"if you want to be more successful, you have to take a leadership position on something that matters"My wife jumped back in and told me a story of a proud parent that came into the elementary school and bragged about how her child was "a leader" in the classroom. It would have been interesting to ask that parent if she believed her child took a leadership on something that mattered… or if the child was just the "alpha-dog" of the class?
It made me think of the legal industry and the common approach that many firms take when something "new" comes into the picture. The "new" could be anything from technology, to business models, to opening new markets, to merging or acquiring peer firms. In an industry filled with extremely talented and smart individuals, the common approach to handling a change in the common approach is to ask "What are our peer's doing on this issue?" It appears to be a "let's chase each other's tails around" industry more than a "let's lead on something that matters" industry.
Let's take something that people in the legal industry are talking about lately — Legal Project Management (LPM).
As I sat through a day-long session at the Ark Group Conference in New York, I listened to speaker after speaker talk about LPM and how law firms need to implement these ideas that other industries have adopted for years now. In fact, one speaker told that crowd that the legal industry "has to implement" LPM because every other industry has already adopted it, and therefore, legal must adopt it.
After listening to a number of these cheerleaders, I turned to Toby and joked that the speakers seem to have forgotten the two most important reasons that a firm needs to answer in order to adopt a new business strategy:
- Is my client demanding that I make this change? (does LPM matter to my client?)
- Is my firm loosing money/business because our peers have implemented this change? (does LPM matter to my firm?)
Then maybe we are asking the questions in the wrong way. Perhaps the powers-that-be in a law firm should take a more proactive approach to the issue and ask these questions in the following way:
- Would making this change fulfill the needs of my clients? (would the results of implementing LPM procedures matter to my client?)
- Would implementing LPM procedures make my firm more competitive in keeping existing clients and attracting new clients? (would the results LPM procedures matter to the business development and client relations of the firm?)
By asking these questions in this way, you're taking on the proactive role as the leader, and not the reactive role of the follower.
I picked on Legal Project Management, but there are multiple examples of firms taking leadership roles on things that make for good PR, but that really just don't matter (to their firm, or their clients). In fact, as I was writing this post, the ABA Journal listed five traits on "What Future Law Firm Leaders Will Need." I point everyone back to MacLeod's quote, and remind them that "if you want to be more successful, you have to take a leadership position on something that matters."
If you have a few favorites, please feel free to share those with the rest of us in the comments!!
This Is Indexed
I've never met Jessica Hagy, but judging from her "little project" of putting index card drawings online that she makes "as the coffee brews", I'd have to say she's a freakin' genius. I enjoy seeing what pops up in my Google Reader feed each day from Indexed. Simple title… simple graphs… very smart!
|This Is Indexed by Jessica Hagy|
PhD (Piled Higher & Deeper)
Another smart comic that is relevant for anyone that ever went to grad school. It will bring back all of those memories you had about being one of the smartest people you've ever know, but still somewhere on the social ladder under the Manager of the local Denny's (who was making more money than you were… plus he didn't have $50K in student loans that he had to pay back.)
|"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham|
A Softer World
Edgy… funny… and sometime a little confusing. A Softer World takes photos and adds some simple dialog for the humor. If you like your comics with a bit of existentialism, then this one's for you.
|A Softer World by Emily Horne and Joey Comeau|
It's hard to believe how much thought can be drawn on the back of a business card, but Gaping Void proves once and for all that size doesn't matter (when it comes to comics anyway.) If you follow the latest technology trends, then you'll probably like the perspective given by Gaping Void.
|Gaping Void by Hugh MacLeod|
Let me know if you have some favorites of your own that you wouldn't mind sharing with the rest of us!!
The last one I'm going to mention will probably make you think less of me… because it is base "guy" humor. Sometimes, however, that's exactly what I need to help me through the day.
Least I Could Do
Judging from the seven plus years of work, I'd say that the writers and illustrators of this comic have a few childhood issues that they are working out. Luckily for them, they are funny, and they're not afraid to share a few of those issues with us. This isn't a "check your brain at the door" strip… it definitely has some thought behind it. However, it does track the life of a narcasis single male and the friends and family that seem to love him in spite of it all. Sometimes the language may make this one not suitable for work (if you work at a stodgy place, that is…) — so make sure language police aren't around before loading it up in your browser!
|Least I Could Do by Ryan Sohmer & Lar Desouza|
How do you market your department and yourself within the firm? What works and what doesn't?
