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♫ Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams…♫

Music and lyrics by Neil Diamond and recorded by The Monkees.

Hal

 

I have a confession to make. While I love technology, I am not quite sure the feelings are mutual. You see, technology has come to disappoint me so many times that I am questioning its intentions. In fact it causes me concern when thinking of the rise of artificial intelligence. You see, if technology at its current level of development can be so confounding, what lies in store when technology reaches some level of self-awareness?  It could be that we would move from our present epoch of relatively benign technology and cross over to the world of self-aware machines, we move into the state of “Artificial Malevolence”.

Now I am aware that I am not the first to think of these things. In fact, being named Dave, the words of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey haunt me.  Hal was supposed to be ‘foolproof and incapable of error.’ However, when asked to take action that would save Dave’s life, he states, devoid of emotion: “I’m sorry Dave – I can’t do that…

In fact,Wikipedia states that:

“Siri”, Apple’s natural language voice control system for the iPhone 4S, features a reference to the film: it responds “I’m sorry I can’t do that” when asked to “open the pod bay doors”

Well what happens when you ask your favourite technology to open a file and (since it mostly hasn’t – yet – reached the point of communicating by voice), simply displays text stating: “file not found” or words to that effect.  ARGH!!  Renting of garments, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair!

What is a mere mortal to do?  Well my standard remedy when dealing with malevolent technology is to have a data backup.  In fact, not just one, but rather..three.

If you put all your eggs in one electronic basket there is a consequential rule that you should watch that basket very, very carefully. Accordingly, making copies of your electronic data and ensuring that this data is stored in at least two locations, one on a hardened hard drive (such as the ioSafe line of hard drives that are designed to withstand fire, flood, temperatures, immersion etc. for extended periods of time) and the second being a cloud storage system is not only prudent but well advised.  In fact I am now advising that you have a third backup. The third is a cloud-based backup that is not connected 24/7 to your network.

Many firms that the writer has spoken to have been hit with various variants of ransomware malware. These malevolent applications encrypt everything they can find on your network and demands a ransom to be paid – otherwise they disappear taking the decryption algorithm with it…leaving your data …useless.

In once case, fortunately, the firm’s cloud backup – which only backed up on a schedule and was not continually connected to the network – was left untouched by the malware and they were able restore their data without paying the ransom. This is perhaps one of the best arguments for backing your data up into a secure cloud backup that can remain isolated from a malware attack such as the ransomware nasties.

It is important that you have a multiple layer redundant backup system. Don’t depend on a sole backup system…if that backup fails … you are left totally vulnerable. It is important to test your backup system and ensure that it is operating properly so that you can restore your data as needed. I have seen situations where the sole backup system seemed to be functioning fine until the time came when it was needed – and then the realization hit that the backup was corrupted and useless. In one such case what had been backed up to Dropbox was recovered … all other data was lost.

The benefit of having a local hardened hard drive backup is that you can restore your data quickly in the event of a loss. Cloud backups…while wonderful for preserving your data in a safe location…will take considerable time to restore onto your network since you are limited by your download speeds. However, if your system is hit with a system-wide problem, such as ransomwear malware, a flood, fire or other disaster or a failure of your primary backup, you will be thanking your lucky stars for having a complete cloud backup no matter how long it takes to do the restore.

Believe me, I have had to restore data from the cloud after a system-wide failure (did I mention that technology seems to hate me?). A fast Internet connection can never be fast enough when time is money. But ultimately, having a cloud backup made the difference between sheer inconvenience and absolute disaster.

After all when technology is out to get you, you don’t want disappointment to haunt all your dreams.

 

 

 

It’s information overload out there. And many lawyers are seeing readership of their blogs, articles and newsletters dropping off. So, this week’s tip is to consider changing things up by adding video. How can you make that decision? Give some thought to the following questions:

1. Do you know where the surfers are? Youtube has surpassed Google for searches. That’s right… Google! There is no higher mountain. Enough said.

2. Does your target market watch video? It’s not just celebrity and cat videos that are making the rounds. Business executives are watching video. In fact, research shows 59% of them will choose video over text, when both are available on the same topic.

