Monthly Archives: April 2005

Spinning Plates

This one comes from the Patent Posse at their Rethink IP Blog:  the Acme License Maker.

This was my first license plate after graduating from law school:

License_20050425184655_92910

And this may be my next one:

Nonblblhr

Podcasting for Idiots (With Idiots)

My friend Zane Safrit (who is not an idiot, by the way) has a cool new podcasting service he’s introducing at his company, Conference Calls Unlimited

I’m new to the podcasting game, but Zane assures me it really is easy. 

Step One:  Set up a telephone call through his company’s service, or use your own dedicated reservationless number.

Step Two:  Push “*7” (or something like that) when you want to start recording the conversation.  Push the same key combo when you want the recording to end.

Step Three:  Wait for his company to e-mail you the link to your hosted mp3 podcast.  They can also send you the mp3 file for you to edit.

Step Four:  There is no step four.

Now for the idiot part:  Zane interviewed me for his first podcast.  We talked about blogging, on-line collaboration, and LexThink.  Here is the link to the mp3 file:  Podcast Here

 

Mark Merenda on Client Service

 Mark Merenda has an absolutely fantastic post about the necessity of “great client service.”  Though I was tempted to lift the entire post and call it my own, I’ll give you a few great snippets and suggest you read Mark’s entire blog instead:

The fact is, even if you are very, very good at what you do, that circumstance will not set you apart from, or above, your competitors. Most of them are pretty good, too. And moreover, your clients are not really capable of distinguishing between an A-plus or a C-plus attorney or financial advisor. They aren’t qualified.

But every one of your clients considers him- or herself to be an expert on customer service. They know when they are being ignored, or treated rudely. They know when someone doesn’t return a phone call, or keeps them waiting 20 minutes past the appointed time.  They understand when your office looks like a pigsty and your staff is condescending and your phone answering system is a nightmare.

If your company is a client service firm, the work product of which happens to be legal documents or financial plans, you have an excellent chance of being an indispensable part of your clients’ lives.

But if your office is a document-creation system, well…your competition comes in a box. And the box costs  $34.99

I was robbed!

OK, I didn’t get chosen as one of Legal Affairs Top Twenty Legal Thinkers in America.  I demand a recount, because if you Google “Most Influential Legal Thinker” I’m number two! 

Chief Client Officer

Will law firms ever appoint a Chief Client Officer?

Become a Client to Become Visionary.

One of the themes that came out of LexThink was that, in order to build the perfect law firm, you first needed to identify your “perfect” client — one you could be passionate about serving — and then ask them what they needed/wanted in a lawyer. 

In this post about the development of the first computer spreadsheet program, Tom Evslin argues that VisiCalc would have never been developed  if the programmers had asked people what they wanted, because so few people could even visualize a program which works like a big sheet of accounting paper but, when [a change is made] in one place, the change propagates through all the rows and columns.”  Tom continues:

The point of this story is that no survey or focus group will ever tell you what the next great thing is going to be.  That kind of idea, that kind of product, comes from visionaries who understand a new technology well enough to dream up an unintended use and who are stubborn and skillful enough to implement what nobody even knew to want. 

Perhaps this is the reason we lawyers so rarely have breakthrough insights on how to improve our business model.  Computer programmers will regularly use programs created by others and restauranteurs will eat at other establishments.  How often can this be said of lawyers?  How many legal professionals do you know who are regular consumers of legal services (besides their own)?  I’d go so far to say that most businesses with poor reputations for customer service are run by people who don’t frequent their competitors’ establishments.

Exercise:  Become a client.  Instead of drafting your own will, handling your own real estate transaction, or reviewing your own contract, go to the most well respected lawyer in your area — and the least respected.  Don’t tell them you are a lawyer.  Before, during, and after your visit, pay particular attention to the client experience.  How were you treated?  How did you feel?  How long did it take to get your phone calls returned?

