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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

External Legal Spend Management – Controlling “Rate Creep”

Background

It would be a safe bet to assume that almost every in-house lawyer and CFO in the country expresses concern about managing external legal spend. A material amount of effort is spent with external legal service providers about managing rising legal costs. However, typically this focuses solely on the current rate structure being offered. This is only one part of a well defined legal services delivery platform. In addition to articulating the current fee structure, an intentional approach to fee reviews is necessary to effectively manage the effect of “rate creep” (the year over year increase of fees without . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Leaning in Without Falling Over

The challenge for many women lawyers in the “Lean In” age is to lean in without falling over. This means developing sufficient resiliency to manage demanding clients in an increasingly competitive world while also managing family and personal responsibilities. Resiliency is a key leadership skill. However, women often need to approach resiliency differently than men.

While both women and men need to exercise, get sufficient sleep, and eat well, women often need to pay attention to three other important elements to gain sufficient energy to lead demanding lives as lawyers.

Firstly, women must give themselves permission to take time for . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Up Your Resilience and Effectiveness With This Time Scarcity Thinking Reboot

Have you ever felt like there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done?

Well this May found me in a panic about a presentation I was giving with a fellow coach for a large group of women lawyers. At the heart of my panic was the thought “there isn’t enough time to prepare” followed by a second thought “and so I am not going to be good enough”.

That thought “there’s not enough time” raises much anxiety and stress in the legal profession and is the root cause of a lot of inefficiency, procrastination and wine guzzling.

The culprit . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Become a Five-Tools Project Manager

Baseball scouts dream of finding up-and-coming five-tools players. These rising stars hit for power, hit for average, speed around the bases, throw accurately, and field their positions well. Every position player in the major leagues has solid grades on at least a few of these tools, but only a handful have mastered all five.

Legal Project Management, as well, has five tools, each corresponding to one of the five areas you can manage:

  • Manage the project, starting with the project charter.
  • Manage the client, starting with the Conditions of Satisfaction.
  • Manage time, starting with the Off Switch.
  • Manage money, starting
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Justice Incubators

Incubators are in. They are popping up everywhere; Google the word and see. Most of your hits will have nothing to do with babies born too soon. There are even national associations of incubators. In these economic times an incubator is a thing that helps starting entrepreneurs further develop and scale up their idea. For a good definition, see here. Incubators started in the strictly for-profit world. With the rise of social entrepreneurship and the idea of impact investing, they have also moved into that area. I have been asking myself for the past year how we can benefit . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Voices, My Personal Demons

I am not sure if the voices in my head were inherited or created for survival. I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and medical opinion suggests that the predisposition to this disease is inherited. All I know is that the voices are part of my disease and long before I took a drink and for as long as I can remember they were there.

At first the voices helped me cope with a very abusive father. However, even from a young age the voices were more detrimental than helpful. They told me “you are bad, you deserved it, you . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Basics of Strategic Planning

In April, I summarized an annual spring cleaning process that I recommend to clients in a post entitled “6 Steps for Small Firm Spring Cleaning”. The final step that was recommended for small firms was the development of a strategic plan. In the April post I stated that “Strategic plans do not have to take an inordinate amount of time to develop and they do not have to become unwieldy documents that nobody uses.” I then promised that my next post would include some basic tips for developing a strategic plan and below is my attempt to do so.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Value of Professional Associations

Background

In speaking with other in-house counsel, it is apparent that the majority face challenges with resource constraints. Chief among these are constraints around headcount and budget, and generally being able to find ways to handle the volume of work required. In the face of this reality, common reasons expressed for not belonging to professional associations or financially supporting members of their team to do so include “I don’t have the budget,” “I don’t have the time” or “I am too busy.” In the long run, I suggest companies have much to gain by permitting, and even encouraging, their professionals . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

8 Auto Insurance Myths

1. A speeding ticket means your insurance rates will go up

Most companies will not increase your insurance rates for a first time, minor speeding ticket. However, if you accumulate two or three convictions within a few years, or get a major speeding ticket (more than 50 km/h over the speed limit), and you can expect a big rate increase, or a cancellation letter from your insurer.

2. Parking tickets can increase your insurance rates

Parking tickets do not have an impact on your auto insurance rates, but unpaid parking fines could affect your ability to renew your driver’s license . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Five Tips From Improv Theatre for Busy Legal Professionals

Mary starts each day by choosing her top three priorities. Inevitably, by noon at least one of those priorities has been swept aside in favour of something more urgent coming in.

This is just a small example of what our lives are like these days. Change is upon us continuously. Changes in technology, in the marketplace, in our clients’ businesses, and at our firms, call for us to develop our ability to respond creatively to our environment.

Improvisation is about performing in the moment. It is about being fully responsive to the world around us. We see the opportunities and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Women and the Imposter Syndrome

The Atlantic Magazine has another blockbuster cover story in their May edition investigating the confidence gap between men and women.

Following on the heels of Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller “Lean In”, the article examines the internal belief (held more frequently by women than men) that someday, someone will discover that despite being a senior law firm partner, they have been fooling everyone and are not competent to do the job. It is remarkable how frequently the aptly named “imposter syndrome” not only holds women back from taking on more senior roles but continues to haunt them once they attain senior status. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

That Elusive Thing Called Justice Leadership

In a fascinating new book that has just been published, What Should We Be Worried About?, John Naughton expresses his big worry:

[W]e are increasingly enmeshed in incompetent systems – that is, systems that exhibit pathological behavior but can’t fix themselves (…) because solving the problem would require coordinated action by significant components of the system, but engaging in such action is not in the short-term interest of any individual component (…). So in the end, pathological system behavior continues until catastrophe ensues.

Legal systems can be like that: incompetent and unable to change. In this column I reflect . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law