I’m constantly running across great books written for non-legal audiences that contain amazing advice for lawyers. Blair Enns’ new book The Win Without Pitching Manifesto (which you can buy or read online for free) is one of those books. Some examples:
Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation. If we demonstrate that we do not value our thinking, our clients and prospects will not. Our paying clients can rest assured that our best minds remain focused on solving their problems and not the problems of those who have yet to hire us.
As our expertise deepens and our impact on our clients’ businesses grows, we will increase our pricing to reflect that impact. We will recognize that, to our clients, the smallest invoices are the most annoying. Through charging more we will create more time to think on behalf of our clients and we will eliminate the need to invoice for changes and other surprises.
There’s also some great advice about being selective:
Instead of seeking clients, we will selectively and respectfully pursue perfect fits—those targeted organizations that we can best help. We will say no early and often, and as such, weed out those that would be better served by others and those that cannot afford us. By saying no we will give power and credibility to our yes.
And the best one? Time or Thinking, What Are We Selling?
We sell our thinking but we do ourselves a gross disservice in selling it by the hour. The surest way to commoditize our own thinking is to sell it in units of doing: time. Later in the engagement, when the strategy work has been done and we are deep into implementation work, the client buys our time. It is our thinking, however, that separates us from our competition and forms the basis of our ability to premium price. When we charge for this thinking by the hour we undo much of the work of the previous proclamations. “How much an hour?” we hear the client think. “How many hours?” When we employ commodity pricing we invite commodity comparisons, regardless of the value we deliver. The defining characteristic of a commodity is an inability to support any price premium. If we cannot win while charging more, then we must face the reality that we are selling a commodity.
I’ve already bought my copy — even though I’ve read the entire Manifesto online — because I expect to open it up again and again. I hope you do the same.
The 2013 Edition of LexThink.1 is in the books. We had another standing-room-only crowd who heard some great ideas about “disruption” in the legal industry. Thanks to JoAnna Forshee and Jobst Elster of InsideLegal for making this another great event!
You can check out all the videos here, and my talk on the future of CLE – titled “The Decline of the Machines, What the Unabomber Can Teach Us About Legal Learning” — is below. Let me know what you think.
In a thought-provoking essay titled What Your Culture Really Says, Shanley Kane calls B.S. on phrases organizations use to describe their company’s “culture.” Though her post is primarily focused on the startup scene, Shanley explores how the terms we use are often unintentional code words for something far different.
The hardest hitting phrase — and incidentally the one I hear most often from firms — is:
“We make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit.”
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have implemented a loosely coordinated social policy to ensure homogeneity in our workforce. We are able to reject qualified, diverse candidates on the grounds that they “aren’t a culture fit” while not having to examine what that means – and it might mean that we’re all white, mostly male, mostly college-educated, mostly young/unmarried, mostly binge drinkers, mostly from a similar work background. We tend to hire within our employees’ friend and social groups. Because everyone we work with is a great culture fit, which is code for “able to fit in without friction,” we are all friends and have an unhealthy blur between social and work life. Because everyone is a “great culture fit,” we don’t have to acknowledge employee alienation and friction between individuals or groups. The desire to continue being a “culture fit” means it is harder for employees to raise meaningful critique and criticism of the culture itself.
Look around your firm. Next time you talk about your its “culture,” what are you really saying? Are you rejecting people because they don’t “fit” your culture for the right reasons, or the wrong ones?
Jack Vinson, who writes about project management (among other things) shares something he often sees in his work: a failure to separate planning from doing.
I see a familiar theme come up over and over again. People have a difficult time separating the creation of an idea from starting to work on that idea.
Why does this matter? It’s the classic vicious cycle for projects: Get an idea. Start doing something about it. Realize you are missing some pieces. Go retrieve the missing elements. Start going again. Get stuck again. Start again. Stop. Start. Stop. Start.
And of course, while you are “stuck,” you don’t just sit there. You pick up one of those other great ideas and start marching along until it gets stuck. And again. And again.