3. Would your team be amenable to being part of a video series? Don’t know? Find out. Even the most introverted and shy lawyers can do well on screen… if there is a professional plan in place.

4. Is there room in the budget? The truth is that most law firms have some fluff in their marketing plan that can easily be cut out or modified without impact to the return on the program. Why not take a closer look at your plan to see what can be cut?

5. What does your market respond to? How you listen? Bolster their confidence? Answer their questions with ease? This type of human rapport translates well to video, when it’s strategic, client centred and focused on the firm’s central brand messaging.

So, the next time you sit down to a partners’ meeting and the question of ‘how can we get our marketing to perform better’ comes up, don’t let the energy in the room drop. Talk about how you’ve scrutinized the marketing plan (and hopefully received expert advice about that) and have some ideas for discussion.

For more on video marketing, see previous posts on SlawTips:
A Beginner’s Guide to Producing Law Firm Videos – Part 1

A Beginners Guide to Law Firm Video – Pt 2: Choosing Topics for Your Firm’s Videos

Also see Toronto Marketing Blog, for light banter about the value of video, along with some interesting statistics:
One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words – A “Video takes off” series

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

You know how to plan effectively. Well, at least you have read dozens of articles on it, right? But you are alway too busy to do it. You promise yourself that as soon as things slow down, you will get right on that because its such a great idea. But either you never slow down or you go golfing instead. Either way, you end each working day in a panic, you go home exhausted with little to show for it, and whatever enthusiasm you have the next morning dissipates like political promises on E-day + 1.

The best solution is the office equivalent of radical, emergency surgery: lock the doors, put the answering machine on, turn off Outlook, and stay there until you have a Plan that will allow you to practice efficiently and effectively. Jim Calloway will outline the basics for you, if you forgotten them.

But if you cannot, will not, act so drastically, try a band-aid for today. When you think you have had it for the day, stop. Just stop. Three deep breaths. Rummage through your To Do list, the pile of files on your desk (or the floor), or even your frantically-splnning mental list. As you identify a file that MUST BE DONE, set it aside. When you have 3 files, stop. No second guessing or looking for another file that might be even more MUST BE DONE. Move every other file out of sight – not just on the corner of the desk because you will see them out of the corner of your eye and be distracted; completely out of sight (hopefully in a filing cabinet but that is for another day). Your work area is now clear except for 3 files. In no more than 10 seconds – a gut reaction – pile them with the one you fear the most on top and descending levels of fear from there.

Tomorrow, put on the answering machine and turn off email – no alerts, visual or audible. Close your door. Set an alert for 2 hours later. Work on that top file until it is under control (files are never done until they are billed and reported out – just aim for under control i.e., no more panic). If you get all 3 done before the 2 hours is up, spend the remaining time reading Jim’s article. At the end of the day, rinse and repeat – 3 more ugly files, etc. Within 10 working days, you will have everything under control and a working plan that will keep your practice that way thereafter.

Barney (Bjorn)  Christianson

 

A potential new client comes into your office and you can already tell you don’t like him. There’s something about the way he stands, the way he talks, his clothes, the scent of cologne wafting through the air. You can’t pin it down. but his very being puts you off. You’re not conceited – you figure he probably thinks exactly the same of you. At the same time, you know he has a big and interesting case, he can pay, and you want to win him over. What can you do?

Your first reaction may well be to differentiate yourself. “I’m not anything like this person”, you say – and you go about making sure you stay true to yourself. You offer something unique, after all, and this potential client will either like you for you, and if not, it was never meant to be.

But put the je ne sais quoi prejudices aside by mirroring the client’s manner of speech and body positioning. Take advantage of similarity bias – people tend to like those who are similar to them. As you sit down with the client you realize he speaks much louder and faster than you. You slightly quicken your pace of speech and raise your voice just enough – your energy level ramps up accordingly. He sits with his hands in front of him to make a church steeple, each fingertip on the one hand touching the other. You realize your hands are hidden under the table and bring them up on the table. Before you know it, the minutes have flown by and you’ve built rapport. You’re not best buddies but you are both comfortable and respect each other.