We’ve all heard the quote, “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”  Perhaps it is more true then we realized.  Until lawyers can better understand the needs and wants of our clients, we will not be able to dream up those “unintended” ways to better serve them.

Your Typeface on the Blog is Awful, and Your Mom Wears Army Boots

Got a nice note yesterday with the above subject line (except the mom and the boots part).  Well, it really wasn’t a “note” exactly — there wasn’t any text in the message at all — just the “Awful” subject, a signature, and link to the critic’s blog.

Well, thank you, I guess. I’ll see what I can do.  In the meantime, get that audio doubleclick add off off your blog.  It annoys the hell out of me. 

Matt

Cleaning Out the Link Closet (Day 2) – Personal Productivity Edition

I’ve been hoarding links in my “Productivity” folder in Onfolio.  These are primarily for my personal use, but I thought I’d share them here:

Cultivating Burning Desire and What’s Your Time Horizon from Steve Pavlina

No: How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life from Marketing – The Bold Approach Method

The Perfect Day from Jason Womack

The Antidote to Worry from Curt Rosengren

The Clean Sweep Assessment

 The Josh Kaufman “Personal MBA” Program

My Equation for Serious Productivity – 2005 from Marc Orchant’s Tablet PC Weblog

Goal Setting: The 90–Day Challenge from Working Smart

Todd’s Entrepreneurial Rant: Unplug to Connect from Todd Smart at BeTuitive

 

 

Start Your Blog: A Primer

For a really great introduction to blogging, check out this post from Michael Hyatt’s Working Smart blog, titled (appropriately enough) How to Start a Blog.

Build Your Network, One Entree at a Time.

Next on my “To Read” list is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.  Keith has a Blog and has been sharing some of his tips on networking.  If you want the summarized version of the book, check out this post and download the Reader’s Notes. 

I’m off to get the book today, along with another I found courtesy of Fortune Magazine’s The Smartest Books We KnowRemember Every Name Every Time.  Frankly, I’ve grown tired of not remembering people’s names.  It makes me look like an idiot and I’m not going to fail at such a simple task any longer. 

Hoosier Lawyer

My friend Steve Terrell just started his blog, Hoosier Lawyer.  Steve does a wonderful job every year with the Indiana Solo & Small Firm Conference and is a welcome addition to the Blawgosphere — even if he can’t drive a go-kart. ;-)

Cleaning Out the Link Closet (Day 1)

Here are several links, each deserving its own post.  Check them out and write your own:

My friend Arnie Herz has an interesting take on Law Office Design.

Evaluating Sexy Ads from the Retail Store Blog (pictures semi work safe).

Using the Internet to Communicate and Collaborate from Ben Cowgill’s Legal Ethics Blog.

It’s the Feed Stupid from A VC.

The Sport of Business from Mark Cuban:

Every day some stranger from any where in the world that you have never met is trying to come up with a way to put you out of business. To take everything you have worked your ass off for, and take it all away. If you are in a growing industry, there could be hundreds or thousands of strangers trying to figure out ways to put you out of business. How cool is that.

The ultimate competition. Would you like to play a game called Eat Your Lunch. We are going to face off . My ability to execute on an idea vs yours. My ability to subvert your business  vs your ability to keep it going. My ability to create ways to remove any reason for your business to exist vs your ability to do the same to me. My ability to know what you are going to do, before you do it.  Who gets there first ? Best of all, this game doesn’t have a time limit. Its forever. It never ends. Its the ultimate competition.

Definition of “Churn” from Andy Haven:

“Churn” is the propensity for a customer to switch from one brand to another within a category, or for a worker to switch from one company to another within the same industry. It’s worse than simply losing a customer or an employee, because you’re not just down one unit, you’re actively contributing to a competitor.  It’s a net comparative loss of at least two units, if you catch my drift; you’re down one and your competitor is up one. Plus the fact that you’re out whatever investment you put into your customer or employee.