Sound familiar, lawyers? Next time a client dumps a hot, gotta-be-done-by-tomorrow matter on your desk, ask yourself if you’ll have time to plan your attack? If not, you’ll likely get stuck in Jack’s start/stuck/stop/start-over cycle.
Give yourself time — if only a day — to separate the “plan” from the “do.” They are not one in the same and when you treat them as such, you and your clients will likely suffer.
Annual LexThink.1 Event to Focus on ‘Market Disrupters’ in 2013
Producers Matt Homann & JoAnna Forshee to hold 4th edition of legal innovation event eve of ABA TECHSHOW
Atlanta, GA and St. Louis, MO – February 19, 2013 – Matt Homann of LexThink LLC, a legal innovation consultancy, and JoAnna Forshee of InsideLegal, the insider’s guide to thought leadership and business in legal technology, today announced the fourth edition of LexThink.1 (LexThink Point One), an interactive and mind-sharing event that allows presenters (chosen by the community) six minutes to speak with slides automatically forwarded every 18 seconds. LexThink.1 2013 has a theme of “market disruption” and what that means and will mean to the legal community. LexThink.1, named to reflect the way lawyers bill, in 1/10 hour increments, will again take place the eve of ABA TECHSHOW, April 3rd, at the Chicago Hilton starting at 8pm.
As in past years, LexThink.1 speakers will be chosen by public online voting, and share their most creative and fresh ideas focused on market disruption and market disrupters within legal and beyond. Anyone interested in speaking at LexThink.1 can submit their ideas and topics for consideration. Speaking proposals must be submitted via the LexThink.1 site (www.PointOneLaw.com) between February 20 and March 1 and online voting will begin soon after. Anyone interested in topic submissions, voting or other 2013 event details can visit PointOneLaw.com and follow the associated twitter handles @LexThink and @InsideLegal and hashtag #LexThink.
The ABA Law Practice Management Section, which produces the annual ABA TECHSHOW, remains a main event sponsor, and will again provide the evening’s venue at the Hilton.
“LexThink has always been about legal innovation and changing the practice of law in ways to benefit lawyers and their clients. LexThink.1 is a natural extension of this philosophy,” stated Matthew Homann, LexThink founder. “The format of sharing clever and innovative ideas in short twenty-slide presentations is very engaging and this year’s ‘market disrupters’ theme is bound to keep audience members engaged and alert. LexThink.1 2013 will feature 10 legal thought leaders posing their questions following this six-minute presentation format. We look forward to seeing what topics are offered this year.”
According to JoAnna Forshee, LexThink.1 co-producer and InsideLegal CEO, LexThink.1’s unique presentation format, high caliber of speakers and content as well as overwhelming audience interest, have put the event in a category of its own. We are making sure 2013 will be no different and are confident the chosen ‘market disruption’ theme will help fuel the enthusiasm and interactivity between speakers and LexThink.1 attendees. This topic dovetails nicely with what has long been our focus at InsideLegal … spotlighting movers and shakers in our legal thought leaders program and giving them and their ideas a platform to share their ideas, trends and thought leadership.”
LexThink.1 2013 will tweak its previous format to enable more interaction during the event as well as before and after. The producers will look to fill a total of 10 speaker slots this year and will not be recording the talks for later release. Instead, the 2013 event will engage industry bloggers, commentators and leverage vibrant social media channels to not only create buzz but extend the conversation, beyond a 6 minute video clip.
Staying true to the spirit of past events, LexThink.1 2013 will be open to the public, on a first come first serve basis and complimentary tickets to the event can be ordered via the website leading up to the event. Anyone interested in event sponsorships, should contact Matt at email@example.com or JoAnna Forshee atjf@InsideLegal.com.
# # #
InsideLegal.com is the insider’s guide to doing business in legal technology – both in the US and internationally – for legal technology and law practice management thought leaders, vendors, consultants/technologists and law firm innovators. In addition to information on industry events, publications and personalities, InsideLegal.com focuses on legal technology industry market research and trends. InsideLegal.com was founded by JoAnna Forshee.
LexThink LLC is the world’s first legal innovation consultancy. Founder Matthew Homann works with lawyers, law firms and legal vendors as a speaker, coach, consultant and facilitator, and uses out-of-the-box methodologies to help them find new and better ways to serve their customers and make more money. Formerly called “Ignite Law,” LexThink.1 gives speakers each six minutes and twenty slides to share their vision of the future of law practice. This year’s theme is “market distrupters.”
A simple, yet profound question from Jason Fried at 37 Signals:
What are people going to stop doing once they start using your product?
What does your product replace? What are they switching from? How did they do the job before your product came along?
Habit, momentum, familiarity, anxiety of the unknown – these are incredibly hard bonds to break. When you try to sell someone something, you have to overcome those bonds. You have to break the grip of that gravity.
So, when you’re thinking about your product, think about what it replaces, not just what it offers. What are you asking people to leave behind when they move forward with you? How hard will that be for them? How can you help them overcome everything that’s tugging them in the opposite direction?
When you are selling services, stop focusing on the “benefits” you offer for a moment and think seriously about the changes you’re asking your clients to make in their day-to-day routines. If they’re moving to you from another competing service provider, contemplate the difficult conversation they’ll have firing your predecessor.
By focusing on Jason’s question, you’ll have a far better understanding of your clients’ real “cost” of hiring you, and be better prepared to address those concerns as you ease their pains of change.
Some “Machiavellian” inspiration for those trying new stuff:
“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”
– Nicolo Machiavelli c.1505 (trans. W. K. Marriott)
Today begins my tenth year of blogging here on the [non]billable hour, and what a ride it has been. My first post, titled “I Hate Billing by the Hour,” started me on an amazing journey — both personally and professionally — that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Thanks for reading along!
Several years ago, I used to publish a series of semi-regular Idea Garage Sale posts where I’d share the miscellaneous stuff I’d collected that didn’t seem to merit a full blog post.
Today, Twitter and Tumblr are my outlet for the interesting links, ideas and random thoughts I find everyday. However, every once in a while, I’ve got some stuff that fits somewhere in between Twitter’s 140 Characters and a full post on this blog.
Here’s some more of that “in-between” stuff:
The most impressive employee handbooks ever from Valve (.pdf). Here’s a video pulling our some key lessons from the handbook:
“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people,” Bezos told Wired in 2011. “But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”
If it is broken, fix it! Because everyday practical problem solving is the most beautiful form of creativity there is.
From the initial stage of the project, it is a good idea to make it clear to the clients that you see them as a team member of the project and expect cooperation and support during the entire project.
There are many reasons the core rules of contracts are still in place two millennia after the fall of Rome. But there are other elements that we can, and should, take to the twenty-first century.
If we want to address the readability problems unique to our era—and improve communication with our clients—then it’s time we fix the language, layout, and typesetting of our contracts. And who better than designers to do it?
“The fewer the tools, the greater the imagination.” – Ben Orki
Are lawyers among the screwed? From Jason Lanier book You Are Not a Gadget:
The people who are perhaps the most screwed by open culture are the middle classes of intellectual and cultural creation. The freelance studio musician, the stringer selling reports to newspapers from warzones are both crucial contributors to culture. Each pays dues and devotes years to honing a craft. They used to live off the trickle down effects of the old system, and like the middle class at large, they are precious. They get nothing from the new system.
Oblique Strategies is still a go-to place when I need to put my creative thinking hat on.
“It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.” – John Cleese
“Give me a couple of billion dollars and I can set up a bunch of start-ups in just about every industry that will come in and eat the lunch of the incumbents, and not one of them will be able to change in time to do anything about it.”
So how many of us are worried about that? How many of us are working on our internal capacity to respond to disruption, or even our ability to move in and disrupt other parts of our environment? Not enough, I think. Of course, I understand why: our organizations are run like machines, and machines were never designed with disruption in mind.
If law firms’ compensation worked like W.L. Gore’s:
Everyone is ranked by their peers, people who know what they’ve done and how they’ve interacted with others on a daily basis; and their compensation will be based on that. That’s a powerful motivator to contribute. Here’s how Gore’s performance evaluation and compensation system works:
- No specific criteria are provided; people are just asked to indicate who’s making the biggest contribution to Gore’s success.
- An associate typically is evaluated by 20-30 peers and will, in turn, evaluate 20-30 peers. They are forced rankings, from top to bottom, and only for people you know.
- A cross-functional committees of individuals with leadership roles discuss the results, and develop an overall ranking from 1-20 of these particular associates.
- In setting compensation, they make sure the pay curve is aligned with contributions.
The most powerful manifestation of “we’re all in the same boat” is that all associates are part owners of the company through the associate stock plan. Gore believe that it not only allows everyone to share in the risks and rewards of the company, but also gives them an added incentive to stay committed to its long term success, and always consider what’s in the best interest of the company when making decisions.
[I]t is better to be clear than to be right. A lot of times, I find leaders want to be right and they think being right is what gains respect. I find being clear is what gains respect–if you’re clearly wrong, people can correct you, and if you’re clearly right, people can follow you.
Are you working with your introverted clients as well as you can?
“There are only two things wrong with education: 1) What we teach; 2) How we teach it.” – Roger Schank
Evidence suggests that the number of women on a given team drastically increases that team’s ability to solve complex problems.
What is the “One Metric that Matters” for your business?
That doesn’t mean there’s only one metric you care about from the day you wake up with an idea to the day you sell your company. It does, however, mean that at any given time, there’s one metric you should care about above all else. Communicating this focus to your employees, investors, and even the media will really help you concentrate your efforts.
Do your employees understand your business model? Using the Business Model Generation Canvas for a Puppy Rental Business:
My goal is that any new employee working to make the awesomeness of puppies available to everyone will be able to walk into my office and understand the business model at a glance.
Great overview on using personas to understand your clients better.
Instead of arguing back and forth whether or not these problems exist, it’s very easy to identify particular types of people for whom these problems MIGHT exist and then do some simple qualitative research to see if you’re right.
A great question when thinking about changes to your firm:
“What is the fastest, cheapest way to validate the idea?”
That’s it for now. See you again, soon!
I love this advice on pricing from Jason Fried at 37Signals:
The good news about pricing is that you can guess, be wrong, but still be right enough to build a great sustainable business. Maybe you’re leaving some money on the table, but, like my dad always says, no one ever went broke making a profit.
However, you are not allowed to ask people:
- “What would you pay for this?”
- “Would you buy this for $20?”
- “How much do you think this is worth?”
- “What’s the most you’d pay?”
And these are the questions I hear people asking over and over. You can’t ask people who haven’t paid how much they’re willing to pay. Their answers don’t matter because there’s no cost to saying “yes” ”$20” “no” ”$100”. They all cost the same – nothing.
The only answers that matter are dollars spent. People answer when they pay for something. That’s the only answer that really matters.
So put a price on it and put it up for sale. If people buy that’s a yes. Change the price. If people buy, that’s a yes. If people stop buying, that’s a no. Crude? Maybe. But it’s real.
Too often we are afraid to change our prices (or experiment with flat fees) because we’re afraid we’ll get it wrong — and either scare clients away or leave money on the table. Of course we will. More than once, in all likelihood.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying. Let’s start small, try lots of prices for similar things, and let the marketplace be our ultimate guide for whether we’ve got it right or not. Ultimately, we’ll figure it out.
Or, we could just stick with the billable hour …
It turns out that just about everything we do involves cleaning the bathrooms. Creating an environment where care and trust are expressed. If you take a lot of time to ask, “how will this pay off,” you’re probably asking the wrong question. When you are trusted because you care, it’s quite likely the revenue will take care of itself.
In your office (or in your correspondence, or your procedures, or your staff, or …), what can you do to show your clients you care?