Mirroring what your client says is helpful too. If your client doesn’t agree with you, start by outlining the client’s position. This gives comfort to the client and reassures the client that you are listening. It also helps builds a shared foundation from which you can make your recommendations.

Mirroring does not require you to change your personality and become someone you are not. You do not need to act and speak exactly like your client – a little effort can go a long way. And refrain from mirroring an angry and yelling client – that will only escalate the matter. If you have a truly difficult client, one that bullies you or that causes you to consider going against your principles, think hard about whether the client is worth keeping.

Mirroring acknowledges that one person’s way of talking and acting in the world is just one way among many. It would be an unhappy circumstance if valuable relationships are never built because of something as shallow as the way one speaks or sits, but it can happen. Eliminate these barriers and use mirroring to help you build a bond with your client.

A client who likes you is more likely to retain you, accept your recommendations, and not sue you. So handle personality differences by mirroring to help eliminate whatever biases stand between you and your client.

– Ian Hu

 

 

inbox

 

When people ask “How are you doing?” I think most people answer on behalf of their inboxes. “Full”, some might say, or “Crazy” say most as they glance at the notice saying that there are 99,999 email messages in their inbox and then glance at the clock indicating the time remaining in their day. We’re in an age where time-saving technology is woven into our everyday communications and instantaneous email messages are replacing phone or face-to-face conversations. And it’s not going anywhere, whether you like it or not.

Before I become a mom 2 years ago, I worked lawyer hours (over 60 hours a week) answering my inbox from clients, other lawyers, suppliers, business development contacts and employees. Now, that I’m at the office for focused kid-less work time for 2 days per week, basically condensing my 60-hour week to about 18 hours, I needed to find ways to get back to people quickly and efficiently.

Here are my top 10 tips to tackle your inbox to make email work for you, instead of the other way around. It’s my Power Hour method:

  1. Turn off all notifications – yes, that “ding” or that little envelope that pops up. No notifications.
  2. Preview Pane. Set up a preview pane either on the bottom or sides of your screen so that you can see the message without needing to double click into it. It saves time in glancing through the context of an email or an attachment without having to fully open them.
  3. Unsubscribe to every newsletter, update, message notification, from non-humans. Get the robots out of there, and yes, that includes LinkedIn, Twitter, and newsletters. I politely tell people that I’m unsubscribing because my inbox is too full and that it’s not personal, I unsubscribe to everyone! Even if you’re just deleting it everytime, it wastes time just clicking delete and it’s important to stay focused on the emails from humans (only).
  4. Power Hour. Get our your phone and set a timer for 1 hour and attack that inbox. No disruptions or interruptions, it’s do not disturb email time. Take the full hour to go through your inbox. I follow the following 3 tips during this hour.
  5. 2 Minutes. Now that your inbox is cleared of all the automated messages, first go through your inbox in chronological order and if you can do, dump or delegate in 2 minutes, then do, dump and delegate them. Do (reply) to the ones that you can quickly respond to. Dump (delete) the ones that have been dealt with by other people or you’re just copied on for your information. Delegate (forward) the ones that other people should be dealing with on your behalf.
  6. Say No. Out of the ones that remain, there are probably a few that need some “no” answers and you’re leaving it there for later because you don’t want to say “no”. Maybe it’s that contact that’s following up from a cancelled lunch, a supplier wanting to talk to you about a quote for new services, or candidates asking for a job. If your answer will be the same tomorrow, and deep down you already know what the answer is, just reply now and get it out of your inbox. It saves time staring that message down and clogging up your inbox.
  7. Focus. What’s left of your inbox is your personal to-do list for the day or for the week, depending how much you have delegated and how many emails you get. Focus on only 1 email at a time (usually I start with the ones that require the least amount of time to reply to or the most urgent ones) and do not move onto the next email until you have completely replied to 1 email. Do not peek at new messages coming in and do no do any of the dumping or delegating until you have dealt with that 1 email that you have selected.
  8. Do again. Select the next easiest or more urgent email and focus on that one email only until it is completed.
  9. Power Hour. After completing a few projects, set up another power hour to get through any new messages since the last power hour in the same way.
  10. Out of Office. Use your out-of-office reply to manage expectations to those people who are emailing you. If you’re going to be in appointments for most of the morning or the day, then let people know so they don’t keep sending you reminder messages about the email they sent. I also use it just to say that my inbox is stuffed and that I’ll get back to them probably the next day or 2 and not to forward the message to anyone else if that timeline is okay. You don’t want to duplicate the work around the office and have your paralegal come back to you about whether you’ve already answered.