For example: to attract , train, house, equip, water, weed and polish a good, new associate for 3-4 years,  a firm these days probably has to spend between $200-$400k above and beyond what they’re able to bill them out for. If they then lose that associate to another firm, they’ve “churned” them to a competitor. So not only have they lost a worker, but they’ve paid $200k to train someone to go work at a firm that could take business away from them. And they’ve paid $200k for someone to take all his/her networking connections with them.  And they’ve paid $200k for someone to go badmouth them all over the place at their new digs. You get the picture. It’s bad on both ends.

Blogging Your Way to a New Job from Debbie Weil  (link from Kevin O’Keefe)

Sage Advice from Ed Poll

Ed Poll, law firm management guru and author of the LawBiz Blog, has some really good advice about how lawyers can respond to a client who demands a lower price:

When you have to bend on the price you quote a client, be sure you first list the things you do for the client for that price. Then, when you lower your price in order to respond to the client’s request (based on your competition), take some of those things off the table. Thus, you are not really “lowering the price.” You’re adjusting the price to fit the appropriate level based on the service to be delivered.

What, you might ask, are the components of an hourly fee? Well, how about returned phone calls within 2 hours. That’s now part of your regular hourly rate. Thus, if you lower your hourly rate in response to your client’s request, take that response time off the table … tell the client that your response time will be 24, or even 48, hours. He’ll get the point that he’s not really lowered the price, but changed the value composition of what he’s buying.

The analogy is buying a car at the base price vs the same car with options at a higher price. You’ve merely unbundled (the current fad term) your services.

Kill the Billable Hour Before It Kills You?

 Jim Logan weighs in on the billable hour:

I’m more convinced than ever the next great opportunity in professional services is value-based billing. In my own business, we don’t bill for time – never have, never will – and the results are impressive, both for us and our clients. Billing customers based on results, defined from their business purpose, is a Win-Win business proposition that creates fierce customer loyalty and ultimately more revenue for both the customer and consultant. Once your combined goals are aligned, the opportunity for mutual success increases.

Amen. 

PsychoTactics for Lawyers?

Sean D’Souza has been on a roll lately on his PsychoTactics Blog.  In yesterday’s post, titled First Meeting with a Client? he offers this interesting tip:

When you meet a client always let them ask the first questions. The
client wants control. They’ll ask you to tell them about your business
or whatever. They need to speak first.

This is vital.

Luckily, clients usually speak first because they have questions to
ask. And if they don’t…great.

You take control.

You stop talking and start listening. And the only way you can do that
is to have a series of questions that you ask. At the end of a longish
session, you should be asking dozens of questions and taking notes.

Then you have the client’s full story. You have their needs.

Now they want you to speak.

Really great advice for any professional, but exceptional advice for lawyers.  Read Sean’s whole post, and while you are at it, check out these posts too:

How to Become an Expert in Your Field,  Why Your Business Frustrates You, and  Why the ‘Noise Factor’ Can Kill Your Sale In Seconds.

 

Create Employee Evangelists

My friend Zane Safrit, offers up Zane’s 10 Rules for Creating EMPLOYEE Evangelists.  Riffing a bit off of Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Rules for Creating Customer Evangelists, Zane offers these gems (I’d like to rip off all of them here, but go read Zane’s post):

* Niche Your Employee.  Find the unique quality, the unique resource each employee brings. Then position them where they can utilize those talents making meaning for their colleagues and your customers. Each employee provides a niche of talent, perspective, wisdom and advice. Discover those resources.  Use those resources for the employees’ development, the company’s development and the customers’ satisfying experience.

You can’t create a niche product serving a niche market while you ignore your employees’ niche skills.

* Tell Your Story, Tell Your Whole Story. (“Open up the Kimono”) Open up and share the mission, the path, the successes and failures with the employees. Seek their advice. Seek their solutions. It’s ok to not have all the answers.

I gotta admit that’s a tough one. It has to do with the whole command and control, vulnerability, “am I a strong leader if I’m asking for solutions, ie, help?” 

