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While it’s not quite as superficial as wearing flare jeans when straight cuts are in, there is an aspect to web design that is simply about keeping up with the times.

That said, deciding whether your law firm’s website is ready for an update goes quite a bit deeper than fashion sense.

So, if you’re wondering, if it’s time for a makeover or even a complete overhaul, it might be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the qualities that exemplify modern websites:

  • Multi-media – Gone are the days of the static, ‘brochure’ website. Today, visitors are expecting to have choices about how they consume information. Whether your firm is targeting households, business executives or other professionals, research shows that some like to read, some like to listen and others prefer to learn through pictures. Multi-media sites leverage modern tools such as video, podcasts, whitepapers, infographics and slideshows, in order to have something for everyone.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) approach – Search Engine Optimization remains a high priority for many law firms. But the game has changed significantly from even just a few years ago. Today, SEO results are influenced by social authority, readership, quality content, website structure, page domains and so much more. If your site is applying outdated SEO rules, it may be limiting your results.
  • User experience – Modern websites empower their users. They offer visitors more choices about how to navigate the site.  As a result, they are much more fluid than the last generation of websites, which could best be described as being rigid in their flow.
  • Design – Modern websites have a distinct, clean and fresh look to them. As well, photography, video and, even, fonts have taken on a new level of artistry.  Graphics are more integrated into messaging and, whether they are aware of it or not, visitors are becoming more sophisticated in how they assess the quality and meaning of these characteristics.
  • Language – Modern law firm websites speak to their markets with a modern communication style. They are client centered and, rather than trying to impress with professional jargon that tends to alienate, they are approachable and accessible.
  • Social integration – Today, links and feeds simply scratch the surface in terms of social media integration. For law firms that are heavy participators on social media, there is so many shared content that the lines between a Facebook or LinkedIn company page and the firm website are starting to blur.

The list goes on, including the very real need to address functional requirements for speed, mobile and responsiveness. But that’s a good start!

Underlying all the bells and whistles that make a modern website sing, however, is the strategy that ties it to your firm’s goals and brand strategy. Get that right and you will have positioned your website to pop from the clutter and facilitate connections with referrers and clients alike.

For more website tips, see the following previous posts on SlawTips:

Also, see Sandra Bekhor’s previous posts on her LinkedIn Blog:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto


You’re sitting at an airport terminal and want to do some quick law firm work. You whip out the laptop, scan the wireless networks and bingo! there’s a wi-fi network available called “Airport Terminal Free Public Wifi”. But before you connect, consider that you may be walking into a hacker’s trap.

A hacker sitting in the same area can be operating the wi-fi network with an inexpensive hotspot device. If you connect to the hacker’s wi-fi network, the hacker may be able to snoop in and see what you’re doing online. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a coffee shop, hotel, airport, or office building. There’s nothing to stop the hacker from naming the network to something legitimate-sounding, such as “Starbucks – Free Wifi” or “Pearson Terminal 1 – Public” or “Hilton Hotel – Free” to lure you in. It’s all part of the deception.

Even if you actually connect to a public wi-fi network, you still run the risk of hackers snooping into unencrypted network traffic, especially if the network does not require a password from you to connect to it. The unencrypted communications pipe can be leaky, and a hacker can potentially see communication between you and a website or you and an app (such as practice management software) that connects to the internet. Using encrypted websites with an address that starts with “https” (the “s” at the end stands for secure) adds an extra layer of security. A virtual private network (VPN) is typically encrypted from end to end and considered even more secure. It also helps to learn about the cloud service or app you are using – the user agreement should inform you about the extent to which the service is encrypted.

What should you do if you need to do law firm work over the internet and you can’t use public wi-fi? A safer alternative is to use your cell phone as a wi-fi hotspot and connect your laptop to it. You’ll have to pay for the data usage but at least you know the provenance of the connection.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)



(Missed Part 2 of this series? Read it here: So Why Are Lawyers Spending So Much Time On Administrative Tasks?)

And Finally: Volume

I think the last reason attorneys are spending so much time doing administrative tasks is the increase in information we have all been subjected to as the world has gone digital.