There are also some new tips and applications in Outlook that help with sorting out email and saving time, like saving templated emails that you use all the time (like with new client inquiries). We’re trying new things all the time to tackle this beast of a box.

-Elizabeth Mah, Vancouver (Elizabeth@papercliplaw.com).

 

 

What does it mean to be a leader?

And what does true leadership in a law firm context really entail?

Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” answer to these questions. Every leader’s approach and plan will necessarily vary, depending on circumstances, temperament, objectives, opportunities – and practicalities.

But behind any effective plan lies a vision of where you want to get, a framework for getting there, and a well-thought-out gameplan for implementing whatever changes that vision may drive.

I will mark the 30th anniversary of my call to the Ontario Bar in April. I will be 57 years of age in September.

At this juncture in my career, I think about developing my own professional leadership – in a small firm context – quite a bit. And I am starting to think quite differently about what that leadership role means, both to me and to the very good people I am fortunate to work with.

And frankly, one of the most difficult challenges, and perhaps the most rewarding when met with success, is simply getting out of the way, so that those talented people you work with can actually do their own jobs completely and build their own track records of personal growth and professional success.

We have talked about delegation a number of previous times here at SlawTips.

I’d like to add this simple thought to the mix: Effective delegation is one of the highest expressions of true leadership. And the corollary also holds: Any leader who fails to effectively delegate is probably no leader at all.

By delegate, I don’t mean feeding tiny scraps of grunt work down the chain to eager underlings.

I mean incrementally delegating the whole enchilada.

Delegating entire files. Key court attendances and transactions. Entire  projects and departments. And delegating real responsibility for maintaining and building key relationships.

Keeping a finger in, where and when it needs to be, of course, but primarily focusing on the “executive” tasks that maximize what you, personally, can now bring to the table.

The more able you are to do that, the more able you will be to implement the balance of your vision.

And it does start with a vision.

Are you thinking of yours?

(We might as well begin there)

….

I will continue with these thoughts in my subsequent posts. Given the  addition of so many talented, new contributors to the Practice Tips bench, you will be seeing a little less of me here, moving forward.

I will be staying with SlawTips, of course, with my own turn to post coming every two months or so. And I am apparently now an editor here, with respect to our new contributors’ posts.

The good news is you will be reading some really interesting Tips articles from some exceptional, new voices.

And you may be seeing a bit more of me now at my own flagship, Wise Law Blog. That’s not such a bad trade-off, as it turns out, and I’m quite looking forward to it.

So see you again at SlawTips in May.

And Happy Easter to all who are celebrating.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto

 


Lawyers, you know that if you want your firms to be more efficient and profitable, you need to delegate.

You know that if you want more time with your families and the occasional good night’s sleep, you need to delegate.

You even know that if you want to grow in your role (and to allow others to do the same), you need to delegate.

So, what’s the problem?

Why are lawyers holding back when it comes to delegating?

Lots of possibilities…  You’ve had some bad experiences where you ended up doing the work you had delegated yourself, at the 11th hour. You felt exposed as the work returned to you wasn’t up to your standards. You got a little too comfortable in your role as the doer (it happens). You didn’t feel sufficiently secure in your role to mentor others up your level (also happens).

Whatever it was, the result is the same. If you want to break through the glass ceiling, you need to figure out a way to delegate more.

But, how to delegate so it’s worry free and actually delivers on the supposed benefits, well, that is the question:

  1. Write yourself a new job description. Go ahead. Even if you’re a partner or firm principal. Job descriptions aren’t just for staff. What is it that you’d really like to be focused on that you simply cannot get to? Like rainmaking or strategic planning, to name a few possibilities. Or, maybe, dedicating yourself to a single area of practice or specific type of file that holds your interest.
  2.  Reevalute your team. Do you even have the right talent and skill on staff to do the work you’d like to delegate? If not, put a plan together. Train. Hire. Fire. Do what you need to do to build the firm you envision, rather than just continuing with business as usual.
  3. Reevaluate your structure. What are your team’s expectations about doing work for others? Is the reporting structure clear… to everyone? If not, you (and anyone else that needs to delegate) will be set up for awkwardness and possibly tension. Instead of assigning work to the most appropriate individual, you’ll be asking for favours from whoever happens to be available.
  4. Learn how to delegate. It’s an art, from what you assign, to whom you assign it to, the briefing you provide at the outset, the guidance you provide along the way and the milestones you set in place. Seek advice and coaching on how to delegate (or how to be delegated to) from a qualified business consultant.
  5. Stop seeing lawyers that run firms as simply senior lawyers. You’re management. That means managing – staff, clients, files… Embracing that reality is the first step towards getting through the learning curve and setting up the systems and processes to help everyone thrive in their roles.

And one final piece of advice. Once you get all that right, don’t take back what you delegate.

Be aware that when you tell someone to leave a file with you for your comments or wait for additional information…, you’re taking back the work you delegated. And the ‘delegated’ is twiddling thumbs waiting (and hoping) that it’ll come back. Just like a boomerang.

So, this week’s tip, delegate more. Besides the improved wellbeing of the practice and your personal quality of life, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy expanding your collaboration and partnership with the rest of the team.


For more on the delegation process see SlawTip’s earlier post on this topic:
Delegate, Don’t Abdicate, a guest post from Rachel Spence, a law clerk with Wise Law Office

And Toronto Marketing Blog, for my post: Stop taking back what you delegate! 

-Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

 

♫ Go, go, go New Justice Team
Go team, go team, team team team
Who’s that newest Justice Team…♫

Music by Christopher Tyng, Lyrics by Ron Weiner, recorded by The New Justice Team.

lady justice

Changes are coming to SlawTips!  I would like to introduce our new enhanced team of practice tipsters.

Our team will now include:

  • Michael McCubbin, Vancouver
  • Andrea Cannavina, New York City
  • Stacey Gerrard, Halifax
  • Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
  • Mark Morris, Toronto
  • Elizabeth Mah, Vancouver
  • Bjorn (Barney) Christianson, Portage la Prairie
  • Ian Hu, Toronto

who will be joining Garry Wise and I in posting all the best tips that we can think of to assist you in practising law.

A little about each of our newest team members:

 

Michael McCubbin:

Michael McCubbin v2

Michael owns and operates a small firm with a broad focus on civil and administrative litigation and corporate-commercial law. In recent years, he has increasingly focused on regulatory compliance and risk management for businesses. He has run a paperless practice since its inception in the fall of 2011 and is a regular speaker on legal technology matters.

Michael says that the things that he would like to write about are:

  • Integration of practice technology with hearing preparation
  • Adopting business practices from outside the legal profession to improve service quality and efficiency
  • Remote working arrangements and business/employment structures
  • Jurisprudential “catch up” with technology (Equustek Solutions?!)

 

Andrea Cannavina:

Andrea Cannavina

Andrea Cannavina is the CEO and founder of LegalTypist, Inc. the premiere legal transcription, secretarial and administrative service to US based law firms. She helps attorneys and other service based professionals upgrade their business processes to digital in order to get more done with less – less cost, less time and less stress!

An executive legal assistant, Andrea worked in various sized law firms in and around New York City since starting her career in the 1980’s. Andrea has been a professional legal secretary/ assistant for 20+ years and a Virtual Assistant since 2001.   ALL Andrea has focused on since opening her virtual practice is help lawyers and other legal professionals upgrade to digital in all the right places.