Let’s put it on the positive. The more solutions’ providers you create in your company, from those that provide great big conceptual solutions to those that provide a line of html that’s missing, you’ll have a smarter and more responsive company with a group of people who are excited and engaged in the process of fulfilling its mission providing meaning to their lives and the lives of your customers. And in this economy you need as many solutions sources as you can find, especially the ones who have your best interest at heart.

* Test-drive their ideas. Your employees are asked to test your ideas out every day. And to answer for them. Why not test their ideas?

Everyone contributes to your shared mission. Everyone does whether you recognize it or not. So, you want  their full and POSITIVE contribution.  Let them contribute. Give them room to try a few of their own ideas. Respect them in the same manner and try theirs.

A few will fail just like with yours. But a few will win. And a few more next month. And next month. Before long you’ve got a buzz going on, a conversation taking place, within your company like you want to take place in the market about your company.   

Article on Blogging

Sarah Kellog has a nice article introducing blogs to mainstream lawyers in the most recent edition of The Washington Lawyer.  I would still think it was a great article, even if she hadn’t said this about the [non]billable hour: 

Matthew Homann’s blog uses clever writing and a breadth of knowledge to bring innovative legal billing and marketing strategies to light.

Reid My Blog

My friend (and LexThinker) Reid Trautz has been writing Reid My Blog! for several months now.  Great stuff on law practice management, and an excuse for me to post this cartoon by Hugh MacLeod.

Read My Blog

35 Questions

Take a look at Mitch Meyerson’s 35 Questions That Will Change Your Life (pdf).

Back when the Illini were good!

ESPN Classic is showing replays of the best games from this tournament on Saturday, April 9.  My Tivo will be set for Illinois vs. Arizona.  How about yours?

Some Technology Remainders

I’ve become totally smitten with Onfolio 2.0 as my news aggregator. I used to use Bloglines, and still recommend it to anyone new to the world of Blogs and RSS, but the ability to download my aggregated feeds and read them offline (a la FeedDemon) combined with the ability to clip and save entire websites has really changed my browsing habits.  Best of all, for now it’s free!  However, when it goes on sale, I’ll buy it — it’s that good.

Hangin’ with the Patent Posse

I spent a bunch of Techshow hangin’ with the Patent Posse(tm) a.k.a. Doug Sorocco, Steve Nipper, and Matt Buchanan.    I’ve know the guys virtually for quite some time, and was totally amazed to see them hanging out as if they’d known one another forever.   In fact, their first face-to-face meeting was at Techshow.

The guys have started the rethink(ip) blog and are really taking the lead in reinventing IP practice.  After they make their first million, I hope they remember me as the guy who introduced them (at least Doug and Steve) on my Think Tank Tuesday call. 

And if you see Doug in person, ask him about his tattoo.

So, What Don’t You Do?

I’m still working on the brain-dump from LexThink, but I had to pass this gem along.  At Techshow, I was looking at a product I’ve coveted for a while, and  asked if there was show special.  One of the people in the booth said no, but suggested that, as an authorized reseller of the product, he could give me a great deal.  He handed me his card, and the name of his business was “Generic __________ Solutions.”  The tagline under the name was “Choices from major manufacturers.”  On the back of the card was a list of over 20 “products and procedures” his business offered.  I took the card, and the snarky marketing guy in me almost asked, “So is there anything you don’t do.”  I’d love to hear his elevator speech.

 

I wonder if this will fit in my garage?

That is, if I had a garage.  Maybe when my wife and I start building our new home next year, we can make room for this.

In a similar vein, any golfers in L.A. area want to play? 

 

 

What a great week (except for last night)

I’m still recovering from LexThink, Techshow, and the Illini’s loss last night.  Techshow was great as always, and LexThink was amazing.  The Illini?  Well that’s another story all together.

I have an entire day of LexThink stuff to do today, so look for a recap tomorrow.