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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

The Problem With Associate Fee Splits

Compensation is a reflection of value, but also has the purpose of motivating workers. Where compensation is a fee split, make sure that your offer is accomplishing both of these objectives.

I work predominantly with small to medium-sized law firms in Canada, so my comments here reflect that particular marketplace. And within that market, over the past five years, it has become increasingly common for law firms to compensate Associates through a fee split: paying the Associates with a percentage of their collected revenue instead of a salary. This appears to have started due to the challenge in finding and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Making It Work: Finding Opportunities in Project Upheaval

Seth Godin writes in his book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable, “The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.” This is the mantra that keeps me going through every legal information content project I’ve been involved with as a knowledge engineer. But sudden and what often seem like inevitable changes in funding, timelines or resource allotment can be overwhelming. Being told to pivot or be resilient in the face of adversity without practical solutions is only so helpful.

I found myself in such a situation, as briefly . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

Shifting the Balance to Service From Servitude – With a Focus on Meaning

Service is meaningful. Service is motivating. Ask one hundred lawyers what they most enjoy about their work, and most will tell you it is helping clients.

What is meaningful to lawyers about their work is, in a word, service.

What is burning them out is servitude.

In article one of this series, I explored the factors that cause service to slip into servitude and the negative consequences of this. If you haven’t read that article, please start there.

In this article, I will continue to explore another powerful lever for rebalancing the scales back towards service – meaning.


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Posted in: Practice of Law

Make Professional Awareness a Critical Component of Lawyer Licensing

Last year, I submitted a report to the Law Society of British Columbia concerning the lawyer development and licensing system in that province. The report made only one recommendation — that BC create and adopt an entry-level lawyer competence framework as the basis for a new licensure system — which the law society’s Benchers accepted.

But my report also included a range of what I called “suggestions” — actions that I thought were worthwhile and beneficial, but that didn’t rise to the level of full “recommendations” that the Benchers would have to approve or reject. My goal was to encourage . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Do You Know Your Firm’s DNA?

A desire to redo my living room has caused me to become addicted to reality TV programs involving design. And to prove that you can learn about business from virtually anywhere, here is an important lesson I learned from “Making the Cut” (if you can believe it).

“Making the Cut” is a clothing design contest that begins with a number of accomplished, talented designers and through competition, whittles them down to two or three finalists. These compete in a full runway show where they must present an entire collection, this last task generally undertaken in a three-day period.

Judges can . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Getting Ideas Into Action – One Lawyer’s Story

Having a new idea or insight form in our mind feels great. Each “aha” comes with a release of dopamine that gives us a sensation of pleasure.

Unfortunately, most good ideas don’t progress beyond the initial insight. Goals, no matter how worthy, take a lot of time and resources to implement.

It can be a long and tedious process to put plans into action. It is one thing to have an idea for a book and quite another to undertake the arduous effort to write and publish it.

That is why I was excited this month to speak with lawyer . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Disability, Diversity, and Empathy in the Legal Profession

We are already working with more people with disabilities than we think,” says Ben Lumicao, an in-house counsel in Chicago with a visible disability (cerebral palsy). More than a quarter of Americans have a disability of some kind, but only 30% of those fall into the “visible” spectrum Lumicao describes.

That’s an arresting thought for those of us currently without disabilities, and especially so in the legal profession. Many lawyers with invisible or less visible disabilities keep them hidden — in part, the article suggests, because of our profession’s cultural obsession with strength and fear of appearing weak. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What Law Firms Can Learn From Plagues

You might have heard of the online game, World of Warcraft. It has 8 million players in any given month. On September 13, 2005, the game became infected with a blood plague. It was started intentionally by the game designers and was to have been restricted to a particular area of the game. But somehow, it got out and in no time, was killing off everything in site, including characters that players might have spent years building up.

The game developers and members of the community attempted to slow the spread by warning other players to avoid certain areas of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

The Markers of Progress Are Doubt and Faith

As I paddled in the middle of the Bay of Fundy I looked into the distance and saw the outline of Campobello Island’s shore. The shimmer of warm air hovered over the land, creating a beautiful haze. Land!, I thought. Tired, hungry, and thirsty, I figured it wouldn’t be long and picked up my pace, hopping onto my knees to engage my butterfly stroke. My spirits rose but it was short-lived. An hour later I looked up and to my dismay and the shore didn’t look any closer. It felt like the wind had picked up and the currents were . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Don’t Sacrifice Health for Wealth

“Zeus granted Tithonus immortality but not youth. When hateful old age was pressing hard on him, with all its might, and he couldn’t move his limbs, much less lift them up, then she thought up this plan, a very good one indeed – she put him in her chamber, and she closed the shining doors over him.”

– Hymn to Aphrodite, Homer

Many of us have traded away our health for wealth. The consequence is an early death and, perhaps worse, painful old age. I have noticed, now in my second decade of dastardly discourse, how my colleagues and I . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Balance the Scales: Service vs Servitude™

The law is a helping profession. Outsiders might scoff, but all of us in the industry know this to be so.

Ask a thousand lawyers what they value about their work, and most will draw a connection to helping. One bankruptcy lawyer told me that what motivates him is helping people to make a fresh start. Business lawyers have spoken with passion about helping their entrepreneurial clients. Personal injury lawyers have told me how much they care about helping injured persons recover and rebuild their lives.

What is meaningful to lawyers about their work is, in a word, service.

What . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Fundamental Problem With “the Rule of Law”

Keep your eye on a fascinating project underway in England & Wales, where the Legal Services Board (overseer of all legal regulators there) has launched a “programme of work” devoted to ethics, professionalism, and the rule of law. These are subjects overdue for a critical reconsideration, given how much the world has changed in the last 15-20 years, and other countries certainly will benefit from the LSB’s work here.

It’s worth taking note, however, of the tone of the LSB’s early forays into this topic. A blog post from the Board’s regulatory policy manager, which makes several excellent . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law