Her site, LegalTypist.com specializes in providing experienced cyber secretarial services and has serviced law firms of 1-120+ attorneys along with private investigative firms, insurance agencies and other high volume reporting companies.

After putting together LegalTypist’s tech, people and processes, and speaking with 100’s of attorneys, law firm administrators and legal IT types, Andrea expanded her focus in order to help any size practice.  In 2005, her site LawFirmSolutions.com went live to help larger firms looking to incorporate the web into their processes and solos looking for secure technology to use in their day-to-day practice.

Andrea is passionate about digital security and has frequently presented on this and other topics, including e-mail overload and etiquette, website how to’s, projecting a professional image and upgrading to a digital workflow.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Andrea’s family moved to Long Island, New York during her teenage years. She graduated from Glen Cove High School, attended Nassau Community College and SUNY Old Westbury.

Andrea lives and works in Hicksville, New York, is married with two children, and has Rosie, the office dog as her constant companion. Along with making things work, Andrea enjoys camping, cooking and spending time with family and friends in the great outdoors.

Andrea says that she would like to write about:

  • Systems, processes and organization of the office – people and tech.
  • Law practice management.
  • Getting Things Done.
  • What’s it’s like being on the other side of the desk.

 

Stacey Gerrard:

stacey gerrard

Stacey Gerrard is a practicing member of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and joined the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia (LIANS) as LIANS Counsel in 2010. Graduating from the University of Ottawa’s National Program with bilingual degrees in both Common and Civil Law, Stacey relocated back to Halifax and pursued her interest in civil litigation first in a private firm and then with each of the Federal and Provincial governments until joining the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society in 2008. In her current role, Stacey manages and handles assigned claims or potential claims against insured lawyers and provides professional support to the Risk and Practice Management program.

 

Sandra Bekhor:

sandra

Sandra Bekhor, MBA, BSc, is a professional practice consultant focused on growing and enhancing Canadian, small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, healthcare and other professional practices. A senior marketing professional since 1992,

Sandra has helped take leading entrepreneurs to a new level in the global marketplace with the introduction of business and marketing strategies as well as the enhancement of company structure and process. In September 2005, Sandra founded Bekhor Management with the intent to apply this acumen in a manner that would enable professionals to realize their vision for their practices.

Sandra Bekhor speaks, teaches and writes about practice development for various professional associations and publications, including: The Lawyers Weekly, The Bottom Line, Investment Executive, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND), Ontario Society of Chiropodists (OSC) and Canadian Vet.

Sandra says that what she would like to write about, basically, her area of expertise, would fall into these categories:

  • Marketing
  • Branding
  • Online marketing
  • Offline marketing
  • Firm level marketing
  • Personal marketing
  • Coaching
  • Management
  • Planning -strategic plans, succession plans, retreats, marketing plans
  • Performance management
  • Human resources management
  • Partner / management meetings
  • Communication
  • Delegation
  • Leadership
  • Coaching

 

Mark Morris:

mark moris

Mark began his career working as the Attorney General of Ontario’s Senior Policy Advisor. Following that, Mark founded Slatewood Retail Advisors, a retail consulting firm primarily focused on the restaurant and apparel market space. In that capacity, Mark transformed small local brands into national chain operations and worked to assist growing international businesses with their legal franchise work, their core branding and their operational workflows.

Presently, Mark is a co-founder of Axess Law, one of Canada’s leading retail law firms with 10 locations in the GTA. Last month, Axess Law was selected as one of the Top 5 Canadian Innovative Law Firms by the Financial Times newspaper.

Mark frequently lectures on Real Estate law and regularly teaches Real Estate Law Courses at the Ontario Real Estate College. In 2014, Mark was selected as one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers and was recognized as one of the top 5 Legal Change Makers as rated by Canadian Lawyer magazine.

Mark was called to the Ontario bar in 2002 and has an M.B.A. from the Rotman School of Management, a Law Degree from McGill University and a B.A. from the University of Toronto.

