Category Archives for "Define Your Business Model"

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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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

Someone Just Beat Me To My Book Idea

The Lean Law Firm Cover

Greetings from ABA Techshow 2018, where today I learned that Larry Port and Dave Maxfield have just published the book that I’ve been thinking about writing for years. It’s title: The Lean Law Firm.

Honestly, the similarities between what they’ve produced and the outline I generated are uncanny, right down to the idea of using bicycle manufacturing as the parable for teaching lawyers how to build a Lean practice.

I have to admit, my heart sank a little when I saw it. It’s not like I didn’t know it was a possibility—Larry and I had a great conversation about Lean for Lawyers a couple of years ago and he told me straight up what he was gonna do. But lots of people say they’re going to write a book but don’t actually follow through (? I’m startin’ with the man in the mirror ?).

Here’s the thing: It’s fantastic.Continue reading

MGST Part 2: Articulating your Mission.

In Part 1 of this series I laid out the four domains of activity for your law practice (any human enterprise really). If you haven’t already, you might want to read it first.

The Mission domain, sometimes expanded to Mission, Vision, and Values, should be the North Star of your operation. It is why you have a law practice to begin with—your declaration of purpose—and it should both encapsulate and permeate who you are as a business.Continue reading

A fresh start to your practice and mine

I know things have been quiet on this site for awhile, and I have a simple explanation—I took a job. And not just any job: in early 2016 I was asked to head up the legal project management and process improvement function for an AmLaw 150 law firm. For a guy who bills himself as an expert in LPM and process improvement, this would probably seem like too good an opportunity to pass up. And it was, although I wasn’t without reservations when I finally said yes.

You see, I have intentionally avoided BigLaw for as long as I’ve been a lawyer. Continue reading

The Legal Practice Model Canvas

A bit of a mea culpa here: This is a post I started working on months ago and then never published because I didn’t think I’d gotten things quite right. As longtime readers will recognize, this is fundamentally inconsistent with the Lean Startup principles I espouse–better to put the darn thing out there and see what people think about it than to let it languish while I noodle on potentially unimportant details.

And with that explanation, here I post my version of the Business Model Canvas for lawyers and law firms that I’m calling the Practice Model Canvas.

It is useful for a few different scenarios: it is a great alternative to long-form business planning when you’re thinking about hanging a shingle for a new law firm, it is useful for scoping out ideas for launching a new practice area or legal service offering, and it is a fantastic way to think through productized legal services like flat-fee, subscription, or portfolio offerings.


Click the image above for a larger PNG, or you can download one of the PDF versions below.  Any of these files will scale to smaller paper sizes, but if you have access to larger print formats, like at an office store, I recommend them. I’ve used the “Engineering Prints in B&W” option at to good (and inexpensive) effect, and I’ve also used the large format printer at my local OfficeDepot for same-day prints.

A few simple instructions/recommendations:Continue reading

Dispute Resolution through Visual Thinking

As you can tell from my last post, I’m a big fan of visual thinking and visual management tools. I personally use the Lean Canvas and the Business Model Canvas for both myself and my clients, but I’ve often thought that the idea of a canvas would work well in other areas of legal practice as well.

A while back I spent some time with Jim Levy, a professional mediator in Seattle, and out of our conversation came the idea spark for a tool that I’m calling the Dispute Resolution Canvas. Since that spark, I’ve prototyped it with several others folks, both attorneys and non-attorneys, for testing and tweaking. Specifically, I got tremendous feedback from Jason Gershenson who has used it in his own practice to help him understand disputes among business partners; Gabriel Key, an Agile consultant (and excellent chef) with a background in international negotiation at the UN, and Prof. Daniel Linna who is the Dean of Career Development and Professor of Dispute Resolution at Michigan State Law School.

Without further ado, I present the Dispute Resolution Canvas:

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Understanding your Legal Services Business Model


I just left the Washington State Bar’s “Future of the Practice” meeting and there was some great discussion about ways to increase access to legal services. If you aren’t familiar with some of the steps that the Washington bar is taking, including their creation of the Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT) role, they (we—I’m a WA bar member!) are on the cusp of some solidly innovative work to evolve the practice of law.

One of the things that came up repeatedly in the meeting was the notion that most lawyers simply don’t have business models that can profitably support clients at the lower end of the resources spectrum. That simultaneously strikes me as true and insane. How is it that lawyers can’t seem to meet the demand of the majority of people who need legal services?Continue reading

The Two Keys to Lawyer Profit (Spoiler Alert: Cost Control is Not One of Them)

Quality and Value

It seems like far too long since I’ve revisited the Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value™ that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. I got a nice reminder, however, from an Inc. Magazine article this month titled The Two Keys to Profit. (unfortunately it appears to be print-only).

The article is a quick one-pager, but it is loaded with important truths that Lawyers should embrace, starting with,

Companies that want consistent high profit should do two things: Emphasize better products or services over lower prices, and focus on growing the top line rather than obsess about cost cutting.

This squares nicely with my assertion that Cost Control is Not the Final Answer. But how can it be true when lawyers continue to feel price pressure from clients who have more choices, more information, and therefore more purchasing power than ever before?Continue reading

Your Business is Lean, Why Not Your Lawyer?

I saw an interesting bit go by on Twitter this morning regarding the trend of in-house law departments conducting technology audits on their law firms. This started about a year ago with an ABA Journal blurb reporting that 0 of 9 law firms had passed Kia Motors GC Casey Flaherty’s basic technology test.

If you missed it (like I did) at the time, Flaherty elaborated on his program on the ABA Legal Rebels Blog, and his guest post links to other discussions about it.Continue reading