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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Billing Targets: Are They Driving Women Lawyers Out of the Profession?

Recently a male partner said to me that while practicing law in a firm has always been more challenging for women, he believes that today it is almost impossible. This bold statement surprised me – not because I am unaware of the many challenges that women lawyers face but because I look at how far we have come over the past 30 years and cling to the hopeful belief that progress is being made.

When I remember how challenging it was for women to obtain articles or be kept on as associates with the assumption that women would leave as . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Your Call Is Important to Us

“When it comes to customer service,” James Surowiecki noted in an insightful New Yorker column last month, “it seems people are unhappy no matter what side of the counter they’re on.” Surowiecki’s article describes how the only ones more miserable than those who provide front-line customer service these days are those who receive it: neither the buyer nor the seller values or enjoys the post-transaction relationship. 

The reason is pretty simple: during the recession (and, Surowiecki points out, even more so during the boom that preceded it), companies slashed customer service because it was little more than a cost center . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Gender Compensation Gap

There is a commonly held myth that the gender gap in partner compensation is due to women billing fewer hours and spending less time on client development due to their greater responsibilities at home. This myth has been exploded in a recent study [PDF] published by The Project For Attorney Retention and sponsored by the ABA Commission for Women in the Profession.

Amongst other findings, the report states that factors that work against women partners include the lack of women on compensation committees where bonuses and compensation criteria are set; the lack of transparency around compensation criteria; the lack of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Mortgage Life Insurance: 3 Things You Need to Know

While you were signing the paperwork for your mortgage, did a bank employee ask you to consider purchasing mortgage insurance protection? You were probably told “…it will pay your mortgage if you die…just a few medical questions… it’s inexpensive…”. While that person may have had the best of intentions, he or she probably lacked the training needed to make you aware of important contractual details and how these compare with other insurance protection options. 

Here are 3 important things you should know about most mortgage insurance policies: 

1. You do not control the benefit

In the event of your . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

To Quote the Donald: “You’re Fired”

My experience in private practice – and from my conversations with other sole practitioners in smaller markets, it was a common one – was that it was, at times, a roller-coaster. Billings were often feast or famine. To compensate, lawyers can develop a thick skin when it comes to dealing with difficult clients. Our tolerance level went up just for the sake of regular billings.

Another experience that I occasionally enjoyed – and again, from my conversations with other sole practitioners in smaller markets, it was a not uncommon one – was that it was good to terminate the relationship . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Getting From Surviving to Thriving

Ever feel like you were falling behind in all the important areas of your life? As the pace of work shifts into high gear in September it is all too easy to get trapped in survival mode – just working to make it through each day and pushing aside your own personal priorities and objectives. 

I have had many lawyers tell me they feel they are failing at both their jobs in life – as parents and as lawyers. These professionals are men and women from different firms and different parts of Canada. One thing I know for sure is . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Advice for Those in Support Positions

I happened to have had lunch with a new marketing professional recently. I spent some time briefing her on the strategic project that I was doing with her firm. During our discussions she asked if I might have any advice for her, given that I’ve spent three decades working with law firms and this was her first foray into professional services.

Now, I’ve heard from a number of business development professionals about how they spend far too much of their time having to justify their existence at their firm; how no one knows or appreciates the contribution that they are . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The 2.0 Law Practice

Despite the advent of Smartphones (Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) and the many ways they facilitate our lives (i.e. we can now start a car, open a bank account, receive and send e-mails, read the news, etc.), the legal profession still seems to be behind on technology. Although the technology is clearly available, we unfortunately fail to take advantage of its full potential. We have all the tools and gadgets necessary to practice the law from our own homes, without ever even having to physically meet a client or go to court. In fact, the virtual world is less costly, greener, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Reap the Rewards of Volunteering

The highest of distinctions is service to others.

— King George VI

I’ve been fortunate to have been presented with a number of opportunities to volunteer and provide support to many worthwhile organizations and causes since I started practicing as a lawyer while I’ve actually never stopped to consider why I volunteer until now. When I did pause to contemplate my motivation I realized a number of things. My volunteer activities have ranged from volunteering at a music festival, and acting as a moot court judge for a law school, to being on the board of various volunteer organizations such . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Mentoring: Important for Men – Crucial for Women

A concern that I hear frequently from women lawyers is the lack of recognition and compensation for those partners – often women – who devote time to building up the human capital in their law firms. This includes time spent mentoring younger lawyers or working on the firm’s education, articling or associate development committees. When it comes to dividing up the partnership profits at the end of the year, it is typically only billable hours and collected revenue that counts and not time spent ensuring a stronger future for the firm. 

For many women lawyers, this is frustrating because mentoring . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Disappointment of Data

Driving the other day, I saw the following electronic highway sign:

Rte. I-90 19 mins
Rte. 520 14 mins

There are only two bridges from Bellevue to Seattle, so I had to choose one of these routes. No-brainer, right? Take Rte. 520 and save five minutes.

Not so fast, so to speak. Seattle’s not a small town. Both these routes lead there, but they leave drivers in very different places. Does “Seattle” refer to where each road enters the city, or to a specific spot? If the latter, where? Depending on where I want to go in Seattle, I-90 . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Letting the Clients Decide

How much should you charge for your work? That’s a tough call for any lawyer to make, which is one of the reasons many of us default to a billable-hour system that we know doesn’t really reflect value delivered. So here’s one way to solve that problem: let your client decide how much to pay you.

In case you think that’s ten kinds of crazy, you should know that that’s exactly what UK firm CMS Cameron McKenna is doing. The 300-lawyer firm is making this and similar suggestions the centerpiece of a new marketing campaign that highlights its alternative fee . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law