According to Surprising Statistics About Lawyer Information Overload:

By the end 2015, attorneys on average were creating or receiving more than 70 documents every day (and for some, many more). That includes emails, email attachments, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, client records, opposing
counsel records, etc. That’s more than 26,000 documents a year!

But, that’s not all. Just two years ago, an average lawyer managed fewer than 18,000 documents annually. That’s a 50% growth rate just between 2013 and 2015. Not surprisingly, email communication and email habits are partly responsible for this growth.

Left without administrative staff for the filing and handling of much of the incoming, attorneys are physically handling more–more files, more papers, more data and more emails. Each piece of paper, electronic file and email requires time and focus to process–most of it not billable.

On a side note, when dictation was removed as a standard operating procedure, so too went the option for higher value staff to easily and efficiently delegate tasks, follow ups, reminders, calendar entries, instructions…pretty much anything a “boss” could tell an “assistant” to do was delegated via voice through dictation.

Removing dictation as the start of a firm’s workflow meant attorneys had no other option but to spend far more time entering new matter information or creating properly formatted documents than simply asking someone familiar with the tech and tools do to it, while at the same time getting it OFF of their to-do list entirely–which is about as efficient as one can get!

Now I certainly agree that attorneys should be competent in the completion of common office tasks and that it is good that an attorney have the ability to do any and all job which needs to be done in an office. But that does not mean they should be charged with doing it all, all of the time.

Certainly the data illustrates what I have long said – attorneys spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME doing the administrative work needed to run their practices.

And it’s not because they can’t type.

And it’s not because they can’t manipulate or are not proficient with technology.

It’s because there is far too much administrative work to do in ANY business, and the more successful you become, the more administrative work there is.

For attorneys who want to learn more about the trap of working in their business instead of on it, read The E-myth Revisited (no need to get the “attorney” version)…and to learn how best to delegate, I recommend a very oldie: The One Minute Manager.

When you include delegation into your workday, you will finally find a way to balance all that has to be done at work.

Just because you can type, doesn’t mean you should.

Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) helps law firms organize, automate and implement business process improvements to create efficient workflows and happier staff. 


(Missed Part 1 of this series? Read it here: Being Efficient Doing the Wrong Tasks = Not Being Efficient)

So Why Are Lawyers Spending So Much Time On Administrative Tasks?

To start, in Time to Work Workflow Technology into the Law Firm Arsenal, Eric Wangler states:

Initially when the market shifted, firms turned to cutting administrative staff to decrease their costs. However, it was soon clear that this type of short-term solution had significant drawbacks. The remaining support staff were expected to do the same amount of work with fewer people, leading to increased stress and compromised work quality and customer service.

While I agree with Eric’s assessments that firms first turned to cutting staff to save costs, a short term solution with significant drawbacks, I disagree that it was the remaining support staff who compromised work quality.

The shift in less support staff correlated with a shift in how work was produced: from attorneys delegating to doing their own typing. So the compromised work quality touched upon by Eric was far more likely due to that shift.

Fast forward a decade, and not only are attorneys responsible for typing all manner of properly formatted documents, but for the data entry work required to run the office. Along with not being billable, administrative tasks also happen to be extremely boring work – generally the data entry of numbers, names, addresses… tab…tab…tab… and yet at the same time it is also extremely exacting work thereby requiring great focus.

Great focus by anyone means slowing down and taking greater care. Slowing down and taking greater care being focused on non-billable work is exactly the wrong things attorneys should be doing. Reminds me of one of my favorites: “Drink Coffee – do stupid faster with more energy

Another reason attorneys are spending so much time on administrative tasks is due to the actual tech being served up as what is needed to create efficiency in the modern law firm. Many of the technologies used by lawyers today are resident in the cloud and that can mean a very long time from the time one hits submit (or tab) and the time the program registers the command.

In fact, one law firm I spoke with stated: “when California wakes up”, their law firm management solution grinds to a crawl. According to attorney Avi Frisch in his review of nine technologies aimed at the solo/small firm market:

The downside is that [the tech] is not at all optimized to getting work done quickly. Most tasks take multiple clicks, new matter intake requires entry of data in numerous places to get everything down and getting bills out to clients simply takes forever.

