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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Radical Solutions to Lawyer Overwork

A correspondent from Europe wrote me recently to ask if I had any thoughts about unhealthy work schedules and high billing pressures facing young law firm associates. I had assumed this was strictly an Anglo-American problem, but based on what my correspondent told me, it seems that wherever in the world there are sizeable full-service law firms, there are overworked and over-stressed lawyers inside them.

The usual expressions of concern are being made by bar associations and the firms themselves, and there’s been talk of task forces, educational webinars, voluntary programs, and so on. I told my correspondent that I . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Cure for Access to Justice Is a Just Society

Tuning in to a discussion about access to justice, we might think, mistakenly, that the big problem is how much the legal system costs. The cost of litigating a dispute is too high, it goes, and so lawyers should flatten fees, cap fees, and unbundle fees, fleeing fees like so many fleas. Only the richest (they have the money) and the poorest (they have so little they qualify for aid) can litigate, so to achieve justice for the masses we should turn to alternative dispute models like mediation and online dispute resolution. The justice system is too complicated and too . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Why Law Firms Should Care About $26m Digital Art

In March of this year, artist Mike Winklemann, AKA “Beeple”, sold a compilation of digital art for $26m through Christie’s. The artwork was comprised of 5,000 images, created daily over a 13-year period. Unless your firm is planning on investing in digital art anytime soon, why should law firms care about this sale? Because whether you are a Managing Partner or a Marketing Director, business strategy is about identifying important shifts in the marketplace BEFORE they are entirely relevant to your current business processes so you can determine if and how they might affect you and your client base in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Solving the Associate Retention Challenge With Developmental Networks

As a coach, I am intensely interested in how we – professionals in the legal sector – can help retain young lawyers in the profession.

The young lawyers I speak with have a healthy perspective. They have the types of strengths and interests that align well with a career in law. They are interested in building meaningful and rewarding careers that also leave room for a life outside of law. I believe they are vital to helping transform the practice of law for the better.

And we need to retain them in the profession.

Too many young lawyers are leaving . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Negotiating for Yourself – the Roadmap to Follow

Jane wants to ask the partner she works with about raising her salary, but she is afraid to initiate the conversation.

John works with a disorganized partner who is a last-minute delegator. John has ideas about how he can better support the partner but doesn’t know how to raise the subject.

Why is it that speaking up and making requests can be so hard to do? Why does self-advocacy raise so many fears?

The difficulty in speaking up is often about the tension between exercising personal power and tending to our relationships.

It can seem like communicating about what’s important . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Major League Baseball Could Transform Lawyer Development

Spring is here, so allow me to introduce you to Joshua Palacios, a young outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays who has something to teach us about the development of new lawyers.

Josh, who is 25, made great strides last summer at an “alternate training site” that the Blue Jays created for their young players when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the minor-league season. And during spring training in March, he tore the cover off the ball and made spectacular defensive plays in the outfield. Combined with strong character and leadership skills, his new productivity made him a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Are You Getting Paid Fairly? a Primer

One way to look at whether your salary is fair is to understand how a law firm calculates your value. We’re going to look at the numbers behind such a calculation with a concrete example and assume you’re a lawyer making $100,000 a year. This is intended only as a primer – adjust the numbers and add/subtract factors according to your own facts.

What is your value to a firm? Profit, of course

There are two bottom-line numbers to calculate your value to a firm in terms of profit: how much money you make for the firm, and how much . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Bias and Project Management

Cognitive bias is:

  1. Making decisions or judgments not supported by objective reality;
  2. The subject of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow;
  3. A barrier to effective Legal Project Management;
  4. All of the above.

As a lawyer, you probably have some familiarity with cognitive biases. (If you do defense work, your clients are likely very familiar… from experience.) However, I want to focus on some ways cognitive biases can screw up projects.

(I’m deferring my promised column on project charter disasters to next time.)

Anchoring, or “First Liar”

We can’t help it. Someone tells us about a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How to Build Up Confidence: Start With Courage

I wish I had more confidence.
How can I become more confident?

In coaching conversations with junior lawyers, concerns about lack of confidence and questions about how to build it up come up a lot. This is such a common challenge it is addressed directly in the opening session of AMP (Associate Mentorship Plus) Club in the context of career navigation and what to expect in the early years of practice.

Wouldn’t it be easier if I was confident?

Yes, probably.

Lack of confidence can feel like a unique challenge. Looking around is can seem like other lawyers appear confident. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Dealing With Toxic Law Partners

Have you got one of these at your firm?

  • A lawyer who likes to work out his stress by getting angry and yelling verbal abuse at junior lawyers and staff members.
  • A lawyer who yells vulgarities at opposing counsel at high volume so that everyone on the floor can hear.
  • A lawyer who takes credit for other people’s ideas or work product.
  • A lawyer who expects everyone else to follow the rules but takes pleasure in breaking them because he’s got seniority.
  • A lawyer who regularly has the legal team working nights and weekends because they are disorganized and only
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

What Law Firms Should Focus on in 2021

Over the years, I’ve had the honour of being invited into many law firms to examine and make recommendations on their strategy, structure, practice areas, compensation, management, leadership, and marketing.

My initial advice is always the same: start with a strategic plan so you understand your long-term goals before you attempt any short-term implementation. But aside from this, my advice tends to move quickly to ensuring the right people are doing the right things. This might require some process or structural re-organization within the firm but the end of the day it all boils down to one thing: establish and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Introspection and Revelation in Testing Times

It’s been a year of discovery for many of us. Some introspection is called for, so here goes.

1. Silence is best enjoyed in the midst of noise

For years, I have identified myself as an introvert, insofar as personalities can be classified, anyway. I dreamed of owning a cabin in the country, sitting quietly in front of a fireplace, reading a book or surfing the interwebs, looking out into a pristine lake, nothing but nature and me. I gave hundreds of talks to crowds, sure, but returned home exhausted. I hobnobbed, sure, but enjoyed more the company of one . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law