HBR on Your Firm’s Purpose

When I ask law firm leaders about their mission, they often try to shake me off with something like “Oh, we already wrote up a mission statement as part of our marketing work.” News flash: If you think your mission is something that is only supposed to attract customers then (1) it probably isn’t working and (2) you’re missing the point.

A recent Harvard Business Review Article sums it up nicely:

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Steinbeck on the Emotional Impact of Contract Signing

Lawyers who spend our days squinting to foresee tragedy—usually by cataloging historical harms—tend to grow comfortable with the weight of such dire (if remote) risks.

We might forget, then, that our parade of portents can pack a punch for people who are unaccustomed to considering such calamity.

John Steinbeck captures it vividly in The Log from the Sea of Cortez. He and Doc Ricketts are chartering a vessel in Monterrey for a six-week scientific expedition in the Gulf of California. Upon agreeing to terms in principle, it is time to put ink on the page.

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Is Revenue Growth the Right Goal?

Quick Take:

Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report introduced their Law Firm Maturity Model, an interesting framework for evaluating a current state of your firm and how it might improve. Maturity models in general can be an effective tool for reinforcing strengths, illuminating shortcomings, and suggesting opportunities for improvement. But I wonder whether that the Clio model focuses too heavily on revenue growth instead of the business fundamentals and strategies that are needed to drive that growth.

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How I Lost My Laptop Full of Client Data and Barely Broke a Sweat.

Note: This Post originally appeared on Lawyerist.com in 2017 but has since been deprecated. The information below was current in 2017 but has not been updated since.

It was a normal Thursday evening in early January, a relatively nice day for Portland considering the snowmageddon storm we’d had the previous week. I’d decided to work form home that afternoon in part because it was my first chance to have the house to myself after being snowbound with my kids, and I’d perched myself at my favorite spot on the kitchen island where natural light hits from all four sides of our open floor plan.

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Introducing My First Online Course

I’m excited today to launch a new product line, Agile Attorney Learning, and the first product in that line, an online course titled Agile Productivity for Legal Professionals.

Here’s how it came to be:

I was at ABA Techshow a few weeks ago watching Jess Birken & Charity Anastasio deliver a talk about Kanban for Lawyers, which I think is great. My goal has always been to start a movement around Agile tools for legal professionals, so I love that others are spreading the gospel. Jordan Couch was in the room, who has also been teaching Kanban a fair bit lately. 

Here’s the thing: I know I taught Kanban to Jess and Jordan, and I’m pretty sure Jordan taught Charity (or maybe it was Greg McLawsen, I’m not sure).

So I was standing in the back with the amazing Aastha Madaan (also an agile attorney) and I jokingly whispered to her, “I should start a video library of other people teaching my stuff.” Her response surprised me: Continue reading

Quality Standards Prevent Mistakes

Quality standards prevent mistakes.

As a standalone sentiment it seems like a no-brainier. Lawyers strive for quality: how often have you seen lawyer marketing with claims like “We provide our clients with the highest quality legal work,” or “We do quality work at an outstanding value”?

Of course we strive for quality. It’s why people hire professionals like us, and it’s what we’re trained to do (especially when it is drilled into us by our superiors).

Why, then, do lawyers keep messing up?Continue reading

Handoffs Are Making Your Matters Late

Unless you’re a lone wolf, your project is going to have hand-offs.

Sorry, did I say “project?” I forgot for a moment that this is a legal blog. I meant “matter.” Or “case.” Or whatever else you call that “individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.”1  For consistency with the rest of the business world, let’s call it a project.Continue reading

A Better Approach to Flat Fees

I’m a big fan of flat fees. They do a much better job (than hourly billing) at aligning the interests of the client and her legal team. And, when done correctly, they can simultaneously improve profitability of the work and allow the legal team to scale-up to serve more clients (at that improved profitability).

One of the dumbest less informed comments I hear from lawyers when I talk about flat fees is “We’ve flat fee’d a few matters, but we got killed on one of them so I’m suspicious of using them again.”

Here’s why that attitude is a problem:Continue reading

Harvard Business Review on Enterprise Agile

For anyone who has been following the Agile movement, it is no surprise that Agile has grown far beyond its roots in software development to encompass business processes of all sorts.

McKinsey consulting has a step-by-step guide for Agile Marketing. Leading Agile trainer Steve Denning talks about Agile for Human Resources in Forbes. And a growing segment of respondents to the annual State of Agile survey come from outside of technology teams.

More recently, Harvard Business Review featured Enterprise Agile as its cover story, Continue reading

Being Lean > Doing Lean

It’s been awhile since I made a blog post out of a Twitter thread, but this seemed like as good a topic as any. (Oddly enough, the last one also had to do with the concept of waste).

I recently re-published an old post on “The Seven Wastes of Lawyers” which I readily admit is the most click-baity post I’ve ever done. Who doesn’t like to think of lawyers as incredibly wasteful? In the four years since I originally wrote it, however, my thinking has evolved a bit, and I still plan a more detailed post on that.

In the mean time, I had an interesting exchange with Peter Connor, who is doing some great work helping his clients improve their legal operations. Here it is in 7 tweets:

Want to talk about how to begin a Lean/Agile transformation in your legal team? Don’t hesitate to start a conversation with me. Or, if you’re not ready for that yet, you can always join the Agile Attorneys Slack Group.

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