So besides not having the proper tools to delegate administrative tasks to those best suited to get them done, attorneys are spending far too much time “working” in agonizingly slow and cumbersome cloud based technology.

Coming next week in Part 3: And Finally, Volume.

Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) helps law firms organize, automate and implement business process improvements to create efficient workflows and happier staff. 


We all love data. Crave it. We don’t put down our digital devices for a second of missing some interesting digital tidbit. Here’s some interesting data I’ve recently come across with regard to the administration of law firms:

Being Efficient Doing the Wrong Tasks = Not Being Efficient

According to Bob Ambrogi in: Exclusive Survey Results: Small Firms’ Greatest Challenges and What They’re Doing to Address Them, the numbers clearly show how the administrative functions of running a practice have taken over the average attorney work day:

Top five overall challenges (factoring in the issues ranked as both moderate and significant):

  1. Acquiring new client business (78 percent).
  2. Spending too much time on administrative tasks (69 percent).
  3. Increasing complexity of technology (63 percent).
  4. Cost control and expense growth (62 percent).
  5. (Tie with 4) Clients demanding more for less or rate pressure from clients (62 percent).

Top five overall challenges facing solos:

  1. Acquiring new client business (25 percent).
  2. Spending too much time on administrative tasks (22 percent).
  3. Clients demanding more for less or rate pressure from clients (20 percent).
  4. Increasing complexity of technology (16 percent).

Oddly, administrative tasks did not appear in the:

Top five challenges of firms of 11-29 attorneys:

  1. Acquiring new client business (37 percent).
  2. Clients demanding more for less or rate pressure from clients (22 percent).
  3. (Tie with 2) Succession planning (22 percent).
  4. Cost control and expense growth (14 percent).
  5. (Tie with 4) Information overload from growth in legal documents (14 percent).

Which leads me to believe the other 47% for spending too much time on administrative tasks is attributable to firms with 2-10 attorneys. Even without surmising, the above solidly shows that attorneys rank spending too much time on administrative tasks a major challenge.

Coming next week in Part 2: So Why Are Lawyers Spending So Much Time On Administrative Tasks?

-Andrea Cannavina
866-848-2195 x101


When a meeting takes longer than anticipated, minds may start to wander. An inefficient meeting can cause participants to “switch off” and cease contributing meaningfully.  Similarly, starting a difficult task without a time limit can seem too large a mountain to
climb, and make it easy to procrastinate. One solution is to consciously set a time limit for a meeting or a task, and do it both verbally and visually.

A meeting would begin with an announcement to the participants, “We have 30 minutes to get through our theory of the case. Let’s make each minute count.” A visual cue can be used, such as pointing at a clock and saying “when that minute hand hits the 6”, using a stopwatch, or a gadget such as the time timer, which shows the remaining time on a clock/watch/app in a bold red colour.

A task would be done the same way. Let’s say you have a large memo to write. Set aside “1.0” on the docket to write a section. Then start the countdown. As the time ticks away a sense of urgency will rise, limiting the distractions and helping you focus. When the time is up, you can take a break or start another countdown for the next task.

Another use is to set a time limit for breaks. If you find yourself surfing the net an hour later while at work and wonder where the time went, a visual cue can help again.

This technique – to limit the time for tasks – is a broader application of the Pomodoro technique, or “tomato timer”, where tasks are broken down into 25 minute increments. However much time you want to set for a task, typically it should be less than an hour. Research has shown that uninterrupted concentration tends to top out at about 45 minutes.

The key to effectively setting a time limit is to find a cue you respond to – whether it’s a tomato timer, a clock ticking away, or watching a big red pie get smaller and smaller with each second. Limiting the time for each task can mean you complete more and bigger tasks more effectively.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)


Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day. It may seem like a small thing, but even little decisions can eventually exhaust our ability to make good decisions. Decision fatigue, which is the theory that our ability to make good decisions deteriorates with each decision we make, applies no matter how small or large a decision. As the day goes on, we use up our decision-making fuel and make poorer decisions. If you’ve experienced at the end of a long day a breakdown in your willpower – getting easily frustrated and angry, or needing to go shopping, or eating a bag of potato chips – you may well have been a victim of decision fatigue. Self-control takes mental energy, and, it turns out, we have a limited amount of it.

You may not need to go as far as wearing the same outfit every day, but a healthy work practice may include doing your most important work in the morning when your decision-making fuel is topped up. If your to-do list has 30 items on it, whittle it down to three (or similarly small handful) and get started with the first item on the list. This may also mean putting aside reviewing emails and phone calls when you get into the office, no matter how strong the urge. Take away the distractions and focus on those top three tasks. You may find that by lunch time you’ve accomplished what you really need to do that day.

Another tip that comes out of this is to avoid sending difficult emails at the end of the day. If you receive an angry client email at the end of the day, your ability to self-censor may be at a weak point. A general rule of thumb is to “sleep on it” and re-visit the email the next morning.

Managing your tasks well is a seemingly mundane skill which can yield big dividends. Good task management means you are more likely to fully immerse yourself in your tasks and not miss important details. Maximize your time by taking on the most important tasks first.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)


I am adopting a very expansive view of “practice tips” this week given some things that have been on my mind as I recently took on two new staff.

As far as starting businesses go, starting a law practice or professional services firm is remarkably easy and safe relative to many other kinds of businesses. Doing it well is a much different matter. The skills required – project management, human resource management, leadership, and financial judgment, among others – are not taught in law school. Typically, legal education programs only touch upon them briefly and many lawyers hang up their own shingle without these skills. Unfortunately, the lack of skill is often coupled with a lack of insight and the hubris that sometimes accompanies a license to practice law.

It’s no secret that many lawyers and law firm staff complain of bullying, harassment, and disrespect by both colleagues and managers and of poor work-life balance generally. The attrition rate in individual firms and the practice generally is huge, as is substance abuse and poor job satisfaction. These things are massive hidden costs that ultimately affect quality of life and bottom lines. It also leads to injustice. Although the standard of advocacy and adjudication in Canada is generally excellent, one cannot escape the concern that such things divert from the merits of clients’ cases.

Small firms are not exempt. I know one articling student who was warned during his interviews by the firm’s current articling student that “[founding/managing partner] is a yeller and it’s best just to avoid him”. That interviewee rejected his eventual job offer and is now excelling at a litigation boutique. Their loss and another’s gain. I also know one paralegal who is regularly taken for lunch and consolation by the partners who own her firm because the remaining partner (whom she works for) was so belittling, aggressive, and disrespectful that they felt obliged to compensate for that. For big firm horror stories, check out A satirical Twitter account, doubtlessly inspired by true events, @BadLegalLLP is not always that far from its intended satire.

Despite all the talks on civility in the profession, it does not appear to me that we always walk the talk within our own offices. The costs, both to individual reputations and to our profession, is probably just as great as poor quality work or negligence.

I am no expert in human resource management, but I have paid a lot of attention to it over the years and drawn on many sources for insight and inspiration, especially in two areas: rugby and my own clients.

Why rugby? Simply put, it is a character building sport which rewards heart and work ethic over talent (although perceived talent often comes from heart and work ethic). There are no superstars revered the way there is in soccer, hockey, or other professional sports. Despite drawing similar crowds to other professional sports, there are few players who make over $500,000 per year salary. Players are often immortally loyal to their clubs and spend considerable time developing the younger generation while celebrating the older. Sounds a bit like something we are told to aspire to in CLE seminars?

The single best example is the New Zealand All Blacks. Over the 100 years leading up to 2004, the All Blacks enjoyed a 75%-win rate. To put that in perspective, the Yankees’ 1913-2016 win-rate is about 57%. In hockey, Team Canada’s international win rate is 62% if we count ties and losses together and 69% if we exclude ties from the equation altogether.

How did a tiny island nation of 4.5 million not just compete on the world stage against countries like France, England, Australia, and South Africa (countries with far more people and money), but routinely batter them?

In part, it’s because the All Blacks “sweep the sheds”. That means that, following games and practices, the “sheds” (aka changing rooms) are not cleaned by staff, rookies, or players in the dog-house. The captains and star players get the brooms out and clean up the locker room themselves before giving press interviews or heading out to celebrate. This accomplishes two things: (i) everyone knows that nobody is above the grunt work; and (ii) everyone must be respectful of their work environment and colleagues.

They have also been proactive in addressing issues. In 2004, the All Blacks were in crisis mode after a single terrible season. Especially concerning was that morale was in the gutter. Their culture was rotting from the inside. Future performance was threatened. Nonetheless, they managed to regroup and emerge a stronger force than they were before.

From a 3-day leadership retreat came a renewed resolve and approach to re-building the most successful team in the history of sport. They built their culture around the proposition that “Better People Make Better All Blacks.”

In many ways, this was a fresh commitment to old values that had withstood the test of time, but the impact of this reinvigoration is what is notable. In the 12 years since, the All Blacks win rate has been 86%. An 11-percentage point increase would have been a massive turnaround in a team that previously won less than half its games, let alone three-quarters. It is even more impressive when you consider that their competitors are most often those nipping at their heels in world rankings.

While this became the core narrative, its execution required the humility that comes from actually sweeping the sheds. This extended into a more devolved leadership style: arm the players with intention and capacity and then trust them to deliver. The All Blacks field one captain, but 15 leaders are on the field.

They also focused on brain biology, identifying the effect of stress on cognitive function and performance and develop triggers and anchors to help players cope with stress and, where appropriate, use it to perform. Sound relevant to performance in legal practice?

Beyond that, I also pay attention to what my clients do. Like all lawyers, I have clients who enjoy incredible success and others, tragically, whose businesses or lives fail. The ones who succeed and the ones who fail have a few things in common. Here is what I have learned from the happiest, most successful ones:

First, they build a team based on character, culture, and loyalty – not necessarily talent. Talent is great, but it can be acquired. Great talent can perform poorly and ruin others’ performance if it lacks character and loyalty and doesn’t care about culture.

Second, they treat their employees with genuine respect. This isn’t just being civil and polite in person or occasionally picking up the lunch bill. Anyone can do that. Genuine respect includes eliciting and seriously considering feedback. It means putting employees’ desires, where reasonable, ahead of arbitrary personal preferences. It means accepting that there is often more than one right way of doing things and letting another right way happen, even if it’s not your way. People who feel valued and respected perform better than people who largely “perform” from fear of getting yelled at, fired, or not promoted. If your employees need the “stick” as motivation, then fire them and find new ones.

Most importantly as a show of respect, they trust their employees’ judgment. This includes delegating responsibility and accountability. When that judgment is off and results in a mistake, the burden of that mistake is shared equally across the organization. Blame, at most implicit, is channeled into a learning opportunity. Otherwise, the odds are that someone else will benefit from the cost of a mistake.

Similarly, accomplishments are celebrated and shared equally.

Third, they incentivize and reward their employees – and not just monetarily and or for specific accomplishments. Money is important, but so is having skin in the game and feeling valued in intangible ways. That includes delegating responsibility and having trust. Granting more responsibility and trust is often as important as money to an employee. So is work-life balance. An early Friday afternoon departure, encouragement to take ample holiday time, and contribution to one’s non-work pursuits reap dividends.

How do I know this works? The clients I have in mind started with nothing more than their shirts on their backs and built companies with mid-7 and 8-figure revenue streams – in less than ten years.

How does this factor into law practice HR?

Most law firms hire and retain employees by fit or talent or a combination of both. Fit and character are not necessarily the same thing. They each have a very different impact on firm culture and performance. If you have good organizational culture and performance and hire someone who fits but lacks character, your good work can be ruined and quality employees’ capacities will be squandered. As for talent, there is no shortage of that wasting away somewhere, out of sight and mind, due to lack of character.

Many law firm managers govern through fear of a negative consequence. This might result in short-term productivity, but what is lost in the equation is the cost of attrition and inability to develop people’s capacities. This is true even if you do not value positive work relationships and are focused on the bottom line. Trust and empower your employees and they will perform without a hawkish manager being present. That’s called passive income. It’s also called having more time to enjoy what is important in life.

And, of course, exercise humility. Behind every practice, personality, and brand is a person. People have weaknesses and people make mistakes. They have histories that have turned them into the person they are, for better or for worse.

Perhaps most importantly, humility means leading by example, so be prepared to sweep the sheds.

If you do experience attrition, take huge advantage of it by holding an exit interview and find out what it really was like to work for you. You will be surprised at the positive and negative feedback you will hear. It is absolutely priceless.

The above probably sounds naïve to “theory X” managers. Not all people will respond to the kind of approach set out above. I won’t deny that. If you want to build an enterprise that will perform well, bring you enjoyment, and build the kind of value that can be part of a retirement plan, then get rid of the people who don’t fit your culture or lack character and loyalty. It will be a mutual favour.

-Michael McCubbin


Time is money. Three words which pretty much sum it up for us all.  Especially when your staff consists of your dog – then you quickly realize that passing the buck isn’t an option.  Instead, you must learn to sort through the multitude of tasks facing you each day and narrow down your focus to only the key revenue-generating activities, while letting the majority of the “noise” fade away and most of us accomplish this with a to-do list.

However, not all activities are of equal value. There is an economic principle called the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, that basically means that 80% of the effects of anything in your life will come from 20% of the causes.  When applied to your daily to do list, the Pareto Principle means that 80 percent of the value of your list comes from only 20 percent of the items on it.

In other words, if you have 10 items on your list, you could focus on only two of those tasks and get the vast majority of success even though you ignore the other 8 items entirely!

Now I know you may be ready to go after your to-do list cutting out all the low-payoff items – before you get out the hatchet, read my short list of suggestions so that you cut out the right tasks:

  1. Know what your goals are. You can’t choose your biggest payoff tasks if you don’t know what your goals are. Thoughtful planning is critical so you know what you’re trying to accomplish and can rank your items accordingly.  In order to do that you need to …
  2. Write it all down. Write every task down, from the largest to the seemingly least important that has to get done. Before you can rank your items, you need a complete view of every task in your work world. I call this a brain dump. From it, you can determine what to delegate, what to defer, and what to start working on each day.
  3. Evaluate. With your goals in mind, ask yourself, “What are the top three activities I can complete today that will move me closer to those goals?” Put an asterisk next to those tasks and start the day there.
  4. Track your success. At the end of the week, review your daily lists. Have you made significant progress towards your goals? Which tasks turned out to be the most important? Which did you think were important but proved to be less valuable?
  5. Keep refining.  Use your weekly review to make informed decisions going forward. If you notice that you often rank your social media efforts as critical, but they don’t seem to be impacting new business, resist putting those as starred items on your daily lists.

Remember, though, that tools are only as good as the person who wields them. No to-do list, app or program, no mindset, trick or suggestion is going to help you build a better, more productive work day.  Only you can do that, and you do it by sitting down at your desk, day after day, starting fresh with your daily to do list and the top 3 things you want to get done.

-Andrea Cannavina
866-848-2195 x101


There’s a lot of teamwork that goes on in a law office. Sometimes it runs like a well oiled machine. Sometimes it just fizzes and pops!

So, for today’s tip, ask yourself what’s one thing you can do to take your team to the next level? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Communicate – Great teams know how to communicate. They make space for each individual to express their ideas, not just the ones that are naturally expressive. They don’t shy away from differences of opinion, but rather use them as an opportunity for open discussion about continuous improvement.
  2. Prioritize – Great teams seamlessly move forward together on all their day-to-day tasks. They also respond in harmony to urgent matters. They are able to do so because they are aligned on priorities and a method to shift, as needed, in the face of change.
  3. Core values – Great teams agree on core values. When faced with challenging decisions, how to choose between competing needs or how to respond to anomalous situations, they defer to the values that built the firm.
  4. Trust – Great teams deal with each other in a transparent and inclusive manner and, as a result, they trust each other. They stay focused on the task at hand without distracting concerns about hidden agendas. They are all driven by the best interest of the client and the firm.
  5. Mastery – Great teams don’t reinvent the wheel everyday. They master the processes that are key to their success. And they are always looking for ways to take that mastery up a notch, to be more efficient and effective.

So, which of these qualities is most critical to your team’s strength? Ask yourself, and ask your team, what can you do to bolster them?

For more on team building, see the following posts on SlawTips:

Also see the following team articles on Sandra Bekhor’s LinkedIn blog:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto