I was thinking about this very question today.

Why couldn’t a law firm offer a Groupon for their services? Why not indeed?

It is not so disimilar from offering alternative fees.

I had recently read about a women-owned firm who were offering flat-fee services for divorces, custody battles and the like.

Why not a Groupon?

I can see it now: 50% off Legal Services: $100 for $200 worth of Family Law Services.

I challenge someone to do this and report on the results.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I just read a nifty little post by Amanda Neville, founder of Thinkso Marketing Agency, called “Quiz: Is It Time to Update Your Website?”.

I don’t know about you, but I love online quizzes. Maybe because they are a) short, or b) they make me feel smart, or c) I’m just a geek. (I think that the right answer is “c”, but I’m not sure. Maybe I should add “d) all of the above”?).

Anyways, I digress.

So here is my Law Firm version:

  • Is posting an item to your web site call for an act from Congress?: Do you have a web content management system or are you relying on your web developer to hand-code your news for you? If you don’t understand a word I just wrote in that last sentence, the answer is probably Yes.
  • Can people register online for your events and/or downloads? Or are your web site visitors having to hand copy an e-mail address and open a new window to send, then you have a problem and the answer is Yes.
  • Once people are registered for your events, does your secretary have then generate a word document of the attendees? Shame on you. At the least, she should be putting them in an Excel spreadsheet. You are Signori Negatori.
  • Is the first piece of navigation on your web site point to the Law Firm’s About Us page? Add five points to your total score. The site visitor does not want to read your 100-year history; he probably just wants your tax attorney’s phone number–after all, it is tax season. You are going down, buster.
  • Does your site have a flash introduction page? You need to pull it down now. It bugs everyone and no one is watching it anymore. Besides that, iPads can’t read it. Add another tic mark next to Yes.
  • Is your web site home page made up of one big fat image? This is the reason that your site isn’t making it on any search results. For the sake of search engine optimization, get rid of the bulky images. Another big, fat Yes.

If you answer Yes to more than 2 questions, you really do need to update your law firm web site.

Are you thinking about launching a law firm web site or redesigning your current one?Let me impart one tiny bit of wisdom that I have learned over the last 15 years in this business–wait, it’s been that long?! Oh, my. I am old …Anywhoo, back to my sage self: whether you are the designer, the project manager, the approving attorney or the outside consultant, please remember one very important thing.You are designing your law firm site for site visitors.Yes, this may seem like a no-brainer and should go without saying.But I cannot over-emphasize this point. Because there always comes a time when you are designing a site when you begin designing to please those who are approving the site rather than those who are visiting the site.Please remember, the law firm is not the client. The client is the client. Too many times I have seen law firm sites built to satisfy lawyers’ needs, ambitions and desires rather than considering what the site visitor needs.Think of it this way: what if you went on a hardware web site like Lowes or Home Depot and you were looking for latex paint. So you drill down to the paint category and there are all the paints listed in alphabetical order. Not by type, not by brand, not by size. Just in a huge list of paint numbers all jumbled together.You wouldn’t stay on that site for more than 5 seconds before you went on to the next hardware web site.Site visitors feel the same way when they go to a law firm web site and see befuddling lists, endless columns and streams of bullet points. I know it may sometimes seem easier to just please the approver but who really suffers in the end? That’s right: your business and your web traffic.So do the right thing and design it right. It is, in fact, what they are paying you to do.

Welcome to this week’s Elephant Post Question. I’m Greg Lambert, and you’re not.

Since we’re only a couple of days away from Christmas, we thought we’d throw out a fun Elephant Post this week that was 35 years in the making. We love Monty Python, and Star Trek, and Star Wars, and Doctor Who… but we are all big fans of Saturday Night Live, too. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t toss out some quote from SNL… usually as a snarky response to something I just read or in a conversation that needs to be lightened up. In fact, most of the time that I talk with my co-blogger Toby Brown, the conversation usually starts out with “Toby, you ignorant slut.”

So, we’ve got some library, competitive intelligence and marketing folks sharing with us some of the SNL quotes they like to pull out of the bag at work and why they like to use it.

I think we’ll skip the Elephant Post next week, but that will give you an additional week to come up with a contribution for our first Elephant Post of 2011. What Is Your New Year’s Resolution For Your Profession? Instructions for how you can contribute are listed at the bottom of this post (it is super easy!!)

Law Librarian Perspective
Cindy Bassett
Bad Idea

I am the person in meetings coming up with crazy projects for everyone to participate in.  The ones that will take over my colleagues’ work life . Some of my ideas are brilliant (at least to me and the patrons they would serve) and some…not so much. At times, I can almost hear the “Bad Idea” mutter coming from my colleagues.
I never think this myself though. 😉

Law Librarian and Competitive Intelligence Liaison  Perspective
Jan Rivers
The Big Picture

“And that, my friends, is the Big Picture.”
During SNL’s Weekend Update, A. Whitney Brown would comment on current events and put them in perspective by ending with, “And that, my friends, is the Big Picture.”
I make passing reference this at work and live by it on a daily basis.
To bring value to your business, you must be aware of the Big Picture.
What are the goals and objectives of your firm? How does your organization operate? How are profits generated? What are the issues that keep management up at night, etc., etc.?
You must understand how you fit within the Big Picture of not only your firm, but also your profession and industry.
If you don’t have the context of the larger whole, you make decisions in a vacuum and waste time and effort on tasks that are not valued or necessary.
With the advent of the “New Normal,” it is more important than ever to have a robust understanding of the Big Picture surrounding your work and your firm so that you can be nimble and proactive in the face of change.

Competitive Intelligence Perspective
Zena Applebaum
Hit and Run, Dine and Dash….

As CI people, we sometimes have to deliver news that no one wants to hear: a key competitor won a bid that your firm lost, a client has had a class action filed against them and so forth. Often, when faced with delivering this news, I think of Dennis Miller and the Weekend Update.  “That’s the news, folks, and I am outta here!”

Marketing Analyst Perspective
Danny Johnson
A hug from God

“I believe it’s just God hugging us tighter” – Tina Fey as Sarah Palin in response to her thoughts on global warming.
Every Friday the marketing and support teams at NetDocuments have lunch together and politics seems to be the popular discussion point. When a climate change issue came up a year or two ago, someone asked me (the moderate voice in the room) what my stance on global warming was. Being the witty man I am, and being fresh off of seeing SNL, I said, “”I believe it’s just God hugging us tighter.”” Half the room thought I was a mastermid…the other half thought I was an idiot. I don’t think their opinions have changes since.

More recenlty, when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, a co-worker sent me an email saying, “at least Sarah Palin will be able to watch the World Cup from her house.”

Internet Marketing Perspective
Lisa Salazar
That’s so funny, I forgot to laugh!

Here in law firm-ville, humour can be sorely lacking.
Every once in a while, to smooth the way, it’s good to inject some humour into meetings. It’s amazing how things can turn around and lighten up.
So maybe, next time you walk past your colleague, just say, “”there’s that wild and crazy guy.””
Make ’em laugh. I dare ya.