We have some great perspectives from the help desk, library, marketing, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, and alternative fee points of view.
We'll do this all over again next week with an Elephant Post question that asks about what you like and don't like about the vendors you deal with (check out the full question at the bottom of this post.)
NOTE: In two weeks (Thanksgiving), we are going to do something fun!! I wanted to give everyone a little more notice because we're hoping to get a lot of people contributing to that one.
Help Desk Perspective:
In point of fact, the world *does* just come to my team for help (we’re the HelpDesk, after all)! That is still a bit simplistic, though – there’s still the question of customer perception. The real trick is not to have folks at your door because they’re a captive audience, but because they really want what you can (and do) deliver.
One of the efforts that my team has been engaging in is incredibly simple and similarly powerful. Show your face!
It’s all too easy for HelpDesk employees to become faceless voices. We take notes of who we’ve talked to through the day, and make a brief personal visit to one of those contacts that we didn’t know previously. That face-to-face contact has been worth its weight in gold for spreading a positive image of our team! When our coworkers consider the HelpDesk, we don’t want them to simply brood about problems and negativity. Instead, they have a recent encounter to consider that was both positive and personal.
Now we’re facing the next challenge; attempting to replicate as much of the benefit of that personal interaction as we can to firm employees in other offices…
Never Say “No Problem”
One of the greatest pieces of marketing advice I got was one the most straightforward and simple. Whenever you do anything for someone (in my case, usually research of some kind) and they reply with some version of “Thank You,” never ever reply with any variation of “No Problem.” Saying “No Problem” diminishes your value and the value of the work product that you provided. Say something like “You’re welcome. Glad what we provided was helpful to you.” Of course, there are lots of other things I do to market the library, many of which have already been discussed above, but this is a very easy, but effective, one that I think we should all remember.
Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Action or Taking Credit
There have been many times when I hear librarians at law firms make snide comments about the Marketing department getting credit for the work that the library does. It usually goes something like this: “Of course they’re good at marketing themselves… They’re Marketing!” Although that might be a true statement, it doesn’t mean that Marketing has cornered the market on taking credit for being a valuable asset to the firm.
One of the things I tell librarians is that when someone comes to you for research assistance, they are usually doing so because they absolutely need your help. When you complete that task, they are generally very grateful for the help you gave them. It’s okay to take credit for the work and let them know that they should come back to you next time they need help. In fact, mention that next time… don’t wait until 5:00 PM on Friday to ask for help. The earlier in the process they bring you in, the better the results will be.
Online Marketing Perspective:
My job is to make you look good.
If I have succeeded in making you look brilliant, then you will market for me. And as we all know, third-party endorsements are the best marketing techniques out there.
And my job is to look good.
My hair stylist told me that I was a walking business card. That is something I will never forget. Yes, it is shallow and we all hate it, but we also know it is true.
Dress like a million bucks and you will be treated like a million bucks. If you can’t afford to go to a styling coach, then ask someone who you admire and trust where they shop, where they get their hair done, where they get their facials. Looks matter. Period.
Alternative Fee Perspective:
A few years back an associate I was business coaching called me all excited. He had landed an on-site meeting with a client to talk about business opportunities. He called me from his cell phone on the way to the meeting asking what he should sell them. I told him not to sell them anything. Instead, I said he should just listen to them. You want them to talk about their pain points and what they want to buy. At first he thought I was a bit crazy, but fortunately he took my advice. He called me back later that day to say how well it went. Once he got them talking about their needs, he couldn't get them stop. It resulted in his first ‘billing’ matter.
Even as a teacher in this situation, I learned once again the power of listening. When lawyers call me about AFA opportunities, the first thing I do is listen. When given the chance, they not only tell me about the AFA, they talk about the client dynamic and relationship. Armed with this broader knowledge, I am more fully able to address their needs. They end up happy and very willing to call me the next time, usually sooner in the process and with better results. And they share their success with colleagues, which of course leads to more opportunities to ... listen.
Parent to child: Here Johnny, follow this link to understand your blind spots.
Attorney to client: Hey client, I just posted a link on your extranet that relates to your case. Read it at your leisure.
The other post was in the Columbia Spectator (Columbia University newspaper) about a (what I assume is an undergrad) student who found her way into the law library and was sorely disappointed in what she found:
- Lots of room to spread out and study
- No food or coffee
- No decent WiFi
- No cell phone reception
The student wasn't completely negative in what she found in the law library. For example, the service she received from the law librarians and staff was "exceptionally helpful and friendly." Hmmm… there's that word again… "service."
We've argued in the past that the library is not a place which only houses books, but rather is a place that serves its community and provides it with a place for that community to come (physically or virtually) to access the information that community requires. To equate a library as a place to find books is as short-sighted as equating it as a place to get coffee. Libraries serve their community. In serving the community, the library may offer coffee… bagels… rest rooms… WiFi… and even a book or two. All of these things are important, but they are secondary to the overall service that is provided to the community.
After checking back an hour later, I did something that I really didn't want to do… I checked the "comments" section below the online story. What I found showed the power of web 2.0, and both the good and the bad that comes with that power.
From the comments I learned that she was on a bicycle, in the bicycle lane at a red light. She went straight, while the garbage truck made a wide right-hand turn and didn't see her in the bike lane. Although the results of the accident were tragic, through the comments, the reported story, and from my own personal knowledge, I now had enough information to piece together what had happened. That was the "good" part of Web 2.0 – people on the scene giving accounts of an awful event.
Then came the "bad" part of Web 2.0.
One of the reasons that I hesitate to read comments on news stories like these is that people with no relationship to the story, hiding behind anonymous screen names, decide that what this story needs is their opinion to be heard. To make it worse, their is almost a competition between commenters of who can get the most "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" on their comments from other readers – the more "opinionated" the comment, the more "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" they receive.
A "savvy bicyclist" decided that this was a "teachable moment" and explained that what she should have done was put her bike half-way into the car lane instead of staying in the bike lane. This caused a reaction from another commenter to state how they've seen a bunch of "local apartment dwellers" on bikes carelessly cross that intersection and they are not surprised that this happened at all. Quickly followed up by another commenter that said that idiotic pedestrians are crossing against the red light all the time, and this is probably what happened (although they had no idea if that was true.)
So there I was… facing the "good" and the "bad" of news + Web 2.0. I got a better understanding of what happened – and that was good. I also saw the contempt of the community toward something that they had no understanding of, but still held out their opinions as though they did – and that was bad.
None of the commenters knew that if the young mother of two had made it across that intersection that she would have reported for her first day at a new job. None of those commenting knew that it was her son's birthday. None of those commenting had to come home tonight and tell their children that their friend's mom died today. None of those commenting had to watch their own children Facebook chat with a grieving friend who said that she'd be out of school for a while until after her mom's funeral.
In a Web 2.0 world, everyone has the ability to share their comments with the world. Most of the time I would give it a thumbs-up… but I have to admit that I don't feel as good about it right now.
I think I have finally figured out why lawyers don’t like social media. Typing.Yes, typing. Many of the lawyers of a certain generation are used to handing over dictaphone tapes, orating from behind podiums or simply taking handwritten notes on a legal pad.
They can’t be bothered to type.
Now, with the “burgeoning” of technology into all kinds of platforms that require hen-pecking, these lawyers are at a loss and “can’t be bothered.” These are the same attorneys who don’t know the difference between Outlook and Internet Explorer.
I’m so glad my dad made me take typing classes.
During that pro-feminist era, I scoffed at what I thought was his preparing me for a future as a secretary. Little did I realize that my dad was one of the first computer administrators of his generation—he got his Masters in Mathematics back in 1960. I have a hard time of conceiving of a Masters degree in Mathematics; pretty heady stuff. He saw where the world was going and he knew how important typing was going to become.
He was ahead of his time.
The best solution?
Vlingo, a dictaphone app built for BlackBerry phones. It works across a number of platforms including text messages, Twitter, Facebook, BBM, Yahoo and Windows Live. Plus, it will read your incoming messages to you.
So, see, you less tech-savvy lawyers can participate in social media too.
Now we just need to teach them how to download an app …
Doolings's latest book, Rapture of the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ, discusses (and makes fun of) a number of scientists, technologists, and lawyers and he seems to be either a very smart person… or a complete lunatic. I'm hoping for a bit of both.
I had to laugh, though, when I was reading a 2008 review of his book in ARS Technica and the "two-page" review ended page one with this quote:
"Which brings us to the Cylons"
What a hook!! I had to go to page two to see how the Cylons came into play, and I decided right then and there that I needed to borrow that for a blog post title!
Within a few minutes, I read this review, had a long talk with my E-Discovery support person, and got the email from a friend about an xkcd.com cartoon and diagrams from This is Indexed (both of which are worthy of a spot in your RSS feed!!)
My brain immediately came up with this Venn diagram: