forbidding telecommuting totally will likely be ill-received by your staff.

Find a reason for hope (and savings) to transform snow days into productive, morale-raising days. Your firm, and its employees, can benefit equally from seasonal changes and tropical storms.


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Old New Year’s Resolutions? Why Senior Management Should Promote Work-Life Balance

According to a 2015 Gallup study, about 50 percent of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job “to get away from their manager.”

On the other hand, half of those surveyed who fully agreed with the statement “I feel I can approach my manager with any type of question” are considered actively engaged in their work, reports Wall Street Journal, a strong indicator that manager openness may be tied to worker productivity, summarizes Forbes.

On average, almost a quarter of full-time employees plan to change jobs at year’s end. Can your firm afford this much employee turnover due to bad management?

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” writes Chad Brooks, a BusinessNewsDaily contributor.

Career paths are often dictated, if not totally controlled, by an employee’s manager. So if communication is poor—so is, most likely, employee performance

In addition, of the 79 percent of employees who do not plan to leave their jobs at the end of the fiscal year, many cite work-life balance satisfaction—also a contributor to job unhappiness—as the source.

So if positive work-life balance, coupled with good management, leads employees to stay with their firm, isn’t it time your law firm reevaluate its promotion policies and perks?

Time and time again, companies, including law firms, have acknowledged the advantages of offering Flex scheduling.

This may mean working one day per week, or every two weeks, remotely.

“I work a four-day week which is incredibly valuable, and I’ve been really encouraged to see that some of my male colleagues have switched to working flexibly so that they can meet the demands of a young family,” says Lauma Skruzmane about her city law job to Yahoo News.

“For me, this also underlines the fact that balancing work and family is not to be branded a ‘women’s’ issue, but it is a challenge that all parents, or other careers, face.”

But parents aren’t the only demographic looking for flexible hours.

Working from home can be a relief for anyone. Perhaps your law office is experiencing temporary negativity in its corporate culture. Maybe the office has become of hub for gossip or distraction.

Whatever the reason, traditional workspaces may not be the most productive environment for all your associates. Allow them to take advantage of new media and technology, which often means anybody can be digitally anywhere at any time. Remind your management that good work doesn’t necessarily mean office work.

A healthy work-life balance also means adequate exercise.

Sign your firm up with a local gym. Give your employees incentive to work out at lunch or after dinner. Exercise will help improve efficiency and productivity among your staff by relaxing the brain and increase endorphins in the body. Exercise is one of those old New Year’s Resolutions–one that everybody tries and many people quit. Make it stick in 2016.

Finally, lead by example. Take coffee breaks. Make time for face-to-face visits with your employees. And, don’t miss your child’s first student bake-sale because you felt obligated to stay an extra hour at the office.

Let you employees take five every once in awhile or risk taking their two-weeks notice.

And finally, train your managers to understand that additional perks often lead to higher performance, as well as happiness, in their work force. In the end, senior staff should provide the model for team members to emulate and even admire.

New year, new laws, more headaches for employers.

Each year, the federal courts and state legislatures are busy altering the landscape of employment laws, and usually to the employer’s detriment. To avoid costly litigation, employers must stay abreast of annual changes impacting the workplace.

Figuring out how to adapt quickly to accommodate employee rights and manage employer responsibilities can be daunting. It’s even harder to comply with legal obligations you don’t even know you have.

Learn more in C4CM’s audio course here.

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Getting Over The Post-Thanksgiving Hump: A Few Organizational Tips For Cold Weather

Thanksgiving wasn’t a day to give thanks for everyone this year. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin was forced to declare a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to the winter storm and flooding. The Governor’s office reported that nearly 100,000 homes were still without power Sunday afternoon as a result of freezing rain, ice and sleet, according to USA Today.

Rains continued in Kansas and North Texas, as well, where waterways swelled and flood watches remained in effect, the AP reported. Seven people were swept away in high water in the Trinity River in Dallas Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, they were able to be rescued from the swift water.

But don’t let a dreary holiday engulf your weekly goals. Through a few easy steps, you can salvage a productive and welcoming start to what’s likely to continue to be a wet week.

1. Concentrate despite the cold

Although the autumn weather is finally be turning, your office heat may still be turned off.

If you find yourself losing concentration in a cold office, try using the countdown method. Look at the clock and plan to work ten more minutes, read ten more pages, or write ten more lines of a brief. Then, reward your effort with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

Whether it’s due to temperature issues or end-of-the-workweek procrastination, don’t lose your focus. Counting down a few more minutes will help you finish that less stretch of work before heading home. Or, finishing that last memo before going to lunch.

You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve in just a few more minutes. More often than not, having a distinct, short-term deadline to complete a task will bring back your fat-waning concentration.

2. Do the most important task first

It’s easy to waste your day working on little projects—filing papers or filling out timesheets, for example.

But, procrastinating with the more important case-related matters you left behind will only lead to a weekend spent at the office.

So, today, find your most important task at hand. Complete this item first.

If you funnel your concentration and effort into one, single work item, you’ll be more satisfied with your progress, and you’ll have set a more manageable tasks to complete before the end of the week.

3. Ignore your email

Obsessing about incoming e-mail is the quickest way to lose your work momentum.

So, maintain your concentration by ignoring new, incoming e-mails—at least for awhile.

Create a schedule for checking them (say, every hour). This will also give you an occasional, much-needed break from completing your more important projects.

4. Don’t forget your to-do list

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your concentration starts to decline. There feels like just too much to do in so little time.

Creating a to-do list is one of those basic, old, but still valuable tasks for any professional. Create a to-do list for the day and for the week. If you can, assign dates to each task (you can modify them later).

Creating a to-do list will get you in the habit of writing things down.

After every phone call, e-mail, or in-person conversation, write down the project being discussed, along with the related-tasks.

This is one of the many reasons why Excel was created and can be used by lawyers.

At the end of the day, you’ll be grateful for the visual representation of all your work—especially once you see that none is urgent and hump day has finally transformed into the weekend.

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