Knowledge Management Perspective
More Cowbell!
How many times do you sit in meetings and watch as the discussion focuses in on some minutia while skipping over the pivotal pieces that are important to getting things done? Whenever that happens, I want to say “you know what this policy needs?? More Cowbell!” 
Alternative Fees Perspective
I’m Not Worthy!

NOTE: Actually, Toby didn’t contribute to this week’s post, so I just thought I’d put that in there to make him feel bad about not contributing! – GL
What Is Your New Year’s Resolution For Your Profession?

What are the things you want to accomplish this year? What trends do you see on the horizon? What trends will get left behind in the year that was? 
Let us know what you plan to do this year. You can go to the Google Docs Form to share your New Year’s Resolution with us! Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

We’re big fans of social media here at 3 Geeks… blogging, twittering, LinkedIn’ing… all of that. Whether it is making connections, finding information on obscure topics, or keeping up with the latest rumors, social media is one of the best communications tools available today. Let us know how it has helped you in your profession, or how you think it will help someday in the future. Here are some perspectives from law librarians, marketing analysts, knowledge management, marketing, coaching, and information technology. Enjoy! Also, take a look at next week’s Elephant Post question (down at the bottom of this post) as we make you think of how you use quotes from Saturday Night Live at work. Law Librarian Perspective Greg Lambert One of the greatest information tools in years! I can understand why some “Information Professionals” would be hesitant to enter into the social media universe, but I think the rewards are so great, that it would be foolish not to have at least a toe in the social media water. I cannot count the number of times that information I found on Twitter or blogs has helped me spot issues, answer existing questions, or make future contacts that have become invaluable to my day-to-day work. Whether it is breaking news, rumors of things happening in the legal field, or links to really good jokes… I’ve been able to leverage the vast amount of quality information I discover in the social media world and make myself look great in this world. It takes some getting used to at first (separating the junk from the valuable information), but as you spend more time working on ways to streamline the process, the more valuable an Information Professional will find social media to be in their profession. Marketing Analyst Perspective Danny Johnson Getting a job through Facebook I work at NetDocuments doing social media and web marketing and will be starting law school in the fall. Earlier this year, I wanted to contribute to a local politician’s campaign and went to become a fan on Facebook. When I saw that he had no fan page, I made one for him and it grew relatively fast. I kept my part in it secret for a long time while the politician wondered who had made this page. When he found out, he took me to lunch and hired me to do some marketing consulting for him on the side which has been an awesome experience and resume builder. Working in the social media at NetDocuments taught me the value of SM and it has provided dividends in my life outside of work. Marketing Analyst Perspective Danny Johnson Indirect revenues I manage the social media marketing at NetDocuments and have seen many dividends. One recent experience highlights this. After building a relationship over Twitter with Jared Correia of MassLOMAP, he wrote a blog about using NetDocuments in a small firm. We have signed up about 5 users who heard about NetDocuments through that blog post which amounts to over $2,000 of annual recurring revenue. I’ve also built relationships with a number of our channel partners through LinkedIn and Twitter. Law Librarian Perspective Shaunna Mireau Enabling the “trusted advisor” role Law librarians in firms are often the ‘trusted advisor’ for junior lawyers. I had a recent experience where one of my firm’s juniors found a blog post I wrote a year ago about a court decision that was useful to his research. If all legal information is seen to be moving to the web, what better way to solidify your role as trusted advisor if your colleagues web search finds…You. Social media provides another method for librarians to communicate with and be visible to their stakeholders. Knowledge Management Perspective Ayelette Robinson Have It Your Way One of the greatest things about social media, and the reason it’s becoming more and more pervasive in our professional as well as personal lives, is that it has turned the tables from network/meet/learn on everyone else’s timetable to network/meet/learn when *you* have the time and mental focus to spare. These activities often feel like, and are treated as, luxuries in our professional lives: we know we should do them, but we’re busy at our day jobs and we just find the time when we can. So being stuck to someone else’s schedule makes it even harder to fit substantive network/meet/learn interactions into your own life. Social media has come along and changed all that — you’re free to network with the people you want to, reach out and meet new people, and learn more about everything you ever wanted — all whenever and wherever you want. For those who are focused, you can spend a solid 30 minutes a day; for those who are multi-taskers/semi-focusers, you can break it into fifteen 2-minute bite-sized activities. Whatever you want, you can have it your way. Knowledge Management Perspective Toby Brown Bottomless Knowledge Source An often overlooked aspect of Social Media (SM) is the massive volumes of knowledge it generates. Last week in a meeting with the CLE team from the State Bar of Texas, it occurred to me how often I said, “Oh … I read about this in a tweet/blog post/facebook post/….” If you’re reading this blog, you already participate at this level and may well get a lot of your knowledge and news from different forms SM. But if you take this thinking a step further, you start to appreciate that even though SM looks and acts like a river of information, all that water ends up somewhere. So the River is the answer to our first question: SM is changing the legal profession by becoming an important and credible source of legal news and information. After that meeting with the Texas Bar CLE team, Pat Nester, their director, commented, “that there is a vast world of excellent thinking and relationships that is developing out there, unseen to the slow of step and the otherwise distracted.” Those that participate, have access to this river. The Ocean is the answer to the second question. People and technology are just starting to realize the volume and value of information that has flowed past them in the River. Now I want to retrieve something I saw (or didn’t) from the past. How do I get to it? This is a significant challenge and not just for the legal profession. As SM matures, our profession should be adapting to take full advantage of this ocean of knowledge. Internet Marketing Perspective Lisa Salazar Wanna Play? Social Media was a game-changer for me. Before, my job consisted of managing the content–both text and graphics–for the web site. All in all, it is a pretty innovative and creative position itself. But when social media came into the picture, my job altered. I was Internet marketing to the nth degree–everything word I wrote and posted was quickly replicating across multiple platforms. I was virtually everywhere 😉 At this stage in my career, I am learning more than I ever have before. I know more than I ever have before. And it is exhilarating. Librarian, Instructor, Coach, Psychotherapist PerspectiveScott Brown Realizing the promise of knowledge management What’s striking to me about social tools – among other things – is how they are accomplishing what the knowledge management movement of the late 1990s/early 2000s was trying to do. At that time, there were knowledge management efforts to try to capture the tacit information in people’s heads, but these typically were huge, unwieldy efforts that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – and the failure rate was abysmal. The difference with social tools is that people are WILLINGLY and spontaneously contributing their knowledge and expertise. While the information is still somewhat scattered all over the place, the good thing is that people are using them, and the tools to find and organize information in social networks are getting better. Information Technologist Perspective Scott Preston SM Also Brings Risk Social Media (SM) is having a transformative impact on user expectation (disruptive technologies). User interfaces that are simple to use (requiring no training), technologies that enhance collaboration and software that permits people to create virtual communities are all great examples of disruptive technologies that are a direct result of the SM movement. The introduction of these disruptive technologies is fundamentally changing how IT thinks and works. Another aspect of SM that has an impact on IT is the concern about protecting company assets. Company assets includes:

  • Computers – allowing access to SM sites increases the risk of computer infection. Some SM sites like Facebook are targeted by nefarious individuals as a means of distributing malware and viruses.
  • Intellectual Property – allowing access to SM sites increases the risk that your firm’s Intellectual Property might improperly flow outside the firm.
  • Company brand – allowing access to SM sites increases the likelihood that someone might say or do something that will reflect poorly on your firm.