Mark says he likes writing about how Law is changing as we move towards a volume based model of service delivery and about the new entrants that are making their mark on the practice.   On a purely legal level, he likes writing about consumer based legal services (developments in real property conveyance, wills etc) and ways that those changes affect consumers.

 

Elizabeth Mah:

Elizabeth Mah

Elizabeth Mah is the owner of Paperclip Law, a different kind of law firm that helps families and businesses make the best (and biggest) non-litigation decisions of their lives. In her life before her 2 little girls, she enjoyed cooking and eating hot meals, reading and running without interruption, and throwing darts at a map and then travelling to them.

Elizabeth says that since having her 2 little girls, she is  most interested in:

  • Time efficiency: in making my (and the team’s) time the most effective and productive that it can be
  • Business development/networking
  • Firm administration and strategy

 

Bjorn (Barney) Christianson:

Barney Christianson

Bjorn (Barney) Christianson is the managing partner of the Christianson TDS offices in Portage la Prairie, MacGregor and Gladstone, offices which have operated with the Christianson name since 1970. His current practice is focused principally on transactional matters in the areas of Farm Real Estate, Corporate, Commercial, Estates, Municipal Law, and litigation relating to those matters.

Bjorn frequently presents on practice management and office technology topics; some of the victims include the Law Society of Manitoba’s CPLED and MCPD programs, the Law Society of Upper Canada SSF Conference, the Lawyers Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, the Manitoba, Central and Western Manitoba Bar Associations, the CBA’s Skilled Lawyer Series, and the ABA TechShow. He provides practice management advice to the members of the Law Society of Manitoba in his spare time. Twitter @Bjornqc

Barney says that the topics that he finds interesting and wishes to write about are:

  • time management (many sub-topics)
  • creating impressions for clients
  • managing expectations
  • civility
  • importance of clarity in emails
  • breaking bad news
  • blunt a.o.t nice (and therefore vague)
  • planning to buy and replace tech
  • staffing issues
  • sharpening your axe
  • anything to do with running a law office.

Barney has named himself as the curmudgeon of the group; I am not quite so sure about that but I am looking forward to his wise postings!

Ian Hu:

Ian Hui

As the face of Claims Prevention and practicePRO at LAWPRO Ian speaks, writes and blogs about practice management, claims prevention and lawyering issues. His mandate is to help lawyers succeed in the practice of law and avoid malpractice claims. Having had experience in private practice under his belt with various sizes of firms, Ian has seen some of the trials and tribulations lawyers go through.

As a former Vice President of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers he has mentored young lawyers and advocated for hundreds of lawyers and students as a group. Ian also has an interest in promoting diversity in the profession and has sat on various advocacy committees.

Ian tells me that the things he is  interested in writing about are:

  • cognitive bias
  • happiness
  • new and young lawyers issues (being a professional, building career, soft skills, survival tips, managing time, etc.)

Of course Garry Wise and I will also be continuing as contributing authors and editors to this amazing team of thoughtful minds. I am very excited about this new phase in SlawTips and I (and I believe I can speak for Garry as well) look forward to seeing the thoughts, ideas and tips from our New Justice Team!

-David J. Bilinsky, Editor, Vancouver BC.

 

Most lawyers have a profile on LinkedIn and possible one or two other social media sites. Some have made a great success of it. But many aren’t really sure what they’re doing there. So, they pop in once in a while, join some groups, post some news and share some articles, all to try and garner a bit of attention for their firms. They may even have encouraged their staff to do the same.

All the while, that little voice inside their head is asking them why they bother at all. It just seems to be such a waste of time.

And, I’m not going to lie to you. Often it is.

But, don’t blame the site. That’s like going to a networking dinner, speed walking the room in five minutes flat, handing out a deck of your business cards and then leaving because it was a bad event. Well, did you find out who was there? Did you talk to anyone? And, more importantly, did you give them a chance to talk to you?

So, today’s tip is to decide once and for all if social media marketing is a waste of your time. If it is, then stop second guessing yourself. Get on with it and focus your marketing efforts elsewhere. If it isn’t, then get serious. Just as you would for any other aspect of your practice, develop a plan to win… which may just include the need to bring on professionals for strategic advice.

To get you started, here are five steps that break this tip into manageable steps:

1. Assess where you are today. What percentage of your market is on social media? Have you connected with them? Has your team? In particular, take a close look at those individuals that you’d like to build your practice with – whether they be prospective clients, clients you’d like to keep or referrers that have been particularly supportive.
2. Find out what your target market is doing online. Are they participating in discussions? Joining groups? Posting content? What do they respond to? Do they respond to you and your firm?
3. Find out if your competitors are online. Do their posts get any traction? With whom? Why or why not?
4. Take an objective view of your firm’s social media presence, including your own. How do your profiles read? Where do they land on the spectrum, from compelling advertisement to tax form that answers questions as accurately – and dryly – as possible?
5. Be honest. Are you listening? You know the old adage, ‘we have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak’? Well here’s how it translates for social media (and I wish I knew you wrote this!!), ‘we have two eyes and one mouse, so we can read twice as much as we write’. How much do you read what others post? How much do you respond to them? What have you been posting? Would you respond?

So, now you know who is out there, whether you wish to build or pursue those relationships and how well you’ve fared to date.

Whether social media marketing has been a big waste of time to date, isn’t really the question after all, is it? If you’ve figured out how to size up the opportunity it offers your firm, the real question is, what are you going to do about it?

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

♫ I know that something has changed
Never felt this way
I know it for real
This could be the start
Of something new…♫

Music and lyrics by: Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, recorded by Vanessa Hudgens.

steve jobs

(Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0)

The American Bar Journal on April 1, 2015 posted an article on “100 Innovations in Law” by Jason Krause.  It is an interesting review (admittedly from an American perspective) of how law has changed over the last 100 years or so. It makes for an intriguing read, but with all due respect to the author, I would list most of the innovations as evolutionary innovation rather than disruptive innovation. I love Twitter, for example, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has proven to be highly disruptive on the legal profession. Even LegalZoom.com hasn’t really opened up new markets; it may have made more services affordable to more people but at least so far I don’t see it having a hugely disruptive effect on the profession.

Why is innovation so hard in Law? Many factors can be cited here, such as law is a very conservative profession, that lawyers are not risk-takers, that lawyers have been taught to rely on precedent (old lawyer joke:  “The Managing Partner wants the firm to be innovative, to do things differently” to which the Management Committee asks: “Well, who else is doing it?”) and the like. But the true story is that innovation in most professions is difficult.  In fact it may be more difficult in law than other professions due to the structure of law firms.

My friend Jordan Furlong put it this way in an article entitled “Why Lawyers Don’t Innovate“:

So when managing partners ask me, “How can I get my lawyers to change?” I have to respond: You can’t make your lawyers do anything they don’t want to do. They’ll do something only if they decide they want to do it, and they’ll want to do it if encouraged by those they like, respect and trust. In a number of law firms, I’m sorry to report, building a culture of “like, respect and trust” among lawyers can be considerably more difficult than getting lawyers to adopt a new innovation. It requires a level of effort and openness and generosity that many lawyers these days feel they can’t afford. But I’m coming to think it’s the key to successful, long-term, sustainable law firm innovation. And it can be done.

I think that really the Fundamental Attribution Error is at play here.  Wikipedia states:

[T]he fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics (personality) to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation rather than considering the situation’s external factors.

In other words, lawyers are reluctant to innovate since the system in which they operate (the modern law firm) does not create a situation of trust that fosters innovation. They behave as they do since that is a rational response to the culture inside law firms.

I have had the great good fortune to be part of a small group tour of Google and Facebook’s campuses in Palo Alto California.  There is no question that innovation is almost palpable in the air at these locations.  They have crafted an environment where innovative thinking is expected and fostered.

If we truly want lawyers and law firms to be innovative, we need to change the culture. We need to know that when we enter an innovative firm, we all know that something has changed, that this could be the start of something new…

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.