Of course, many believe (including me) that done correctly SM will help the company brand not hurt it. Since the best defense against any of the concerns mentioned above is to restrict access to these types of sites and restricting access usually falls into IT’s lap, IT is put into a difficult position. IT becomes the traffic cop and the target of frustration by users who do not agree with or understand the firm’s policy. Next Week’s Elephant Post Share with us a Saturday Night Live quote that you’ve used (or at least wanted to use) at work. Welcome to next week’s Elephant Post Question. I’m Greg Lambert, and you’re not. Since next week will be right before Christmas, we thought we’d throw out a fun Elephant Post Question that gives you 35 years worth of content to choose from. You probably have figured out that we love Monty Python, and Star Trek, and Star Wars, and Doctor Who… but we are all big fans of Saturday Night Live, too. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t toss out some quote from SNL… usually as a snarky response to something I just read or in a conversation that needs to be lightened up. In fact, most of the time that I talk with my co-blogger Toby Brown, the conversation usually starts out with “Toby, you ignorant slut.” We’ve set up a nice Google Docs form for you to fill in your answers, plus you can look at answers submitted by others. Don’t worry if your quotes are already used… it’s really the situation you’re using the quotes that we all really want to hear about!! Go Here For the Form Go Here to See the Answers Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

What Surprised You The Most About Your Profession?

Whether you are new to your profession, or are about to retire, there were some expectations you had when you came in that turned out to not be as you thought it would be. For example, I thought that working in a Law School as a law librarian would be free of politics… only to quickly realize that politics ran wild. So, I left that to join a court library… only to find out that it was even more political (the fact that I worked for elected officials should have clued me in.) Luckily, I’m now in BigLaw… oh crap…

Well, enough of my experiences, let’s hear from a number of other that have their own perpectives on what happened when they entered their professions.

Law Librarian Perspective
The Flexibility of My Profession
Pat Orr
Throughout my 30 year career I’ve worked in: high school and elementary school libraries, special / research libraries; academic libraries, and now a law firm library. I’ve had plenty of surprises but two stand out: how flexible my MLS degree from the University of Michigan has been, and that library users share the same basic needs.

Virtual Assistant Perspective
That no one would know what I do 10 years later.
Andrea Cannavina
I have been a Virtual Assistant for almost 10 years. I thought by now everyone would know what a VA is and what we do. Best of both worlds really – someone to help; but no need to provide guaranteed work, physical space, benefits or even coffee.

Law Librarian Perspective
Our cutting edginess
Jeremy Sullivan
I started in the field in 1995, when we were all neck-deep in CD-ROMs and just starting to figure out what this internet thing was all about. In the ensuing 15 years I have been amazed and quite proud at my profession’s ability to identify, evaluate, utilize, champion and even enhance new technologies as they are introduced. There’s this old saw that law firms are late adopters, reluctant to introduce too much change too quickly. However, I have seen countless examples where law librarians have spear-headed new technology initiatives (small-scale as well as firmwide) that have improved legal research AND business efficiencies. True, sometimes we can push a little too hard for a questionable technology – I’m still not convinced that the managing partner will take me more seriously if I have the cartoon, fairy wing-adorned version of me deliver his caselaw. Yet I still think even that points to our eternal desire to innovate for the sake of providing continued exemplary service.

AFA Perspective
Lack of Knowledge About Firm Economics
Toby Brown
Two related items:
1) That law firm partners, who are owners, know so little about the economics of their firm and the industry.
2) That partners don’t seem to care much about the economics of their firm and the industry.
In their defense, until recently their industry was doing so well, why would they ask. But still …

Law Librarian Perspective
Most surprising? Law Students are Fabulous
Cindy Bassett
I have worked in a law school for 3 1/2 years now. I do not have a JD so I didn’t have the law school experience to change my perceptions of what I thought law students would be like. I expected the students to be wealthy, to feel entitled, to be rude, and generally bratty. I was shocked to find them to be extremely polite, funny, humble, and grateful for the help and instruction provided by the librarians. So much for stereotypes!

Lawyer Perspective
Solo Surprises
Chris Hill
When I first got out of law school, I never would have thought I’d end up a construction attorney, much less in solo practice. Through a longer story than this short post can speak of, I started representing contractors and subcontractors and realized I love to do it. I like my clients, and that makes the work worthwhile.
Recently (July 2010) I went solo and was surprised by the positive reaction. I have non0clients letting me know that they’re glad I’m now solo and will be using my services and clients glad to see me on my own. This has been quite a revelation.

Academic Support Professional Perspective
Youth and Technology
Chelsea Baldwin
I assumed that our younger students would be more technology proficient because they’ve grown up with the technology. Instead, they are the students who need the most instruction related to technology while our older students and our faculty are constantly impressing me with the tips and tricks they’ve discovered to use technology in more productive ways.

Knowledge Management
How good are KM people at sharing knowledge?
Mark Gould
I have learned a lot from many great KMers, and they are obviously exempt from this criticism. However, it always puzzles me how cagey many other KM people are about sharing their experiences or insights for the benefit of others.
In part (as with much else) there is a bit of concern about “what’s in it for me?” But I think there is more to it than that. KM tends to be a lonely job, and one can usually learn more from people outside one’s own organisation than from within — that means you have to give as well as take. I think, however, that there is a conservative streak in law firm KMers, which makes them reluctant to expose what they do outside the firm and also reluctant to engage with new technologies (which is where much great knowledge sharing takes place). Conferences and face-to-face meetings are a different matter — I have found people to be much more open in those protected environments.

Law Librarian Perpsective
Good morning and Welcome to Yesterday
Megan Wiseman
In library school, we often talked of how fast technology was changing and how one of the perks about our profession was being on top of such changes. (…how successful we are at that was a different discussion…) Us soon-to-be-librarians sat in lecture and nodded along, talking blogs and Library 2.0 like the geeks we were. Then I hit the real world and *wham* — did I see first-hand how technology is taking off!! Every day I walk into work and everything that was new yesterday is already old news.
Perspective: I did not know what a blog was my first year of grad school. Westlaw has had, I believe, three major interface changes since I first learned it my second year in library school. Smart phones and e-readers, enough said. The hours, the budgeting, the patrons, the fun of it all — pretty much exactly as I expected. The speed of tech changes and making the right calls? — A surprise. Time to get my geek on (and perhaps get some 3-D glasses for my tv.)

Information Technology Perspective
Scott Preston
While there have been many surprises in my profession, the one that surprised me the most is the level of collegiality between law firm IT departments. This is often a point of pride for me. If you have attended an ILTA conference you should know what I’m talking about.

Internet Marketing Perspective
Ground for Creativity
Lisa Salazar

I am learn something new every day. Working with such bright and innovative people in such a new space; we are constantly pushing the envelope to dream up new solutions, new work-arounds, new methods. The web provides all the ability to create and dream up new ways to approach old problems. But the best surprise? Is who teaches me; where I get my best lessons. My sources come from the most unexpected places …

Next Week’s Elephant Post:

How Is Social Media Changing Your Profession… Or, How Should It Be Changing Your Profession?

We’re big fans of social media here at 3 Geeks… blogging, twittering, LinkedIn’ing… all of that. Whether it is making connections, finding information on obscure topics, or keeping up with the latest rumors, social media is one of the best communications tools available today. Let us know how it has helped you in your profession, or how you think it will help someday in the future.

As we did last week, we are making this easy (on my at least) by creating a form which anyone can add their answer.
Go and fill out this form to add your answer.
To see other perspectives, you can go here to see their answers.

We thought we would have a little fun this week and play off of the “geek” in our contributors. This week’s question is:

Which Fictional (Star Trek, Monty Python, Dr. Who, mythical, etc.) character do you think would be outstanding in your profession?

Off the top of my head, I picked Mr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think he would make a great librarian… especially in these days of electronic books, databases and Google searching. Of course, I’d have to teach him a little bit about the “reference interview” technique, but I think he’d catch on after a few months behind the reference desk (especially around 4:50 PM on Friday’s before a three-day weekend.)

We want to “give thanks” to all of the different perspectives we got this week and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. While you’re on the couch – taking that obligatory nap – think about contributing to next week’s post. We’ll make it an easy one, since I’m sure the tryptophans are probably going to slow you down. So, read all the perspectives, then take a look at next week’s question to see if you want to dive in and add your special perspective. If you do, then simply email me or tweet me and I’ll give you the instructions on how to contribute.

Patent Librarian
Information Junkie
Kristin Whitman

Hermione Granger, no question!  Her nose is always in a book, cross referencing information, double-checking facts, and using logic to put the whole picture together.  She makes full time use of all sources available to her (including the Hogwarts Library restricted section), but won’t be fooled by a honeyed sales pitch (least of all from those Ministry of Magic types!).  She’s got her (extendable) ear to the ground and a mind like a Devil’s Snare, always gathering new information.  She’s the real behind-the-scenes hero!

The Teacher’s Perspective
Instant knowledge
Véronique Abad

The obvious character for me would be Mr Spock!  He would just have to put his hands on the head off his students and they would instantly know the full content  of the course! Or understand what they done wrong! No communications problems! Also it would be fun to see how he would react to the behaviour of the young generation living their virtual lives online while they are supposed to be practising an exercise.

Brain Power
Kathryn DeLia

Going with someone new, Megamind would be a good marketer. Lots of brain power, creative, clever, able to be good and bad at the same time, dresses well and able to choose music. Plus he has good delegation skills as his gives tasks to Minion and his brain bots. See the movie and you’ll know what I mean!

AFA Perspective
Solution Focused
Toby Brown

Austin Powers.  Cuz he’s the International Man of Mystery.  Talk about a man ready to face any challenge head on ….  For example: A challenging partner-like personality – Dr. Evil.  Aggressive Colleague – Felicity Shagwell.  Unexpected group reaction – The Fembots.  Crazed ego-maniacs – Goldmember.  Hands-on research – directly sampling Fat Ba$tard’s ‘evidence.’  Embracing new technologies – running the DVD on the phonograph.  Setting difficult but achievable goals – the Japanese twins.  Keeping a positive attitude no matter the circumstances – Yeah Baby!

Online Marketing Perspective
The Great and Terrible
Lisa Salazar

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: Because there’s no place like home … and don’t look behind the curtain!!

Law Librarian Perspective
Going the Extra Light Year
Janet McKinney

I think Scottie (original Star Trek) would be a good librarian, because of his dedication to his job, co-workers, and organization; his ingenuity when having to resolve problems; and because he’s often “givin’ her all she’s got, Captain.”  And knowing how to operate the transporter could be a desired skill in a law firm.

The IT Perspective
Winning in a no-win situation
Scott Preston

Captain Kirk.
One of my favorite Captain Kirk stories is the Kobayashi Maru story.  The Kobayashi Maru refers to a test that is a no-win test.  It is designed to see how a cadet handles a no-win situation.  Kirk who has taken the test twice already figures out how to reprogram the simulator to make it possible to have a winning outcome.  We are, on occasion, faced with what seems to be a no-win situation.  It would be great to have Captain Kirk reprogram the problem to have a winning outcome.

Knowledge Management Perspective
“Shockproof and can think faster than [a] super computer
Ayelette Robinson

Stitch, from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, is described by his creator in the film as “shockproof and can think faster than [a] super computer.” I couldn’t think of a better skill set for knowledge managers — the ability to bounce right back from challenges is key; and as the liaisons between attorneys and technologists, we need to be able to address substantive issues both quickly and correctly. As for Stitch’s “superhuman strength,” well… we can dream, can’t we?

Law Librarian Perspective
“Ford Prefect”
Ellen Quinn

Ford Prefect, the roving researcher from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is my choice for an outstanding library related science fiction character.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide is originally set in 1980s England where Ford, an alien from another planet, meets up with his friend Arthur Dent, just minutes before the earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass.  As Ford later explains,  he was sent to earth to research the entry for an encyclopedic electronic book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  While Ford’s work ethic is somewhat lacking, he spent 6 years on earth and his entry in the HHTTG for the earth is:  somewhat harmless.
The books in the series are loaded with odd quirky humor and sarcasm.  My brother once described the books as just too weird, even for him.  I have always found them to be delightfully odd and very funny.  The focus of the books, radio program, the 1981 BBC TV series (highly recommended) and other HHGTTG spinoffs is an e-book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Please note that at the time these books were written, there were no ebooks, no one had personal computers and there was no internet or world wide web.  Name any other TV show or book about a book.  Ok, maybe you can com up with one or two titles but none with the style and wit of the HHGTTG.  The late Douglas Adams who created the HHGTTG also wrote some episodes of Dr. Who, but it is his love of words, satire and humor combined with a very Dr. Who like science fiction world, that make these book and the character of Ford so appealing.
References to the HHGTTG appear throughout the internet.  Have you ever gone to Yahoo’s Babelfish translator and wondered at the odd name for this service?  It is named after the Babel fish, a creature described in the HHGTTG that provides instant language translations.  Although in the book you have to drop the little fish in your ear and it instantly translates any spoken language into something you can understand.
The very sarcastic references in the book to Megadodo Publications are a welcome bit of comic relief for those of us that have to deal with large publishing companies on a daily basis.
Type the “ultimate answer to life the universe and everything” into Google and you will get an answer straight from the HHGTTG = 42.  You need to read the book to get the joke but it is a widespread bit of humor.  The internet was developed by people who clearly knew and loved Adam’s books.  And his anti-authoritarian style while it was developed in the late 1970’s still rings true today.
Ford is Arthur’s guide through the galaxy and like today’s librarians, he interprets the world around him for others and explains the mysteries of the universe.

Another Librarian
Guts & Savvy
Mark Gediman

For my money, Gowron would make a great law firm librarian.  His wild expression and unpredictable nature hid a shrewd politcal operator.  Not everyone could have manipulated both the Romulans and the Federation into fighting a civil war on his behalf.  Can you imagine what this guy’s budget meetings would look like?  Not mention his reference interview skills.  He may not know the answers but can sure manipulate someone into telling him what they are.  And imagine the consequences for those who have the nerve to question whether he’s “necessary.”

Yet Another Librarian
Gorilla Librarian
Jan Rivers

Next Week’s Elephant Post Question:

What Free (or very low-cost) Product do you use everyday that helps you accomplish your job?

Although the saying of “you get what you pay for” usually applies, there are some products that are out there that don’t cost a dime, yet are extremely useful. I probably should have added the caveat of “with the exception of Google,” but I’ll even keep that option open. I know there is one product that I use a lot that is free (although I have contributed to the developer in the past for his hard work.)

If there is something that you use and you’d like to share the name of the product and how you use it, then send me an email or tweet and I’ll give you the instructions on how to submit your contribution.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Dealing with vendors isn’t always a bad experience… but we all have our horror stories. This week we’ve asked our group of contributors to share a few of those, or to share some positive experiences as examples for other vendors to learn from.

Without Naming Names (unless you want to…) What drives you crazy when dealing with vendors? – And/Or – Have you had positive dealings with a vendor that other vendors could learn from? 

I put this question out on a law library listserv last week, so we have a lot of library vendors stories. I’m sure you can relay these stories over to your own perspective.

Next week, we are having some fun with the Elephant Post, and we are hoping to get a lot of short answers from a lot of different perspectives. So, to make it easy for you, I’m listing the question here in hopes that you will email or tweet me for details on how to contribute to next weeks Elephant Post:

Next Week’s Elephant Post: What Fictional Character (Star Trek, Monty Python, etc) would be outstanding in your profession?

Because next Thursday is Thanksgiving, we’ll post next week’s Elephant Post on Wednesday, November 24th.

The AFA Perspective
Vendor’s “Lack of Homework”
Toby Brown

I appreciate that vendors need to make cold calls to generate business.  That being said, it is very easy to screw these up and hard to get them right.  If you are going to spend the resources on such an effort, make sure you handle them well.  If you don’t, not only have you wasted your time, you have wasted my time, creating a negative impression of your company with me and my firm.

For some reason I have had a recent burst of vendor cold calls.  My advice based on this recent experience:

Before you call me do a little homework to find out what my role is at my firm.  My LinkedIn profile is very easy to find, so this is not asking much.  When you call to pitch a records management product to me (well outside my role), you take your first strike.

The next big mistake I have seen, repeatedly on these calls, is the sales person ask for me to give them the name of the person at the firm that handles records management.  Really?!?!?  You were too lazy to find out my role and now you take that laziness a quantum leap further and ask me to do your job?  And in the process expose a colleague to the same treatment you just gave me?  I think not.  This reminds me of an old Jerry Seinfeld bit.  Next time I should ask for their home number so the “right” contact at the firm (in China) can call them at their convenience … around 2:00 a.m.

The bottom-line: customer service starts at the beginning – even with a cold call.  Make sure this is a good experience and your success rate will increase.

The IT Perspective
Vendor’s “Lack of CRM”
Scott Preston

What drives me crazy is getting a cold call, email, or a request for an appointment to ‘discover opportunities’ from a company that is already our vendor.

Two weeks ago I received an email that went something like this:
Dear Scott,
We provide long distance call analysis to many law firms similar to Fulbright.  We would like to have a short meeting to discuss how Fulbright can benefit from our services . . .

Here is a list of firms that currently use our services:
ABC Firm
Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.
XYZ Firm.

Come on vendors, stop wasting my time (and yours).
How about a little quality assurance?
The Library Perspective
Vendor’s “TMI”
Greg Lambert

One of my favorite memories of dealing with a vendor was when I worked for the Oklahoma Supreme Court. I sat across the table from a vendor and we announced that we were not accepting the offer that they made. What happened next was surreal. The vendor told us that we had to sign the contract because “My reps have mouths to feed at home.”

Look… I’m a pretty compassionate guy, but I had to basically say “I Don’t Care!” to that.

Negotiations are business decisions, not personal ones. Don’t confuse the fact that I may like you (or not like you) personally, with the value of your product. Those two things are completely separate. When it comes to your product, I only want to know three things:
What It Is
What It Does
How Much It Costs

That’s it. Trying to tie personal feelings to the decision making process is not going to get you anywhere… no matter how many mouths you have to feed at home.

[Note: I had another experience this week that I thought I’d share with you… I really don’t like it when a vendor sets up a phone meeting with you and cannot figure out that the Central Time Zone is only one hour behind the Eastern Zone. When they call an hour late (or two hours early), I usually let it roll over to voicemail.]
The Internet Marketing Perspective
Legal Services Vendors: Friend or Foe?
Lisa Salazar

I have a favorite rep.

She does everything right: right amount of phone calls, right amount of e-mails, right amount of in-person meetings. She’s personable, kind, thoughtful.

In the 6 years that I have known her, she has managed to do what I wish attorneys would do: she’s become a friend.
A Second Library Perspective
7 Ways to be a Strong Vendor/Partner
Jill Strand

Having been a sales rep for a large trade publisher, I see my vendor reps as potential partners who can help my Library (and their company/product) be perceived as a valuable asset to my firm.  While I am quite certain that I didn’t do everything right as a rep, I did learn that my knowledge of products, understanding of my buyers’ needs and willingness to tackle problems would be my strongest selling points.  As such, here are the qualities I value most in my best vendor reps:

  1. Acknowledging my email/voice mail so that I know they have my request.  If they can’t get back to me quickly, they usually at least give me an idea of when they can.
  2. They thoroughly read and note all of my questions in an email.  It can be frustrating to organize and craft careful questions only to have some go unacknowledged.  Again, knowing that the rep is working on it and when they think they can get back to me is most helpful.
  3. They let me know in advance if prices for their product(s) will be increasing if they think I’m interested in making a purchase. NOT: This is not the same as asking me to rush my decision-making process to meet the vendor’s end-of-month or end-of-year sales goals or to take advantage of a “time-sensitive” offer or discount.  My job is to do what is best for my firm, not what is best for the vendor’s bottom line.
  4. They’ll ask me for a start date before initiating a free trial.  We try to schedule trial for when certain groups are most likely to be available to take part and offer their feedback.
  5. They have a thorough grasp of the content, scope and features of their products.  I’m often reviewing a variety of tools for different practice areas and rely on reps to explain what makes their product valuable and unique from the competition.  We certainly do our own testing but I leave it to the rep to do the selling.  The best ones will also pay close attention to attorney’s questions during a demonstration and answer them there or follow up with answers or more detail soon afterwards.
  6. Actively solicit and act upon feedback to improve their products.  While I’m happy to volunteer for beta-testing of new products, it is frustrating to suddenly have a new version or interface pushed out that hasn’t had a proper vetting.  Testing products in a pristine technological environment without exposure to commonly used programs on most of our computers won’t fly.  Gaining buy-in and input from clients and potential customers is more important than unveiling something new by a specific date or at a certain trade show.
  7. They make it easy to understand the pricing and cost increases for individual items and content sets.  Bundling titles, print and electronic, etc. may appear on the surface to save us money but it actually makes it harder to compare apples to apples, much less track costs.  Even if they don’t have control over how pricing is set up, creating a simple spreadsheet with cost breakdowns and projected price increases is a huge help, particularly as I try to budget for new products.  However, if obstrufication is a vendor’s vehicle to profits, then my firm will never be a profitable client. 

With reps, colleagues and clients, I’ve always tried to be straightforward about any concerns or issues.  We all drop the ball once in a while and appreciate a chance to improve.  So if I need something more from my rep, I will ask them for it first before speaking with their manager.  That said, many thanks to all those vendor reps who go out of their way to make my job easier because they understand that, in the long run, a happy client will make their job easier.

The Competitive Intelligence Perspective
The Hard Sell
Zena Applebaum

We recently had a vendor arrange for a demo of the product to a wide variety of lawyers.  The product came with rave reviews from a  number of lateral hires who claimed to not be able to live without it.  The demo started well and everyone was enjoying the products ease of use and search capability from research staff to associates and partners, everyone of the 20+ people in the room could see a use for the product. Then, without warning, the mood turned aggressive.  When asked if there any questions in the room, no one spoke. So the vendor did, asking the entire room full of people what he needed to do to get us to buy the product, he pushed further, asking if it was a issue of money or licenses or competitor products.  Details and processes for purchase that fly well over the heads of most firm users.   I finally had to break the awkward round of questioning and point out that a product demo to a room full of lawyers who don’t manage research budgets was likely not the appropriate place for this type of conversation.  Needless to say, the partners in the room were not to pleased that they had spent their “billable” time being sold to.

I beg and plead with all vendors  of legal products and services out there to save the heavy sales talk for the appropriate stakeholders (if you have to use it at all) and not anyone who may one day come in contact with the product.  We’ve since subscribed to the product because it is a good one but based on the sales savvy of the organization, I would have ended our relationship right then and there during the hard sell demo.  Let your products do the talking and the selling for you.

The Knowledge Management Perspective
“No” is Not the Right Answer
Ayelette Robinson

If you’re working with a customer who makes a request, don’t say “no.” And certainly don’t say “no” followed by a litany of reasons why it’s a ridiculous request. This does not mean that you have to accommodate every request; it means that the customer has a need that you’re not addressing. As the product designer/developer/customizer, it’s your job to ask more questions and listen to what the customer really needs. It may be that the solution the customer offered was not the best one, but it’s part of your role to understand what the underlying need is and to find the right solution – i.e. get to “yes.” What will win you points is not your ability to describe a product’s existing features, but rather your ability to design creative and elegant solutions to a customer’s needs.
Another Library Perspective
Vendor Shout Out
Karen Lasnick

I probably have the same countless horror stories that everyone else has, but I have to give a shout out to our West inside rep, Paul Baranek, who handles all our offices in the U.S. He does a great job for us, no matter how bad the situation is and always with a great attitude. I’ve never felt like I was being mollified or give a load of b.s. from him, even when what he tells me it isn’t what I want to hear. I would be much less inclined to grumble if all our vendors were like Paul.

Another Library Perspective
Database Vendors Who Don’t Believe Me When I Say:
Ellen Quinn
Don’t go around me to the attorneys.  I will find out and then I will have a bad opinion of you and the product you are trying to sell.
Price matters.
Quality matters.
Reliability matters.
Customer support is critical.
Down time is unacceptable.  Don’t tell me why your database is down, I don’t care.  Just tell me when it will be back up and that this will never happen again.  I am keeping track so you can’t fool me.
No means no.
If your product does not meet my user’s needs,  I will find one that will.  

Another Library Perspective
Be a Boy Scout
Janet McKinney

A couple of years ago we were looking to add some current awareness tools to our intranet.  One vendor in particular (most of you would recognize the name) had solutions that looked very promising.  We decided to make a push for getting some budget allocations for the product in the next fiscal year and arranged for a demo with the CIO and a couple of other stakeholders.  The person giving the presentation simply wasn’t prepared.  It was obvious that he didn’t know his audience, seemed to have no clue about the positions some of them held, and he didn’t really focus on our interests.  This information was supplied to the sales rep., but either didn’t get to person doing the demo or he forgot it, so the demo went off like a disastrous cold call.  I think it will take a turnover in administration for this vendor to be considered any time in the future.

And One More Library Perspective
How About A Little Respect?
Jan Rivers

Maybe it’s just me, but I really wish vendors would stop with the “sales-speak” and would just talk to me like a normal person. Spare me the jargon and buzzwords and let’s just have a conversation. Everyone uses the same descriptors for their products, so they are meaningless to me as a way of making your product stand out from the others. In fact, the more “salesy” the speech, the less substance I feel it has regarding actual information.

Vendors seem to travel in groups, which is fine if you are expecting more than one person for your meeting. If I’ve set-up a meeting with one person, I am highly irritated if they show up with two or three others in tow. If you plan on bringing more people with you, tell me in advance so that I not only can ensure having a conference room big enough to accommodate everyone vs. meeting in my office, but I also am better prepared to have a meaningful dialogue with the additional people. Also, please be on time or let me know you are running late.

Sometimes I just want some basic information about a new resource. Don’t assume that every inquiry for information means that I want a price proposal for it. Please give me the information I ask for and if I want a trial of the product or pricing information, I will be back in touch with you.

Please do not contact my managing partner or my firm’s attorneys directly. It not only is discourteous to me, but they will also just refer you back to me. It does nothing but waste their time and yours and generate irritation with me and others in my group.

Finally, the trend by some vendors of transitioning their product to a new platform which they only offer via enterprise-wide subscriptions is doing all of us a disservice. Budgets are tight and where previously we may have had a few people with access to the product, now we are being asked to pay many, many times more for the revised product since it’s now only available as an enterprise-wide service. Tough choices have to be made- disenfranchise a small group of people who really need the resource or disenfranchise others via cancelling other products so that we have the funds to cover the increased costs of the new product. Budgets aren’t going up in proportion to the cost increases imposed by vendors. The more vendors who move to this kind of model, the fewer products all of us will be able to afford.
Just Kidding… One More Library Perspective
You Didn’t Get My Business… Ask Me Why
Elaine Dockens

What continues to amaze me is that a vendor on the losing end of a  head-to-head competition for our business,  never makes an appointment to find out why they lost.    This bothers me because I don’t feel it’s my place to call up the vendor and say – this is why you lost and if you do x, y, and z next  time, you might win.   However, if asked, I would make comments that would be general enough to share with both sides equally, but still be helpful.
When vendors compete for our business, it benefits the law firm if they both are at the top of their game.  I’ve seen a vendor win a contract, not because they were so good, but because the other side was so bad at reading what the firm actually needed.  By doing a post-game review, the losing vendor  could  improve their chances for next time.
As for other things that bother me about vendors,  I pretty much exhausted my list in the article I wrote for LLRX last year [Vendor Pitfalls in Negotiating Large Multi-Year Contracts – or How to Lose a Million Dollar Contract.]

Seriously… This is the last Librarian Perspective (for now…)
Half-Baked Sale – Vendor’s Lack of Product Development
Nancy Warren

One of my greatest frustrations with vendors is being pitched a product that is half-baked.

Two examples:

  1. One of the major legal content providers wanted to sell us a suite for transactional attorneys.  After reviewing the product for less than an hour, I found content that was mislabeled and out of order, navigation that was redundant, navigation that was missing, a complete lack of scope notes for the content areas, and category labels that were so vague, it was impossible to anticipate how to accomplish any research using the product. 
  2. Another one of the major legal vendors wanted to sell us an additional content library.  Since the other content we have from this vendor is satisfactory, we invited a handful of attorneys to the initial presentation.  This was a huge mistake as the sales representative had almost no knowledge of the new content library and thus, no awareness that it was utterly insufficient to be a viable resource for that area of law. 

Two requests for vendors:

  1. Please understand that the library staff are specialists in reviewing resources.  We will scrutinize the content, compare it to resources we already have and to potential purchases, and will weigh its value against our needs and budget.  We are also very familiar with a variety of user interfaces and understand which ones are more intuitive for our users.  Don’t insult us and don’t waste our time by showing us half-baked products.
  2. If you want to show us half-baked products, get us involved earlier in the development  process.  I realize that this takes money and time and that there is pressure to release products as soon as possible because the competition is tight but we are willing to provide feedback when doing so will benefit our institution.  Our expertise and time are valuable and a coffee gift card isn’t enough. 

Doing it right:

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised during a demonstration of a legal services product.  We had seen the product about 7 months ago and at that time, expressed some interest but said that it was missing some key features.  Not only did they implement the one item that we said was a deal-breaker but they added some of the other features we recommended to their development schedule.  While it is possible that current customers were also asking for these features, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the product was noticeably improved and that the vendor specifically addressed the feedback we had provided.  Needless to say, we are considering making the move to this vendor.

Remember that next week’s Elephant Post on What Fictional Character Would Be Great In Your Profession, will go out on Wednesday!!
Email or Tweet me for information on how you can contribute to this fun post!!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just sit back and let the world come to us for help? Unfortunately, for most of us, it just isn’t that easy. Proper marketing of departments and individuals can make sure that we show our importance within the firm, and let others know what our strengths are (rather than just handing out busy-work.) So this week we ask the following Elephant Post question:

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:

Face-to-Face Contact
Gene Hamilton

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…

Knowledge Management Perspective:

Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Knowledge
If you have an opportunity to help out someone in another department or practice area, take it. Even if it’s not the main skill you’re paid for, if you know how to help that person, go for it. Share your knowledge.
Until people have direct experience with a particular department or person, they’re unlikely to remember organizational structures or who in what department does what. They will, however, remember characteristics such as helpfulness and ability to answer questions knowledgeably. So if you help solve a colleague’s problem, even if it wasn’t something you’re paid to do, that person will start associating your department with knowledgeable, helpful people, and will start spreading that impression around to the other people they work with, in their own and other departments.

Competitive Intelligence Perspective:

What have I Done For You lately?
Keeping your visibility up within the firm is a never-ending process.
Some ways to get this done:
When visiting a branch office, stick your head in offices and ask people how you can help them succeed. Remind them of the products and services you provide that can help them achieve that success. This also gives them a face to match with a name they have only seen on an email message or voice only heard on the phone.
Ask to present at Practice Group meetings or retreats. This could be as general as a quick overview of your products and services or as specific as a how-to refresher on a practice-specific resource.
Create a brand and place it prominently on briefing packs and market analyses. How else will know where it came from?
Create a list of successes. Make regular reports to management regarding ROI.
The firm won’t know what you do unless you tell them…and then remind them.

Library Perspective:

Never Say “No Problem”
Holly Riccio

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.

Library Perspective:

Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Action or Taking Credit
Greg Lambert

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:

Lisa Salazar

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:

Toby Brown

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.


Without Naming Names (unless you want to…) What drives you crazy when dealing with vendors? – And/Or – Have you had positive dealings with a vendor that other vendors could learn from?

Dealing with vendors isn’t always a bad experience… but we all have our “horror stories.” Here’s your chance to share those stories. On the other hand, you may want to spin this around and tell about a good experience you had, and how other vendors could take note from that experience.
If you want to contribute, please send me an email or a tweet and I’ll give you the details on the logistics of sharing your perspective with us.

On Thanksgiving, We’re Having Elephant!!
Since we post the Elephant Posts on Thursday, and in a couple of weeks that will fall on Thanksgiving (at least here in the US), we’ll put the Elephant Post out on either Tuesday or Wednesday. To make it more enjoyable, we’re going to go off-script a little and have some fun.
Which Star Trek (or Monty Python or Dr. Who, etc.) Character would you think would be outstanding in your profession?

Off the top of my head, Mr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, would make a great librarian… especially in these days of electronic books, databases and Google searching. Of course, I’d have to teach him a little bit about the “reference interview” technique, but I think he’d catch on after a few months behind the reference desk (especially around 4:50 PM on Friday’s before a three-day weekend.)
Same as above… if you want to contribute, email me or tweet me for the details!

In an era where the business model seems to be “do more with less”, improving productivity is important in achieving this goal. We’re all looking for tips and suggestions that others are using to increase productivity, so we thought we’d compile a few from different perspectives on this question:
What is something you can do immediately to be more productive?
One of the common themes this week seems to be the “to thine own self be true.” Many of us suffer from overexposure to information (distractions) or opportunities to divert our attention from the task at hand.
Thanks to all of our guest contributors this week. Next week’s Elephant Post question is at the bottom of this post. We’re always looking for different perspectives, so read through this week’s contributions, then take a look to see if you’re up to the task of adding in your 2¢ on next week’s Elephant Post.
Library Perspective:
Need to be more productive? Just ask the people actually doing the work!
One of the things that I tell my staff is that they have the best perspective on what does and what doesn’t work in our department. If I tell them to do something, and it causes more problems than solutions, then they need to speak up and suggest alternative ways to accomplish the objectives.
Many times they suggest processes and procedures that I would have never thought of because they are exposed to things that I’m not. It just makes sense to do this, but sometimes it is easier to just give unproductive instructions than it is to ask for feedback and adjust. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes it is just easier for those doing the work to simply follow inefficient instructions than it is to stop and suggest better ways to do it.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every suggestion is feasible – remember, you’re the leader, so the results are still your responsibility – but most of the time the suggestions are spot-on. If you need to increase productivity immediately, then take a few minutes to get feedback from the troops on the ground.
IT Perspective:
Need to be more productive?  Stop looking at your email!
Note: These same tips apply to social media.
Email, or the anticipation of email, is probably the biggest time killer in modern day.  By limiting how often you check your email, you will save loads of time and you will have better focus.  Try  limiting how often you check your email to two or three times a day, unless you are expecting an important email.  If you have an important email, deal with it and move on.  Otherwise,set aside thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the afternoon to deal with emails that you did not respond to earlier in the day.  
By scheduling this process you will, over time, retrain your mind to stay focused on the task at hand.  Obviously, this technique will not work well for a service desk where there is an expectation that the email is being constantly monitored, but for most of us, it will give you back time in the day and improve your focus.  Here’s another email tip, if it will take more than five minutes to read and respond to an email, consider picking up the phone instead.  A phone call might take longer than responding by email, but it will lead to better communication and better communication will save you time.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.  If it works well for you, I might even try it.
AFA Perspective:
Need to be more productive? Old fashioned Prioritize and Delegate
A significant challenge with AFAs, is the pull to do work beyond the AFA to try to make it successful.  An excellent example of recent interest is Legal Project Management (LPM) and the related efforts around it.  A high value I feel I bring to any position is the willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done.  In my current role, that was initially a very valuable asset, but has since become a liability.  Now there are so many interesting and fascinating rat holes to run down I don’t know where to begin.
So the correct answer is to not run down them.  If they are indeed valuable, I need to find the right resource and pass the project on.  This approach will be fighting numerous instincts to hang on to valuable projects.
But as Scott has said over and over, it’s the sharing thing that has value.  And so I will …
Bottom line: stop trying to do everything, become more productive by focusing on the highest value efforts.
Online Marketing Perspective:
Need to be more productive? Work from home
On the occasions when I have had to stay home to wait on an electrician, floor installation or appliances, I have always been able to perform twice as many tasks–sometimes even three-times as many tasks–than I do at work.
Not only are there lots of distractions at work–impromptu visits, telephone calls, water cooler sessions–the commute sucks up time.
The best part of my job is that it is all about the web. Ergo, all of my work is on the web.
Meetings, phone calls? Today, technology addresses all of these. I’ve taken meetings at the airport, while waiting for a cab and from a remote cabin in New Mexico.
It’s an amazing thing.
Library Perspective:
Need to be more productive?  Tap into your passion.
When I started thinking about this question, my initial response was to stop spending time on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  But, the more I thought about it, my answer really is to schedule time for all different types of activities, including things like social media.  It is easy to get caught up in whatever is happening on a given day.  It is important to block off, find or make time in the day for things that would otherwise fall off the radar or get moved to the back burner, like writing, innovative thinking, professional reading and establishing and strengthening relationships.  
I have found that when I do these kinds of non-urgent things, the benefit I get from doing them far outweighs the time that I spent on them.  A 10 minute meeting with an innovative thinker in my firm might spur ideas in me for my department and get me motivated to develop and work on them.  Keeping up on a conference I couldn’t attend through a Twitter feed may give me an idea for an article or a presentation, or even just provide me with some key quotes or “nuggets” to save and use at a later date.  
I think as we are asked to do more with less and increase our productivity, we need to find and tap into our passion.  This is what will really allow all of us to be more productive and successful leaders within our organizations.
Knowledge Worker Perspective:
Need to be more productive?  Use the right hardware and software.
You can never be too rich or too thin – or have too much screen real estate.  When I travel, my biggest productivity drain (other than airports), is having to work exclusively from the screen of my notebook PC.  In my office, I have an external, virtualized 19” monitor.  Dual monitors make a huge difference in productivity; I’ve seen studies that say up to 15%.   I set up all my open applications so that I have instant and random access to each with a click of a mouse.  Plus I can drag information across open windows on the two screens.  But wait, there’s more… some work just requires a big screen.  For example, I am working on a big spreadsheet this week where I maximize Excel on my 19” monitor, which let’s me work much faster.   
Even if you are rich, thin, and have a lot of screen real estate, you probably struggle to keep track of all the miscellaneous information in your professional and personal life.  I use Microsoft OneNote for this, including keeping notes on phone calls, planning conference presentations, taking notes on materials I read or review, and managing my to do list.  The tabbed interface – both vertical and horizontal – makes organizing information easy.  If that’s all those tabs are not enough to find what you need, the built-in full text search is great.  Oh, and did I say it’s also the best outlining program I’ve found.  My friends and reviews tell me that Evernote is a good competitor that has similar functionality.
Lawyer Perspective:
Keeping Focused on the Web
Most of my work is on the web, and I find it’s easy to get lost down the Rabbit Hole if I don’t have a system in place. I use browser windows to manage my workflow: I keep one open for email, Facebook, Reader, and other sites that I use constantly throughout the day. That’s home base. I open separate windows for each project I’m working on, and tab the pages I need within the window. For example, I’ll have a window each for a blog post draft, different product task lists and associated documents, legal memos with open tabs for research, etc. I minimize everything except the project I’m working on and home base. This does two things for me: allows me to quickly find the appropriate documents by project, and keeps me focused. I find that it’s too hard to tune the noise of the Internet out otherwise.
I also keep a “Things to Read” window open at all times–if I stumble on something that looks interesting or useful, but not needed for the task at hand, I tab it in this window. When I’m eating lunch, need a mental break, or have a few moments of quiet, I hit that tab. I find it’s helpful to always have something at the ready if I have some down time–it prevents me from going into a gossip blog or Facebook timesuck.
Competitive Intelligence Perspective
Your Alert is In
The deluge of information out there can make anyone’s head spin. Especially if your job is to read it, digest it and pass on the salient bits to someone else to use in their decision making process.  My trick, is to set up and use monitors, alerts and other tools made available through your paid subscriptions or even free alerts from Google for example, to stay on top of companies and issues you are monitoring. Let the info come to you….
Knowledge Management Perspective
Re: re: fwd: re: fwd: fwd: are we on for lunch this fri? (omg, can you believe that meeting?!) ok, thanks. let me know.
Use brief and meaningful subject lines that reflect the content of each email message you send. If you’re emailing a colleague with substantive work information, with a request to meet a deadline, or with any other information that she might want to reference later, use a subject line that will help her find that email when she needs it. Taking the time to edit subject lines might take an extra few seconds of your time, but will help make your colleagues more productive when they need to find your email, and will help make you more productive when you need to find their reply.
Next week’s Elephant Post:
How do you market your department and yourself within the firm? What works and what doesn’t?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just sit back and let the world come to us for help? Unfortunately, for most of us, it just isn’t that easy. Proper marketing of departments and individuals can make sure that we show our importance within the firm, and let others know what our strengths are (rather than just handing out busy-work.) Let us know what kind of marketing you’ve done, and the success (or failures) that followed.If you have an idea for this weeks post or a suggestion for next week’s question, then send me an e-mail to discuss. If you’re not an email type of person, you can send me a Direct Message via Twitter at @glambert.